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Nouthetic Counseling

Nouthetic Counseling is a form of Christian counseling developed by Jay E. Adams, and published in his 1970 book, Competent to Counsel.1 It is well known within evangelical Christianity. Adams named his method after the New Testament Greek word noutheteō (νουθετέω), which can be variously translated as "admonish," "warn," "correct," "exhort," or "instruct". Adams himself particularly emphasizes the meaning "confront" in the development of his system.



The sort of counseling done by Nouthetic Counselors is not new — the word itself is biblical. The word, used in the New Testament primarily by the apostle Paul, is translated "admonish, correct or instruct." This term, which probably best describes Biblical counseling, occurs in such passages as Romans 15:14: "I myself am convinced about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and competent to counsel one another."

Because the Greek term,nouthesia, is larger than the English word "counsel," and because it doesn't carry any of the "baggage" that is attached to the latter term, Nouthetic Counseling proponents have simply imported the Greek term into English. In that way, the full force of the Biblical concept of counseling may be set forth while avoiding the many contradictory connotations surrounding the English one. There are three ideas found in the word nouthesia. They are confrontation, concern, and change. To put it simply, nouthetic counseling consists of lovingly confronting people out of deep concern in order to help them make those changes that God requires.

Confrontation means that one Christian personally gives counsel to another from the Scriptures. He does not confront him with his own ideas or the ideas of others,but limits his counsel strictly to that which may be found in the Bible, believing that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for teaching, for conviction, for correction and for disciplined training in righteousness in order to fit and fully equip the man from God for every good task." (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

Concern means that counseling is always done for the benefit of the counselee. His welfare is always in view in Nouthetic counseling. The apostle Paul put it this way: "I am not writing these things to shame you, but to counsel you as my dear children." (1 Corinthians 4:14) There is always a warm, family note to Nouthetic counseling which is done among the saints of God who seek to help one another become more like Christ.

Change means that Nouthetic counseling is done because there is something in another Christian's life that fails to meet the biblical requirements and that, therefore, keeps him from honoring God. All counseling -- Biblical or otherwise-- attempts change. Biblical counselors know what a counselee should become as the result of counseling: he should look more like Christ. He is the Standard. Biblical counseling is done by Christians who are convinced that God is able to make the changes that are necessary as His Word is ministered in the power of the Spirit. The importance of such counseling in churches is underscored by the words of Paul as he described his ministry in Ephesus: "Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years, night and day, I didn't stop counseling each one of you with tears." (Acts 20:31) The regularity and intense nature of Paul's counsel during his three-year ministry at Ephesus is emphasized by these words. If Paul found it necessary to counsel nouthetically for that entire period, as he said, surely our churches need it, too.

Adapted from The Institute for Nouthetic Studies, article by Jay E. Adams

The nouthetic counseling movement has produced a substantial literature (see below), and several organizations specializing in its techniques. It is offered as a graduate degree at several accredited schools.

Nouthetic organizations include:

  • National Association of Nouthetic Counselors,
  • Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, and
  • International Association of Biblical Counselors.

Degrees in Nouthetic Counseling are offered at:

  • Master's College (Santa Clarita, CA);
  • Trinity College and Seminary (Newberg, IN)
  • Maranatha Baptist Bible College[1] (Watertown, WI) ; and
  • Central Baptist Seminary (Plymouth, MN).

There are many training centers, publications, websites, and even critics of Nouthetic Counseling.

See also


1Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel, (Phillipsburg, NJ, USA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970).


  • Bulkley, Ed. Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology. (Harvest House Publishers)
  • MacArthur, John and Wayne Mack. Introduction to Biblical Counseling. (Word Publishing)
  • Tripp, Paul. Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands. (P&R Publishing)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nouthetic_Counseling". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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