Where is counseling in the Bible?
It is a great question, and my short response is that it can be found throughout both the Old and New Testaments but under different words and terms.
Just before he was crucified Jesus encouraged his disciples by announcing “unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16:7, NIV). Jesus was referencing the Holy Spirit and the support the Holy Spirit would give his disciples when he left this world. So, my personal view of counseling is patterned after the consolation and encouragement that the Holy Spirit, the ultimate Counselor, gives me on a daily basis.
Examples of concepts commonly emphasized by modern counseling professionals that are also found in the Bible include client rapport (unconditional love), therapeutic alliance (advisors, self-reflection), self-awareness (enlightenment, insight), hope (trust in God), strengths (gifts), emotional intelligence (love, heart, church, covenants), in-the-moment (one day at a time), wellness (holistic view of the soul) and meditation (prayer). The knowledge base within the mental health field is constantly growing through research, and it is amazing how much of this knowledge has been available in the Bible all along. It is not unusual to read about some new mental health research, connect it to a concept found in the Bible, and through this process obtain new insight into what the Biblical writer was trying to say in the first place.
Another important concept to keep in mind is the social isolation that exists in modern society. For thousands of years, men have for the most part lived in small, communal villages. God created men to be highly social beings that depend on each other and God for survival, and these themes can certainly be found throughout the Bible. Many of the emotional needs that the modern counseling profession addresses used to be met naturally through the community. Individuals knew and were known, intimately by other community members. Problems were often addressed together by the community, and older wiser members provided guidance and advice. These social dynamics are now largely missing in many people’s lives, even sadly within the church, and this relatively recent social isolation gap is where the counseling profession often fits in.