Excellent "Hands-On" Book on Counseling
Reviewed in the United States on July 14, 2013
This review is written by a graduate student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Scott, Stuart and Heath Lambert, eds. Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God's Resources in Scripture. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2012. 318 pp. $32.99.
Many Christian Studies and Biblical Counseling students have read many textbooks on the different philosophies of counseling, including integrationist, non-integrationist, and a whole wide array of theories within these two major camps. What is lacking, however, in many of these textbooks, as good as they are for what they accomplish, is the real life, "when the rubber meets the road" examples of how these counseling philosophies will look in their day-to- day ministries. Thankfully, Drs. Lambert and Scott have written such a book with Counseling the Hard Cases, a book that tells the stories of real people, with real problems, and how each Biblical counselor sought to apply the truths of the Scriptures to those particular cases. Many students and counselors alike will find this to be a helpful resource to come back to time and time again.
The book begins with an introductory chapter written by Dr. Lambert, explaining the approach to counseling that the authors of this book ascribe to, including a defense of the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling. This introductory chapter is a very good primer looking at the landscape of Christian counseling over the last few decades, going back to Jay Adams in the 1960s. The chapter is not bogged down with details and theories, but is perfectly sufficient to give a reader with no prior knowledge of the biblical counseling movement a sort of lay of the land before digging into the particular hard cases.
Following this introductory chapter are ten chapters, each written by a different counselor concerning different people and cases that they have counseled over the years. These cases are written by both men and women biblical counselors, and they include cases ranging from sexual abuse, postpartum depression, anorexia, and homosexuality. Since each chapter is written by a different author, concerning different cases, there is no set structure for each chapter. Some authors spend more time discussing the particular issue and less time on the actual counseling treatment, and vice versa. Some also spend a significant amount of time discussing their particular counseling ministry and why they do things the way that they do. While there is much variety in how the chapters are written, one thing remains constant throughout them all: each counselor is devoted to the absolute sufficiency of the Scriptures in addressing these hard cases that many write off as outside the bounds of Biblical Counselors. Each author shows how they dug below the surface issue, whether it be OCD, paralyzing fear, etc., to identify the heart and sin issues lying beneath in order to offer the hope of the Gospel and the healing therein.
The major strength of this book is its accomplishing exactly what it set out to accomplish, namely, to show that the Scriptures are absolutely sufficient for all areas of life, including what many deem as the "hard cases" that biblical counseling is not prepared to handle. The authors of this book, who are actual counselors themselves recounting cases they have handled throughout their years of ministry, prove that this is a misconception and that the Scriptures are sufficient in and of themselves. One of the most interesting chapters to me was
￼written by Dr. Lambert, chapter four on "`Sarah' and Postpartum Depression." At the end of the chapter, in his conclusion, Dr. Lambert asks the question, "Are you equipped to help a young woman wrestling with thoughts of killing her baby and herself?" (109). The answer that I would give before reading this chapter is a resounding, "No!" In fact, I would have likely said that Biblical counselors relying solely on the Scriptures would not be prepared to handle such a case. Now, admittedly I still do not feel prepared myself to handle such a case were it to come before me. However, I was filled with confidence in the Scriptures and hope in the Scriptures' sufficiency as I read how Dr. Lambert handled this case, and the hope that he offered in the Gospel of Jesus!
The only weakness that I would identify in this book is something that I have mentioned already, which is the lack of structure from one chapter to another. This was sort-of frustrating to me. I found some of the structures of the chapters very helpful, such as those by Dr. Lambert and Martha Peace, but others not so much. For example, I thought that Dr. Higbee's chapter focused too much on his personal counseling ministry, Twelve Stone Ministries. While I enjoyed reading about each counselor and how the Lord has brought them to where they are today, most of them did this in a page or two and then spent the rest of the chapter discussing the "hard" case. While I understand why he did it, I felt that Dr. Higbee's chapter was too focused on the process of his Twelve Stone Ministries counseling process. That is a minor critique, but a critique nonetheless. In addition, I felt that other chapters focused too much space on the problem and not enough on the actual process of counseling that person.
Overall, I found Counseling the Hard Cases to be an extremely helpful book, and one that I envision myself turning to time and time again in the years to come. More than anything else, I found myself coming away from reading this book with a renewed confidence in the sufficiency of the Scriptures for all areas of life, which is exactly one of the things I think the contributors of this book would hope for.
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