The central issue in counseling is the fundamental reference point which defines or explains the nature of the individual and his behaviour. This reference point is theoretically informative, and directly determines how one will approach counseling. For Sigmund Freud, this reference point is the unconsciousness; for B.F. Skinner, conditioned behavioural responses; for Albert Ellis, an interpretive belief system; for Carl Rogers, the self. The fundamental reference point for a religious (biblical) model is the ‘heart’. Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life;” and in Matthew 15:15-20, Jesus Christ teaches on moral corruption, “And Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Explain the parable to us.’ And He said, ‘Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man’.” A bad heart produces bad fruit; a good heart produces good fruit. The character and nature of one’s actions and behaviour are the direct result of the character and nature of one’s heart (i.e. interior life).
The human being is a created being (contra Sigmund Freud) and a fallen being (contra Eric Fromm). On the one hand, he or she has constitutive propensities (or innate natural ‘laws’ or ‘needs’) which define the tendency and direction of behaviour–one cannot help but experience or respond to certain environmental stimuli in a probable, even predictable, way. God has given human beings a nature governed by certain normative or determinative (not causative) principles (e.g. the loss of a truly loved one produces sorrow – John 11:35f; the birth of desired child brings forth joy – John 16:21; the experience of anticipated anger and rejection from a loving father creates anguish – Luke 22:43f.). The counselee, however, is always responsible for his or her behaviour. On the other hand, he or she has moral propensities (or an innate principle or ‘law’ of sin) which colours and shapes the various expressions of behaviour–one is naturally driven and guided by his or her desires and passions. And, for the Christian, he or she has spiritual propensities (or an inner principle or ‘law’ of the Spirit and life). The Spirit’s presence and power changes a ‘bad heart’ into a ‘good heart’. By the Spirit, the Christian has access to spiritual resources and power to overcome himself and his sin, and to adequately address his needs.
Accordingly, the counselee is one who has been sinned against, as the imago Dei (image of God), as well as one who has sinned, as the creatura peccati (creature of sin), as well as one who has been delivered from sin, as the credens Christi (believer in Christ). On the one hand, one needs encouragement and comfort so that he or she may be supported and built up; and on the other hand, one needs exhortation and rebuke so that he or she may confess and repent. Further, one needs Biblical and spiritual instruction/direction in order to enter into the fullness of his or her Christian life.