Book Review: Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling – By Larry Crabb

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letter-lLarry Crabb is continually one of my favorite Christian psychologists, and in this book he offers a basic summary and outline of what he believes to be the – as the title denotes – the basic principles which should be employed for biblical counseling.

Crabb operates off of what might be called the cognitive-behavioral approach to psychology, as seen through a Christian lens. This approach can perhaps best be summed up in Crabb’s statement that “the event does not control the feeling; the evaluation of the even controls it.” 

That is to say, events themselves do not directly result in the things that plague us, rather, it is our interpretation of those events which cause us trouble.

Crabb opens his book with a wonderfully insightful section on the basic philosophical underpinnings of his theory, such as the necessity of God in interpreting our experience and noting the failure of the rationalistic/scientific philosophy/endeavor to provide true certainty (but merely the ‘floating anchors’ of existentialism).

With this foundation set Crabb goes on to discuss the basic needs of people and how they go about meeting these needs (and in turn, how they should go about meeting them), to include that “The basic personal need of each personal being is to regard himself as a worthwhile human being” and furthermore that “In order to regard themselves as worthwhile, people need not only significance but also the security of being loved… People need that kind of love [which God offers]. We need, really need, to be loved as we are, loved at our worst. We need to regard ourselves as worthwhile. In order to do so, we must not only be significant but also be secure in the unconditional love of another person. We need relationship.”

Crabb notes that change is dependent upon the value system that is brought to a problem, and that the goal is to change the person towards Christ-likeness (and that in doing so clients must be held responsible for their actions, doing away with the more deterministic approaches of early twentieth-century psychology).

Naturally, this is an approach in which the therapist instills proper – Biblical – values onto the client, rather than merely humoring whatever values the client may already have, hence: “The initial task of the Biblical counselor is to recognize the basic personal needs of people (significance and security) and to identify the wrong thinking about how to meet those needs which has led to either sinful behavior (the problem then is guilt), or sinful feelings (resentment or anxiety).”

Crabb does not believe that this change should be brought about merely through the counselor-counselee relationship, or between the pastor and the church-member, but rather “God has designed the local church as the primary vehicle through which people are to exercise their significance-providing gifts… As long as pastors do all the work in the local church, they are robbing their people of an opportunity to meet their needs as God intended.”

Thus, Crabb’s model is one in which the church plays a significant role in working to aid those members which make it up.

As with most everything I’ve read by Crabb, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and find his insights – and overall approach – to Christian counseling to be wonderfully well-grounded both philosophically and biblically (and, indeed, psychologically).

Memorable Quotes:

– “In a sentence, my argument is this: the field of counseling needs a certain and meaningful unity. Science by itself can provide neither. It can attach greater or lesser probability to hypothesis but it can never prove a single proposition… if there really is a personal God, then there is a truth about people and their problems which can provide the necessary foundation or framework for variety in counseling technique. And basic truth apart from God cannot be known with certainty apart from revelation.”-24

– “… people must accept themselves as adequate in a truly significant role if they are to honestly regard themselves as worthwhile and so to enjoy the fulfillment of being a real person. The need to be significant can be met only by glorifying God in my life by surrendering to Him.”-61

– “Either God has failed me or He hasn’t. Either He is meeting my needs right now or He isn’t. Christianity demands that I trust God to be faithful.”-67

– “God is where the buck-passing ends. Because He is sovereign, I must either thank Him or blame Him for what happens to me.”-69

– “Personal problems begin with a wrong belief which leads to behaviors and feelings which deny us the satisfaction of our deep personal needs.”-81

– “When I am faced with a sinful pattern of thinking, and I therefore am prompted to behave sinfully, I am to die to that sinful pattern experientially just as I already am dead to it positionally. I am to actualize in my immediate experience that which God says is true: I am dead to sin. In other words, I am to identify with Christ in His death by doing with sin exactly what He did with sin.”-101



A member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Chesterton Society. Ordained PCA. MDiv.

May or may not be a Time Lord.


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