Counseling the whole person


Humans are complex beings and our fall from God’s will for us has badly complicated our existence. We experience brokenness on every level of life. Our complexity involves deficiencies in every area of life and each area overlaps with the others. 

Just as we are social beings whose lives are formed in community, we are also physical beings with bodily needs. Yet we must acknowledge that our sociology and physiology have both been radically defaced by our fallen condition. We are not the way we were originally meant to be. We fell from the glory intended for us by our maker and our ingloriousness is evident in every dimension of our lives. 

Our social and physical existence have been corrupted in powerful and painful ways.

On the physical level, the human brain is no doubt the most complicated organ in the body. And as with other organs, the brain has been  marred with dysfunctions to various degrees. The fact that medicines have been discovered for neurological deficiencies should be understood along similar lines as medicinal aids for dysfunctions of hearts, lungs and other bodily organs. Consequently, those who benefit from medications for issues like depression or anxiety should never be made to feel embarrassed about their need. On one level, they are no different from those who take medicines for deficiencies in other organs. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made but woefully and tragically fallen.

Yet there is warrant in  exercising caution before assigning moods and behaviors to neurologically based deficiencies. When counseling the whole person holistically, we should not allow counselees or patients to reduce challenges with moods and behaviors to medically based solutions. Medicines are often essential to their health, but other considerations are just as important.

People must be taught to look at their lives holistically by considering their social context and their spiritual needs along with bodily deficiencies. I’ve worked with counselees who have benefitted from depression or anxiety medications while working through circumstances and relationships to bring more stability to their lives. Once their lives reached better places of health and stability in other dimensions, they’ve progressively moved away from a need for medicinal supports.

We must understand that one’s neurological health can be altered by oppressive circumstances. These changes are typically chemical in nature. This should not be too surprising as the same truth applies to other organs of the human body. Stress, for example, is proven to be bad for the heart.

But this is not to say that everyone will experience the same beneficial physical changes with changes in their circumstances. Some people must accept medicinal aids as a permanent part of their lives. Yet, even in more severe cases, it’s wise to avoid simplistic reductions of persons to one dimension of personhood. It is naïve (and potentially harmful to those seeking help) when counselors or doctors treat them one-dimensionally. We must not treat people contrary to the way God made them or minimize the pervasive effects of our fallen condition.

Along similar lines, the conclusion that one needs medicinal aids for behavior or moods should not be used to preclude responsibility and accountability. For example, those with ADHD will have greater challenges with controlling certain impulses and a number of medicines are helpful with this. When working with those who battle ADHD we should exercise more compassion, but only in a context that preserves the dignity of encouraging as much responsibility as possible. We dishonor someone if we reduce their needs in these areas to taking their medications. 

In summary, counselors and doctors should never think one-dimensionally concerning medicinal aids for neurologically related needs.  We are more than bodies and brains with physical needs. Other dimensions of our being (spiritual, emotional, psychological and social) must receive balanced consideration in the battle for health.

Spiritual considerations must enter the picture for those who counsel the whole person based on truth. We are equally spiritual beings with a God-directed need for living in and under the will of our Creator. A holistic approach to counseling shaped by Scripture respects all dimensions of personhood in view of the image of God in humans and in the context of creation, fall, redemption and final restoration.


Three dimensions of human life and the effects of the fall

  1. Physical beings with bodily needs- Suffering
  2. Social beings with relationship needs- Selfishness
  3. Spiritual beings with a need for God- Separation

Three dimensions of personhood essential to transformation

  1. Your intellect (mind, thoughts, imagination)
  2. Your will (decision-making)
  3. Your emotions (affections or feelings)

 Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in 18 Year factor, ADHD, Anxiety, Attitude, Behavior, Broken Relationships, Change, Christian Counselor, Christian worldview, Coaching, Counseling, Depression, Despair, Discouragement, Drug addiction, Holistic ministry, Imago Dei, Medicine, Neuroscience, Parenting, Spiritual Detox, Spiritual transformation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Counseling the whole person

  1. amemor emmanuel says:

    i enjoy reading your work. it is good. please keep it may God be with you and bless you.

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