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Is "Non-Directive" Counselling Biblical?

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

A guest post from Rob Rawlins

“What can we do pro-life?” I asked my doctor friend.

“Make it easy for women to keep their babies.”

She was thinking of support for single mums and she was speaking from her GP experience with desperate women who saw abortion as the only way out.

“What about education?” I asked.

“That can be so condemning,” she said. “I always listen and explore.”

“So would I in a pastoral situation. Only advising them after that.”

“Advising? That’s the problem. Counselling is not telling people what to do.”

“You’re talking about non-directive counselling. There’s a place for directive counselling.”

“That’s not counselling.”

“Didn’t Jesus sometimes tell people what to do?”

“Jesus was the Son of God and we are not.”

Our environment:

1. We live in a country where tolerance is like a god and you don’t tell people what to do or even what is right and wrong. If you do, you can lose friends or split families.

2. Professionals like my friend are trained in and expected to use non-directive counselling and risk their jobs if too directive. Just to note – she says she has never signed an abortion form, so she is strongly pro-life.

3. Good Christian counselling aims to help someone hear and follow God directly, not to be a mediator for them, locking them into dependence on the counsellor.

Non-directive? – Yes. This obviously applies to “Shall I marry this person?” and “Should I take this job?” and a range of morally neutral issues.

But what about issues where the bible has teaching: “Do I have to include that in my tax return?” and “No, I won’t ever be in the same room as that person, after what they did to me.” Etc.


This is a moral issue arising from one of the Ten Commandments: ‘Do not kill.’

So directive counselling is appropriate.

It is also a justice issue: the victim, the baby in the womb, needs defending.

So directive counselling is doubly appropriate.

A parallel – Mary Slessor

Mary was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria:

Wikipedia: ‘Because of her understanding of the native language and her bold personality Slessor gained the trust and acceptance of the locals and was able to spread Christianity while promoting women's rights and protecting native children. She is most famous for having stopped the common practice of infanticide of twins.’

Nigerians all know of her from school history lessons.

Scotland honoured her on a £10 note.

I imagine her counselling to be directive: “Stop killing twins. It’s wrong. They are human like us. They have done nothing wrong.”

I imagine some mothers of twins being so grateful as they accepted her offer to adopt or hide their twins. I imagine other mothers, along with village headman, opposing her. Some with sadness, “Mama Mary, you don’t understand. Twins bring bad luck. Our crops will fail. Our people will get sick. Some will die. For the good of the village we can’t keep them. I wish we could believe what you believe.”

Some with anger, “Go back to Scotland. How dare you offend the spirits and bring bad luck on us. Our crops will fail. Our people will get sick. Some will die.”

Mary persevered over many years and Nigerians now thank her.


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