Is Psychology Counseling Sucessful?
To determine if psychological counseling is successful depends on how success is defined. If success is defined just as testimonies of improvement, then the answer is yes, but how those testimonies came about may be in question. They may be the result of assuming that psychological counseling, or psychotherapy, caused the improvement.
Martin and Deidre Bobgan note this example, “Testimonies of improvement are given after a workshop or other experience and the person concludes that the workshop must have caused it, whether there was any connection or not.”1
One event may have preceded a change, but there may not have been a causal relationship between the two. It may have only been assumed that the preceding event caused the result. There could be any number of events that could have happened between the event and the result that could have impacted the outcome so it is nearly impossible to conclude that one thing caused the other. There are so many variables that are involved whenever people are dealt with that they cannot be isolated to establish a cause and effect relationship.
In the book, Psychotherapy Research: Methodological and Efficacy Issues, the American Psychiatric Association went so far as to say, “Unequivocal conclusions about causal connections between treatment and outcome may never be possible in psychotherapy research.”2 So “promises of success undergirded by testimonies of success do not equal true success.”3
Success also needs to be clarified by looking at how long the results last. In the Cambridge-Sumerville Youth Study, 650 underprivileged boys who were high risk for juvenile delinquency were divided into two groups. The group that was treated received an average of five years of psychological counseling, academic tutoring, summer camps, and involvement in other organizations. The control group received no help.
According to the Bobgans, at the end of the project the counselors believed “that they greatly helped the boys they had treated. Furthermore, a large majority of the treated boys claimed great benefit. Based on the testimonies of counselors and counselees, the project seemed to be a great success.”4
But at the first follow-up study, there was slightly more delinquent behavior among the boys who received treatment. Another follow-up study after thirty years showed the boys who had received treatment were doing worse in terms of criminal behavior, mental problems, and alcoholism.5
At best, it seems, there can be some changes from psychological counseling, but the question is, what kind of changes?
After an extensive review of the research on the effectiveness of psychological counseling, S.J. Rachman and G.T. Wilson conclude in their book, The Effects of Psychological Therapy, “That modest evidence now supports the claim that psychotherapy is capable of producing some beneficial changes, but the negative results still outnumber the positive findings.”6
So, it is not being said that no changes are made by secular counseling, but another question is, what kind of changes? Man, at best, can only bring about changes in behavior, and these are limited, but only God can change the heart and nature of man.
The Bobgans have different goals. “Their goal is to see the counselee restored to normalcy as recognized by society. Our goal is to see the counselee restored to a right relationship with God, and then, as a result of that restoration, to see him live as a child of God. Just as secular counseling and biblical counseling have different goals, they have different methods.”7
The Bobgans went on to say, “No license, no degrees, and no professional training are necessary to learn and apply the most powerful factors in human change available to mankind.”8 Those factors are found in the Bible and Jesus Christ, and they are free.
The Bobgans also posed these questions: “What psychological system justifies a person before God and gives him peace with God? What psychological system gives the kind of faith in which a person can live by all of God’s promises? What psychological system fulfills its promises the way God fulfills His? What psychological system gives the hope of which Paul speaks? What psychological system enables a person to exult in the midst of tribulation? What psychological system increases the kind of perseverance that builds proven character, gives hope, and produces love?”9
1 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Psychoheresy Revised, Eastgate Publishers: Santa Barbara, Ca, 2012, p.193
2 Ibid., p.184.
3 Ibid., p. 255
4 Ibid., p. 254.
5 Ibid., p.255.
6 Ibid., p.182
7 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Psychoheresy, Eastgate Publishers: Santa Barbara, CA, 1987, p. 111.
8 Op. Cit., Bobgans, p 221.
9 Ibid., p. 68