Dr. Ab and Karen Abercrombie have written a book titled Christian Shrinks Answer All Your Questions (No Couch Required). The title alone should be a total turnoff for discerning individuals. “Christian Shrinks” in the title refers to the Abercrombies, who are “licensed marriage and family therapists” (back cover). The word “shrink” is slang for psychotherapist and the Abercrombies are both psychotherapists. They say: “Christian therapy ought to rely on God’s order, treating all individual and family issues within the framework of prayer and biblical study” (p. 20). While the Abercrombies are licensed psychotherapists and seem to enjoy referring to themselves as shrinks, they function as biblical counselors, as indicated throughout the book. Christian “shrinks” presenting themselves as biblical counselors is surely an oxymoron.
If one is trained and licensed and attracts clientele based upon the license, as do the Abercrombies, one should use the theories and methods associated with that license. It is required that one do so in California, where we live, and we assume this is also true in Alabama, where both Abercrombies are licensed, and in Florida, where Ab Abercrombie is additionally licensed. Even if Florida and Alabama would permit a psychologically trained and state licensed individual to use the license to do something different, primarily biblical counseling, honesty would dictate that the person use psychotherapeutic theories and methodologies under which he is trained, licensed, and advertises.
The Abercrombies communicate that they counsel biblically and repeatedly refer to the Bible and biblical principles as the better way. They say, “Clearly, God’s Word is our sufficient source of answers for all our questions” (p. 51, bold added). The word sufficient means “enough” and nothing more is need “for all our questions.” Now, if the Abercrombies truly believe the Bible is sufficient and even pray in each session (p. 254), in addition to charging money, they need to drop their cutesy ongoing personal references as “shrinks,” give up their psychotherapy licenses and any referral to their psychological education, training, and licensing and stop charging! To do otherwise demeans the Word of God and its sufficiency and deceptively acquires clients, who then are required to pay for ministry.
The title of their book makes the grandiose promise that the Abercrombies as Christian Shrinks will Answer All Your Questions. It is not until one gets to 250 pages later in the final chapter that the Abercrombies admit the following: “By now you know that the title of this book is somewhat over-stated. We are certain that in spite of our sincere effort, these Christian shrinks did not answer ALL your questions” (p. 251, bold added). The title is not just “somewhat over-stated” as they say. It is a gross misrepresentation and smacks of the hyperbolic worldly enticements that Christians should avoid.
On August 3, 2009, we called the Biblical Counseling Institute and Ab Abercrombie answered the phone. He said that he charges $150 for the initial session, which is 90 minutes, and then $100 per hour after that. The Abercrombies are guilty of the same criticisms we have leveled against the biblical counselors who charge. Since the Abercrombies recommend prayer during each counseling session and insist on the use of the Word, imagine paying $150 (initial session) and $100 per hour after that with an “Amen” at the end! This is surely filthy lucre! (1 Peter 5:2). If one believes in the sufficiency of Scripture as the Abercrombies claim, their biblical counsel should be freely given as Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out: “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8).
The Abercrombies are stereotypically problem-centered counselors and are guilty of all the unbiblical violations to which we refer in our book Person to Person Ministry: Soul Care in the Body of Christ. The Abercrombies additionally drag some of their psychological baggage into their counseling. Their anecdotal cases are typical and, we suspect from our research on case studies, jerry-rigged to prove a point.
We have often written about how psychologically trained and licensed Christians rely on their training at times, rather than solely on the Bible. In describing a woman who needs to recover from a traumatic situation, the Abercrombies say, “Grief experts tell us that you will go through several stages in your recovery” (p. 107). They then proceed to describe the so-called five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Their footnote is to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her book On Death and Dying. Her 1969 book was so influential that, if people failed to go through these steps in her prescribed order with the expected emotional intensity, counselors attempted to “help” them experience these feelings.
Years ago we wrote a Christian response to Ross, her book, and her five fixed stages of grief, titled Grief by Prescription (http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/grief.html). We say at the end of the article:
We believe that many who try to force a so-called grief process on others are playing god and bringing more grief than they are resolving. Not only are people harmed; the Lord is being dishonored. God’s children are being led to believe that His Word is not enough—that He is not really the God of all comfort. God’s grace is cheapened and His children are cheated.
In a Psychology Today (Feb. 2005) article titled “The Loose Screw Awards,” the author exposes some of psychology’s “Misguided Ideas.” It turns out that Ross’s model was never examined scientifically and therefore she was never truly a grief expert as the Abercrombies claim. She came up with these stages through her own limited observation and unfortunately her stages became mandated, both as stages of dying and as required stages of grief. The Abercrombies fell for this “loose screw” misguided idea and are promoting it in their book for unsuspecting Christians. This is an example of how the Abercrombies, through their psychological training, have, in this instance, turned to the world rather than solely to the Lord, who is the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
According to the Abercrombies, some of the desirable qualities of a “shrink” are: “training in counseling and therapeutic methods”; “advanced or post-graduate training” in counseling; “advanced certificates in marriage and family therapy”; and licensure as “professional counselors, social workers, family therapists, etc.” (p. 253). These, along with their earlier comments about licensed, professional counselors, contradict their claim for the sufficiency of Scripture. As we have demonstrated by academic research in our past writings, none of these so-called desirable qualities of a “shrink,” as recommended above by the Abercrombies, is needed to minister freely, without charge, to fellow believers in need. None of the Abercrombies’ recommended desirable qualities were needed prior to the rise of this psychological and unbiblical nonsense sixty years ago. Do not be intimidated by these desirable “shrink” qualities recommended by the Abercrombies and do not seek one to minister who touts them.
Like many Christian professional licensed counselors, the Abercrombies are an enigma, claiming biblical sufficiency in their writing on the one hand and then on the other hand denying it in their practice. The Abercrombies, in spite of some excellent biblical teachings along the way, are obviously depending on the ways of the world and the wisdom of men from their psychological training. They are surely not trustworthy single-minded servants of the Lord.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, January-February 2010, Vol. 18, No. 1)