Marriage counseling is often resorted to in the world and in the church. The trials, tribulations, and troubles most often seen by a psychotherapist or pastor are marital problems. However, this is the one area of therapy that psychotherapists and biblical counselors sin the most. As more and more people have been going to psychotherapy for marriage counseling, more and more have become divorced, and this includes professing Christians, who are divorcing at about the same rate as unbelievers.[1] With all the time and money and the great expectations that counseling will help married couples, it is disconcerting to learn that marriage counseling in psychotherapy only helps about half of the time, which is similar to sham (fake) treatment. Why are the results so poor? Psychotherapy Networker, a professional psychotherapy organization, hosts “one of the world’s largest annual conferences for therapists.”[2] The editor, who is a psychotherapist, confesses that “most therapists who actually do marital therapy (about 80 percent of all clinicians) don’t really know what they’re doing.” He says:

Untrained in and unprepared for work that requires a highly skilled touch and nerves of steel, many therapists blunder ineffectually through sessions until they’re fired by their clients or, overwhelmed by a couple’s problems, they give up too soon in trying to save a marriage.[3]

But then he admits that skilled, experienced therapists are often unsuccessful as well.

While “80 percent of all clinicians” [psychotherapists] “do marital therapy,” one hundred percent of all biblical counselors we have seen do marriage counseling. Both psychotherapists and biblical counselors are in violation of the commands of Scripture, but the psychotherapists are worse, because of no biblical restrictions on what is said.

Hidden In Plain Sight

We all know the expression “hidden in plain sight.” The idiomatic definition is “seemingly hidden, but actually not hidden and easy to find.” We have often discussed the sin-saturated, “in-plain-sight” nature of biblical counseling, which applies even more so to psychological coun­seling. Over the years we have named and exposed the sin-saturated counseling of both psychological and biblical counselors. Because of the many sinful conversations that occur in both psychological and biblical counseling, Christians should not be participants or practitioners in either one.

Hidden in plain sight is the glaring fact that neither psychotherapy nor biblical marriage counseling can be done without violating the commands of Scripture. To prove this assertion, we go to the letter to the Ephesians.

The first three chapters of Ephesians present all the facts (indicatives) of what God has given believers in Christ to enable them to obey all the commands (imperatives) in the last three chapters. The new life in Christ is founded upon the very presence of the deep abiding relationship believers have in Christ. Thus, when the marriage relationship is presented with direct commands, believers are to obey. The following verses are the beginning of the ones for wives and husbands to obey, and they are the very ones that are all disobeyed by the very act of marital counseling:

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Eph. 5:20-21.)

We have yet to see, hear, or read about a marital counseling session in which the spouses are “giving thanks” for one another. Instead, there are sinful descriptions of each other in which there is no fear of God. Rather than any form of “submitting yourselves to one another” with care and consideration, each violates the commands of Ephesians 5 by describing the faults and sins of each other.

The biblical commands go on:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Eph. 5:22-24.)

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (Eph. 5:25-27.)

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:28-32.)

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Eph. 5:33.)

Even prior to the first counseling meeting, spouses are violating this simple command by their very thought life. If a husband is loving his wife “even as himself,” he will not be thinking of exposing her faults to anyone! If a wife is reverencing (honoring) her husband, she will not be exposing his faults to others! Yet these violations of God’s commandments in Ephesians 5 are encouraged and supported by the counseling, causing further exacerbation of the marriage relationship.

Addendum: For those of you who are new to our website, please go to the article “Dr. John Street: A Live ‘Biblical’ Counseling Session” for an excellent example of the hidden-in-plain-sight sinfulness of marriage counseling conducted by one of the leaders of the biblical counseling movement. In addition to the few responses at the end of the article, all others, but one, were appalled at the extreme violation of Scripture revealed in the article. Because the entire counseling done by Dr. Street was play-acted to a positive conclusion by the actors, one reader felt that all the sinful talk, i.e., violations of Ephesians 5:22-28, was justifiable. However, as the apostle Paul has said, “What shall we say then? Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:12.)


[1] “Born Again Adults Less Likely to Co-Habit, Just as Likely to Divorce,” Barna Research Online, August 6, 2001, www.barna.org.

[2] Livia Kent, “Editor’s Note,” Psychotherapy Networker,” Vol. 47, No. 3.

[3] Richard Simon, “From the Editor,” Psychotherapy Networker, Vol. 26, No. 6, p. 2.