Happy New Year and the Eight “I’s” of Biblical Counseling

January 15th, 2021 by posted in Counseling

With the increased number of new books coming out on biblical counseling, we sometimes forget some of the basics we have learned in the past. An area not to be forgotten are Dr. Wayne Mack’s Eight “I’s” of Biblical Counseling. They represent a methodology of techniques that are woven together to help the counselor most effectively counsel those Galatians 6:1-3 saints. At the start of each new year, I find it helpful to review good, solid counseling basics, re-examining the foundations of biblical counseling.

Involvement (Loving Care)

Building involvement is critical. In fact, it may be the most critical aspect of Biblical Counseling. Why? Because if the counselee doesn’t trust the counselor, the counselee will not listen to the counselor. In fact, Deepak Reju lists lack of trust as one reason to terminate counseling. People will not follow your guidance if they don’t trust you.[1]

Involvement can be developed when the counselor shows deep respect for the counselee and when the relationship is built on the foundation of sincerity. When the counselor is honest and transparent, involvement is quickly established.”[2]

The counselor comes alongside with gentleness, willing to “carry their backpack”, with humility (Galatians 6:1-3). The counselor is an imitator of Christ who sympathizes with our weaknesses and loves one another as Christ loves the church (Hebrews 4:15, Ephesians 5:1-2). In counseling this looks like eye contact, nodding and repeating back to acknowledge the counselees conversation, speaking quietly and under control, and stopping mid-session to pray for emotional situations. I have even given a couple a $5 bill and told them to stop and get ice cream on the way home to discuss the evening. That $5 bill cemented our counseling relationship because they felt I truly had “skin-in-the-game.”

Inspiration (hope)

What is hope? It is an effectual confidence in who God is and what He has promised (as good as done) in regard to the future with present day implications to holiness.[3]

Every counselee needs hope. Sin has defeating and disheartening effects in his life. Jay Adams talks about two different kinds of hope, the hope for the future resurrection of the body and crowning hope in the presence of Jesus. This is the great hope of all believers. But there is a second hope. There is hope for a new abundant life right now. The misery that comes from living sinfully can be alleviated. In times of trouble, then, when our sin has brought misery into our lives, all of us need to be reminded of the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:5).[4]

Counselees need biblical hope, not worldly hope. Worldly hope is based on human wisdom instead of the wisdom from above (James 3:13-18). Worldly hope uses phrases such as, “If I only had…”, “If people would just…”, and “I would be happy if…” Worldly hope receives its expectations from society, the unregenerate.

Biblical hope gives life. Biblical hope is an expectation based on the promises of God (Psalm 31:24; Romans 8:28). When we think biblically about life and faith, we can have hope amidst our circumstances. Without biblical hope, we tend to not believe and not obey God.

Two of the best texts of Scripture that give hope and help us gain eternal perspective are Romans 8:18-25 and 2 Corinthians 4. Also, having the counselee read about heaven is helpful in fostering hope.

Inventory (Gathering of Personal Information)

Data gathering is the collection of facts. One of the techniques vital to good counseling is skill in gathering relevant data. In biblical counseling data gathering is an important activity. Christian counselors are deeply concerned about data. They know that reliable data is needed in order to solve the counselee’s problems.[5] Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening is foolish and shameful.”

Wayne Mack shares an acronym for what types of data to gather:

P—Physical–sleep patterns; medications; diet; activity level; illness

R—Resources and Relationships–job situation; school; intellectual; social; spiritual

E—Emotions; they are feeling responses to what we want & think and chose (if non-organic in nature)

A—Actions–behavior; sins of commission and omission

C—Conceptual (Thinking)–goals; values; beliefs

H—Historical–good and bad in past context; present context; failures; school/job problems

D- Desire, affections

Data gathering has two components, objective and subjective. Objective information is factual information obtained in various ways. The subjective component includes gathering data by observing body language, monitoring tone of voice, studying mannerisms, and examining words used by the counselee. Jay Adams refers to this as “Halo Data”. This is the non-verbal form of communication.[6]

Interpreting Counseling Data

Gathering data, in and of itself, is not helpful simply as a data set. As counselors, we must develop the skills necessary to interpret that data we have discovered. Wayne Mack identifies the process of interpretation as, accurate analysis and clear explanation by following these four steps: (1) gather adequate data, (2) interpret the data, (3) formulate a working interpretation of the data, and (4) test the validity of the interpretation.[7] While data gathering is instructional, good questions begin to teach the counselee to organize, interpret and explain his world biblically. Using biblical categories rather than psychological labels helps us and the counselee understand what the Bible says about their stated issue.


“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:11-14, ESV)

Many of those (if not most) we counsel are tossed about by the winds of the world’s philosophies, empty deceit and plausible arguments (Colossians 2). Our challenge then is to bring the Word of God to bear on their lives and trust the Holy Spirit in applying God’s wisdom and truth to the challenges of life. We limit our counsel to the Bible because it provides all the instruction that one needs in the midst of obstacles, of temptations, trials and varied difficulties.


In the context of biblical counseling, inducement means to motivate counselees to make biblical decisions to change. Biblical transformation is not monergistic, that is, God does not transform us more and more into the image of Christ without any cooperation from man. Philippians 2:12-14 instructs us that, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” While the power of God is instrumental, there is a synergistic relationship to transformation. We need to help counselees to accept personal responsibility for their desires and motivations, thoughts, attitudes, feelings, words, and actions; bring counselees to the realization that biblical change involves personal choice; secure a commitment from counselees to put off the desires, thoughts, and actions that hinder biblical change and to replace them with ones that promote biblical change.[8] We must help the counselee to put-off and put-on.


“Biblical counseling seeks to promote holiness or biblical change as a life-style. It endeavors to foster the implementation and integration of biblical principles into people’s lives so they will become consistently Christ centered and Christ-like in every area of life including their desires, thoughts, attitudes, feelings and behavior.”[9] Christians often fail to change because they try to change solely by breaking bad habits through self-will. Change that lasts will not take place until one replaces the bad habit with a godly habit. Ephesians 4:22-24 explains this as the “Principle of Replacement” by using the terms put-off, renew your mind, and then put-on. For example, one puts off anger and puts on self-control, put off cheating and put on honesty. Implementation takes place in small steps, much like a candle lights just the next step, and not a spotlight that shines the entire path.


Integration is when the counselee understands how they have grown and changed and are then sharing that information with others. Integration takes place when one is doing well in one’s own life. The counselee begins to share his growth with others, what he is learning and then becomes an informal and spontaneous counselor to others.  Healthy sheep reproduce.

[1] Reju, Deepak and Pierre, Jeremy, The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need, (Crossway, 2014),Kindle Edition

[2] Mack, Wayne A. “Involvement and Biblical Counseling.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 5, no. 1 (Spring 1994), 23-42.

[3] Scott, Stuart, BC503 Methods of Biblical Change SIP Lecture (July 26/2016)

[4] Adams, Jay, The Christian Counselors Manual, (Zondervan, 1973), 41

[5] Adams, Jay, The Christian Counselor‘s Manual, (Zondervan, 1986), 257

[6] Ibid. 257

[7] MacArthur John Jr., and Mack Wayne A., Master’s College, Introduction to Biblical Counseling: Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling, Electronic ed. (Word Publishing, 1997), 232.

[8]  MacArthur John Jr., and Mack Wayne A., Master’s College, Introduction to Biblical Counseling: Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling, Electronic ed. (Word Publishing, 1997), 268.

[9] Ibid. 284

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