Grace-Based Counseling • Natalie Ford, PhD & Richard A. Fowler, EdD

An Effective New Biblical Model

August 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-2323-8

You speak God’s truth when you counsel. But do you also communicate His grace?

The Christian counselor or pastor plays an important role in helping people process the trauma they’ve experienced. Too often, a client leaves the counselor’s office with feelings of guilt and shame. They feel the heavy burden of what they did wrong. But somehow, they’ve missed the grace of God that makes things right again.

A counseling model that stays true to a biblical worldview will overflow with grace . . . not cheap grace, but real grace that acknowledges sin while offering a hopeful path to redemption and healing. In Grace-Based Counseling, professional counselors Richard Fowler and Natalie Ford offer a model that blends the truths of Scripture, the science of psychology, and the everlasting hope of the gospel. In this book you will find:

  • New, grace-based counseling model
  • Detailed application of the model, with case studies
  • Practical toolbox with surveys, assessments, and counseling helps

A Christian counseling model can’t just be about admonishment. That approach only leads to shame and human efforts that are doomed to fail. But when the gospel is brought to bear in the counseling relationship, real life change is possible. Then the counselor becomes an instrument of divine grace in the hands of a faithful God.


Dr. Natalie Ford (B.A., Mercer University; M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Liberty University) is Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Degree Counselor for the Masters in Counseling at the Leonhard Schiemer School of Psychology and Biblical Counseling at Truett McConnell University (TMU). Prior to serving at TMU, Dr. Ford served as the director of Catalyst Christian Learning Center and as a missionary with the North American Mission Board. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and practices at a community counseling center. She wrote Tears to Joy: Finding Hope in the Presence of Bipolar Disorder and Suicide. She lives in the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Jeff, and her daughter, Jorjanne.

Dr. Rick Fowler, son of missionary parents, has for over forty years served in a variety of capacities, including as pastor, licensed counselor, university professor of psychology and sociology, and head basketball coach. Dr. Fowler is currently a member of the graduate faculty of psychology/professional counseling at Truett McConnell University. In addition, he has been a frequent speaker at numerous seminars and Bible conferences across America and overseas. He is the author of thirteen books and has been a featured guest on FOCUS ON THE FAMILY and the 700 CLUB. Married for 52 years, he and his wife Jen have two children and eight grandchildren.


“Can you recommend a good Christian counselor?” we get asked time and time again. This is perhaps one of the most challenging questions to answer. Is the person looking for pastoral counseling or professional counseling? For some who ask, the underlying question is, “Do you know of a counselor who is a Christian but who never discusses faith?” For others, it suggests a desire for a counselor who will actively use the Word of God in every session.

That really gets to the heart of the bigger question: What is the proper way for Christians to counsel? Can a believing counselor ethically talk about the Bible in a professional session? What about pastors who have had little to no counseling training? Graduate students wrestle with how they can live out their faith in the counseling profession while maintaining proper ethical standards and not imposing their beliefs on counselees. They wonder, Is it possible to counsel ethically from a biblical worldview?

This quandary has long been a topic of debate – so much so that experts in the field of psychology have established five prominent models in an attempt to answer it. Existing models include the levels-of-explanation approach, Christian psychology, integration, transformative approach, and nouthetic counseling, also referred to as biblical counseling. The levels-of-explanation and nouthetic counseling perspectives fall on opposite ends of the psychology spectrum. Christians within the biblical counseling perspective argue that psychology is completely secular and has no place in Christian counseling. This approach asserts that there are no applicable truths within psychological theories. On the opposite extreme, levels-of-explanation counselors view faith as personal, having no place in the counseling room, and instead rely solely on psychological principles. They do not ever use the Bible in counseling. The other three approaches – Christian psychology, integration, and transformative approach – fall between these two extremes.

While counselors are often asked to share their theoretical orientation for counseling, rarely are they asked how their Christian faith impacts their counseling. Yet that is an essential part of the counseling relationship. But for many counselors, even if they are asked, they may not be able to pinpoint exactly how to answer. Throughout our more than forty years of working as counselors, we’ve realized that counselors need more training in how to respond both biblically and ethically while simultaneously respecting the various worldviews of their clients.

According to a 2019 study, 94 percent of pastors surveyed said they counsel their parishioners on a regular basis. Furthermore, a majority of pastors viewed their counseling training in seminary as inadequate, stating that they felt ill-prepared for half of the counseling needs they face in ministry. Since pastors often stand on the front lines when it comes to counseling, it is imperative that we provide them with resources to equip them in this endeavor. Research shows 76 percent of pastors will refer church members to a professional counselor after two sessions.

As counselors we have to learn to let our faith guide our counseling without imposing our beliefs on our clients. Grace-based counseling provides a framework to do so.


Drs. Ford and Fowler have done a brilliant job funneling over forty years of combined experience into this solidly biblical counseling model. It is a delightful guide, chock-full of information for those of us who want to counsel well, while also remaining rooted and grounded in Truth. I highly recommend it.
– Lisa Sosin
Director of the PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision Program at Liberty University

What a breath of fresh air to read of a counseling model that is bathed and based in the sufficiency of Scripture while providing counselors with the practical tools and profound wisdom necessary to minister to men and women in need of healing and grace. Every pastor and counselor needs this book.
– Emir Caner
President of Truett McConnell University

In answering the question, “What is the proper way for Christians to counsel?,” Drs. Fowler and Ford have crafted a model of therapy that is both biblically sound and psychologically appropriate. Grace-Based Counseling builds a five-step approach to counseling (using the acrostic GRACE) that draws heavily from biblical theology as a framework for the understanding and application of psychological principles and counseling techniques, and the proper use of both in therapy. The model is explained in detail, with specific case studies provided to illustrate the proper use of the model in therapy. The reader is also blessed with the counselor’s toolbox – a treasure of profiles, inventories, and assessments that may be used to assist counselors in their work. This book will be a valuable resource of professional counselors, counseling students, pastoral counselors, and laypeople who want a better understanding of how to counsel as a Christ follower.
– Joe Cook
Professor of Professional Counseling, Dallas Baptist University