Family Tragedies Help Ignite a Christian Counseling Explosion

Rick Warren Associated Press/Photo by Nick Ut
Rick Warren
Associated Press/Photo by Nick Ut

Family tragedies have prompted two evangelical leaders to promote improvements in Christian counseling for the mentally ill—and one venerable group has changed its name.

After Melissa Page Strange, the 32-year-old daughter of Frank Page, committed suicide, her dad—president and CEO of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention—appointed a mental health advisory group. That group last month proposed that churches, seminaries, and Christian colleges improve preparation and education regarding mental health problems.

Last year Matthew Warren, son of Saddleback Church pastor and author Rick Warren, also committed suicide, and this spring a Saddleback conference on faith and mental illness drew 2,000 attendees. Rick Warren is now speaking often about mental health treatment, and last month Saddleback hosted a meeting for family members of those who have killed themselves.

Suicide is the extreme sadness, but many Christians who are not mentally ill, just weary, find counseling helpful. In another sign of the times, the American Association of Christian Counselors, a broad organization that does not certify counselors, has almost 50,000 members. Meanwhile, a certifying organization founded in 1976, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, has changed its name to the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

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Dave Swavely and Marvin Olasky

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