Book Review: Counseling Women, by Kristin L. Kellen
Kristin L. Kellen, Counseling Women: Biblical Wisdom for Life’s Battles. B&H Academic, 2022. 288 pages.
As a biblical counselor, I am always on the lookout for biblically centered, clinically informed resources. Professor and counselor Kristin Kellen’s new book Counseling Women: Biblical Wisdom for Life’s Battles meets the mark. She provides a biblical framework for coming alongside women in need, as well as practical counseling advice derived from years of experience.
In her introduction, Kellen states, “It is my hope that each reader walks away from this text more prepared to serve our sisters and encourage them in ways that honor the Lord” (xv). It is my happy job to report that her book indeed accomplishes her hope, and I heartily recommend it to any reader.
Counseling Women is structured into two sections. Section One includes six chapters of theological groundwork for understanding women from a biblical perspective. Section Two, the bulk of the book, contains fourteen issue-specific chapters about common problems women face. The list includes depression, anxiety, grief, eating disorders, same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, self-harm, suicide, addiction, pornography, trauma, marital unfaithfulness, infertility, miscarriage, parenting, and chronic pain. With so many issues to tackle in one resource, Kellen is unable to offer exhaustive counseling advice for every problem. However, she does cover a lot of ground in each brief topical chapter, expertly balancing biblical instruction with practical counseling ideas from mainstream therapy practices.
Her chapter on “Grief,” for example, begins with a case study from a real woman’s life. From there, Kellen defines the problem of grief, describes its complexities, and applies wonderfully relevant Scripture to the struggle. She also offers insightful counseling advice for coming alongside a woman in grief.
Kellen ends each chapter with possible “growth assignments” to encourage a woman to work through. In the counseling world, we might call these growth assignments “counseling homework,” and I personally benefitted from her ideas in this category a great deal. I’ve already implemented several of her growth assignments into my own counseling since reading her book.
What makes this book different from the many biblical counseling resources out there? For one, Kellen spends the first 64 pages presenting a biblical framework for understanding women. While this section may feel familiar to a believer who knows the Bible well, I appreciate that Kellen doesn’t assume her reader already knows these foundational biblical truths. And, of course, a refresher on creation, fall. and redemption is never a bad thing. I admittedly found myself tempted to skip to the issue-specific counseling chapters, but I am glad I didn’t and would encourage readers not to skip this section either.
Secondly, this book is unique in that while Kellen writes with a faithful biblical framework, she often refers to the importance of holistic care for a person’s body and soul in counseling. For instance, in Chapter 10, “Disordered Eating,” she suggests involving a medical professional and nutritionist alongside biblical counseling for more well-rounded care (115). Again, in her chapter on “Anxiety,” Kellen suggests physiological treatment in addition to biblical counseling, such as muscle relaxation exercises or the possible pursuit of medication with a physician.
Ironically, one distinction that is a bit understated in the book is the content being geared toward women. With a title like Counseling Women, you expect the content to be very targeted toward women. Truthfully, though, most of the book could have been written just as easily for men. It’s clear Kellen is aware of this, as she addresses the matter head-on in her intro:
The counseling issues addressed are nuanced specifically for women and the counselor is assumed to be a woman as well. And yet, the principles are not exclusive; they are certainly useful for either men counseling women or for counseling men (xiii).
I agree that this book could be just as useful for walking alongside men and would encourage pastors and counselors to reference it for help counseling anyone.
DIRECTIONS FOR USE
So how can you best utilize this resource at your church?
Because the book covers a broad range of counseling topics, it’s a great introductory book for disciplers, lay counselors, and counseling students who desire to grow in caring for those around them. It’s a great biblical counseling 101 kind of resource.
With that said, this book can help seasoned pastors and counselors as well. The chapters on specific counseling problems are quick reference guides for any counselor wanting fresh ideas as they care for someone. I have counseled many people with depression, for instance, and yet I still gleaned new helpful insights in Kellen’s “Depression” chapter to incorporate into my care for a sister even this week.
So, whether you are brand new to counseling or a veteran, male or female, I believe this is a good book to have on your bookshelf.