CCEF: Twelve Steps & PsychoHeresy

CCEF is the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, which was founded by Dr. Jay Adams and Dr. John Bettler. We have been very critical of CCEF over the years and have offered two critiques about them. Those two critiques can still be obtained from this ministry. (See items AP04 and AP05 on the enclosed Study Materials list.)

One of our many concerns about CCEF is that one of their counselors recommended the Alcoholics Anonymous model of 12 Steps and used a 12-Step type of approach. In response to that criticism, David Powlison, a popular CCEF counselor, said, "I can’t imagine any CCEF staff person mentioning the 12 Steps, since we ruthlessly critique it" (letter from Powlison, 1/29/93, emphasis added). We responded that if the counselor in question would write to us and deny the accusation we would correct our critique accordingly. To date no such denial has been received.

Since that interchange two books have been co-authored by Dr. Ed Welch, who is Director of Counseling at CCEF. The two books were published this year. The book titled Addictive Behavior is written for the "counselor," and the book titled Running in Circles: How to Find Freedom from Addictive Behavior is for the "counselee." Both books are supportive of 12-Step programs and recommend some of the very books against which Christians should be warned.

In Running in Circles, Welch and his coauthor, Gary Steven Shogren, discuss support groups (pp. 84,85). Regarding attending such groups, they list "Reasons for Going" (pp. 85,86) and "Reasons against Going" (pp. 86,87). They conclude:

  • To almost all Christians who ask me whether they should go to a Twelve-Step group, my answer is "yes." The benefits will outweigh the disadvantages (p. 87).
  • The "Resource List" in Appendix A, the books listed in their section "For Further Reading," and their list of "Recovery Devotional Guides" are more than enough to condemn this book for Christian consumption.

    Without an appropriate warning, Appendix B displays "The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions of AA." From the content of Running in Circles, it is obvious that Welch and Shogren are pleased to list them for the reader.

    In addition to providing, recommending and listing support groups, books, and recovery devotional guides, Welch and Shogren provide misinformation. For example, they say, "The element of surrender in the Twelve Steps was taken mainly from Romans 6; just look at Step Three." There is no footnote for this statement. Nor could there be. We describe how the 12 Steps came about in 12 Steps to Destruction:Codependency Recovery Heresies (p. 109).

    Another example is the following statement:

  • One of the best pieces of wisdom to come out of the Twelve-Step movement is the slogan "Just For today," meaning that sobriety must be lived one day at a time. They in turn distilled it from passages such as this: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
  • While Matthew 6:34 may sound like the slogan "Just for Today," it is doubtful that it originated from there.

    The book Addictive Behavior includes an "Addiction and Recovery Books" section listing many of the same recovery books as are listed in Running in Circles. One of the many bad examples of what they recommend in both books is Melody Beattie’s book Codependent No More. Here is the description given in Addictive Behavior:

  • The most popular of the codependency books. The problem is control, the treatment is self-love. Also by Beattie, Beyond codependency (p. 190).
  • Not a word of warning. Not a suggestion here that there is anything wrong with self-love as the treatment. Here is the description of Codependent No More given in Running in Circles:

  • One of the most popular books on a popular theme. Beattie deals with the control and over-involvement associated with being close to an addict. She has written a number of books on this theme (p. 102).
  • Not a word of warning is given for that book or any other listed under the section "For Further Reading." We contend that Welch and Shogren should warn against that book, as well as many of the others on the list.

    In the Preface to Addictive Behavior, Welch says:

  • If you choose to follow this book closely in your counseling, you should consider the companion volume that is intended for the counselee, Running in Circles: How to Find Freedom from Addictive Behavior. It will give the counselee reading that will compliment your counseling session, and it is one of the few resources that is both biblical and written specifically for the struggling addict (p. 25).
  • We disagree with Welch’s evaluation of his book. While it may be "written specifically for the struggling addict," it is lamentable to see that Welch regards his book as "biblical." It is sorely contaminated with psychoheresy.

    These two books about addiction reveal one additional fatal flaw of CCEF through its Director of Counseling, Dr. Ed Welch. Welch’s blatant support of the 12 Steps certainly does not support Powlison’s contention that "we ruthlessly critique it."

    More Problems

    Welch and Shogren’s book Addictive Behavior is one of ten books in the "Strategic Pastoral Counseling Resources" series. In the Series Preface, David Benner introduces what he calls "Strategic Pastoral Counseling." Benner says:

  • The three overall stages that organize Strategic Pastoral Counseling can be described as encounter, engagement, and disengagement (Addictive Behavior, p. 16).
  • Benner describes the three states and the five sessions associated with them. Welch uses Benner’s format for five counseling sessions in five chapters of the book Addictive Behavior.

    It is clear that Welch’s book is connected to Benner’s book Strategic Pastoral Counseling, since Welch’s book is in this series, includes Benner’s preface, and follows Benner’s counseling format. Therefore, logic would lead us to conclude that Welch agrees with Benner’s views on counseling.

    In his book Strategic Pastoral Counseling, Benner describes Jay Adams’ Nouthetic counseling and says:

  • This approach had a considerable following in the early 1970s as pastors responded appreciatively to his call back to counseling, a domain many of them had relinquished to mental-health professionals. However, the limitations of this and other psychology-rejecting visions of counseling quickly became apparent. The assumption that everything that needed to be known about therapeutic psychology could be found in the Bible seemed to reflect a flawed view of the purpose of Scripture, and the notion that all emotional and psychological problems are best addressed by the sort of explicitly and narrowly conceived religious interventions recommended by these authors seemed simplistic p. 13).
  • Benner’s characterization of Nouthetic counseling and his presentation of the views of pastors towards biblical counseling and psychology should have been enough to settle any alliance with anyone who understands the intent of biblical counseling and the flaws of psychology. Benner says:

  • The challenge for pastors has, therefore, been to find a model of counseling that is both distinctively pastoral and psychologically responsible (p. 13).
  • That statement should be reprehensible to anyone who is at all sensitive to the destructive power of psychoheresy in the church and to those who claim that they are not integrationists. CCEF and Ed Welch, as its Director of Counseling, have some real explaining to do unless they are finally ready to admit that recycling is really integration after all.

    Readers interested in examining Welch’s books can purchase them through regular bookstores. Running in Circles (108-page trade paperback) and and Addictive Behavior (196-page hardback) are both published by Baker.


    PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110

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