Over the last couple of years I have been reading more counseling books in a quest to better equip myself to help others. I began my journey with academic and professional counseling books. While there is much that can be learned from these types of books, I quickly deserted that path in favor of books for real people in the real world. And that is why I loved Pursuing the Heart of Wisdom: Counseling Teenagers Biblically by John Kwasny.
Pursuing the Heart of Wisdom is simple and easy to read, yet very helpful. The book targets parents of teenagers and student ministers, but is accessible for anyone who wants to help teenagers.
The book divides into two parts. The first part deals with overarching principles for counseling teens from a biblical worldview. The second part addresses fifteen common “problems” teenagers face.
Kwasny provides a solid foundation for counseling teens throughout his first three chapters. Chapter 1 dives into a theological framework for understanding God, teenagers, the problems teenagers face, and solution for those problems. Kwasny connects the truth of God and humans (specifically teenagers) to the reality of life in a fallen world. He examines the physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, social, and spiritual causes of the difficult situations teenagers face and then brings the gospel to bear on those situations.
Every problem teenagers experience is known by God. Every situation, every direction, every outcome falls under the sovereign rule of the King of the universe.
In chapter 2, Kwasny develops the Biblical process for counseling: (1) listen, (2) evaluate, (3) confront, and (4) education. The first step for any parent, leader, or counselor in the counseling process is listening in order to discover the heart of the problem. Once the heart of the problem has been discovered the parent or leader can then confront the teenager with their role in the problem(s) and help the teenager move past the problem(s) in a physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy manner. As parents or leaders take these four steps they simultaneously communicate care for the teenager and help create change in the teenager’s life and situation.
Chapter 3 rounds out part 1 with a look at the interconnected relationship of home and church. Kwasny proposes the foundation for biblical counseling is a partnership between parents and church ministry leaders. This is not to say that professional counselors or other resources may not play a part in the counseling process, but that all biblical counseling begins in the home and is supported by the church.
Biblical counseling is a gospel-driven, Christ-centered series of conversations between parent and child, counselor and counselee, leader and student.
After Kwasny develops the Biblical and theological framework for counseling teens, he offers counseling help for fifteen core teenage “problems.”
- Anger and Bitterness
- Anxiety, Fear, and Worry
- Drugs and Alcohol
- Eating Disorders
- Guilt and Shame
- Homosexuality and Same-Sex Attraction
- Identity, Gender, and Self Problems
- Premarital Sex
- Self-Harm and Cutting
- Technology and Media
- Unmotivated Teens
Each chapter provides a few case studies of teens dealing with the “problem,” the symptoms of the “problem,” keys to evaluation questions, biblical principles for counseling, and ends with a bullet point summary. I found each element of these chapters helpful, especially the evaluation questions. Each chapter provides an excellent overview of the problem as well as initial steps to help a teenager work through the problem. While the chapters are not exhaustive and may not address every issue within a particular problem, each chapter offers a primer and the Helpful Resources section at the end of the book points readers to additional resources.
Teenagers not only need their parents and church ministry leaders to help them deal with their problems – they need to know that they actually love them in the midst of the problems!
I highly recommend every parent and student ministry leader purchase a copy of Pursuing a Heart of Wisdom, read the first three chapters, and then keep the book on an easily accessible shelf for reference. While the later chapters are very helpful they are also detail oriented and tend to be very repetitive (as many of these problems stem from the same root issues). Therefore, I would suggest reading the chapters in Part 2 as the problem arises.