Counseling Women: Biblical Wisdom for Life’s Battles – Kristin L. Kellen

Counseling Women: Biblical Wisdom for Life's Battles by Kristin L. Kellen
Published by B&H Publishing, B&H Academic on March 15, 2022
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Marriage, Parenting, Theology, Work
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Counseling Women by professor and counselor Kristen Kellen offers an up-to-date, biblically-informed resource specifically geared toward common struggles that women face. Chapters survey issues such as depression, anxiety, infertility, trauma and abuse, disordered eating, and much more, each one providing a general overview of the problem, a summary of how the Bible speaks to it, and a robust, holistic approach to counseling the individual experiencing it.

Kellen also outlines theological foundations for counseling, specifically the Bible’s teaching on human persons, the role of sin and suffering, and the place of Scripture to speak to life’s struggles. The practices of mainstream therapy are filtered through Scripture’s teachings to provide a wise and balanced approach. Accessible and deeply practical, Counseling Women will be useful both for counselors in various settings and for students in training programs.

Kristin L. Kellen is a counselor and an assistant professor of counseling at a seminary, and she wrote this book for both lay and professional Christian counselors. It is academic but very readable, and is accessible to people with varying levels of familiarity with the subject. Over the first six chapters, she provides a rationale for Christian counseling and insight into women’s different life stages and contexts. Then, throughout the rest of the book, she shares brief overviews and advice for different common problems, such as depression, eating disorders, trauma, pornography, and marriage and parenting issues. She emphasizes that none of this material is exhaustive, and shares some recommended resource lists at the end of each chapter.

I appreciated Kellen’s repeated admonitions for counselors to engage with specific women’s experiences, feelings, and contexts, instead of presuming what their problems are or stereotyping them. Near the beginning, she mentions that even though she believes that counseling men and counseling women isn’t much different, a book like this can address specific life issues that women experience because of common roles and life experiences that they have. The avoidance of gender stereotypes was refreshing, and I found the book well-written, well-organized, and thoughtful overall.

Whenever I had critiques, I would remind myself of Kellen’s time and space constraints, but I have some strong reservations about the anxiety chapter. She writes about fear and anxiety as psychological, physical, and spiritual issues, but even though her advice is holistic and helpful for people dealing with general what-ifs and fretting, it falls short for someone dealing with an anxiety disorder. Kellen briefly mentions that anti-anxiety medication can be helpful in some cases, and she mentions the use of strategies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but she does not list or describe common anxiety disorders. I wish that she had addressed this topic more fully, especially since well-meaning Christian counselors often harm people with anxiety disorders, downplaying their experiences to typical worrying and wrongly attributing their mental health struggle to spiritual weakness. This chapter is a missed opportunity to correct readers’ possible blind spots.

Overall, Counseling Women: Biblical Wisdom for Life’s Battles is a high-quality resource for Christian therapists, pastors, and lay counselors who want to better equip themselves to help women with a variety of different life issues. This book is appropriate for both classroom use and personal reading, and Kellen’s clear, concise writing is accessible to a broad audience. She avoids unexplained jargon or overly technical language, and includes helpful real-world examples. As Kellen repeatedly reminds us herself, this book is not supposed to be an authoritative or exhaustive resource, but it is a solid introduction to a wide range of life issues and counseling strategies.