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ACBC Counseling Fees

Nov 29, 2023 — Sarah Owens

[As an introduction to this article, please read Biblical Counseling Should Be Free.]

Our Master has commanded us to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16) and to “warn those that are unruly” (1 Thess. 5:14) as part of our Christian duty. Yet rather than speaking truth and wisdom to others freely, as they received it from God, some sell their biblical counsel as though it had originated from themselves.[1] By God’s grace, this is not the practice of a majority of biblical counselors, but it is unfortunately widespread, even among highly reputable biblical counseling organizations such as the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), as this article will demonstrate.

One of the hallmarks of the biblical counseling movement is the firm conviction that Scripture is sufficient for all non-medical problems. In the words of Ed Bulkey,

God has provided absolutely everything man needs for physical and spiritual life…. If Peter is correct [2 Pet 1:3-4], then God has given us all the information we need to function successfully in this life. Every essential truth, every essential principle, every essential technique for solving human problems has been delivered in God’s Word.[2]

If this is so, God’s Word should also be sufficient for answering the question as to whether counseling should be supported or sold. We believe that the Bible is crystal clear that Christian ministry should never be sold, but rather freely supported by the Body of Christ, and we want to encourage the biblical counseling movement to embrace this scriptural truth. As long as biblical counselors teach and function as though the Bible is insufficient to answer this question, they unintentionally undermine their foundational premise.

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) is an esteemed organization, devoted to counseling according to God’s Word. I myself am an ACBC certified counselor, and greatly appreciate and admire the work they have done in equipping both pastors and laymen to rightly handle God’s Word in counseling. However, when it comes to Jesus’s teaching that the ministry of the gospel should be offered freely (Mat 10:8), this organization has opted to turn a blind eye. Rather than take the position of its founder Jay Adams, who clearly assumed that biblical counseling would be offered for free,[3] ACBC leaves the door open for individual counselors to decide whether or not they will charge, and how much: “The Bible is clear that ministers of the gospel of Jesus are entitled to earn their living from the gospel…. Biblical counselors … must seek to love their counselees in discerning whether to charge fees and how much to charge.”[4] Notice that they wrongly assume that earning a living “from the gospel” means charging people for speaking truth in love, putting a price tag on wisdom, and requiring people “obtain the gift of God with money” (Acts 8:20). Also, they imply that it can be loving to charge people for healing, for pointing them to Jesus, and for other spiritual gifts that are involved in biblical counseling. But it is never loving to disobey God by selling access to the ministry of his Word and Spirit. As we’ll see in the data presented below, this confusing stance regarding money and ministry has created a biblical counseling landscape in which everyone simply does what is right in their own eyes.

To see how the ACBC financial policy plays out in practice, I have compiled data from all the official ACBC training centers that offer counseling.[5] This information was usually available on the websites of the individual counseling centers, though I occasionally had to reach out via email to ask. (The full collected data.)



Of all the ACBC counseling and training centers listed, only about 55% of centers offer their counseling without any fees. Of those remaining, 25% charge for each counseling session, while 20% do not charge per session, but still include some administrative fees (such as an initial setup fee or cancellation deposit).

For those centers that charge per session, the average cost for an hour-long session was $100, with the least expensive center charging between $25-40 per hour, and the most expensive center charging up to $260 per hour.[6] To compare this to secular therapy, the average cost of a cognitive behavioral therapy session is reported as being between $60-200 an hour with an average of $130,[7] not substantially different from the cost range of biblical counseling centers. At that average cost of $100 a session, even a diligent counselee may spend upwards of $1,000 before they’ve managed to resolve their issues. This cost could be daunting and prohibitive to those seeking scriptural help in a personal crisis.

Even for counselees of greater means, having to pay for biblical counseling puts an unnecessary consideration in the way of growth in maturity. Imagine the pressure a counselee may feel knowing that every 15 minutes more they spend with their counselor, another $20 drains from their bank account. Can there truly be trust or openness in such a situation?

ACBC board member Steve Viars explains the difficulty:

This is one reason it is so valuable to do counseling ministry in the context of a local church where counseling services are offered free of charge. The conversation is not rushed by financial concerns, and we are free to take the necessary time to get to know a counselee on a deeper level. The counselee, in turn, becomes convinced that we are not simply going to toss out pat answers or shallow solutions.[8]

In addition to the prices that match secular counselors, I noticed another practice that seemed to be borrowed from the secular counseling realm: several centers had a fee scale which was based on the skill of the counselor. Lower fees are charged for counseling with an intern, mid-level fees for counseling with a regular certified counselor, and the highest fees for counseling with a director.[9] The unpleasant implication of this practice is that the true value of biblical counseling is found in the counselor rather than in God and his Word.

It is important to recognize that ACBC, in their same “Standards of Conduct” referenced above, clearly says that counselors “will do everything possible to avoid refusing care to those unable to pay, and will never limit their conversational care only to those who are able to compensate their counselors.”[10] In adherence to this standard, most of the centers that charge a fee also have some kind of income exemption, to make counseling more affordable to those of lesser means. This usually comes in the form of a financial hardship application that counselees must fill out, or a sliding fee scale based on income.

Family SizeAnnual Household Income
1 Hour$25$30$35$40$45$50
1.5 Hours$37$43$50$58$66$75

Trinity Medical Associates biblical counseling fee schedule[11]

In addition to being cumbersome and potentially embarrassing, this type of accommodation does not always come across as genuinely helpful. On the example fee schedule included above, an unmarried person would have to make less than $6000 annually to qualify for free counseling. If this person made $6001, he would be charged $25 per hour, more than a day’s wages for someone at that income. While no genuine biblical counselor intends to lay such heavy burdens on their counselees, these dilemmas are inevitable when trying to force a secular compensation model into what should be a grace-filled and compassionate ministry supported by the free generosity of God’s people.

Here are some of the absurd-sounding results that occur when counseling centers offer their ministry in exchange for money:

“Using a pastoral model rather than a clinical model, our counseling and training proclaim the sufficiency of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit to change lives and glorify God”
– Summit Biblical Counseling (up to $125 per session plus a $25 admin fee)[12]

“I commit to pay before each appointment for the services rendered (1 Cor 9:13)”
– One Eighty Ministries (up to $210 per session)[13]

“We do everything we can to make our costs affordable. Whether you’re seeking counseling or training, you will find our rates are competitive to others in the field. Because we are not affiliated with any insurance plans, your costs are considerably lower than other counseling.”
– Reigning Grace Counseling Center (the most expensive center we found, up to $390 per session)[14]

I agree with the former executive director of ACBC Heath Lambert when he says, “The fact is that counseling is ministry, and ministry is counseling. The two are equivalent terms.”[15] Again, Scripture is clear that Christian ministry should be supported, but never sold.[16] ACBC must take a firm stand on this issue by changing their “Standards of Conduct” to reflect a biblical ethic of fundraising by requiring their members to offer biblical counseling free of charge. My hope is that a ministry that I love and admire might one day truly reflect God’s radical generosity and free grace to a broken world, and unequivocally condemn the peddling of God’s Word (2 Cor 2:17, Micah 3:11).

  1. See our introductory article “Biblical Counseling Should Be Free”. ↩︎

  2. Heath Lambert and Stuart Scott, Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (B&H Academic, 2015), 27. ↩︎

  3. “Counseling may not be set up as a life calling on a freelance basis. All such counseling ought to be done as a function of the church, utilizing its authority and resources.” Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling (Zondervan, 1986), 276. Emphasis added. ↩︎

  4. “Standards of Conduct”, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, accessed Oct 31, 2023, section III, paragraph C ↩︎

  5. “Get Training”, accessed Oct 31, 2023 ↩︎

  6. “Counseling”, Reigning Grace Counseling Center, accessed October 31, 2023 ↩︎

  7. “How Much Does Therapy Cost?”, accessed Nov 29, 2023 ↩︎

  8. Steve Viars, Counseling the Hard Cases (Nashville: B&H, 2012), 69–70. ↩︎

  9. “Counseling”, Timberlake Biblical Counseling & Training Center, accessed October 31, 2023 ↩︎

  10. “Standards of Conduct”, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, accessed Oct 31, 2023, section III, paragraph C ↩︎

  11. “Biblical Counseling”, Trinity Medical Associates, accessed October 31, 2023 ↩︎

  12. “Introductory Forms”, Summit Biblical Counseling, accessed October 31, 2023 ↩︎

  13. “Counseling Guidelines”, One-Eighty Ministries, accessed October 31, 2023 ↩︎

  14. “Counseling”, Reigning Grace Counseling Center, accessed October 31, 2023 ↩︎

  15. Heath Lambert, The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 21. ↩︎

  16. See Conley Owens, “The Dorean Principle”, accessed November 3, 2023 ↩︎

All original content is freely given and dedicated to the public domain.