Are Lay Counselors Effective?

Lay Counselors Are as Effective as Professional Counselors!

Sometimes I get discouraged. I get out of a meeting with a couple and I wonder if we did any good at all.

I really do want to help other couples. I’m a compassionate guy and I want people to have a healthy marriage relationship. Am I being effective? Am I doing any good?

I’m not the only one that wonders this. I regularly meet with other couples that want to help by being mentors. They want to give back and build into another couple’s lives. They are usually very caring people that are wondering how they can minister to others.

I think that they have that basic question, “Can I be effective as a lay counselor?”

We Are All Called to Help

“… you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” Romans 15:14

God calls us to help each other. I could quote lots of Bible passages about this. The body of Christ is all about helping each other to grow in Christ and to bear one another’s burdens.

Don’t we have professionals to do this? I used to hear to hear this when I was growing up. The attitude was that we hired the pastor to do the ministry. After all, they went to seminary. In Ephesians 1 it lays out the role of the pastors is to equip people for works of service.

Our works of service include ministering to others. This includes ministering to couples that are struggling with their marriage.

Lay Counselors Are as Effective as Professionals

OK, so the Bible teaches that we are all called to bear one another’s burdens. Does that mean that lay people can be effective?

The short answer: YES!

In the book “Lay Counseling” the authors write:

“The majority of outcome studies comparing the effectiveness of professional therapists to lay counselors have found that lay counselors are generally as effective as professional therapists for most common problems by clients, according to recent reviews and reports or studies.”

Did you catch that? Lay counselors are as effective as professionals.

For some reason, that gives me a bit more confidence. So, have confidence!

But, don’t get cocky! I still believe in mental health professionals and I regularly refer people.

Be the Best You Can Be

I’ve now worked with enough struggling couples to know that we do have an positive impact. Couples tell us that we’ve given them tools that have saved their marriage. So, I know it works. I have that confidence.

When it comes to caring for people, I want to be as effective as possible.

Think of the ideal counselor. They have their own act together, they’re very spiritually mature, they know the Bible forward and backward and they are trained on counseling techniques.

Guess what? None of us starts there. We grow into it.

In my church, we have small groups of struggling couples, each led by a mentor couple. My wife and I train new mentor couples. We get together with the mentors on a regular basis to talk about how to handle difficult situations.

My observation is that mentor couples grow in their effectiveness. They start out a little unsure and gradually improve. The more experienced mentor couples are great sources for ideas on how to handle different situations.

I’m a big believer in continuing to learn, to read and to gain experience on how to minister to couples.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • You Are Called to Help Others – All Christians are called to help others. I believe that there are those who are specifically called to work in a marriage ministry. That may be you!
  • Lay Counselors are Effective – Be confident. Lay counselors can be as effective as mental health professionals.
  • Grow in Effectiveness – Commit yourself to helping others the best way that you can. Continue to learn and grow.



Tan, S., & Scalise, E. (2016). Lay counseling: equipping Christians for a helping ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Page 70.