Biblical Counseling, Christian Marriage, Divorce, Marriage, Marriages Damaged-Destroyed by Sp. Ab., Narcissistic Pastors, Spiritual Abuse, Tullian Tchividjian

Is Paul Tripp Violating Counseling Code of Ethics by Releasing Statement about Tullian Tchividjian?

Paul Tripp, Tullian Tchividjian, Code of Ethics Violations, Divorce, Christian Counseling


Paul Tripp Releases Statement about Tullian Tchividjian and Divorce


Recently, I posted about Tullian Tchividjian, former senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) who recently filed for divorce from his wife, Kimberly, of 21 years: Tullian Tchividjian Files for Dissolution of Marriage and Timeline.

Today, there is a new development regarding Paul Tripp, who has recently counseled Tullian Tchividjian.

Here’s a little background on Paul Tripp:

Dr. Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 15 books on Christian living and travel around the world preaching and teaching. Paul’s driving passion is to help people understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks with practical hope into all the things people face in this broken world. (Source)

Paul Tripp released a public statement on his website today regarding Tullian Tchividjian and his divorce filing:


PT TT statement


Paul Tripp linked to his statement from his public Facebook page and I noted some concerning comments:


pt tt2
pt tt3 pt tt4


The Relationship Between Tullian Tchividjian and Paul Tripp


As we consider this public statement, and the fact that Paul Tripp is Tullian’s counselor, I think it’s important to look at their relationship and friendship. Paul David Tripp has spoken at Liberate conferences in 2012, 2013, 2014, and this past February 2015, only two months before he found out about his wife’s affair.


Conferences Together

Paul Tripp, Tullian Tchividjian divorce




 Counseling Ministry Together

At the Association of Biblical Counselors website, both Paul Tripp and Tullian Tchividjian are listed as contributing authors.


Tripp and Tchividjian Published a Video Together


Book Endorsement

Paul Tripp has endorsed Tullian Tchividjian’s book, Surprised by Grace, “In this wonderful book Tullian creatively and clearly does with the story of Jonah what the Bible was designed to do. He helps you see yourself and weep and see your God and rejoice. Read. It will deepen your sense of need and your affection for the God who meets you in the middle of it.”
Paul Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries”



Is Paul Tripp Violating Counseling Code of Ethics?

It is clear that not only do Tchividjian and Tripp identify themselves as friends, they are also in ministry work together. This poses a conflict of interest when Tripp puts on his counselor hat. Here are specific codes of ethics regarding counselors who counsel friends or business acquaintances. They come from two different sources, American Counseling Association and American Association of Christian Counselors. I believe Paul Tripp may have violated these codes:

From the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics:

 A.5.d. Friends or Family Members Counselors are prohibited from engaging in counseling relationships with friends or family members with whom they have an inability to remain objective.

From the American Association of Christian Counselors, I found the following code of ethics that would apply:

1-140: Dual and Multiple Relationships Dual relationships involve the breakdown of proper professional or ministerial boundaries. A dual relationship exists when two or more roles are mixed in a manner that can harm the counseling relationship and/or the therapeutic process. This includes counseling, as well as personal, fraternal, business, financial, or sexual and romantic relationships. Not all dual relationships are necessarily unethical—it is client exploitation that is wrong, not the dual relationship in and of itself. However, it remains the responsibility of the counselor to monitor and evaluate any potential harm to clients.

1-140-c: Counseling with Family, Friends, and Acquaintances Christian counselors do not provide counseling to family members or close friends, as dual relationships with other family members, acquaintances, and fraternal, club, association, or group members, are potentially troublesome and best avoided, otherwise requiring justification.

1-140-d: Business and Economic Relations Christian counselors avoid partnerships, employment relationships, and close business associations with clients.

I believe Tripp was wrong to release a public statement on behalf of Tullian Tchividjian. He gives Tullian a supportive voice, but notice there is no voice for Kimberly. Additionally, we read in the statement of Tullian’s repentance. I’m unclear how Tripp can know of Tchividjian’s repentance. What is he basing it on – Tullian’s words alone? Aren’t they living in different states? Has he inquired of Tchividjian’s friends and family to see this repentance in action? Furthermore, Tchividjian, by the vow he took to be a Presbyterian minister, should have been under the counsel of his elders at CRPC, who have been with him for the last few years and know the family.

Tullian Tchividjian, by seeking out his friend for counsel, smacks of the good ol’ boys club: you pat my back and I’ll pat yours; you write a book endorsement for me and I’ll invite you to speak at my church’s Liberate conference; I go to you for counseling and name you publicly and you help me and my reputation when I file for divorce.

Does anyone know who is overseeing Paul Tripp?  I sure hope professional counselors will speak up about this obvious conflict of interest and potential violation of ethics.

128 thoughts on “Is Paul Tripp Violating Counseling Code of Ethics by Releasing Statement about Tullian Tchividjian?”

  1. Stephanie,

    You’re absolutely right. I thought about pursing a degree in pastoral counseling for awhile after I was exit counseled, but I felt that had to much of my own personal work to do. When I needed more help than just the psychoeducation for spiritual abuse and it became obvious that the issues of childhood trauma were wrapped around my religious experience, the hospice I worked for referred me to a nurse who worked with us. She had a master’s in clinical psych and was an LPC, but she had a PhD in pastoral counseling. She opted not to pursue licensure in pastoral counseling because she essentially had sufficient credentials.

    I’ve leaned heavily on pastoral counseling staff in the hospital setting — both for patients, families, and for myself in my early years as a nurse as I learned how to care for people in this holistic sense — much of which you learn by experience and by drawing on your own spirituality. Some of the things that the professionally licensed pastoral care staff shared with me became watershed moments of growth for me in learning how to manage my own grief as a bedside nurse. One of my mentors in lay hypnotherapy was also a licensed pastoral counselor. So much of my own healing came through them — and those who are trained and vetted are an entirely different type of counselor.

    I had not considered until now how important it is to make that distinction between the professional from the general sense of the word in the common vernacular. I do know personally that a licensed pastoral counselor who has met the standards to qualify are a whole other kind of creature than a “Biblical”/nouthetic counselor. They are also trained to know their limitations, such as when to get a referral for mental health therapy — though pastoral care is also therapeutic, just as nursing should be when done effectively.

    So what do we call them? Lay pastoral counselors? Why are they not just counseling pastors perhaps? I struggle with defining the practice of nouthetic counseling, because I’m sure that like any other endeavor, there are people who are appropriate and effective and do know their limits, making referrals when necessary. But the philosophy of nouthetics is really troubling because they do assert that they can and should practice medicine (and/or professional mental health therapy) without a license. I also don’t wish to alienate people who have had good experiences with nouthetics, nor do I wish to cause undue angst to those who have legitimate issues with the problems that nouthetics presents.

    I also now wonder if you would peer review a video I have on this subject (a session at a seminar) before I start editing it? The licensed professionals at the International Cultic Studies Assoc. heard it, and the only negative feedback I received was that it was a bit “anti-Calvinist,” but that was from a touchy Calvinist. 🙂 I’d love to get feedback from someone licensed from outside of that bubble of special interest, but also from someone with some familiarity with these alternative systems. (I have been hesitant to work on the editing, perhaps because it hasn’t had a wider review from someone still very active in the field — and also working outside of the anti-cult or cult education bubble.)

    After this disucussion, I wonder if it’s worth advancing a small initiative to work to come up with a better term what critics of nouthetics can use that can help clarify matters for Christians who are trying to sort all of this out? It might make for a good editorial piece to help foster productive discussion. I struggle so much with this because I do respect the efforts of good pastors who do pursue this kind of skill with the best of intentions but end up internalizing the problematic attitudes and beliefs that nouthetics foster. It’s just so grounded in behaviorism… I also wonder if I’m just trying accomplish something that can’t be done. How do you soften hard criticism when critical of the foundational assumptions made in Biblical counseling, especially when it can result in so much damage which does anger me. How far can the Law of Love take you when you’re looking at the specifics of the beliefs and ideas that govern practice?

    And thank you for so gently and kindly pointing out this distinction for the benefit of everyone reading here. I’m honored and grateful. It’s hard for nurses sometimes because we are a profession that link many professions together to help bring elements of many different disciplines together to support a multidisciplinary plan of care. I end up dancing on the edge of my knowledge base areas which is why I seek peer review. So thank you for providing that here in this discussion.



  2. Marsha,

    Since you’re reading here and have insight into this issue, would you be interested in looking at the video, too? I have it on a google drive and can just add you on to get access.


  3. I’m old enough to vaguely remember my pastor being concerned when John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church was being sued over a counselee’s suicide. Changes were promised:

    What changes MacArthur may or may not have made I do not know, but I am aware that many who had been calling themselves counselors dropped the term. On one occasions I was asked to sign a disclaimer recognizing that a ministry organization did not provide mental health services. The cynic in me says this was primarily CYA, but I also think it was good that people were being put on notice.

    I suggest that Christian “counselors” who are not certified should simply call themselves ministers.


  4. dustin germain is hereby granted honorary membership in Jericho Road Grace Fellowship Church. How so? Unlike the priest and Levite on the road to Jericho who merely ignored the man who was robbed, stripped naked, beaten and left half dead by his robbers/would-be-murderers, germain has actually taken up the cause of a would-be-murder.


  5. “dustin germain is hereby granted honorary membership in Jericho Road Grace Fellowship Church. How so? Unlike the priest and Levite on the road to Jericho who merely ignored the man who was robbed, stripped naked, beaten and left half dead by his robbers/would-be-murderers, germain has actually taken up the cause of a would-be-murder.”

    Very good illustration. Cheapo grace.

    There are just some sins/crimes that will carry temporal consequences/stigma no matter how repentant one declares they are. Attempted murder, child molestation are to name a few. I am with Marsha that those who really are repentant intuitively know this and don’t seek to make it awkward for others by demanding the relationships pretend nothing ever happened and give full trust. Ridiculous.


  6. Just as some fundamentalist pastors give each other honorary Ph.D.’s, maybe Tripp will give Tullian an honorary “fully repentant and restored to full pastoral status” designation.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Cindy – sorry for the delay in response, was in a seminar all day yesterday – interestingly enough, on the topic of confidentiality and release of records. I would be honored to peer review your video, thanks for your kindness in thinking of me. Email me at stephanie at and let me know more about what you need. I have learned so much on the subject from reading and watching stories from those who have experience and education in this area, and I’m sure I’ll learn a great deal from your video.

    I am very gratified by the opportunity to share. Though I have concerns about the practice, I would love to pursue what you said about fostering a respectful dialogue about Biblical counseling.There are a myriad of challenges to doing so – the practice of Biblical counseling can be conflated with the practice of Biblical beliefs, which I don’t think are in reality the same thing. We can get into issues of sufficiency of the Bible and things that take the conversation off track. But the bottom line is, (IMO) people are hurting because they are not getting proper psychological care in many cases. That won’t change if we can’t figure out how to communicate in a way that is respectful and affirming. I have found this blog to be a good example of doing that.

    I don’t want to take over the thread, but I’d love to discuss more with you Cindy about this and your video, and I’m glad we have medical professionals (if I read that right, you are a nurse) educating on the topic. The more people know information, the more power they have to make educated decisions. I am glad to know you as a potential resource as well for medical information. Look forward to talking to you further!

    April, I’d love to talk to you too and I’m partially through your BIblical counseling series. Good stuff. Really enjoying it.

    Gary – good idea! There’s nothing wrong with being a minister. We need ministers. They have a special gift. I’d be happy to support renaming encouraging non-shame-based Biblical counseling with a pastor as a kind of personal ministry. 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion.


  8. Keep talking Stephanie, this is very important. I am learning through you both, so you never have to worry about taking over the thread. I sometimes look at my role as a first responder because I get e-mails from people in a crisis and assess the situation, give as much support as I can, but then refer to others where they can get more specific help that I am not qualified to give. So reading the thoughts of both of you who are professionals in the work of caring for individuals is very helpful to me.

    BTW, I was reading Cindy’s stuff when I was a brainwashed homeschool mom in Patriarchy over 15 years ago! It’s so cool how we have connected and now network with the same goal in mind of helping those trapped in these destructive environments. Thanks again, Stephanie. I’m grateful for the work you do!


  9. Thank you Julie Anne, I am glad to hear it’s welcome. I want to learn more about this, spiritual abuse is not something we’re taught about automatically in school for counseling, unfortunately. Reading blogs from survivors is very helpful to understanding as much as possible of the struggle. As someone who was homeschooled I grew up adjacent to some of the beliefs that are discussed here and in similar blogs, I had more than one friend affected by these kinds of ideologies negatively. So, I have a personal as well as professional interest. My role with them is to just be their friend, but perhaps I can set up other counselor-client relationships for success.

    Starstruck moment – I didn’t realize at first that Cindy was *that* Cindy. Wow. Thanks for sharing that because now I know. It is neat that we are all able to connect.

    I’m grateful for the work you do, too!


  10. This is wrong on so many levels. No remorse, but right back in leadership. Writing books does not a Christian or a leader make. I didn’t see Jesus in his list of likes.


  11. So Willow Creek has employed Tchividjian in a prominent position? Within days (not years or even months, but days) of having been defrocked by his denomination for adultery? Says a good deal about Willow Creek. They have all turned grace into license, into license to sin?


  12. It surely does show the heart condition of the Willow Creek church. If you’re all willing to let sin in the door, it’s likely to stay there and most likely already was there.


  13. Today, there is careful consideration of making an upside down cake…..there are some amazing recipes in my files from mother and grandmother that would sweeten up my confusion.

    There seems to be so much confusion in these times concerning the topic of religious leadership. The word “leadership” seems to be the golden calf of most within church systems who crave adoration, power, and control over people. I have literally heard the words, “I hate people” come out of the mouths of those who held deacon, deaconess, elder, as well as church board members. If church leaders truly hate people and desire to destroy them, why are they “elected” into positions of power? It does seem so upside down to me.

    Grabbing another sugar cube here….when I am experiencing marital strife/problems of living myself, and there are times when the testing is so painful, I desire to seek the counsel and advice from those who are faithful, compassionate, and empathic to my hurting soul. I seek council from those individuals who love people, who love me, and those who desire to see God’s goodness working in my life. This is a normal, natural human action/reaction all of us desire to have in our lives. And at the end of the day, is this individual someone I can trust with my life, my problems of living and share in rejoicing in my success together? Good and godly relationships involve reciprocation; a mirror image of our relationship with Jesus.

    Jesus is the first counselor I seek during times of testing for there is no other like Him and His Word. In this earthly world, it is comforting to have trustworthy family and friends you can count on when the going gets tough for life does seem like quicksand at times. My concern is this: would I trust a pastor or a leadership system that has spoken against divorce, infidelity/adultery, fornication, pornography, rape, incest, watching movies/television involving sex scenes or listening to dirty jokes (most of which are about female anatomy)…..often times with such pride, arrogance, and haughtiness within self righteous churches, only later, to discover the pastor and leadership are involved in the same sexual issues they preach/teach against?

    I don’t know, but isn’t that the kettle calling the pots black? It just seems that many of these leaders who love to lord it over people, seeking adoration for themselves, love to beat up the sheep on issues such as these, but then when they get caught doing the same things they speak against, then all we hear about is “why are we practicing grace” or this has become a popular saying, “the church should be a hospital for those of us who commit adultery or any other sexual sin.”

    Selective grace, that is what I see exhibited amongst organized religion today. Meanwhile back at the farm, when I read my Bible, I sure love how Jesus treated those sinners, like the woman who anointed Him with perfume in the house of a Pharisee, amongst those religious men who seemed to be more than they ought. When pride rules the roost in the church, there is no room for Jesus to live amongst us, for he is the epitome of humility.

    Pride goeth before the fall. Pride is the antithesis of humility.


  14. Katy,
    I haven’t heard anyone say, “I hate people”, but have heard a pastor say, “I have a hard time loving people”. I’m not sure that is much better.

    The only pastor that I personally know that left his wife, committed adultery with a woman from the congregation and eventually married her, went through a lengthy time of remorse and was not allowed to resume his former place in the pulpit. He went to his former spouses and each of his children to ask for forgiveness. He was truly broken.

    Kettle–pot–black!! Definitely.


  15. Stephanie, what if the “client” asked you to make a public statement because many facts were already public and the statement could add “clarity” and help the client’s reputation?
    Many commenters here are reading things into this story that there is no basis to assume. While you have every right to disagree with the nouthetic counseling, you should do research on Westminster’s active associations in this area and the connected counseling program there in Philadelphia before you start judging and condemning Tripp. Boz may have a sound basis to raise a flag, but none of you seem to have any inside information that allows you to do so.
    I do agree that Tripp’s statement throws the wife under the bus; “he tried hard…it is irreconcilable”. (sounds like Bill Clinton trying hard to cut my taxes, alas, to no avail). But this discussion moved way beyond the clear issue of celebrity preachers covering for each other. The ethical question is the consent of the client and you have no facts on that. Celebrities’ health practitioners make public statements all the time to clarify matters subject to mass speculation. This may be of a species with such statements.
    To me, the nature of true repentance (Christian or otherwise) screams out here more than the nature of Tripp’s counseling. It does not appear repentant and compassionate to publicly blame the wife for your filing for divorce. There is one clear test: knowing the facts (which they will), what will the children think of your behavior in the crisis 20 years later?


  16. Hi Don, let’s see if I can answer your question. The answers are different, though, for me and for Tripp. I could not make a public statement without a signed release and informed consent from the client, meaning not only did he/she sign off on it, but they understood the risks involved. That includes the psychological risks of having one’s information exposed to the public, the risks to the counselor-client relationship, and so forth. Without a state license Tripp does not necessarily have to be bound by these rules.

    I am not an expert on Westminster or their associations by any means, but you’ll see from my comment on Aug. 27, 5:18pm, that in looking at the curriculum that made up his Ph.D. that my experience being trained in counseling and his experience being trained in counseling were completely different. I did look into it before posting.

    My intention is not to throw Tripp under the bus but when people put themselves in the public eye they open themselves up to professional scrutiny. I personally believe that it is rarely a sound decision for the counselor to advocate for the client (or a celebrity health practitioner to do so, perhaps) because it robs the client of exercising their own power and elevates the counselor’s (or health practitioner’s) role by association with the client, rather than it being about the client’s need. I also don’t think the best “therapy” happens in the public eye. (Which is why I don’t watch Dr. Phil, either…sorry to his fans!)

    If a client asked me that, (and signed off) I probably would still not do it without great reluctance. I would try to discourage the client from it, because I believe it would disempower them and elevate me. That’s not what I’m here to do. Any any discussion with the outside world, who have vastly different purposes than I do, can set back the counselor-client relationship. Like most counselors, I’ve had to speak to CPS, Disability Services, lawyers, etc., and while I must do so we always have to talk in session about how the feeling of exposure affects our relationship professionally.

    You are right that I do not have any information on whether or not the client consented. And to the best of my knowledge, it wouldn’t matter legally either way because Tripp is not subject to the state license laws. But I believe by making a public statement Tripp opened the door to this discussion, and I personally believe from my training that it’s very rare that a public statement is actually what’s in the best interests of the client and their family’s health. Respectfully, that is my opinion.

    Thank you for the question.


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