OCD, ADHD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder . . . these are not just diagnoses from the DSM; they are part of our everyday vocabulary and understanding of people. As Christians, how should we think about psychiatric diagnoses and their associated treatments? We can’t afford to isolate ourselves and simply dismiss these categories as unbiblical. Nor can we afford to accept the entire secular psychiatric diagnostic and treatment enterprise at face value as though Scripture is irrelevant for these complex struggles. Instead, we need a balanced, biblically (and scientifically!) informed approach that is neither too warmly embracing nor too coldly dismissive of psychiatric labels and the psychiatric medications that are often prescribed.
Biblical counselor and retired physician, Michael R. Emlet, gives readers a helpful way forward on these important issues as he guides lay and professional helpers in the church through the thicket of mental health diagnoses and treatments in a clear, thoughtful primer in which the Bible informs our understanding of psychiatric diagnoses and the medications that are often recommended based on those labels. This first book in the Helping the Helper series will give readers biblical, gospel-formed categories that will help them understand and minister to those who are struggling with mental health issues.
GENRE: Christian Psychology/Non-Fiction
PUBLISHER: New Growth Press
RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2017
“…receive the gift but look principally to the Giver.”
As the survivor of a severe depression as well as an anxiety disorder, my radar is always attuned to the Church’s stance on counseling and medication as forms of treatment. As the author of this book explains, there are various opinions among Christians, and specifically ministers, ranging from cold (never use them) to hot (always use them). Emlet asserts that we all need to strive for a balanced approach, one that accepts the benefit of counseling & meds but also does not discount “God’s transforming agenda in the midst of suffering”.
Before I go further with the review, I need to make clear that this is a book written primarily for people involved in ministry – breaking down info and applying wisdom to the situations they would find themselves in. It’s not meant as a patient reference or really even for someone whose loved ones suffer from mental illness of some sort.
There are several things I really liked about Emlet’s approach. While he remains mostly neutral, he achieves a great balance between advocating for the appropriate use of counseling/meds, as well as “viewing medication as simply one component of a full-orbed God-centered body-soul treatment approach”.
“…be glad for symptom relief but simultaneously look for the variegated fruit of the Spirit; perseverance in the midst of suffering, deeper trust in the Father’s love, more settled hope, love for fellow strugglers, gratitude, and more.”
Two other points that he made really stood out to me:
- “Using medication in select situations may be analogous to calming the surface waters to allow for deep-sea exploration.” In other words, sometimes you need to calm the brain’s misfires before you are able to work on the spiritual. Such was the case in my own life. I knew what I needed to do to have peace – lean into Jesus and His Word – but it wasn’t working. Once the medication I was prescribed started working, I was able to climb out of that pit using the spiritual tools I already knew were mine in Christ.
- A good standard question for ministers to ask themselves is, “What seems wisest for this particular person with these particular struggles at this particular time?”
Bottom Line: Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael R. Emlet is a very balanced (and quick!) read about some hot-button topics within the Church as a whole. Neither wholly discounting nor wholly embracing the use of counseling and medications, Emlet instead attempts to lay the groundwork for a Biblical approach to treating psychiatric diagnoses. I can see how this would be a very helpful resource to clergy and lay ministers who are on either end of the cold-hot spectrum and even for those struggling to explain why a balanced perspective is best.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Good resource!
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Michael R. Emlet, MDiv, MD, practiced as a family physician for over ten years before becoming a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He is the author of the book “CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet,” the minibooks “Asperger Syndrome;” “Chronic Pain;” “Angry Children: Understanding and Helping Your Child Regain Control;” and “Help for the Caregiver: Facing the Challenges with Understanding and Strength,” and many counseling articles.