Descriptions & Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses & Medications by Michael R. Emlet
Published September 4th, 2017 by New Growth Press
Genres Christian, Nonfiction
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.
I was initially hesitant to read and review this book. I am both a Christian and someone who has multiple mental illnesses. I wasn’t sure which way this was going to go, as some Christian’s opinions about mental illness are not particularly helpful for those who suffer from those illnesses. This book is broken down into two sections; Understanding Psychiatric Diagnoses and Understanding Psychoactive Medications. Then the sections are further broken down into smaller chapters. The first sections discusses how mental illnesses are diagnosed, a brief history of things like the DSM and how these diagnoses impact ministry. There were two quotes from the author in this section that I really liked; “If a Christian has no problem using Tylenol for a headache, why wouldn’t she use an anti-depressant when she is depressed?” and “Even with clear cut medical problems we don’t say, “I am diabetes“ or “I am cancer”. Why would we say, ” I am bipolar” or “I am ADHD”, as though this is the sum total of our person-hood?” I agree very much with both of these statements and I am happy that the author included them.
The second section of this book discusses psychoactive medications and begins by explaining the different categories of medications and what they are used to treat. The author then goes on to explain how these medications works and the chemicals they effect. So this book would be very useful for someone who has little to no knowledge about some of these conditions and the medications that are used to treat them. Throughout the book the author offers both Biblical references and scientific references, facts and information, which I found to be very helpful. One of the quotes from this section that I really enjoyed was, “I believe it is right to view the development of psychoactive medications as a good gift from God, an extension of the ruling and stewarding function he gave to humanity at creation (Genesis 1:26-28). At it’s best, scientific discovery explores God’s world in all its astounding complexity and seeks to alleviate some of the misery we experience as fallen creatures in fallen world.” The author does take the time to discuss how pastoral and other counseling can be very useful for those who have mental illnesses. And although psychoactive medications are a gift from God, we also need to make sure that our relationship with God is also on the right path. He gives a lot of good advice about finding psychiatrists and therapist who at least understand, if not share, your religious beliefs.
Overall, I thought this was a very good book that discusses some very difficult issues. Many in the Christian community, especially in the past, have thought that mental illnesses were simply individuals who weren’t “being good enough Christians”. Which we of course know if not true; mental illnesses are just as real and serious as physical illnesses. The author did a great job in this book of explaining everything from by a Biblical viewpoint, as well as a scientific one and I would definitely recommend this book.
Thank you to the publisher, New Growth Press, for sending me a review copy of this book.