Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications
by Michael R. Emlet
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OCD, ADHD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder . . . these are no longer just technical terms and medical diagnoses, they are part of our common vocabulary and culture. As Christians, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from this discussion or dismiss these important issues. But we also should be careful not to accept the entire secular psychiatric diagnostic and treatment enterprise without question. What we need is a balanced, biblically (and scientifically) informed approach that neither blindly accepts nor harshly dismisses psychiatric labels, diagnoses, and medicines that are prescribed to help those who are suffering.
As both a Biblical counselor and medical doctor, Michael R. Emlet, MD, gives readers a Christ-centered approach to psychiatry and guides both lay and professional helpers through the thicket of mental health labels and treatments with a biblical lens. In a clear and thoughtful way that puts the person experiencing mental health issues at the forefront, Emlet uses Scripture to show how the Bible engages in the discussion of psychiatric labels and the medications that are often recommended based on those labels. The first book in the “Helping the Helper” series, Descriptions and Prescriptions will give readers a biblical, gospel-formed perspective to help them understand and minister to those struggling with mental health issues.
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 minibooks Asperger Syndrome, Chronic Pain, Angry Children, and Help for the Caregiver, as well as the books CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet and Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications.
“Mike Emlet has written a balanced and much-needed book. We often fall into extreme positions and sadly end up doing damage to those who are suffering. Approaching those who suffer requires great humility, for Scripture is quite clear that we who are made in the image of God do not really even understand ourselves! I pray this book will bear the fruit of humility and compassion in God’s people.”
Diane Langberg, Psychologist; author of Suffering and the Heart of God
“Mike Emlet has written a much-needed book on psychiatric diagnosis from a biblical worldview. The paradigm of psychiatric labels being descriptive but not prescriptive is very important for biblical counselors and Christians in general. Humbly admitting we have to grow in our understanding of biological issues that interplay with spiritual struggles is right. Challenging a reductionist biological view of man is also right. It is time for the biblical counseling movement to adopt a more robust, balanced, and holistic approach to caring for those who suffer most. This book goes a long way to help us turn the corner. I highly recommend it.”
Garrett Higbee, Executive Director of Biblical Soul Care for Harvest Bible Chapel; founding board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition; president of Soul Care Consulting
“In the midst of all the conflicting voices in our culture about psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medications, Dr. Michael Emlet has provided a helpful gift to the church. In this short book, you’ll find a clear and nuanced discussion of the wisdom of using or not using psychiatric descriptions and medications. Recognizing the uniqueness of each situation, Dr. Emlet will assist you in making the best decision for each case by furnishing a framework that isn’t the same with every person. I’m thankful for it.”
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Author of Will Medicine Stop the Pain?
“Mike Emlet brings up a topic at the dinner table that most people couldn’t—at least not without causing indigestion. You will find Emlet the best kind of conversationalist on a difficult topic like psychiatric medications, making distinctions clear when needed and acknowledging mystery when needed. He is a man of his time with a heart captured by the rich vision of human life found in ancient Scripture. This book is instantly in my curriculum.”
Jeremy Pierre, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience
“The intersection of ministry, mental health, and medicine is the Bermuda Triangle of soul care. Dr. Emlet applies his unique multidisciplinary training—physician, pastor, and, biblical counselor—to cut through mystery, myth, and, misconception. Biblical wisdom is the compass to navigate these troubled waters. Descriptions & Prescriptions leans into Scripture as it rejoices in appreciation for God’s gift of medical treatment and holistic pastoral care.”
Stephen P. Greggo, Professor of Counseling, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; coeditor of Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches
“Finally, help in resolving some of the tension felt between the practice of psychiatric labeling and biblical counseling. Counselors have needed direction on navigating the struggles of the human brain and soul, while neither dismissing labeling completely nor fully embracing hook, line, and sinker, everything taught in modern psychiatry. Mike Emlet has again given us wise counsel from the Bible, utilizing his medical background to clarify the language of labeling and the wise use of medication.”
Rod Mays, National Staff, Reformed University Fellowship; adjunct faculty, Reformed Theological Seminary
“As a pastor and counselor, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the complexity of mental health struggles. Mike’s book is like a new set of glasses, bringing clarity to these complex issues. Without giving all the answers, Mike lays out perceptive pointers to help readers navigate difficult terrain. Whether you are a pastor, lay leader, parent, or a concerned friend, this book will provide you much needed wisdom.”
Kurt Peters, Pastor of St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Botany (Sydney); Director of Biblical Counseling Australia
“Mike has given us a balanced and reliable guide to psychiatric diagnoses and medical therapies from a biblical perspective that is well-informed by experience and science. Practical, clear, and perceptive, it will be helpful to pastors and mental health professionals, as well as those who suffer in the ways described in the DSM-5. In my opinion, this is the best book in its area for years.”
Karl B. Hood, Lecturer in Pastoral Care, Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne, Australia
“With a physician’s training harnessed by Scripture, Mike Emlet leads us along the tightrope of psychiatric considerations with both a poise and grace not often seen when Christians approach this topic. Both the mental health practitioner and the pastoral counselor should be pleased with this robust analysis that challenges us all to rethink our categories in favor of a gospel-centered accounting of these post-fall realities.”
John Applegate, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Renewal Network; psychiatrist and director of John Applegate, MD & Associates, LLC
“I recommend this book to help pastors and mature believers in the church who want to better understand the challenges of human psychological suffering from a gospel-centered perspective. Drawing on his personal experience with those who are afflicted by problems of mental health, Emlet leads us away from a reductionist approach to one that is holistic and includes both heart and body. His work gives us an excellent start in ministering to those who suffer.”
François Turcotte, President of Séminaire Baptiste Évangélique du Québec (SEMBEQ); elder at Église Baptiste du Plateau Mont-Royal
“The relationship between the spheres of the medical and the spiritual in pastoral care can be an extremely tricky one to navigate, especially for pastors with no medical training. That is why this clear and concise book by Mike Emlet is so important. Eschewing the simple reductionism of approaches that deny any usefulness to psychiatric medication, while also refusing to eliminate the spiritual component in many psychiatric disorders, Mike brings his medical expertise and his experience of Christian ministry to bear upon a field that will inevitably cross the path of many Christians. This is a small book but one that should be on the shelf of all those involved in pastoral care.”
Carl R. Trueman, Author; pastor, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Ambler, PA
“Any book that has ‘A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications’ in its subtitle is going to be huge, complex, impractical, and highly controversial. Right? Wrong! Mike Emlet has managed to write a short, accessible, and immensely practical book on this vital subject. And he’s done it in such a sensible, balanced, and biblical way that the book will promote peace and unity rather than debate and division. Here is help for the helpers and for the helpless.
David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church; author of Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture
“In Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications, Michael R. Emlet makes accessible for the lay Christian otherwise technical information about the symptoms and treatments of psychiatric disorders. He presents these issues within a biblical anthropology and seeks to help move Christians beyond a generalized fear of psychiatric illnesses and treatments to a ‘third way’ between solely spiritualizing or over-medicalizing these illnesses.”
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Author of Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness
“As a Christian, have you ever wondered how to think about psychiatric labels and medications? Dr. Michael Emlet has provided a thoughtful, balanced, biblical approach to diagnoses and medications in this book. I’m planning to buy copies and give this out to many of our members.”
Deepak Reju, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; author of The Pastor and Counseling and She’s Got the Wrong Guy
“Because our culture increasingly describes problems in terms of psychiatric diagnoses and increasingly seeks solutions through psychoactive medications, this is a vital book for our times. We all need to think more carefully about the labels we are using and the drugs we are taking. This will become a go-to book for Christians wanting a balanced, biblical, and compassionate view of the descriptions and prescriptions that psychiatrists use.”
Steve Midgley, Executive Director, Biblical Counseling UK