Monday, November 16, 2009

Psychiatry vs. Talk Therapy

I've recently read an excellent biblical counseling book, Counsel From the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson. I think it's an important contribution for the Christian counselor, encouraging those who struggle with life to look to the cross of Christ for hope and redemption. I've certainly benefited from it in my counseling sessions with fellow believers.

But I do want to bring up one topic that Fitzpatrick and Johnson, as other biblical/nouthetic counseling writers have done, address in the first appendix (pp. 183-191). They make convincing apologetic arguments for the need of biblical counseling model when meeting with fellow believers. They briefly discuss some of the concepts of the major players of psychology, Sigmund Freud and Albert Ellis among them. Then they write the following paragraph on page 185:
Of course, in recent years all these therapies (and hundres of others like them) have been gobbled up by materialistic determinism and the pharmacological giant of biopsychiatry. The materialistic determinist's anthropology is very simple indeed: all you are is a bag of interacting chemicals, and all your problems can be diagnosed and solved by observing and balancing your chemicals. Talk therapy? Nonsense! Take the right pill and you'll feel better!
I received my master's degree in mental health counseling from Wight State University (Fairborn, Ohio) over fourteen years ago. I served at two different community mental health centers during my practicums and internship for my undergrad and graduate programs - both were in Ohio, located about 30 minutes away from each other. I worked for another mental health center after graduating from WSU, located in the same region as the other two MHC's. I was employed as a crisis counselor for a major hospital in Indianapolis at two different time periods, totalling eight years. I currently work for a mental health center in eastern Illinois.

During my career, I have either worked closely with or had contact with numerous psychiatrists. I'm guessing at least 75, but probably more. I have yet to meet one psychiatrist that would say, "All your problems can be daignosed and solved by observing and balancing your chemicals." I currently work with a doctor who graduated from Harvard, and he would tell you (as he has told me) that psychiatry must be combined with "talk therapy."

Perhaps there are doctors out there with that belief. I haven't met every single practicing psychiatrist in the world, so I wouldn't know. But I have worked in three states (so far), and I have yet to meet one who believes that.

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