Michael Emlet, in his new book, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications (New Growth), understands and explains two big words that are important to those who are ministry people, and he applies these words and functions to those who need them.
These are the important words and terms: Psychiatric Diagnosis, and Psychoactive Medications. Emlet is on the faculty at Christian Counseling and Education (CCEF) in Glenside, PA, and he has excellent experience to discuss these important and often helpful words and terms.
Emlet divides his book into two sections, on Psychiatric Diagnosis and on Psychoactive Medications. There are twenty-two short chapters. He wrote his book primarily for helpers in the church, pastors, counselors, elders, deacons, youth workers; whoever needs this kind of help in their ministry will appreciate Michael Emlet and his book.
Along the way, he discusses specific hazards to spiritual growth, whether using diagnosis and medications as gifts or gods. Basic to his approach is his understanding of the human person with both a spiritual aspect and a physical aspect. Psychoactive Medications may be necessary and effective, but they will not address the person’s relationship to God. On the other hand, to treat a person’s struggles as only spiritual will deny the physical needs. God made us embodied spirits and both aspects will be involved in the counselor’s ministry.
One of the most helpful chapters in the book is the fourth, "The problems and pitfalls of psychiatric diagnosis: description not explanation." Emlet’s point is that a list of symptoms does not explain why they exist. An unacknowledged assumption sometimes is the key to the difference. He illustrates: "this assumption of biological root cause is widespread in our culture." This assumption can lead to normalizing behavior that stems from our fallen condition, treating some temptations as alternate lifestyles.
For example, assuming that various sexual orientations are biologically rooted and therefore normal (and should be expressed as alternate lifestyles) is very different from the biblical assumption that, whatever their biological or social source, some sexual expressions are sinful and therefore should, and can, be resisted, encouraged by the promise of the mercy and grace of God. Transformation of the whole person, including behavior, is the biblical goal.
Emlet writes, "we must acknowledge the complex interaction of multiple factors—physical, spiritual, relational, situational, and cultural—that combine in causative ways for a given individual." He proposes a balanced approach to helping someone who’s suffering emotionally. A psychiatric diagnosis might help, but it’s only a starting point towards healing, not a life sentence.
—Lois & Larry Sibley