Descriptions and Prescriptions


Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications is a resource for Christians written by Dr. Michael Emlet. It's written primarily for pastors, Christian counselors, small group leaders, and ministry facilitators, but I believe any Christian can benefit from reading this. We all have a sphere of influence within our friends, families, and churches, and undoubtedly, we all know at least one person who struggles with mental illness. Dr. Emlet was a family physician for 12 years and then transferred to CCEF to be a counselor and faculty member. The book description says:

"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'm going to get really transparent here. I have struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and OCD tendencies my entire life - ever since I can remember. When I was about 22 (I'm 33 now), I finally started taking a mild antidepressant to help with these issues. It did wonders. After taking the medication for 7-8 years, I decided to quit taking it - not in any small part from pressure I felt within the church and from Christians regarding negative views to taking antidepressants, a mentality that people with anxiety and depression just need to pray and "trust God" more, etc. I sat in a women's counseling training session at my church and the speaker said that she refused to counsel anyone unless they were willing to go off of any psychiatric medications they were taking. It was devastating to me. I was off the medication for about 2 years which turned into a relapse of panic attacks so bad that I could barely function in day to day life and was having multiple panic attacks per day, no matter what amount of prayer, Bible reading, meditation, exercise, nutrition, supplements, etc. I broke down and went back on the medication and am in a very good place again. However, at that time that I went back on it I required a higher dosage and I believe that period of going off the medication is what required my dosage to be adjusted and increased - the relapse caused me to need a higher dosage than I had been stable at before. At that time the doctor told me that some people are predisposed to these conditions (I have a long family history of mental illness), and that I likely have a physical problem with my brain chemistry and that the medication is necessary to keep my brain in balance. Back on the medication, I feel like I can live a normal and functional life again. Obviously this is just my own personal story and every person is different. I am sure there are many people on medication who don't need to be, and vice versa. Every situation is different.

With all of that being said, I greatly enjoyed reading Descriptions and Prescriptions. It's divided into two parts: Understanding Psychiatric Diagnoses and Understanding Psychoactive Medications. This is a comprehensive, but not prohibitively academic guide to both different types of mental illnesses and the different types of medications used to treat them. I loved Dr. Emlet's balanced medical and biblical approach to these extremely sensitive issues. He doesn't take the judging and condemning attitude common among many Christians, but rather strive for a balance of grace and truth. Biblical truth and medical treatments are not mutually exclusive, but we need to study both God's Word and advances in medicine to make appropriate decisions (with our doctors) for treatment plans. I hope that many Christians read this book and try to have an open mind rather than all-out condemning the entire mental health field and its sufferers. This is a wonderful resource for any Christian, but especially counselors and church staff. I highly recommend this book.


I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in order to provide an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

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