Psychiatric Diagnoses and Psychoactive Medications: A Short Book Review

What do you do when someone in your church tells you that he or she has been diagnosed with _____________ (fill-in-the-blank) psychiatric disorder?  How do you respond when you learn that he or she has already begun taking a psychoactive medication to alleviate the problem?  How should a regular Christian evaluate psychiatric diagnoses and appraise the value of psychiatric medications?

I just finished reading Mike Emlet’s recent book, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses & Medications (New Growth Press)Here are four things I liked about this book:

  1. It’s short. To be specific, it is a neat 100 pages long.  I like short books.
  2. It’s clear. The author avoids academic jargon, both medical and theological.
  3. It’s focused. The author’s target is mature Christians who counsel others.
  4. It’s balanced. This is probably what appeals to me most about this book.  In the first half of the book, the author tries to cool off counselors who are “too warm” (his metaphor) and who uncritically accept conventional psychiatric diagnoses, while also trying to warm up people who are “too cold” and reluctant to learn anything from psychiatric diagnoses.  In the second half of the book, the author tries to cool off Christians who assume that psychoactive medications should be prescribed for even moderate discomforts, and warm up those who think that Christians should never use such medications under any circumstance.

One interesting personal connection is that Mike was a student of mine for a series of Biblical Greek courses I taught two decades ago at Westminster Seminary during my doctoral studies there.  He was already a practicing medical doctor and a mature Christian at that time.  It was a joy to stumble across this book and have the opportunity to read it.  I am happy to recommend this book for anyone seeking a wise, balanced, short(!), and easy-to-understand introduction to how Christians should evaluate the value of psychiatric descriptions and prescriptions.

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