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Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications Paperback – September 4, 2017
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“I have found nowhere in all my training or reading a more helpful tool for me as a pastor to understand the complexities of psychiatric diagnoses and medicinal prescriptive practices from a Scriptural perspective.”
Joseph Vincent Novenson, Senior Teaching Pastor, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, TN
“Wisdom is the ability to take complex human experiences and untangle the knots. The painful human struggles that are given psychiatric labels and psychoactive medications perplex us all. Mike Emlet untangles knots. He offers a lucid and humble understanding that will make you think. He commends practical and gracious ways forward that will help you care.”
David Powlison, Executive Director, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF); author of Good & Angry and How Does Sanctification Work?
“Michael Emlet has nailed it! Finally, we have a medically informed and biblically wise approach regarding what we really know and don’t know about psychiatric diagnoses and medications. We need this holistic aim in ministering to spiritual, emotional, and biological care for those who are suffering. This book is both fascinating and succinct and I will be recommending it often.”
Aimee Byrd, author of Housewife Theologian, Theological Fitness, and No Little Women
“A remarkable achievement. Dr. Mike Emlet’s introduction to psychiatric diagnoses and medication is brief but comprehensive, accessible yet authoritative. It confronts hard and complex questions with wisdom and balance. . . . I recommend it without hesitation.”
Glynn Harrison, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and former consultant psychiatrist, University of Bristol, UK
“In brief, clear chapters with helpful illustrations and real life vignettes, Mike Emlet has written an excellent and very practical book. He walks a careful middle road between accepting the current cultural diagnosis and treatment system and dismissing the latter as unbiblical and false. He sees value in diagnosis and medication but always in the context of dealing with whole persons.”
Richard D. Winter, Psychotherapist, Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Counseling, Covenant Theological Seminary
“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 diag¬noses 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 & Associ¬ates, LLC
“I recommend this book to help pastors and mature believers in the church who want to better understand the challenges of human psy¬chological 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, impracti¬cal, and highly controversial. Right? Wrong! Mike Emlet has man¬aged 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
“A reference book of great value for care givers, particularly those of us who are not medical professionals. Mike skilfully deals with a very complex issue and provides a balanced view of the advantages and limitations of ‘descriptions’ and ‘prescriptions’ as well as the important role of biblical counselling in the overall healing process. A must read for secular and biblical counselors alike.“
John K. John, DMin (1950-2017), Former Director, Biblical Counseling Trust of India
About the Author
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 book CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet, the minibooks Asperger Syndrome, Angry Children, Chronic Pain, Help for the Caregiver, and OCD: Freedom for the Obsessive Compulsive.
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The primary appeal of Descriptions and Prescriptions is Emlet's ability to be brief (the chapters are only a few pages each) while also offering depth and specificity for pastors and other ministry professionals, folks who may or may not have classical training in counseling. That makes Descriptions and Prescriptions an ideal book for seminarians -- because Emlet is able to capture the issues, using some of the best resources in the field, while also offering wise criticisms when those criticisms are merited. In less than 100 pages, Emlet has given us pastors a resource that belongs in every pastor's library, and deserves reading and rereading often.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review here.
The second section of this book discusses psychoactive medications and begins by explaining the different categories of medications and what they are used to treat. The author then goes on to explain how these medications works and the chemicals they effect. So this book would be very useful for someone who has little to no knowledge about some of these conditions and the medications that are used to treat them. Throughout the book the author offers both Biblical references and scientific references, facts and information, which I found to be very helpful. One of the quotes from this section that I really enjoyed was, "I believe it is right to view the development of psychoactive medications as a good gift from God, an extension of the ruling and stewarding function he gave to humanity at creation (Genesis 1:26-28). At it's best, scientific discovery explores God's world in all its astounding complexity and seeks to alleviate some of the misery we experience as fallen creatures in fallen world." The author does take the time to discuss how pastoral and other counseling can be very useful for those who have mental illnesses. And although psychoactive medications are a gift from God, we also need to make sure that our relationship with God is also on the right path. He gives a lot of good advice about finding psychiatrists and therapist who at least understand, if not share, your religious beliefs.
Overall, I thought this was a very good book that discusses some very difficult issues. Many in the Christian community, especially in the past, have thought that mental illnesses were simply individuals who weren't "being good enough Christians". Which we of course know if not true; mental illnesses are just as real and serious as physical illnesses. The author did a great job in this book of explaining everything from by a Biblical viewpoint, as well as a scientific one and I would definitely recommend this book.
Thank you to the publisher, New Growth Press, for sending me a review copy of this book.