This week a man names David Murray wrote a post about depression, did you see it? It was linked to Tim Challies page and received a ton of coverage. Why am I telling you this? Because the post was rather controversial in my world and I have friends and co-laborers who put many hours into writing responses and rebuttals to that post. You might want to pause and read here.
This is an important topic! Depression and how to treat it affects many people you know and I want you to be informed so you will be wise and discerning when you answer. Is psychotherapy the answer? Should a depressed person take medication? Is the Bible enough?
After reading all the posts and comments I decided I would give you my thoughts on the matter. You have all weekend to chew on them.
I am convinced that the quote below by Dr. Bob Kellemen is likely the most concise statement made on this topic.
“There is a biblical psychology and there is a secular psychology. And both have their own unique and committed worldviews that are worlds apart. The unregenerate counselor has a non-grace, non-gospel, non-Christ worldview about people, problems, and solutions. The regenerate counselor seeks to develop a grace-saturated, gospel-centered, Christ-focused worldview about people, problems, and solutions. So, yes, there is an immense difference between a secular psychology and a biblical psychology. Those two worldviews are already pitted against each other.”
As a biblical counselor, the majority of the people I see are Christians when they walk in the office. We do get many who are “Christian” in name but are unregenerate when they arrive. Our goal in such cases is primarily evangelism. It is amazing the changes that take place with conversion and many times the newly converted go into a general discipleship relationship instead of intensive biblical counseling.
However, even among Christians biblical counseling is often the last stop they make in seeking help. By the time they get to our offices, they are usually quite hopeless. They have been through secular psychology, are often on medication, and have been in various forms of therapy for their presenting problems but are still suffering. They have seen good practitioners in the area whose goal is to help suffering people. They know the lingo and the diagnosis codes for their problems and they expect to vent and receive consoling words of affirmation from us.
They are often very surprised that we begin examining the root issues of the presenting problem in the first session. Because we believe that heart change leads to life change our methodology is to get to the heart and address the thoughts, beliefs, and desires that produce the problem they are dealing with. If they are depressed, we help them understand the self-pity, anger, bitterness, selfishness, and loneliness that often feed the feelings of depression. Do we listen, yes. Are we compassionate, of course! We help our counselee using Scripture and questions intended to prick the conscience. We pray with them for repentance and change, first in the heart and then in the life.
And it works.
Because we direct our counsel toward the inner man or the immaterial/spiritual aspect of a person, we invite and rely on the Holy Spirit to be a part of the counseling session. We believe that heart change and renewal of the mind are synonymous and no amount of talk therapy or behavior-oriented therapy will address that. We know and believe God that does the real work of change and it begins in the hidden secret places known only to God and our counselee. Biblical counselors understand we do not “fix” anyone; we are merely conduit in the hands of God, who does the real work by His Spirit. He convicts of sin, grants repentance, and gives hope through restoration by the blood of Christ to return our counselee’s to health and function.
Secular counseling cannot accomplish any of these things. Secular counseling promotes the idea that man has all he needs inside himself, there is no need for God or grace or mercy. There is no purpose or intention behind suffering, and there is certainly no sin.
Secular counseling can last for years with no resolve of the issues. The medical model promotes a lifetime of need and therapy where a person is never healed, just in recovery. They are hobbled by their diagnosis and in many incidences, the diagnosis becomes their identity.
Biblical counseling is more like a wayside on the highway. A counselee has a critical need that must be met so they exit and address the need; they recognize the problem biblically, repent, and gain the tools to change. As they make application, they experience change of heart that leads to change in life. As an added benefit, they learn how to self-counsel because they get wisdom, insight and understanding through the Word of God. Once they are ready, they merge back into life and service.
On a personal note, I have a couple of family members who are psychologists. They do not agree with what I do and have labeled me as “dangerous” because I call sin what the Bible calls it. While we are family, we are at odds with each other’s view on the human condition and how to help one who is suffering. They say my methodology is cruel. I ask what is the greater cruelty- giving a false diagnosis and removing all hope, or giving a biblical one and showing them Christ? Secular counseling attempts to legitimize sinful actions through diseasification. Biblical counseling attempts to expose the heart that is sinful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).
I believe our secular counterparts desire to help their counselee’s as much as we desire to help ours; however, for all the reasons I have outlined here I am firm in my belief that biblical counseling is the correct way to go about it.