Descriptions and Prescriptions (Review)

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Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications by Michael Emlet is a must-read for anyone involved in biblical or Christian counseling. This book was of particular interest in light of the recent debates about the sufficiency of scripture as it relates to biblical counseling. Dr. Emlet’s small book seeks to shift the opinions of all who are either “hot” or “cold” toward the use of psychological descriptions and prescriptions in the lives of our counselees. Emlet’s book was an excellent reminder that a blanket rejection of everything related to medicine and psychology is useless in our counseling. Similarly, it was a powerful admonition that a naive acceptance of everything related to medicine and psychology is not beneficial in our counseling.

As a person who naturally leans more toward the “cold” side of the spectrum, Dr. Emlet’s book was an eye-opening reminder that some of my counseling issues will be benefited by an adequate understanding of the physiological and psychological problems with my counselee. For example, an adequate understanding of schizophrenia will help me better understand and lead my counselee down a path of success. Rather than pretending that schizophrenia is ONLY a spiritual issue, I can understand that my counselee is a body-soul person whose schizophrenia will affect their body and soul. However, I was affirmed in my belief that psychology does indeed prescribe a “cure” for a problem that has not been well-studied. This was especially helpful in the section discussing the “chemical imbalance” found in depression patients. Rather than always embrace anti-depressants with open arms, Emlet shows that we ought to determine why our counselees want to take medication for their issues.

Overall, this book is a good introduction to a very complex issue in the counseling world. Emlet does an exceptional job of bringing these issues to the level of an average congregant while also being technical enough to adequately deal with some of the intricacies in the arguments being made. Whether you’re looking for an introduction to the relationship between biblical counseling and psychology, or you’re looking for more resources to further explore the relationship, Descriptions and Prescriptions is a wonderful place to start.

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