Descriptions and Prescriptions

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Author: Michael Emlet


A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications

OCD, ADHD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder . . . these are no longer just technical terms and medical diagnoses, they are part of our common vocabulary and culture. As Christians, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from this discussion or dismiss these important issues. But we also should be careful not to accept the entire secular psychiatric diagnostic and treatment enterprise without question. What we need is a balanced, biblically (and scientifically) informed approach that neither blindly accepts nor harshly dismisses psychiatric labels, diagnoses, and medicines that are prescribed to help those who are suffering.

As both a Biblical counselor and medical doctor, Michael R. Emlet, MD, gives readers a Christ-centered approach to psychiatry and guides both lay and professional helpers through the thicket of mental health labels and treatments with a biblical lens. In a clear and thoughtful way that puts the person experiencing mental health issues at the forefront, Emlet uses Scripture to show how the Bible engages in the discussion of psychiatric labels and the medications that are often recommended based on those labels. The first book in the “Helping the Helper” series, Descriptions and Prescriptions will give readers a biblical, gospel-formed perspective to help them understand and minister to those struggling with mental health issues.

  • Written by Michael R. Emlet, MD, who worked for twelve years as a family physician before becoming a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF)
  • Provides a biblical but balanced approach to psychiatric diagnoses and treatment that neither dismisses labels and treatments nor blindly accepts them
  • Uses both scripture and current medical literature to discuss both the limitations and benefits of diagnostic terminology and psychoactive medications in the care of those with mental suffering
  • Keeps a pastoral perspective that puts the person struggling with mental health at the front and center of all discussions about diagnosis and treatment
  • Short, focused chapters that will benefit both lay and professional helpers ministering to those struggling with mental health issues.

It can be easy for Christians to find themselves at one extreme or the other when it comes to issues of psychiatric diagnoses and medications. That is, we either grant too much authority to psychiatric classifications and solutions while disregarding Scripture, or dismiss medical science  altogether, as though it is irrelevant for issues of mental suffering. Descriptions and Prescriptions presents a nuanced and balanced approach between these two extremes that is grounded in Scripture, while respecting the role of medicine and science, and suggests compassionate and wise ways to minister to those who are struggling with mental illness. 

The first book in the “Helping the Helper” series, Descriptions and Prescriptions uses short, focused chapters to benefit both lay and professional helpers ministering to those struggling with mental health issues. Written for readers with both strong or nuanced opinions on psychiatric classifications and psychoactive medications, Descriptions and Prescriptions shows those with extreme feelings a more balanced approach and leaves those with an already balanced approach more informed and equipped with both biblical and scientific perspectives to strengthen their ministry. Using both Scripture and current medical literature to discuss the limitations and benefits of diagnostic terminology and psychoactive medications, this book provides a biblical lens for psychiatric diagnoses and treatment that neither dismisses labels and treatments nor blindly accepts them.


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 SyndromeChronic PainAngry Children: Understanding and Helping Your Child Regain Control; and Help for the Caregiver: Facing the Challenges with Understanding and Strength, and many counseling articles.


“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?

“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 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, 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

“Any book that has ‘A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications’ in its subtitle is going to be huge, complex, impracti­cal, and highly controversial. Right? Wrong! Mike Emlet has man­aged 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

“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