A reader asked “How can you be a christian and a psychiatrist? Does the methodology and beliefs of psychiatry not conflict with those of being a christian for you?”
Psychiatry often gets a bad press these days. Sometimes its the failure of services to prevent a suicide or even a murder. Sometimes its about psychiatrists trying to ‘medicalise’ bad behaviour and straying away from their territory. Sometimes the accusation is the opposite- that they are refusing to treat someone who is ‘obviously’ mentally ill because they have decided that the person doesnt suffer from a treatable mental illness.
Any Christian working in any career should find that there are methodologies and beliefs that conflict with theirs. We have a very different world view to those around us.
So how do I cope with that?
Firstly, most of my career was spent treating very sick people with medication which often transformed their lives. When someone is so depressed that they have stopped eating and drinking and are lying in bed almost comatose antidepressants can quite literally save lives.
The medical community are increasingly united around a belief that some if not much of what an acute psychiatrist deals with represent underlying brain diseases. There appears to me to be very little conflict in this area between Christianity and biological psychiatry.
I suspect that this reader was thinking about psychotherapy and such things. There is a lot that could be said about that but my taxi has arrived! For now, lets just say that there is much in modern psychological thinking that is indeed antichristian, but there is much that can be seen as consistant with biblical principles.
As a Christian we should recognise that we are people made up of a body a mind and a spirit who are in relationship with others. Clearly things that go wrong in one area can affect the others. Even if we are very spiritual we might well find that problems in other areas of our life have a significant impact on us.
Much so-called ‘Christian counselling’ concerns me greatly both as a bible student and as a psychiatrist. We need to learn a lot more about the bible, biology and the way our thinking works and apply this knowledge to our pastoral interactions as appropriate.
I have now started a series of posts on Biblical Counselling