Case Study: Let’s say there is a 45 year old female named Sarah (Fictitious name). She told you she was terribly sad and has a lot of trouble keeping up with life. She came to you seeking biblical counseling. Sarah has several friends who received anti-depressants from their family doctor. The medicine seemed to help, but some of them experienced unpleasant side effects that she is concerned about. She asks you, “Do you think I should see my doctor about taking an anti-depressant?” What would you do?
If Sarah asked me, “Do you think I should see my doctor about taking an anti-depressant?” my first response would be. “I am not a medical professional. I don’t have the authority to give you a yes or no answer.” Afterwards, I would recommend for her to see a medical doctor who has a Christian perspective, similar to Dr. Robert D. Smith, an MD and ACBC Counselor. Whether she decides to get on anti-depressants or not, I would still continue to counsel her from a biblical perspective, hoping she sees it as sufficient enough to overcome her depression.
Before Sarah conclusively decides to take a psychotropic drug, I would ask her to answer these questions that Dr. Smith suggests in his book.1. What tests were run to prove a physical problem is present? Is the condition a fact or a theory? 2. How do you know the physical condition is the reason for your depression? Can this be empirically verified? 3. Do you have any proof that the medicine you received heals the physical problem? If Sarah’s physician can’t definitely answer these questions, then maybe she will come to the realization herself that the drugs have not been proven to help out her depression.
The next step would be to help Sarah live by biblical principles rather than her feelings. It could be the case that Sarah feels “terribly sad” and has a lot of trouble “keeping up with life.” A biblical counselor ought to take those feelings seriously. But the solution is not to give her a drug that will satiate bad desires. It’s like giving someone Tylenol who has a headache. It alleviates the symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the problem. The problem exists in the heart. It exists in her relationship with God and others. The goal, therefore, is to gather data and find out what is bothering Sarah.
Maybe she is lacking sleep. Then the solution is not to give her drugs. The solution could be as simple as saying, “Get more rest.” Tiredness can cause feelings of depression so it’s vital that a person acquire the recommended sleep. If I as her counselor found out the depression was a result of her lack of sleep, I would work with Sarah’s physician to help her through this ordeal.
Let’s say Sarah is having relational issues with her husband. This is the reason she feels terribly sad. The solution, once again, is not to numb her body with drugs. These feelings could be a sign that she needs to do something about her problem. The solution would be to develop a more intimate relationship with her husband. Some advice I would give would be to spend more time together. To communicate feelings towards one another. Also, to encourage Sarah to read the Bible with her husband on a daily basis and pray together. This spiritual connection will naturally strengthen their relationship.
Lastly, if Sarah is overwhelmed at home with the kids and wants to have a night free to herself, then have the husband stay at home and watch the kids or hire a babysitter for the night and give Sarah quality time with her spouse or God. The Bible states in Psalm 42:5 that depression can happen when our relationship with God is suffering. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
These are just a few ways I would handle Sarah’s depression with a medical professional. I know counselee’s become bewildered when they realize that depression can be overcome through the power of Christ’s love. It seems too simple. It doesn’t sound complicated enough or medical enough because a “pill” is not being used. But the truth is we were created to be fulfilled in God, and when we stray away from Him, depression is what takes God’s place. The solution then, is to worship God and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. It is wise and good to consult with your healthcare professionals if you have any physical or mental issues. These are solely my opinions and are not to be taken as absolute. Thanks for reading!
 Robert D. Smith, The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference (Stanley, NC: Timeless Texts, 2000) p.67-68