Christian Counselors and Medical Professionals: A Symbiotic Relationship

I think its vital to work alongside a physician to help someone cope with their depression. An important distinction to make from the beginning with the doctor, however, is what constitutes as an organic problem versus a non-organic problem. For instance, let’s say Billy (fictional name) is suffering from thyroid deficiency and that’s why he feels depressed. Because this deficiency can be empirically verified through lab results, it is imperative he receives the proper drug to get his thyroid working properly. This is clearly an organic issue that can be solved with proper medication.

Furthermore, there has been research done, which is not yet definitive, by Osmond and Hoffer, on schizophrenic patients that suggest an organic cause. Their theory argues the root of the problem does not lie in a person’s mind, but from a faulty perception because of a lack of adrenachrome. Adrenachrome is a natural chemical agent that helps us with perception. However, when the chemical is deprived, it causes real distortions: colors may be too bright, words on a page can bounce, depth perception is lost, and hearing becomes intensified to the point where voices are actually being heard from a distance.[1] Similar to someone induced by a drug like LSD. Thus, the counselee’s mind is not sick; rather, their bizarre gestures make sense because of the illusions they experience from biological deficiency.

These two case scenarios are different than a medical professional who says Billy has a “chemical imbalance.” First, there is no scientific proof that chemical imbalances, such as low Serotonin levels in the brain, directly cause depression. A proponent for the chemical imbalance theory might show a picture of the hippocampus section of the brain in a normal patient versus a depressed patient. They might conclude that since the hippocampus is smaller in size with patients who have depression, there is a biological reason for it. However, a picture of the brain structure doesn’t prove the cause for it. It could have been a result of environmental stimuli rather than a genetic predisposition.

Here is a case in point. There was a recent study on ex-NFL players that showed a correlation between concussions and depression later in life. As this example makes clear, if the NFL players avoid the football field—the environmental factor that caused their onset for depression, they may not have any problems. The same is true with depressed patients. It’s still conceivable that people might experience depression because of their biology, but in the majority of cases, their environment, thinking, and/or personal decisions is an important component to their depression.[2]

In conclusion, I think it’s important to have a symbiotic relationship with a physician. I also believe Scripture is sufficient to handle any emotional issues a person is struggling with. A counselor’s goal, therefore, is to put confidence in the Word of God and give a defense to the hope Christians have with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). The defense is the power of Scripture to transform a person from putting off the old self—anxiety, depression, and anger to the new man—full of joy, peace, and love. May God give us wisdom as we treat each person with the utmost care and professionalism in our counseling sessions.

[1] Abraham Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, How to Live With Schizophrenia (New York: University Books, 1966), p.38.

[2] Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, The Media and The Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression (Springer Science Journal, 2007), p.2.

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