The Sins of Psychotherapism by Bruce Davidson of PsychoHeresy Ministries, is an opinion piece (link is below) outlining serious charges against the world of psychological study and therapists who work within it. I respect Davidson for his thoughtful work, and his efforts and desire to help people. We just disagree. This blog is my answer to his claims.
He made an assumption about me, whom he had never met, based on my ministry title of “advocate.” That is, because I advocate for recovery, he thought I was steering people away from the message of repentance.
My point at the time was that “recovery” is a process. Repentance may stop a behavior, but even if your problem is not addiction, recovery is involved. God gives us insight into who he is so we can turn to him and repent of sin. After that, changing how we think takes time. Isaiah 1:16,17 supports this concept of the recovery process. “…Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right.”
Terminology matters, however readers and writers alike must know what words mean. In the world of stigma, some words are defined in black and white instead of in the open concept they deserve.
Motives are not worn on our sleeves
Today, I stumbled across the Davidson article. He is strong on a few points as he takes flawed psychological notions to task. I noticed however, that he claims psychotherapy promotes false assumptions. He writes, “Furthermore, psychotherapism has encouraged the trend of judging people’s motives and speculating on their secret thoughts rather than looking at their explicit views and outward behavior.”
I believe his article does just that – judges people’s motives and speculates. Anytime a ministry is formed around should nots, there will be problems. For example, he builds his arguments against the historic roots of modern psychotherapy “instituted by Freud, Jung, and others.” He seems to completely disregard current fields of study that oppose those original theories and styles.
The traditional idea of psychotherapy is the patient lying on a couch and talking on and on while the therapist says little to nothing. I am in full agreement this is likely not going to get the job done. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other forms of psychotherapy do not look like that old model.
Personally, my life changed when CBT taught me it was possible to think differently. It helped to renew my mind by challenging old thought patterns. Eventually, my eyes opened to God’s love and to many false beliefs about the world and how to fit in it. I learned how to take thoughts captive as taught in 2 Corinthians 10:5.*
No one preached at me, or forced a greater faith. Instead, because my goal was already to honor God, and I was Biblically literate, talk therapy served as a catalyst for applying Biblical truth. With a broad sweep, Davidson and others who agree with his assertions, shove talk therapy into the trash. They do not know me (or you) or how God wants to work in our lives. Hence, their miscalculations.
Not everything fits in one box
Davidson used this quote as partial evidence for his point. “In One Nation Under Therapy, Satel and Hoff-Sommers define [psychotherapy] as ‘pathologizing normal human emotion, promoting the illusion that we are very fragile beings, and urging grand emotional displays as the prescription for coping.’ To that they add the belief that ‘psychology can and should take the place of ethics and religion.'”
Let’s be clear. Not all psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists have pulled their own heads out of the ground. Some have twisted beliefs, others have twisted personalities. Unfortunately, not all professionals act professionally.
In my years of seeking mental healthcare, with some success and some not-so-great experiences, not once has any provider encouraged fragility or “grand emotional displays.” On the contrary, they taught strength and mood control.
I learned that hiding emotion kills people, not that every emotion needs expression. It makes little sense to refuse an entire field of study because of the wrong or misguided ideas of some. Plenty of both secular and Christian therapists help clients uncover root issues, that if left unfaced, would continue to steer their lives toward self-destruction.
We make choices
It is the responsibility of both client and provider in any realm of interaction, to submit to or ignore God’s wisdom. The world-at-large will choose to ignore. If you are a Christian, and struggling with your thoughts and emotions, wise counsel is part of what the Great Physician prescribes. Proverbs 12: 6, 15, 18 tell us the value of such advice. “… the speech of the upright rescues… the wise listen to advice… the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Davidson’s statement that focusing on childhood wounds “naturally” breeds resentment of one’s parents, is flat-out wrong. Like people who choose to abuse, we choose to resent or not. Awareness of childhood wounds and the roles of all concerned brings closure. I could begin to forgive others and myself directly due to taking the time to understand.
Davidson claims pastors have turned from preaching salvation to extolling self-realization. If the definition is as Webster’s says, “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality” (italics mine), then yes, it can be a prideful endeavor. None of us is capable as fallible beings to wholly fulfill anything without God or even human support.
What I suggest Davidson does not seem to appreciate is that lack of self-awareness is the cornerstone of denial. When our identity is lost in the temporal, we cannot live the life God has planned for us. Introspection unveils poisonous roots, God’s Word casts light where understanding is dark. Pastors can help us to realize lives of purpose that bring God honor by teaching on our possibilities under God’s authority.
The 10-letter four-letter word
As for “self-esteem,” that word so demeaned in some Christian circles, I believe its lack undermines appreciation of God’s glory. If I feel less-than, what does my testimony say about God’s creative power? No, my view of self-worth does not change the Great I AM. By learning to fully appreciate God’s design choices, I have confidence to credit him without drawing attention to myself in a prideful way.
I do not want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Common terms familiar to the study of human behavior, such as recovery and self, among others, are useful and meaningful when applied with truth and understanding of how they can work in real-life application. To refuse to accept such terms at all, we risk spreading the stigma that treatment is bad or shameful. Sick people stay sick, and despairing people die.
Terms, motives, choices… Let me know what you think. Read Davidson’s entire article at http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/07/the_sins_of_psychotherapism.html
Today’s Helpful Word
“…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…”
***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.
* 2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.