This is a biblical evaluation of four common secular-based therapies:
12 Step Recovery Program
The 12 Step Recovery Program is a lifestyle just as much as it is a set of life-principles. They are fairly spiritually-minded in an attempt to tackle addiction in a person’s life. Many people say that their 12 Step Program is what helped them to gain sobriety, stop overeating, etc. Though it is spiritually minded, it is a far cry from being Biblical.
The 12 step program admits that there must be submitted to a “higher power” but they leave it up to the participant to define which god they are serving. While I agree with the program that confessing the need to change is a good thing – there is no confessing their sin to God and no focus on repentance. Heart issues are not addressed. Sin is not admitted. Addiction is simplistically labeled as only a disease. The responsibility of sin is not addressed.
Also, the program says “one an addict, always an addict.” And this simply isn’t true. When a person has been truly transformed by the blood of the lamb, his identity is found in Christ, not in any temptations he may face.
Psalm 32:3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works by identifying critical behaviors, determine what is abnormal behavior, evaluate how frequently these abnormalities occur and attempt to decrease them through becoming more aware of your thoughts and negative thought patterns.
Biblical Counseling agrees with this aspect of CBT: negative thoughts will directly affect your behavior and feelings. However, where CBT goes awry is they attempt to change the heart issues without God. They may succeed in modifying the outward appearance of the behavior, but they cannot get to the root of the issue in the heart that is feeding the bad thoughts and feelings.
Biblical counseling acknowledges the Sovereignty of God and our desperate need for a Savior. Biblical Counseling focuses on growing in sanctification more so than just wanting to alter a behavior
Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught with regard to you former way of life, to put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
One definition for the Biogenic Theory is “Defects in physiology and metabolism, such as certain amines like dopamine and serotonin, are pathologically liked to certain psychiatric illnesses.” Medical professionals who use this theory are more likely to want to treat negative symptoms an behaviors with drugs.
However, this theory is under great attack even amongst secular psychology. Psychology Today wrote an article saying that the theory that a lack of serotonin is the cause of depression is completely outdated. There is no lab test to determine which neurotransmitter is in a state of imbalance in the brain.
As Biblical Counselors, we do need to be aware that the brain is a complex organ. When the brain is not functioning organically, it can lead to emotional or behavioral issues. This does not negate the spiritual aspect of emotional or behavioral issues. Rather, the counselor should work with the counselee to encourage them to make sure they are getting treatment for the organic issue alongside continuing Biblical counseling.
There are a number of issues that can cause emotional issues: diabetes, thyroid issues, PANDAS, autism, PTSD, adrenal fatigue, PCOS, etc. Some clients may prefer their medical doctor, some a naturopath, and some have seen great benefit from neurofeedback therapy.
The primary problem with Biogenic Theory is that it eliminates the responsibility of the counselee, and thus eliminates the need for a savior. Biblical counseling will not negate the organic components of the equation, while at the same time it will focus on the gospel and the issues in the heart.
Electroconvulsive therapy has progressed tremendously in the last couple of decades. Now, most of the time, the small currents of electricity that are passed through the brain are done so under general anesthesia. This electrical current causes a seizure that lasts one minute. The goal of ECT is to reboot the brain in order to reverse the symptoms presented. Usually, this is one of the last resort procedure before a surgical procedure like a lobotomy. Unfortunately, ECT can cause a tremendous amount of confusion, memory loss, and heart problems.
This is a worldview issue. The psychologist is not placing any responsibility on the individual but is treating the emotional problem simply as a mechanical problem. The counselee needs Christ and needs to know how to grow in sanctification. They may also need help with organic medical issues. Another problem with ECT is that it harms the body. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we should not subject it to undue harm.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
While a tremendous amount of troublesome emotional symptoms are the result of a faulty view of God, unconfessed sin, believing a faulty worldview, or needing to be discipled, there are absolutely organic health issues that can cause some of the same types of symptoms. A Biblical Counselor should work hand in hand with the health professionals for the benefit of the counselee. With that said, there are some methods that are not in line with what the Bible teaches and should be avoided.