Book Review: Descriptions and Prescriptions

Growing up, I remember playing on the teeter-totter at our local playground. The first few minutes were fun. However, such joy could be short-lived. With one person stuck in mid-air and the other relaxing with their side of the teeter-totter on the ground, one side weighed too heavy and the other side too light. A desire for balance was needed. Michael R. Emlet sees this need for balance in the biblical counseling realm with his new book, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications (part of the Helping the Helpers series).

Dr. Emlet, who is a faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), is well-aware of the debate among the biblical counseling world regarding diagnoses of the psychiatric nature and the prescribing of medications to treat them. From his perspective, the two common stances toward the diagnoses and medications miss the mark. According to his analysis, we should not be too cold toward these diagnoses and medications, but we should not be too warm toward them either. With that perspective in mind, the book’s purpose is to take the reader from the extreme and move you to a middle ground, a view he proposes is “just right” (Emlet 2). The content of the book is divided into two sections. Part 1 details an understanding of psychiatric diagnoses, showing both the benefits and limitations which come with the matter. In this section, Emlet clarifies such diagnoses are descriptions and not explanations (answering the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’) and the implications that has for ministry. Part 2, then, walks the reader through understanding psychoactive medications, being cautious but not dismissive, and emphasizing this is a wisdom issue.

This book by Dr. Michael Emlet accomplishes the purpose it set out to reach. Emlet seeks to make his argument from a biblical worldview and to provide a biblical framework for understanding while also striking a balance in thinking through the subjects of psychiatric diagnoses and medications. Chapters 16–19 particularly bring a balance in understanding. The reader will appreciate the pastoral tone Dr. Emlet invokes when he shares his critique on diagnoses and medications, acknowledging the complexities and the sufferings people face. It is true this volume does not cover everything, as Emlet admits in the opening pages (Emlet 4), but he writes an introductory guide to equip helpers in the church understand and gain a biblical and balanced perspective on psychiatric diagnoses and medications. The book does not make you scientifically-ignorant but scientifically informed. Simply put, Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael R. Emlet is a foundational resource for helpers in the church who desire to care for those they love. Whether you are a pastor, counselor, or lay leader, this book will begin to help you think through these categories. You may not concur on all of Dr. Emlet’s conclusions but this concise book will challenge you to think through them and to join in this much-needed conversation in biblical counseling.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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