Monday, April 22, 2013

Pastors and the DSM-5"

The recent announcement that the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) will be available in May of this year (2013) has led to a renewal of the debate of how Christians Counselors and pastors use resources such as the DSM-5. The original DSM was published in 1952, and there have been a number of revisions until we have reached the point of having the 5th edition coming this year. 
I’m generally amazed at the number of pastors that criticize the DSM-5 (or its previous editions), and have a very negative view of the book. However, what even amazes me more is how many of these same pastors that criticize it, have never read it (or even read a single page out of it). I have been involved as a Pastoral Counselor & Alcohol Drug Counselor for over 23 years, and have read the DSM-III, DSM-IV, and the DSM-IV TR, and I’m looking forward to reading the DSM-5, to see how that I can better help the individuals I counsel not only with my professional practice, but within my church as well.  Let me be clear that I don’t agree with everything in the DSM-IV TR, and I’m pretty sure I won’t agree with everything in the DSM-5. However, I am convinced that we have to have a starting point in order to have a conversation about Mental Illness within churches today.
I have begun to see articles appear on some of the more common websites of pastors and Christian ministers, and refer to anything that is not straight from the Bible as “Psycho-babble,” I’m not sure what they are referring to when they use that term “Psycho-babble” and yes I have had several try to explain their use of the term to me, and even with all my education in both Theology, Bible, and Christian Psychology it sounds like an attempt to dismiss the use of a very practical tool to help see someone recover from a very serious illness. Over the years we have seen pastors, churches, and Christian colleges sued because they thought a person didn’t need a particular treatment and counseled against it, such as cancer treatment, heart disease, or even something like diabetes. Yet I have heard pastors counsel and brag about how they would never send a person to a psychiatrist or psychologist (even a Christian on), because God doesn’t say to in the Bible.
Pastor this post is not intended to be a criticism of your beliefs, even though I would disagree with you its purpose is to challenge your thinking.  Sadly there is going to be a time that an individual is going to come in your office that is suffering from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic Stress, Bi-polar, Schizophrenia and all of your best efforts, prayer, counsel from scripture, and wisdom is not going to see the results that relieve these symptoms.  Just as with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses, it is going to take a medical intervention to help these folks. That is where the DSM-5 comes in, the symptoms of various mental illnesses are listed, and described.
As a pastor if you don’t understand the symptoms of mental illness, and are unwilling to understand how the mental illness is destroying the individuals life, his/her family, friends, and even possibility your own church you are providing un-ethical counsel and I believe ungodly. My challenge to pastors and Christian leaders is simple:
1)      At least take time to read the DSM-5 before you dismiss it as “psycho-babble”
2)      When you read it look within your congregation and see how understanding the symptoms described in the DSM-5 would help you better minister and refer individuals within your congregation for help.
3)      Prayerfully, use it as a reference tool to assist you in better ministering to the Body of Christ.

Many of you will dismiss this article as the writing of a Clinically Trained counselor that has been brainwashed by the Freudian, Jung and others anti-God teaching. However, you would be wrong; yes I do hold a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor-Clinical Supervision in the state of Ohio, but I also hold a PhD in Psychology and Christian Counseling from Louisiana Baptist University and have been involved in pastoral ministry for over 35 years. But brainwashed no, I have over the past 35 years of ministry and 23 years of counseling ministry made and informed search of the Scripture and the material in the field of counseling (and even though I don’t agree with all the material that psychology has produced), I have seen the benefit of the material. It like the old adage “Don’t though the baby out with the bath water” … I simply ask before you throw the DSM-5 under the bus, that you read it and see how God leads you to apply some of the writing to help your congregation.

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