Tom: Thanks Gary. My guests are Dr. Martin Bobgan and his wife and co-author, Deidre Bobgan. Their books including Psychoheresy, Twelve Steps to Destruction, The End of Christian Psychology, and Competent to Minister: The Biblical Care of Souls are tremendous resources for understanding the problems with psychotherapy and what the Bible says about the care of souls—and particularly how believers are to minister to one another. They also have an excellent newsletter Psychoheresy Awareness Letter, which is published every two months and is free upon request. Their website is located at www.psychoheresy-aware.org. Now we’ll repeat this address and include their postal address at the end of the program.
Martin, Deidre, welcome back!
Deidre: Thank you very much.
Martin: Glad to be on.
Tom: Okay, our topic is the invasion of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies into Christendom—particularly evangelical Christianity. And I’d like to briefly review some of the reasons why that is, really, such a destructive development. Let me start by asking you to clarify a statement you made in—well I found [it] in—most of your books, and it goes like this:
“Professional psychotherapy is questionable at best, detrimental at worst, and a spiritual counterfeit at least.” Could you explain that to us?
Martin: Yes. When we say “questionable at best,” it is a practice, it has grown in the United States—strangely enough it’s almost totally absent in Asia. It’s a kind of a Western phenomena, and its practice, if it did give wonderful results, we could say, “Well, okay, this isn’t questionable simply because the research supports what it does.” But it’s questionable at best because when you look at the research, you don’t find support for psychotherapy as practiced and charged for in America and elsewhere. And it’s also questionable from a biblical point of view, because the Lord has given us all that we need for life and godliness; we understand who man is, how he changes, his past, and his future. And psychotherapy deals with all of those subjects. And it’s questionable that it deals with it correctly simply because we already have the answers in the Word. We have the Truth with a capital “T.” They have their guesses with a capital “G.” And so it’s extremely questionable that we should be turning to psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies.
Tom: Deidre, did you want to add anything to that?
Deidre: Well, actually when you think about the whole process, you’re looking at something which is totally different from biblical Christianity. You are trying to look inside a person. You are looking at the immaterial part. And all we have are guesses. So it’s questionable, and of course the detrimental part would be the iatrogenic affects, the harm that is done, and it does become a biblical counterfeit because we do have that contrast. It’s taking over where actually the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and fellowship and communion of the saints should be involved.
Martin: Now the detrimental—for example, people say, “Well, we’re just talking about words, conversations. How can conversations be detrimental?” But it’s interesting that some of the best researchers in the field, including Hans Strupp at Vanderbilt University, had looked into the detrimental affects of this conversational mode of attempting to deal with people and very definitely there is a detrimental effect. And so there’s no question about it, you can harm people by the conversation, by the theories that are behind the conversation, and by the techniques and methodologies that are involved.
Tom: Now, regarding psychology in general, are you concerned about the entire field of psychology or only psychology that’s related to counseling?
Martin: We’re only concerned about one particular field—portion—of psychology, and the American Psychological Association has over fifty divisions. We’re not concerned with all of the divisions. We’re concerned with clinical psychology, and specifically in that area, we’re concerned about psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies, which is, very simply stated, talk therapy. And so, we are concerned about that and we’re concerned about not only the fact that it exists but the fact that it has not been proven, the fact that it is used extensively throughout the church, we find it in Bible colleges, we find it in seminaries, we find pastors giving sermons, and they’re just spinning off the usual things that are said in very popular Christian—so-called Christian—books, because…
Tom: They’re promoting myths.
Martin: Yes. They’re dealing with many of the myths that exist in this whole field, and they kind of just wind them into their messages, and I’m sure they also use them in their counseling relationships with people who come to see them. And so this is something that is all-pervasive throughout the church, and it is the portion of the total area of psychology that we are severely concerned about.
Tom: You know last week, you made it abundantly clear that psychological counseling is not a scientific endeavor. Isn’t it also true that humanity is only, really only partially a subject for valid scientific study? For example, if it’s correct, as I believe the Bible indicates, that man is made up of body, soul, and spirit, and that we can scrutinize the body scientifically, certainly laws of chemistry and physics would apply. But what laws of science can we apply to the study of our souls or spirit?
Martin: Well, as Deidre mentioned earlier, we’re talking about the immaterial. We’re not talking about the height of a person, color of eyes, color of hair, etc. We’re really talking about the unseen, the invisible, the intangible, what’s going on in the mind. And we have to remember that between our ears exists, so far as we know, the most complex entity in the entire cosmos. And this complexity was created by God, and this invisible structure there, the mind, is really a broad field into which many different people want access.
And the psychotherapies are merely, if you will, religions that are competing with Christianity as to who man is, how to function, how to change, how to deal with life, how to behave, how to change behavior, and so on. And so we’re really dealing with something that is extremely dangerous to man in this area—this immaterial area—the mind of man. And we have to be extremely careful about it, particularly because it’s so all-pervasive in the church.
Tom: Right. People fail to make a distinction—the mind is not the brain. Yes, we can have a science, even though you mentioned, Martin, that the brain is incredibly complex, and who knows really what we’re doing with that? But then when we step it up a level to the spirit or to the soul, which is nonphysical, you can’t have a science. I mean what is…science of mind is a religion, right?
Martin: Right, and the science of the mind deals with unbiblical concepts, and we have to go to not science of the mind and the science of the mind practitioners—we need to go to the Bible to see what God, who has created us, has to say about our mind. And that’s where we need to deal with life, problems of living, relationships, family issues and so on.
Deidre: What you see more and more, though, is that there are people who are attempting to reduce everything of the mind to the brain. They want to bring it to a materialistic place so that everything, every emotion, every thought is really just simply some chemical thing happening. And so it’s a very materialistic direction that many people are moving into, and this is where they are doing the research with drugs and all of the imaging of the brain—when someone has a certain thought, what happens in the brain?—and they are looking at this from a very materialistic standpoint.
On the other hand, you have the opposite thrust, and that is of course, the very, very, very occult experiential kinds of ideas that are being brought in. But all of this is conjecture, all of it is just really a way of people trying to control their lives, trying to understand man, without the Bible or beyond the Bible. Those Christians who believe the Bible and then they want to know more, it’s almost as if they have light, but they want more light. And they’re going from light to light.
But you see just as we can find things out in a material universe, to find out more about the wonderful creative abilities and just all the wonderful things that God has created, we can discover some of those things through science because we are dealing with matter. We cannot do that when it is not matter.
Tom: We have laws such as physics and chemistry that cover those things…
Tom: …even though they are not absolute.
Before we get to Christian psychology, I just want to lay some more groundwork here for our concern about clinical psychology and so forth. But here’s a question: Are there no methods or concepts original with psychological counseling which can benefit the Christian?
Martin: Well, here again, if you want to get down to the basic basics—when you say “that can help the Christian.” Okay, what is it the Christian wants? What is it the Christian is looking for? And what are the reasons that people come in for counseling? They’re having marital problems; they’re having family problems. They’re having problems at work; they’re having personal problems of living. And what you want to do in getting down to the basics is to look at what the research has to say about change. We don’t need to look at the research. We have the Bible. But one way to look at this is through research.
If you go to the Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change, that’s the bible, small “b,” of behavior outcomes. You look at edition after edition after edition, and each edition says the same thing about the number one reason why people change. And you just find it repeated. And sometimes when I’m giving talks I say, “Now I’m going to tell you, according to research, the number one reason why man changes.”
And people are kind of leaning forward like, Oh, okay! They’re ready to take notes.
And I say, “The number one reason why people change is because they want to.”
Okay now, what’s the number two reason why people change? The number two reason why people change is, if they’re not able to do it on their own, that someone (and I’m going to put it in biblical terms) will draw alongside and help bear the burden.
Now that’s not what the handbook says, but I’m…
Tom: That’s what Galatians…
Martin: …paraphrasing it. And so, are there any things beyond that that will be helpful? And essentially, there is no technique, no methodology, no psychotherapy, that you have to specifically know about in order to help the person who wants to change, next to whom you’ve drawn alongside to help bear the burden. And so, are there any methodologies, techniques, and so on, that will be helpful? We don’t need their methodologies and techniques because we’re dealing with the ideas of man, the theories of man, and the guesses and opinions of man, and we have God’s truth.
So when we draw alongside, see, we know that the number one reason why people change is because they want to and somebody drawing alongside helping to bear the burden, then when we bring the truth of God to this situation, change will occur.
So I’d like to turn your question around and say, “None is needed.” We don’t need their methodologies and techniques and we don’t need to send people to school to learn them. We don’t need to send people off to people who have been to school in order to learn their techniques and methodologies. We need to listen to God, we need to learn His word, we need to pay attention to it, and we need to enter into the power of it in a person’s life if, number one reason, he is motivated to change.
Tom: Martin or Deidre, I would like you both to address this. You’re talking about methodologies and techniques of psychological counseling. Tell us about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Martin: Okay, the DSM, as it is known, is a book that lists all of the varying what’s called “mental illnesses.” It’s a book that has codes and designations that are used by professionals to get third-party payments. In other words, they’re getting insurance payments as they indicate the code that covers the person that has this so-called mental illness. And it’s been developed over the years. It started out with—I’m rounding numbers—fifty-some designations, and now at its current edition, the DSM IV, which is its latest edition, I don’t know how many are in there, but at least five times as many….
Tom: I think it’s in the three or four hundreds.
Deidre: We have friend who refers to this as the diseasification of behavior.
Tom: Right. Either we’re all getting worse or they’re coming up with new ideas, new categories, new…
Deidre: Any behavior, or thinking, or feeling that makes you feel uncomfortable is a very good candidate for a disorder, and surely, at one point in time, this will be added. Homosexuality, at one point in time, was one of the classifications. Now it is no longer a classification—but only if a person feels uncomfortable with it. So…
Tom: Now what research went into making that change, Deidre?
Deidre: Well, I think that it’s more by vote…
Deidre: …than by research.
Martin: Well, a good example is the designation originally of homosexuality as being a mental illness. And then, by vote, of those who have the ability to vote on In or Out, it was voted that the designation of homosexuality as an illness be deleted. And so, what we have is “science by vote.”
Martin: And this is really not science.
Deidre: And then, of course, in diagnosing people, you can have the same person presenting the same symptoms to a variety of people, and they will not come up with the same diagnosis. And, as a matter of fact, there was a study that showed that housewives did better than the psychiatrists.
Tom: Wow. Another area I’d like you to address briefly, if you could…is it the Cambridge Somerville Study?
Martin: Yes, the Cambridge Somerville Study was done quite a number of years ago. We covered that in the book Psychoheresy. The last time I looked at that was probably ten years ago, but essentially, what happened was this was a highly touted approach to helping kids, but some research that was done by a researcher later on discovered that what they had been thinking was a tremendous asset to these kids turned out to be not an asset, not a help, but a liability.
Tom: Right. In effect, this project was to help these young people through psychotherapy and the follow-up found out that those who supposedly were to benefit by this, their lives were the most destructive, as opposed to a control group that had no help, is that right?
Deidre: Well, what happens is in much of psychotherapy, especially the insight-oriented psychotherapy, the focus is on inside. Not what the person does that is right or wrong, or whether (and you’re not supposed to even get into right or wrong; that’s judgmental), but the why? It must be “Why did this person do this?”
And not just the simple why: because he wanted some attention, or he was angry at his parents and feeling rejected, and blah, blah, blah, but rather an inner “why?” that must be found out because it’s due to something that happened to him when he was a child. And when you get into all of this business of why—having it be the unconscious being the reason why, then the person is no longer responsible, and he learns he doesn’t have to really think twice before he does things because, after all, it’s his unconscious that’s making him do it. And so these kids, instead of learning to control their behavior, instead of learning how to make wise decisions, to be responsible, just become so focused on their feelings and focused on themselves that they really have a difficult time, then, truly being responsible citizens.
Tom: Right, they’re being taught to lay this off on something else other than their own hearts. Their own…
Deidre: Yes, it is the ultimate blame game with a so-called scientific façade giving them the ultimate reason for what they did.
Tom: Now, over the last two programs, we’ve laid out a lot of problems with psychotherapy. Now, Christian psychology—is that completely distinct from all of that? Is it devoid of all the problems that we’re talking about? What is Christian psychology?
Deidre: It really is a combination of all of the psychotherapy that is out there that’s bad and it has enough Christian gloss on it for people to believe it more than the secular person.
Tom: So it’s not really distinct. It only has some variations.
Deidre: You may have some Bible included. You may have some biblical ideas and façade, but basically, what they are doing is they are using the same theories, the same techniques, and they’ve learned them either from the secular institutions, or now, a lot of the Christian colleges and universities have brought this in, and they are teaching all of the secular stuff too.
Tom: All that we’ve discussed.
Martin: Specifically, your question has to do with Christian psychology and Christian counselors who are using psychology. They’re actually a mixed bag of individuals. You have some who are psychoanalytically oriented, some that are behavioristically oriented, some that are humanistically oriented, and some even dip into the fourth stream, which has to do with kind of a conglomeration of different Eastern ideas that are incorporated into psychotherapies. And so they come in a variety of stripes and colors. You can’t trust when you walk into a Christian psychotherapist’s office that you’re going to have either one type of therapy or another type of therapy because you just don’t know. It’s up to the individual what he’s practicing.
Deidre: Here is a quotation from one of those: “We are often asked if we are Christian psychologists and find it difficult to answer since we don’t know what the question implies. We are Christians who are psychologists. But at the same time, there is no acceptable Christian psychology that is markedly different from non-Christian psychology. It is difficult to imply that we function in a manner that is fundamentally distinct from our non-Christian colleagues. As yet, there is not an acceptable theory, mode of research, or treatment methodology that is distinctly Christian.
Tom: So if a Christian turns to a Christian psychologist thinking that they’re going to be on safe grounds, it’s not the case.
Martin: Now the American Association of Christian Counselors is an organization that claims to be Christian, of course. However, it’s an integrationist organization, purely and simply. It has a probably about 20,000 members now. And what they have now is a center, what they call a Center for Biblical Counseling, and they have a certificate program. And when you look at who’s teaching these classes, and you look at the course content, what you are seeing is just the kind of the epitome of integration—integration being taking biblical ideas and psychological ideas and teaching them together. And so this particular program, which we received a catalog for, is just an example of how prolific this psychology is in the church and how much it has taken hold.
Tom: So if psychotherapy is not the answer for solving problems of living, and Christian psychotherapy may even compound believers’ problems, where then should a Christian turn for help? Now that’s going to be the main topic for next week’s program with our guests Dr. Martin and Deidre Bobgan. So please invite your friends and particularly the pastor and elders of your church to tune in. I know this is going to be a great encouragement to all who love God’s Word.