Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’ve been discussing the subject of Psychology and the Church in this first segment of our program. And today, Dave, I thought we’d go over some of the myths that Christians and others believe that delude them into turning to psychological counseling for everyday problems of living.
Now, one common myth is that in order to be an effective counselor, you need to be academically educated, have a PhD or an MD degree, and be professionally licensed. It’s not true, right?
Dave: How dare you say that, Tom! I mean, why do we license these people? Why do they go to them if…and they charge pretty hefty fees.
Tom: Supposedly, Dave, licensing is supposed to protect us…
Dave: Oh, okay.
Tom: …which is just an absurdity. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. It’s just the two of us talking about this, and we back up what we’re saying: that it indeed is a myth. I think we can.
Dave: Well, I think you’ve got a lot of quotes there, Tom. I remember Bernie Zilbergeld, clinical psychologist, and he just says there is no evidence that professional training helps you at all.
Tom: He also says that if he had a problem, let’s say with his spouse or something like that, the last person he would go to would be a shrink. He would find somebody who was doing well in areas he was having trouble with, and that’s where he would get counsel. But why would he say that? I mean, he’s a clinical psychologist. He knows the field.
Dave: Not a Christian.
Tom: No, not at all, but he says that because the research all supports his contention here that—well, let’s get into some of this.
Here’s a quote from Dr. Robyn Dawes. He wrote a book called, House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. So, I’ve got his book right here, Dave. Here’s a quote: “The therapist credentials—PhD, MD, or no advance degree—and experience were unrelated to the effectiveness of therapy. Such things are irrelevant, or at least that is what all the evidence indicates.”
Dave: This was in a study they did.
Tom: Exactly. He goes on to say, “Evaluating the efficacy of psychotherapy has led us to conclude that professional psychologists are no better psychotherapists than anyone else with minimal training, sometimes those without any training at all.”
Dave: Well, Tom, I would think that would be an insult, or at least very discouraging. I mean, this is a heavy blow! Let’s say that I’ve gone through four years of university and then I’ve had some extra training, as many pastors. They’ve gone back to Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena.
Tom: Dave, they could go back to any Christian university, because this is the number two career choice among Christian universities and colleges.
Dave: And so I’ve spent all this time and effort, and I’ve waded through all these teachings of these humanists, and I’ve tried to sort them out, you know, and keep from getting led too far astray. As James Dobson says, “It’s a great profession, but you have to have faith strong enough to withstand the humanists to which you will be exposed.” But anyway, whether I’m a Christian or not, I have to qualify in the same manner. I’ve passed my state boards, and I’ve done all this stuff, and I’m no better at counseling than anybody else?
Tom: Well, Dave, that’s what the studies tell us. Again, you can have your opinion and I can have my opinion, but these are well-grounded studies.
Tom: Here’s one by Dr. Hans Strupp, Vanderbilt University. He had five professional therapists participating in the study who were selected on the basis of their reputation in the professional and academic community for their clinical expertise. Their average length of experience was 23 years. The second group that was involved in the therapy, although they were not professionals, they were college professors from a variety of fields—again, no therapeutic training. The outcome was that the students seen by the non-professionals showed as much improvement as those seen by the highly experienced and specially trained therapists. So you have to begin to think, Well, wait a minute, then what is helping people? We’re going to get to that, Dave—I’m sort of leading up to it.
Dave: Well, what are they charging for?
Tom: Well, that’s a whole other problem.
Tom: Obviously in these programs it’s sponsored and there is no charge. But still, these young people, college students, want to get their problems solved.
Dave: Tom, I know these facts, and they must be shocking to people who are listening because it sounds like a fraud! They’re charging you a pretty hefty fee. Of course, another problem is there’s not a real relationship—you’ll get to that. There is not a real relationship, which is necessary because you’re my client, Tom; and I’m looking at the stop watch—five more minutes, you’re out of here, and I’ve got another one waiting.
Tom: Right, or you stay here another hour and it costs you another $175, or whatever.
Dave: Right, this is a money-making proposition.
Tom: Dave, in going over this material, one concerned individual who had done the research suggested—you want to talk about getting beaten back quickly!—said, “Well, if anybody can do this, why don’t we just have some people and we will give them minimum wage? They’ll charge like six bucks an hour.” How do you think that would go over?
Well, anyway, psychiatrist Jerome Frank—I don’t know why I’m laughing about this, but because it’s absurd on the one hand…on the other hand it’s a nervous laugh, because it just grieves me, Dave.
Dave: It’s really tragic.
Tom: Yeah. Psychiatrist Jerome Frank tells us that although more than six and a half million Americans see mental health professionals yearly, no scientific research has demonstrated “conclusively” that professional psychotherapists produce results sufficiently better than nonprofessionals. Just another voice—again, Jerome Frank, really well known. And the men we’re mentioning, they have clinical background, but they are researchers. In other words, these are the guys who see whether this stuff if working or not.
You know, Dave, I don’t know if we’ve mentioned this on programs before, but you have the researchers giving you the evidence, but then you have the practitioners—they don’t care what the research is!
Dave: Tom, the very serious part of this is (well, it’s all serious) this is coming in the church. And how many pastors, thousands and thousands of pastors, have been told that they are not competent to counsel people with the problems of today because they don’t have any training in psychology? And they go back to seminaries—not to study the Word of God in more detail, not to understand better from the Word of God how to counsel people from the Word of God, which is the real Counselor, but to get some expertise so that they can be part of the statistics, and do no better than they would have done, and probably worse, because they’ve got wrong principles and wrong ideas now than they would have done had they not gone for this training. And as you’ve mentioned a number of times on the program, Tom, the church is the major referral agency to secular psychologists and psychiatrists.
Tom: Correct. Dave, again, here’s another study. I want our listeners, our viewers, to understand I’m not just picking one thing out here. The evidence is overwhelming, and I want to keep giving the documentation for this.
This is Dr. Joseph Durlak of Loyola University of Chicago. He did an extensive study comparing nonprofessionals with professionals. Here is what he writes: “Overall outcome results in comparative studies have favored nonprofessionals. There were no significant differences among helpers in 28 investigations, but nonprofessionals were significantly more effective than professionals in 12 studies. The provocative conclusion from these comparative investigations is that professionals do not possess demonstratively superior therapeutic skills compared with nonprofessionals. Moreover, professional mental health education, training, and experience are not necessary prerequisites for an effective helping person.”
Dave: Well, Tom, I’m reminded of the study that was done—well, it was comparing the effectiveness of Western psychiatrists with witch doctors, and you remember that.
Tom: Well, I’m going to give you a quote from that.
Dave: Well, there were several studies, actually, and in one study it came out a dead heat. The only difference was that the witch doctors charged less and released the patients sooner. But there are other studies as well on the same thing, Tom.
Tom: That was the All India Institute of Mental Health. So they had what they would call “healers,” those who would just minister to people, whether they be Hindus or whatever. But they would be comparable to a shaman, a witch doctor, a medicine man, and so on, dealing with the people in their villages who had problems with living.
E. Fuller Torrey—there’s a quote backing up exactly what you said. Now, E. Fuller Torrey, another research psychologist, psychiatrist—right, Dr. Torrey—his book is called Witch Doctors and Psychiatrists, and he writes: “The techniques used by Western psychiatrists, with few exceptions, are on exactly the same scientific plane as the techniques used by witch doctors. If one is magic, then so is the other. If one is pre-scientific, then so is the other.” And, Dave, that sounds like a put down. But really, I mean, he’s not trying to malign the field. In a sense, he’s just talking about the scientific level, or nonscientific level.
Dave: He is a psychiatrist himself, a research psychiatrist, one of the world’s leaders. Well, Tom, why would this be so? Let me just make a brief comment about that, because you cannot make a science out of human behavior. And yet this is what the psychology field, the psychologists, the psychiatrists, this is what they’ve been desperately trying to prove for years: “Oh, this is science.” Now, if you could make a science out of human behavior, you have destroyed man as God made him. He no long has a free will, and he no longer has morals and makes choices and weighs the evidence carefully, but he’s simply a stimulus response mechanism, and you can predict what he’s going to do.
Tom: It’s just chemistry and physics, right, Dave? That’s the case?
Dave: Yeah, this is the medical model of Freud. So, all of this effort to make a science out of this is counterproductive. It’s contrary to the Word of God. This is not a scientific endeavor to help a person…how can you get along with your wife, or your husband, or your parents, or whatever? How can you become happy? How can you have a sense of fulfillment? That’s not a scientific question. Absolutely not. It is as far from science as you can get it. So now, as soon as we try to be scientific—this is what Mary Baker Eddy did…
Tom: Right, Christian Science.
Dave: Right. Jesus Christ was the first Christian Scientist, but He was a scientist who was a Christian, and now if we can just make this scientific, then the world will flock to it because a science, you know, that’s kind of a mantra for today. It’s a holy mantra that bows people in worship before the gods—science. Tom, it is…
Tom: Which has created lots of problems for us, Dave. It’s solved some problems, but certainly has gotten so…
Dave: It’s just the wrong way to go about this. “I am crucified with Christ,” Paul said, “nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live I live by the faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
If Christ has become my life, Tom…I’d like to hear an answer from these people: If Christ has become my life, and the Christian life is allowing Christ to live His life through me, as I love Him and trust and obey Him, where does this psychological counseling come in? I don’t think Christ needs any help from Freud or Jung or Rogers. These guys are the ones we talked about, and they were basket cases as far as their personal lives were concerned.
Tom: Without a doubt. But, Dave, again, a myth—there are so many myths involved in this whole field. One is that—why are people drawn to it? Well, they think it works! They think it’s effective.
Here’s a quote—this is a survey conducted by the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, and reported that “Those persons who actively sought help for personal problems, the vast majority contacted persons other than mental health professionals, and that generally they were more satisfied with the help received than were those who chose psychiatrists and psychologists.”
Dave: Boy, Tom, this is a bankrupt profession, and yet it has taken over the church. I know that, for example, Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, they take great pride in their psychology department. They say that…“Learn to be a counselor of souls.” And not from the Bible. Oh, well, they’ll use the Bible, but you’ve got to become a psychologist, get a degree in psychology, then you can become more effective. Tom, what all these studies say is that is an absolute fraud! It isn’t true!
Tom: But, Dave, we’re talking money here. You mentioned Liberty, but Liberty, Trinity, Wheaton…you could go all the way across the country out to the West Coast—Fuller, you mentioned, and so on. Why is this a big item? Well, because it brings in students. It is the number one—no, sorry, it is the number two career choice, according to the Princeton Review, of all college students. And more so with Christian colleges because they’re under the delusion, under the myth, that it’s actually helping people.
Dave: And they think that somehow it can be blended into the Bible. It doesn’t work.
Dave: But, Tom, let me put it like this: You mentioned that the major reason people go to psychologists and psychiatrists is because they think it works.
Dave: Now, let’s go behind that: why do they think that works, and why would they go in that direction (I’m talking about a Christian now)? Because they think Christianity doesn’t work, the Bible doesn’t work. “Oh, I tried that. I mean, you’re just throwing….”
You remember, we met with James Dobson, and he accused us, you know, “Well, you guys are just throwing Bible verses out there.” Well, I’m not throwing Bible verses out there, but the Bible—this is the Word of God! It’s a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. This is what I live by. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Tom: At least 2,000 years, Dave.
Dave: Yeah. Am I willing to be crucified with Christ? Am I willing to deny self? You see, the Bible says, “Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Christ, and let Him live His life through you,” but psychology says, “No, you’ve got to improve self. You’ve got to develop self-development and self-improvement,” and so forth. Tom, it’s backwards. It doesn’t work.
Not only, Tom, it doesn’t work, it has caused more problems. I can think in my life of people that I have known who have been divorced because one of them went to a Christian psychologist.
Tom: Well, the reason is it’s based on self, and if I’m going to be totally preoccupied by self or need to build self—worried about self, want to be right in certain situations, and so on—if that’s my orientation, how does that compare with what the Scriptures say?
We’ve been saying it doesn’t work, but here’s what the studies say. This is the Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change. It says, “Although there are a large number of therapies, each containing its own rationale and specific techniques, there is little evidence to suggest the superiority of one school over another.” In other words, there are about 500 different approaches, and the research says that they all work equally well. Now, that might sound like a good thing, but it’s a bad thing, because many of them are contradictory to one another! So the question is, if they all work—it’s not based on specific concepts or the techniques—on what basis do they work?
Dave: Well, they all work equally well, Tom. But what we’ve been saying—you’ve been pointing out—is they all work equally badly.
Tom: But nevertheless, if something is going to be effective within contradictory concepts, and it says that they do work to a certain degree…. For example, some would say psychotherapy works. It provides mild to moderate relief in some cases. All psychotherapy seem to work equally well. This is Martin Bobgan’s view, who we have on our video Psychology in the Church, and what works when it does work is really common to all psychotherapies.
Now, do you want to know what they are, Dave? First and foremost, it begins with the client, the person himself. If he’s willing, if he’s going to go along with the therapist—because he’s the only one that can change his own behavior, okay? The second thing is the therapeutic alliance. You’ve got somebody to talk to, you’ve got somebody to sort of work these things out with. Now, Dave, this has nothing to do with their training, this has to do with a personal rapport that one individual has with another.
Dave: Yeah. And, Tom, it would be a whole lot better to have a friend, a wise counselor who’s had some experience in this area rather than a professional who is charging you for this, and you are a source of income to him.
Tom: Right. Dave, the other thing is expectancy, or a placebo. I mean, this is one of the things that they are finding out: that just because a person—you know, this is why sometimes credentials have an effect. You say, “Oh, this guy must know what he’s talking about and therefore it encouraged me, and my expectation is that I’m going to get better.” But as it works out, somebody who is credentialed has a certain view, whether it be psychoanalysis, whether it be behavioral approach, cognitive behavior, whatever it might be, they’ve got to make the client conform to their view.
Now, Dave, as you said earlier, what happens when a person comes into a situation like that and has a biblical world view? That’s going to get changed, isn’t it?
Dave: The biblical world view, if they really held it, would have prevented them from coming to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. That’s one of the great tragedies, and yet this is in the church. What would the biblical view do? Well, we’ve mentioned it in the past—one of Christ’s names is Counselor. This is one of His names—His name shall be called Counselor! Well, then why don’t we go to Him for counsel, go to His Word for counsel?
So the very fact that a Christian goes to—well, some of them go to secular counselors, but they’re going to so-called “Christian” counselors who have been secularly trained. That indicates that they have lost confidence in the Bible. In fact, this is one of the underpinnings of Christian psychology: the Bible is not sufficient. We have to turn somewhere else. Now, that is going to, in itself, even if a person had a biblical view on it, they wanted to adhere it, they’re going to lose it!
Tom: It has to, Dave, because, as we’ve said in this program and other programs, humanistic psychology is really the cornerstone. I don’t care whatever therapy it is, it’s all based on self. And what you’re going to get from a secularly trained individual is “self is so important,” which is contrary to what the Bible says. Self is our problem!
Dave: Absolutely. Tom, I don’t know what people are thinking out there. These guys are crazy. I mean, look, there are so many Christian psychologists. They’re the big authority in the church. They’re the most popular speakers. Their books…I mean, you’ve got huge sections on Christian psychology in Christian bookstores. These guys, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Tom, you’re backing it up with the studies by secular psychologists and psychiatrists themselves, and they are not complimentary to this profession. Then why, why does the church go for it? Why do pastors want to be trained in this? Because they have lost confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word, and that’s a tragedy!