Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call, featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. It’s great to have you along. In today’s program, Tom will address the topic of “Psychology in the Church,” with special guests Martin and Deidre Bobgan of Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries. And now, TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Well, today, as Gary mentioned, our topic is Psychology. More specifically psychological counseling, also referred to as “psychotherapy.”
We’re going to consider the influence it’s had upon evangelical Christianity, and there’s no one better suited with whom to discuss the subject, in my opinion, than with our guests, Martin and Deidre Bobgan. They are prolific writers, with close to…well, 21 titles to their credit, nearly all addressing the scriptural problems with psychological counseling, and, I might add, so-called biblical counseling.
First of all, Deidre, Martin, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Martin: Thank you very much. It’s always a pleasure to be on with you, Tom, after all of our long, long years of relationship, because you were there at the beginning.
Tom: Right. You know, I think about a book that you don’t offer, The Psychological Way, the Spiritual Way—how many years ago was that?
Deidre: Well, that was 1979 that it came out.
Tom: Yeah, and I don’t know anybody—you know, I’m not here to puff you guys up, because we…you know, there’s no need, we’ve had such a long relationship, and you guys have done so much, but I don’t know anybody who has addressed this subject, which we’ll be talking about today, not only for as long as you guys have, but with diligence, with a heart to bring the Scriptures to bear on what we’re, you know, what we’re getting into, what the church has been getting into, which we’ll talk about.
Deidre: And we’ve been grateful for the way you and Dave, through the years, brought this to many people that we wouldn’t even be able to reach. So, we’re very grateful.
Tom: Well, that brings us to a question. You know, I mentioned that you two have written numerous books addressing the problems of psychological counseling, as I mentioned. It’s also known as “psychotherapy.” The effect that this has had in the church—why would you devote so much time and energy to a subject like this? In other words, what’s the problem? Or what are the problems?
Martin: Well, let’s take a little bit of a history look. Prior to the Second World War, there was only psychoanalysis—that’s some system that Freud put together in the hands of psychiatrists, and so very few people were involved in it. It was after the Second World War that it began, and, as a matter of fact, the first…every state has a license of some kind, and the first license ever issued was issued a little over 50 years ago. Now, we’re going to talk about the church, because it went from the secular universities to all of the sacred institutions. And that means that this…what we call “psychoheresy,” it’s running rampant in churches, para-church organizations, Bible colleges, Christian schools and universities, seminaries, mission agencies, you name it.
So, at the beginning, when we wrote our first book, it was the camel’s nose in the tent, and you know the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent. Pretty soon, the camel occupies most all of the tent, and that’s what’s happened with this counseling psychology.
We want to make it clear; by the way, we’re not talking about the entire field of psychology. We’re talking about clinical…and it’s out of clinical psychology that the training comes for those individuals who go on and become licensed as psychotherapists.
Deidre: And, as counselors, or marriage/family counselors. Also, and I think this is part of the really deep reason, is that this kind of psychology truly subverts the faith. In fact, antagonism toward Christianity very subtly comes in because they’re talking about how people should live, how they can change, and the way they are, so that as Christians bring these things in, rather than directly denying the sufficiency of Scripture, they are bringing in ideas of men that are only opinions, some based on limited observation, but opinions of men brought alongside Scripture as if the Lord has not given us enough to minister to the soul. Because remember, the word “psychology” is “the study of the soul.” How does an unbeliever—in fact, some of the original ones were anti-Christian, anti-Christ—how can they truly speak to the soul? They’re in the dark. And yet these things have come along to the point where now, Christians think that unless people are psychologically trained, they can’t really help anybody.
Tom: Yes, and, Deidre, that brings up an issue—you could say, “Well, what could they possibly—regardless of whether you call yourself a psychologist or psychiatrist—what could that possibly have to do with the soul?” The soul is nonphysical. This is not something, which is really where I’m going with this; it’s not something that you could put under a microscope. It’s not something organic…
Deidre: That’s right.
Tom: …It’s something that’s nonphysical. But that brings us to what you guys have called, and certainly what I’ve written about, the myths of psychotherapy, of psychological counseling.
Let’s start off with the belief that it’s scientific. What do you say to that?
Martin: Well, we have in our book Psychoheresy, which is a term we coined years ago, and we have pursued that theme. And again, Deidre said it, it’s a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture for the issues of life.
But when you go to our book Psychoheresy, we have a whole chapter—and we could spend the rest of the time just quoting one person after another— but let me take an eminent person. Karl Popper is Sir Karl Popper. He’s considered by some to be the most eminent philosopher of science of the last century. And he says with respect to this Freudian, Adlerian, etc., psychotherapies, he says that, “Though these posing as sciences, [I’m quoting him] they have in fact, more in common with primitive myths that with science. They resemble astrology rather than astronomy.”
And then he also says (another sentence here), “These theories describe some facts, but in the manner of myths. They contain most interesting psychological suggestions, but not in a testable form.”
He’s talking about theory is…you have to be able to test it if it’s a genuine scientific theory, and these are not genuine scientific theories. They are therefore not scientific. And we have umpteen other distinguished individuals who have said likewise.
But if you go through the church and you ask individuals, they think that this is some science, some type of science, and they just, you know, adamantly support it as such. But they have no what I call “footnotes.” You can’t say, “Well, give me an expert who says it.”
Deidre: You know there’s a book that was written by a man who’s a psychiatrist, Garth Wood. And his book is The Myth of Neurosis. And in that book he describes the bankruptcy of the psychological psychotherapist, those who are doing that kind of counseling. But here is what he says, “Cowed by their status as men of science, deferring to their academic titles, bewitched by the initials after their names, we, the gullible, lap up their pretentious nonsense as if it were gospel truth. We must learn to recognize them for what they are. Possessors of no special knowledge of the human psyche, who have nonetheless chosen to earn their living from the dissemination of the myth that they do indeed know how the mind works, are thoroughly conversant with the rules that govern human behavior.”
Tom: Mm-hmm. So an individual, let’s say somebody in the church who has a problem, just like all of us, we want to get our problems solved…
Tom: …but they’ve bought into the idea that, well, wait a minute, let’s not just go to somebody who maybe has some biblical understanding or something like that, let’s—just like you would go to a heart surgeon because you have arrhythmia, or whatever it might be, let’s get somebody who’s the expert…
Tom: …who’s the scientist, who’s going [to] really get to the core of my problem and deal with it. It’s a fraud, right?
Deidre: Well, you know the psychological counselors have really been extremely successful in one area and that is in promoting what they’re doing, making it sound like science, making it sound as if they’re the ones, who are the only ones who can really help.
Tom: Right. Let’s talk about—Martin, address one of the main purveyors of this idea going back, Sigmund Freud.
Martin: Okay. Well, Sigmund Freud— it’s interesting that his basic premise for psychoanalysis has to do with early psychosexual stages of development and the impact that those early psychosexual stages of development have on the later life. And, in the process, of course, Freud, we all know, was anti-Christian, and in fact, there is a well-known psychiatrist, probably one of the best-known psychiatrists of the last century, who by the way is a Jew, as Freud was a Jew. And he claims that psychoanalysis was invented by Freud as an anti-Christian sort of offering. I don’t know. He has that in his book, by the way, The Myth of Psychotherapy.
But nonetheless, he isn’t a trustworthy individual because the whole ideas that he promoted, many of them are not even followed today: the early psychosexual stages of development, the repression, the unconscious, the id, ego, super-ego, and so on, and so forth.
And, yet, he still is in popularity in one way. In more than one way, but in this way in particular—that people want to go in the past in order to identify what in the past determined (that’s the important word) the present. Now for Freud, it was the unconscious that is the determining factor. For others, they just forget about the unconscious, they don’t use it any more, they go back in the past, reconstruct your past, let’s bring it up to the present, and now we’re going to be able to tell you just why you are neurotic, so-to-speak, or you can’t adjust to life, things are going bad, and so on.
Tom: Sure. Just to give our listeners an example—“Oh, wait a minute, it can’t be my fault! It had to be my parents, it had to be my environment, it had to be some of these things that have affected my life”—even as you used the term “determinism.” They have determined—“My past has determined the way I am today, and now I need years, and years, and years of therapy to eliminate those issues through talk, through talk therapy.”
You know, I used the term before, and am I being too harsh here? This is fraud! This is absolute fraud.
Martin: Yes. Now it’s not only Freud, though, I mean many of his followers were also involved in some fraudulent approach to replace what we really have in the Word. What’s been used for years until the Johnny-come-lately of psychotherapy came along. And each one of them, if you look at them (and we know there are almost five hundred psychotherapeutic approaches, which should raise a question to begin with)—has anyone won this race? The answer is no. If there were one that had won the race, all of the others would be eliminated. But they’re all out there, the psychoanalytic, the behavioristic, the humanistic, the transpersonal, and on and on in combinations of those.
So it’s really a[n] unfortunate situation that the church has so deeply bought into all of this. And basically, we find when…we have a ministry, and on our mailing list, we have people. We ask them, check with your church. The basic thing we ask is, “Does your church refer out to local psychotherapists?”
Now, where we live, there are only two churches that don’t do that. And we probably have maybe fifty churches we would label in the usual Christian spectrum. And that’s not unusual. Because why do they refer out? Well, they trust these professionals.
Tom: Well, Martin, that brings us to a related issue here of once the idea that psychological counseling is accepted as scientific, which it is not, then we’re told that the only effective way to minister to those people, whether it be in the church, or friends, or whatever it is, and that is to send them out to a professional, somebody who has been professionally trained. Now, is that a myth or not?
Martin: Yeah, that is a myth. In fact, there is a dichotomy here between the practitioners and the researchers. That’s been known for quite sometime, and the argument goes back and forth: “Well, you know, what we do as practitioners doesn’t exactly fit the research model,” and so they say psychotherapy is both a science and an art and so they dodge around it. But the truth of the matter is, if you look into those individuals who actually look at the research, and you look at those who are known researchers, those individuals who know what they’re doing and they check the outcomes, they find that psychotherapy is actually not something that’s to be trusted. You know, a lot of people say, “Well, yeah, this psychotherapy, you know, it’s in universities,” and this, that, and the other thing. But if you look at the research, you will find, first of all, look at the American Psychiatric Association. They say, and I’m quoting them, “No one has claimed that psychotherapy effectiveness is large.” It’s not large, according to them.
But then you look at Dr. Martin Seligman, who’s the past president of the American Psychological Association. He has five versions of his most popular graduate level text. And he concludes, looking at all the research, at best, psychotherapy produces (I’m quoting him) “only mild to moderate relief.”
And Hans Strupp—he’s a distinguished professor at Vanderbilt University—I like the way he puts it, “Psychotherapy is most helpful to those who need it least.” Those are his words. And we could just go on and on.
And then you look at the research that has to do with the comparison of amateurs to professionals. And Dr. Robin Dawes in his book House of Cards—Dawes, by the way, is a distinguished researcher, and he says (I’m quoting him), “Evaluating the efficacy of psychotherapy has led us to conclude that professional psychologists are no better psychotherapists than any one else with minimal training—sometimes those without any training at all.” And now we know there is a harm rate, but the interesting thing about Dawes is, he notes (and this is true) every state, states individually license, whether it is medical, chiropractic, psychotherapy and so on, but he says, “While every state has licensing, there is little evidence to support this licensing.” And he actually, as a distinguished researcher, recommends in his book House of Cards, the elimination of this licensing. And just think about how much the church, in all of its facets, trusts what this distinguished researcher says shouldn’t even be licensed.
Deidre: You know, at one of the meetings they gave [at] the American Psychological Association, they presented Dr. Leonard Bickman with the award for his distinguished contributions to research. They would not have invited him if they had known what was said in his talk, which was titled, “Practice Makes Perfect, and Other Myths About Mental Health Services.” He said, “Concurrently, psychologists have been unable to muster scientific evidence for the effectiveness of typical services. They seem confident that effective services are assured by more experienced clinicians, degree programs, continuing education, licensing, accreditation, [and] clinical supervision.” And then he says after looking at all of the research, “These are myths with little or no evidence to support them.”
So, you know, he says, “Licensing doesn’t assure anything; accreditation doesn’t, advanced degree doesn’t.” And so it’s crazy, because it used to be that friends spoke to one another, and encouraged one another, and now it’s not a “one another.” In fact, instead of having a close friend, confidant…people who can afford it…and now, of course, a lot is paid for by the government—people can have their confidant; they can use the psychological counselor for this.
The problem is that they may not realize that what goes on in the conversation is never really confidential. Because records are kept, and you have no idea what may happen to the records and discussions.
Tom: Deidre and Martin, let me throw something else at you, a couple of scenarios.
Well, first of all, when you say we have the practitioners and then we have the researchers.
Tom: And, you know, when I speak about this subject at different places—and I’m a critic, as you guys well know, of psychotherapy—when I speak about it, I say, “Look, you’ve got the practitioners and the researchers. From a biblical standpoint…from the standpoint that I’m coming from…the researchers are on my side!” Okay? (Laughing)
But then you’d say, “Well, wait a minute, if the researchers are on your side, in terms of just exposing what’s wrong with this process, and how ineffective it is, why then aren’t the practitioners following the researchers?” And the answer is very simple: they would be out of work. They would just have to hang up their licenses, their credits, and their shingle, whatever it might be. That’s a problem.
Deidre: Not only out of work, but out of this position of being a counselor and wise person.
Martin: Yeah. Now, in order to understand the outcome of the research that goes on over the years, a person would have to be pretty knowledgeable about scientific research. I have two degrees in mathematics, so I can follow the meta-analytic studies, but, you know, the usual practitioner—trained in clinical psychology, then going to an advanced degree, if it’s a psychologist…a master’s degree only if it’s a marriage and family therapist…typically in each of the states—they don’t come in touch…they come in touch with some of it. You know, they have to have one graduate course in statistics and they really don’t like the course, typically. But they don’t have the skills in order to understand, and they’re training for a profession that pays a lot of them a good-sized salary. And, so once you’re trained, what do you do with the license? What do you do with the office? what do you do with what you’re going to do in the future, if your license is not issued to you where you can earn money?
Tom: Mm-hmm. There’s another aspect to this…going back to, well, you know, this is what they say, “Well, so-and-so needs professional help.” But you’ve addressed that.
But here’s a question that I have. Because people out there may be thinking, Wait a minute, are you telling me that my aunt, or my cousin, or just somebody off the street, may well be more effective in ministering and counseling somebody else than a professional?
Well, let me run this scenario by you. Let’s say I get—you just mentioned the degrees—let’s say I get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, all right? And then I go out and I set up shop. Now somebody who comes to me with a problem, I’m going to try and help them solve their problem. But let’s say I’ve been trained in psychoanalysis, I’ve been trained in Rogerian approach, whatever it might be. Don’t I have to, rather than just looking at the problem itself and say, “Well, you know, I would say you need to do this and this, because this makes common sense?”, don’t I have to kind of lead them into the Freudian idea, or the Jungian idea, or whatever it might be, which is…that’s why this stuff is so absurd! As opposed to somebody just saying, “Hey, look, here’s your problem, this is what you’re doing. You’ve got to stop doing it, or you’ve got to do this, or that.” That’s what somebody on the street, a neighbor, a friend, an uncle, an aunt—whoever it might be—would do. That’s why they’re more effective in these research projects.
Deidre: The only problem these days, though, with that, Tom, is that so many people have watched so much television and so much stuff that is the pop psychology that they’ve picked up a lot of the lingo, they’ve picked up a lot of the little techniques, and so forth. So actually, I think since we are really more concerned about Christians, Christians do not have to pick up any of that stuff. They have the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. And, so the way we believe is that people need to encourage one another in spiritual growth and knowing God. And a lot of times, there may not be an obvious answer to the problem, but as somebody draws close to the Lord, the Lord will show what to do next.
Tom: Right. And they don’t have to be forced into something that the person they’re paying…whether it be through the insurance company, or whatever…they don’t have to be forced into looking at something like Freud would, or Rogers would…
Tom: …or Maslow, or all of these guys.
Tom: That’s what makes it more than a fraud but also a farce here. This is problematic.
Martin: Yeah, a way to look at this is the following: We know from the research that the psychotherapists don’t have something special, special. They all have their own brand of psychotherapy. They’re all eclectic these days. And so we take a look at the results, and we see that the results don’t really support what they’re doing.
There is a book, The Shrinking of America, by Bernie Zilbergeld. I actually interviewed him here in Santa Barbara because he had made a remark. The remark was basically this—(big, thick book) and you probably have it in your library—so he said that, “If I had a problem, I wouldn’t go see a shrink.” By shrink, you know what he means…a psychotherapist.
He said, “I would find someone who has his game together in the way I would want my game together and I would go to him. I don’t care if he’s a truck driver, I just go according to what I see him doing that I want to be doing like him.” And I interviewed him over this one little remark, and he was quite adamant about it—that psychotherapists don’t have anything special to offer.
When you look at the question you raised, Tom, about who are you going to go to, I mean, just some Christian? They make it sound like untrained, doesn’t know anything. Wait a minute, now! We’re not going to send them to a new believer. We’re going to send the individual to a mature believer that’s maturing in the faith.
And there are bad psychotherapists. You know the harm rate for some psychotherapy skyrockets in the research up to 40 percent. Regressive therapy is known to be detrimental to individuals. [There’s] a lot of it going on, and so on. And so, you have to look at who the person is…
Martin: …and what they’re like in order to determine what they’re going to do.
Tom: Well, Martin and Deidre, we’re out of time for this segment of the program. We’re going to pick up with this next week. And we’re going to talk about Christian psychology. How about that as a solution? And then, hopefully, if we have the time, we’re going to get into what many in the church have tried to bring in as an answer against psychological counseling. And that is biblical counseling. We’re going to talk about that a bit.
So anyway, thanks for being with us and we’ll get back to you next week.
Deidre: Okay, see you then!
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