Gary: Tom, Martin, and Deidre respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Our question this week: “My gut feeling tells me there is something very wrong with psychotherapy. On the other hand, when I hear about all the complex and even serious psychological problems some people have, it seems to make sense that only a trained professional can truly supply the necessary help.”
Tom: Martin, this seems to be—Deidre, this seems to be one of the big myths that’s been promoted, propagated, however you want to say it.
Martin: Yeah, the myth that “You need a professional.” And it’s the usual answer to somebody who says, “I have a problem,” they say, “You need a professional.” However, here again we have the usual dichotomy between researched results and what the practitioners do. And in various research settings in which they use amateurs vs. professionals, the results are kind of mixed. In certain cases the professionals do better and in other cases the amateurs do better, and in certain cases it’s a tie.
But there hasn’t been any demonstration at any time that anybody needs to be a professional in order to get results in dealing with human problems, and this has been looked at in a variety of ways, whether it’s amateurs vs. professionals, or they sometimes use graduate students who aren’t in psychology. This goes a lot of different ways, but the challenge that I’ve given is: If you take two groups of “therapists” —(I say “in quotes,” because one group can be true therapists and the other group can be anybodies—just take some people who normally deal with people, and call them therapists too.) Send them both patients, and then wait for the results to happen, and I can just tell you, the results are basically going to be equivalent.
Again, it’s the fact that the real reason people change is because they want to, and what you need to do when they can’t do it themselves is to bring somebody alongside in order to help them do it.
And so, the idea that professionals are needed is not true.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, what I think people forget sometimes about psychotherapy is that the heart of it is, whether it be a psychiatrist, in most cases, or a psychologist, or, as you said, just an aunt or an uncle with some wisdom, the heart here is “talk.” It’s rhetoric, right?
Deidre: That’s right. It’s just talk. And one person who has really spoken out against psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies and said psychotherapy is a myth said (this is Thomas Szasz), he said, “It’s just talk. If someone wants to pay to talk to me, that’s fine, but it’s just talk.”
And basically, a therapist is a “paid friend,” stays around as long as there’s money, and actually, what they have—they have their credentials, they have their licenses on the wall, they have their degrees, they have an office, they have all of this professional status, in order to engender hope. For the believer, where does our hope lie? You see, all of this is a false hope, but our hope in Christ is a true hope. It is a hope that gives us promises that will be fulfilled for eternity. And so, even the whole professional stance—you need a professional—displaces the person’s real source of hope.
Tom: Martin, did you want to add anything to that?
Martin: Well, I was going to say, related to this whole amateur/professional—this is one of the real—really big problems in the evangelical church. This whole professionalization of this relationship where somebody needs help and you’ve got to have an expert, so-called expert, to do it. We are the experts! They’re not the experts. We have the truth. They don’t have the truth. We have the power that we’ve been empowered with through the Word and through the Holy Spirit. We don’t need their theories, ideas, guesses, opinions. We have the facts. They just have whatever rhetoric they’ve come up with.
Deidre: And the “we” he’s talking about includes all Christians who have been walking with the Lord, learning the Word, and seeing how the Lord works in our lives.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You know, that’s our great encouragement for not only this program but for why I’m excited to have you guys on board here with us. We just want people to get back to God’s Word, to walk in the truth of God’s Word, to be a servant. As you mentioned before, Galatians:6:1 or 2, we’re to bear one another’s burdens. I mean, we have that mandate, that exhortation from God’s Word, and it wouldn’t be there if we were not able to fulfill it.
So, we want to encourage people. Search the Scriptures daily. Get into God’s Word, and you can be fruitful and productive in all matters of living—of trying to be fruitful and productive for the glory of God.