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Biblical Counseling and the DSM IV

For the biblical counselor, the Bible is the means not the end to counseling. Our goal is to help counselees see themselves as God sees them and to point them to the One who has the answers to all of lifeís problems within the context of abiding friendship (John 15: 12-17) which is the epitome of discipleship. Our model is different and our method is life transforming. But, what about the person who has bipolar disorder, or suffering from major depressive disorder, or ADHD, or any other problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV)? Does the Bible have answers to these problems? And, if so, how is it possible for a biblical counselor to reconcile psychological diagnoses that the Bible does not explicitly mention?

At one time, I could not understand why I needed to be concerned about psychology and the DSM-IV. Psychology is humanistic in nature, affirms the worth and dignity of all people, rejects faith not based on reason, the supernatural, and the Bible. Yet, psychology is man's way of trying to understand and repair the spiritual side of man without reference to, or recognition of, the spiritual. Hence, as a biblical counselor (in the futility of my thinking at the time), I wanted nothing to do with anything psychology.

However, I have learned where I needed to repent in my arrogance. Psychology does an excellent job of describing the same behaviors that the Bible has been addressing for a long time. While this is not an endorsement of psychology or a premise to integrate psychology into Christianity/biblical counseling, I realize that it is my job to take the language of the culture and help people to see their problem in light of Godís Word. Furthermore, if I am learning to be more like Christ and to counsel with grace and mercy, then I need to meet people where they are in loving relationship just like Jesus did in order to provide them with real hope that leads to authentic change.

Our counselees will come to us psychologized and psychiatrized with the perceived need for self-esteem, love and acceptance, and significance. If these needs are met, it is believed, people will be happy, kind, and moral; if their needs are not met, people will be miserable, hateful, and immoral. Scripture teaches that it is God who changes our desires and that true happiness can only be found in the desire for God and godliness. People who crave self-esteem, love, significance, and/or are attached to their diagnostic labels may be happy if they get it, but they will remain self-centered. On the other hand, people who desire God, godly wisdom, and Godís glory will be satisfied, joyous (because of who God is and what He can do), obedient, and profitable servants of God no matter what pressure life may bring. Even if they are the one who is sinning or the one sinned against.

It is a privilege to be able to walk with counselees as friends, no matter how psychologized or not, to suffer with them, to lovingly encourage them, and to offer Christ without compromise of the truth. The point is to esteem-Christ (the One who created us) and spiral into Him not into ourselves (the created finds answers from the Creator). ďAs God washes me, He can use my weaknesses for the good of othersĒ (Rob Besosa). I am learning to speak truth so people feel really understood and see the truth of the Gospel not the demonization of psychology by an imperfect counselor that is saturated in and influenced by a psychologized culture herself.

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