Does the Solution Lie with Psychiatrists?
PSYCHOTHERAPY is the art of trying to help mentally or emotionally disturbed persons by listening to their problems, and endeavoring to offer them insight to cope with these problems. Psychiatrists—persons who employ this form of treatment—have increased sevenfold in number in the United States during the past twenty-five years.
The most popular psychiatric approach has been that of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical “couch” theory. Its use, however, has been chiefly in the United States. Thus New York city, with nine million inhabitants, has almost a thousand psychoanalysts, whereas Tokyo, with eleven million people, has but three!
The value of psychiatric treatment is by no means universally recognized. In fact, even the director of the United States National Institute for the Psychotherapies recently spoke of the “controversy and frequent disillusionment that currently characterize the field of psychotherapy.” Also, psychiatrist Karl Menninger observed: “Nine tenths of people with so called schizophrenia get well without going near a hospital.”
In an especially strong indictment, Dr. H. J. Eysenck of the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, wrote in the Medical Tribune of April 4, 1973, that the result “claimed for different methods of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis was almost exactly that found for spontaneous remission.” In other words, according to Eysenck, persons receiving psychiatric help had about the same recovery rate as those receiving no psychiatric treatment at all!
However, it cannot be denied that some persons have received genuine help from psychiatrists. A man in California writes: “The help I received from that kind man was extremely beneficial, and my problem was resolved quickly.” Posing the question, “What did this psychiatrist do for me?” he answered: “He listened. He really listened. . . . he helped me to realize that within myself I had the ability to develop self-control.”
This disturbed man had a behavioral problem, one that evidenced a serious sexual aberration. But through kindness and encouragement the psychiatrist helped him to correct his weakness. Even extreme cases have responded to such psychiatric treatment. Giving pertinent testimony along this line is a case history described in The Vital Balance, authored by a team headed by Karl Menninger.
The case is that of “Mary Smith,” who, at the age of sixty-three, was admitted to a state hospital. Somehow she had gotten the idea that her husband, a kind, gentle, typical farmer, was involved in illegal liquor traffic and that he had repeatedly tried to poison her. So she had attacked him with a hammer while he was sleeping.
She was diagnosed as “disturbed, restless and confused.” Six years after her admission she was judged incurably insane. Seven more years passed, and a new doctor came along who took an interest in her. He patiently listened to her strident complaints, sympathized and agreed with her whenever he could. He took walks with her, tactfully helping her to clear up some of her delusions. He had glasses fitted for her, and had the nurse give her things to read, as well as to chat with her.
Gradually the tone of her voice changed, she became helpful in making beds, and was permitted to go walking on the grounds by herself. Soon she was allowed to be away for a few days. Then, at the age of seventy-six, she obtained a position as a practical nurse, caring for an elderly woman. Years later her daughter reported regarding her: “She is an excellent worker, helpful and cooperative . . . one of the best-organized women I ever knew at any age.”
Such successes in helping the mentally disturbed point to the type of treatment they especially need. Sir Geoffrey Vickers, as chairman of the Mental Health Research Fund, years ago explained: “By far the most significant discovery of mental science is the power of love to protect and restore the mind.”
Yes, love, kindness, patience and understanding are now generally recognized as vital in the successful treatment of mental patients. Yet, as noted earlier, psychiatrists often fail to help patients recover. Is there some fundamental reason why?
Basic Failure in Approach
It has well been observed that people need to know the reason for their existence, what purpose there is to life, so as to have strength to endure in the face of tragedy. But are psychiatrists best able to provide this? Can they help people to answer the basic questions about which they wonder, such as: “Why am I here?” “What is life all about?” “What destiny awaits me?”
The truth is that, not any human, but only the Creator of humankind, Almighty God, can provide sound, satisfying answers to these questions. And he has done so for our hope and comfort in his Word the Bible. But how do psychiatrists generally feel about God?
A 1970 survey indicates how. Of the psychiatrists interviewed, 55 percent said that they considered belief in God to be “infantile,” and “incongruous with reality.”
What an unreasonable, illogical conclusion! For think: How else can we explain the origin of life if we leave out the existence of a supreme God? Or what about love—from where does this marvelous quality come that is so vital to mental health? Only the Bible’s explanation is both reasonable and logical. And its explanation is that a supreme, loving Creator is responsible. (Ps. 36:9; 1 John 4: 8-11) Prominent men of science, who were by no means “infantile,” have expressed belief in such a God.
Science Digest says of one of these: “Most historians of science would declare at once that Isaac Newton was the greatest scientific mind the world has ever seen.” And in his masterpiece, Principia, Newton said: “From his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient.”
The basic failure of worldly psychiatrists is that generally they do not look to this true God for wisdom and guidance in treating the emotionally and mentally disturbed. And undoubtedly one of the consequences of their attitude is that they themselves have the highest suicide rate among all those in the medical specialities! Regarding this, one of their own number says: ‘Until psychiatrists have the lowest rate, all their teachings are subject to suspicion.’—Journal of the American Medical Association.
Further Effects of Basic Failure
Failing to recognize the sound instruction of God’s Word, psychiatrists seldom apply love in a balanced way. For example, in one case a father who was unable to wean his teen-age son away from drugs sent him to a psychiatrist. With what results? The father wound up $2,000 poorer and the son had not changed in the slightest.
The father wanted to help his son. However, neither he nor the psychiatrist appreciated the teaching of God’s Word, namely, that firm, yet kind, discipline is a vital part of the exercise of love. (Heb. 12:6-9; Prov. 23:13, 14) Finally, listening to sound counsel, the father ordered his son out of the house until he was willing to go to a drug rehabilitation center. Later the son told his father: “You know, when you and Mom threw me out, that’s when I knew you really wanted to help me.” The son is now cured.
The general failure of psychiatrists to appreciate God and his teachings on morality has resulted in great harm’s being done. As an example, the Long Island Press carried the front page heading: “Sodomy Ring Smashed. Group charged with sexually abusing youths.” The article said: “Four men—including an internationally known child psychiatrist . . . were arraigned yesterday on sodomy, sexual abuse and conspiracy charges involving adolescents.”
While this may be an isolated case, the incidents of male psychiatrists having sexual relations with women patients are not. Thus one Christian woman went to a psychiatrist for help because of her frustration in her marital relations with her husband. He told her that she had three choices: Try to get her husband to see a psychiatrist; get a divorce; or have an extramarital affair with a “boyfriend,” and he volunteered to serve as her “boyfriend.”
Then there was the psychiatrist who was sued because, as reported in the New York Daily News: “He prescribed sexual relations with himself as therapy and then charged for the ‘treatments.’” Another psychiatrist was sued for $1,250,000 damages in the Supreme Court of the State of New York because he forced his patient to have sex relations with him under the guise of psychiatric treatment. In fact, one psychiatrist wrote a book recommending that psychiatrists be “sexually available to the patient, but not ‘insistent.’” He called the book The Love Treatment.
Two clinicians who run America’s leading sex clinic said that a large proportion of eight hundred patients they treated admitted to having had sex relations with their psychiatrists or counselors. While some of these reports may be mere fantasies, wishful thinking or bragging, one of the doctors observed: “If only 25% of these specific reports are correct, there is still an overwhelming issue confronting professionals in this field.”
Clearly, there is reason to exercise caution as regards worldly psychiatrists. For, while one may receive help, there is also a real possibility that one may be encouraged to pursue a course of conduct contrary to God’s righteous principles. But even if that were not so, the failure of psychiatrists generally to know how properly to apply the best medicine for mental ills—the divine quality of love—is likely to render their treatment ineffectual.
Does this mean that there is nowhere that people can receive reliable psychotherapy in the sense of receiving help to see their problems through and solve them? Happily such help is available, and by means of it many persons have achieved mental health in this mixed-up world.