Questions From Readers
● Do Jehovah’s witnesses feel that it is proper to consult a psychiatrist?
Whether a Christian will consult a psychiatrist, or any other doctor, is a matter for personal decision. However, true Christians have deep faith in the Bible’s power to give helpful guidance. They realize that the Creator knows more about man—including the human mind—than any human does. Thus, Jehovah’s witnesses view any method of treatment in the light of the “wisdom from above.”—Jas. 3:17.
While psychiatrists specialize in the treatment of mental and emotional disorders, it is good to appreciate that the methods used by individual psychiatrists often differ drastically. For example, one handbook is entitled Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy: 36 Systems. Why so many different views? Because, despite much research, comparatively little is known of the workings of the human mind. The book The Mind states: “The causes of [various mental illnesses] constitute the most important unsettled question of modern psychiatry. Answers have been given, but none of them are conclusive.”
Some psychiatrists use “talk treatment,” often delving into the patient’s childhood relationship with his parents—assuming that such methods will “release” certain fears or hostilities. Others concentrate on getting the patient to learn new habits (sometimes using hypnosis for this) in the hope that a new “behavior pattern” is the answer. Still others take the view that most mental illnesses are physical (such as chemical imbalance of the body or malfunction of the nervous system) and so treat with drugs or perhaps diet and vitamins. Highly controversial, brain surgery for mental illness is seldom recommended.
Since true Christians are striving to have “the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had,” they are rightly concerned with the beliefs of anyone who would influence their thinking or behavior. (Rom. 15:5) While not all psychiatrists and analysts are atheists or agnostics, many are. One study revealed that over half of the analysts interviewed agreed with Sigmund Freud’s view that belief in God was “infantile” and out of harmony “with reality.” Many believe that man is driven by “animal instincts inherited by man in his evolution from the lower forms of life.” Further, as reported in the book The Psychiatrists: “Most psychiatrists and analysts believe that the laws regulating sexual behavior are far too strict.” (Page 167) Would you want to mold your life according to the thinking of men who view matters in this manner?
Today there is widespread treatment with drugs, and here, too, it is wise to consider carefully the result. Although the use of drugs as medicine is not forbidden to Christians, and in some cases certain drugs may bring a measure of relief, a servant of God should be very cautious with anything that might enslave him, making him an addict. (Rom. 6:17; 12:1) Some persons, choosing treatment that does not involve drugs, point to good results with therapy that employs large amounts of vitamins, which is a form of treatment receiving increasing attention today.
In regard to seeking medical treatment, it is of interest to note the Bible principle found at 1 Corinthians 12:26. Here the Scriptures teach that when one part of our body suffers, other parts are affected. In harmony with this principle, those with mental or nervous problems may find it advisable to have a thorough physical examination, as frequently there is a health problem of which they are not aware. Even some who thought they were going insane, or suffering from demonic harassment, have found that they had “low blood sugar” or another ailment.
Of course, there are many diseases and infirmities that have no known “cure.” Again, Jehovah provides assistance. His Word can help us to build up our endurance. (1 Tim. 6:11, 12) Too, in this way we are aided to withstand distressing bodily adjustments, as those that sometimes accompany the menopause or aging.
But what if the problem is not physical? What if it is a matter of feelings of hostility or despondency—problems in getting along with others? James 5:13-16 speaks of one who has problems of a spiritual or emotional nature calling the older men of the Christian congregation, the purpose being that they may ‘grease him with oil,’ that is, impart comforting Bible counsel, and also “pray over him.” The result of all this? The text continues: “The prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up [out of his despondency].” Of course, to benefit, the spiritually sick one must be honest and open. He must seek and follow the Bible counsel; he must work in harmony with the prayers offered in his behalf.—Jas. 1:25.
This places much responsibility on Christian elders. They must offer earnest prayer, looking for Jehovah’s direction. By exercising patience, love and concern, they can often get at the root of the difficulties. The elders should help the troubled one to see how our God invites us to throw our burdens on Him. (Ps. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7) Sometimes it is necessary to help one to see how to ‘put away wrath’ or to concentrate on what is chaste. (Col. 3:5-14; Phil. 4:6-8) And frequently, one truly repentant may feel “guilty” or “beyond forgiveness.” Feeling crushed, he thus needs assurance such as that at 1 John 1:9.
So, while Jehovah’s witnesses do not categorically rule out the possibility of treatment by doctors specializing in emotional or mental problems, if a Witness does consult such he should carefully scrutinize any treatment recommended. He should never forget that keeping Jehovah’s laws works toward his mental health today and everlasting life in the future. If he is uncertain as to the wisdom of a certain therapy, then he may wish to discuss it with elders in the Christian congregation—although the final decision is his own (or of a parent or the joint decision of husband and wife). And foremost, as with all other areas of life, true Christians will want to take full advantage of the strength that Jehovah provides, appreciating that they have powerful assets in God’s Word and spirit. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Heb. 4:12.