Descriptions and Prescriptions

Descriptions and Prescriptions

Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications (New Growth Press, October 2017)

OCD, ADHD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder . . . these are no longer just technical terms and medical diagnoses, they are part of our common vocabulary and culture.

As Christians, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from this discussion or dismiss these important issues. But we also should be careful not to accept the entire secular psychiatric diagnostic and treatment enterprise without question. What we need is a balanced, biblically (and scientifically) informed approach that neither blindly accepts nor harshly dismisses psychiatric labels, diagnoses, and medicines that are prescribed to help those who are suffering.

As both a Biblical counselor and medical doctor, Michael R. Emlet, MD, gives readers a Christ-centered approach to psychiatry and guides both lay and professional helpers through the thicket of mental health labels and treatments with a biblical lens. In a clear and thoughtful way that puts the person experiencing mental health issues at the forefront, Emlet uses Scripture to show how the Bible engages in the discussion of psychiatric labels and the medications that are often recommended based on those labels. The first book in the “Helping the Helper” series, Descriptions and Prescriptions will give readers a biblical, gospel-formed perspective to help them understand and minister to those struggling with mental health issues.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


  • This is a very thin book 98 pages to be exact. I would say that this book reads more for health care associates than the patients. It’s geared more toward health care workers that would understand the medical jargon.

  • Overall, I thought this was a very good book that discusses some very difficult issues. Many in the Christian community, especially in the past, have thought that mental illnesses were simply individuals who weren’t “being good enough Christians”. Which we of course know if not true; mental illnesses are just as real and serious as physical illnesses. The author did a great job in this book of explaining everything from by a Biblical viewpoint, as well as a scientific one and I would definitely recommend this book.

  • I recevied a complimentary copy.

    Review- An interesting read that included facts as well as new knowledge. The topic is one I am very interested in and found that while it is great to use the bible to help you get through anything, prescription medication is also very important and this author seems to include both. I do feel like at some points someone might feel guilty or feel more inclined to believe that they are doing something wrong by following doctors advice, but this book will help.

  • At first I wasn’t going to read this book because it is geared toward pastors and Christian counseling. My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to see how the author stood on this issue. I was pleasantly surprised to see how he balanced what the worlds view and the Christian view is. This is a very tough topic for many to talk about, but is much needed as many suffer from mental disabilities.

  • Descriptions and Prescriptions is a short book building a biblical framework to understand psychiatric diagnoses and the use of psychoactive medications using scripture as the groundwork to build upon. The book is set up with two parts. In Part 1, the author presents a balanced assessment of psychiatric diagnosis. In Part 2, he uses case studies for illustration.

  • This book was very unique writing and compelling to read with also navigate pointers to help in resolving some of the tension felt between the practice of psychiatric labeling and biblical counseling the struggles of the human brain and soul, while neither dismissing labeling completely nor fully embracing hook, line, and sinker, everything taught in modern psychiatry. This book had giving us to understand more of human psychological suffering from a gospel centered perspective. Drawing on his personal experience with those who are afflicted by problems of mental health with this book will lead us a way from reductionist approach to one that is holistic and includes both heart and body

  • Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael R. Emlet is a very balanced (and quick!) read about some hot-button topics within the Church as a whole. Neither wholly discounting nor wholly embracing the use of counseling and medications, Emlet instead attempts to lay the groundwork for a Biblical approach to treating psychiatric diagnoses. I can see how this would be a very helpful resource to clergy and lay ministers who are on either end of the cold-hot spectrum and even for those struggling to explain why a balanced perspective is best.

  • As Christians, what are we to think of psychiatric diagnoses and medications? There is much debate on this within the church and among biblical counselors. In this work by Michael R. Emlet, he provides a balanced and biblical way forward in thinking about and practicing in a way which cares for the whole person in a robust manner.

  • “At the end of the day, the goal is not to confirm or condemn a given diagnosis but to carefully, persistently, lovingly, and biblically bring God’s redemption to bear upon people who struggle with the problems encapsulated in a diagnostic description.” (p. 48)

    I have to admit, that when I first saw this offering, I almost passed on the opportunity to review the book. I’m so glad I chose differently! This book, although written by a physician/counselor, is a fantastic tool for anyone to use as they walk in any type of ministry setting. I would think pastors that do any type of counseling would find this to be an invaluable tool in the library! I lead women’s small groups for my church, and I can tell you that in the four years since I began serving my church family, I would have love to have the knowledge and explanations in this book at my disposal! Mental illness, or a diagnosis along the spectrum, presents a unique and challenging problem in today’s world.

    What I appreciate most about this book is that a layman can understand the concepts. Dr. Emlet tackles a very controversial topic with compassion and empathy. He doesn’t hide the facts about how little is still know about both the physical function of the brain and its chemical components, nor the medications currently used to treat people who suffer the effects of mental illness. As I read, I couldn’t help but be both thankful for the relief given to those suffering the effects of a mental issue, but I was also left feeling a little fearful about the way folks might have to suffer through a trial and error type path to find the help they need.

    I have been prescribed and taken medications for depression off and on over my lifetime. I have been fortunate to have physicians who approached this in a holistic way and listened to and responded to my concern over the course of treatment. I’ve also been blessed with really fantastic counselors, and I see the value in both. I’ve also had friends who have suffered the effects of mental illness to the point of almost leaving this world prematurely.

    In short, I feel this book offers a significant amount of information for anyone in ministry on any level. This issue affects more people than you can imagine, and must be dealt with in biblical truth and love. I highly recommend this book!

  • Emlet helps Christians avoid the extremes of embracing psychiatric diagnoses and medications without reserve and shunning them entirely, believing mental illness to be entirely a spiritual issue. He helps us appreciate psychiatric work while recognizing its limitations. This is a good book for those in ministry, helping them relate to and help people with mental issues.

  • Moments says:

    Diagnoses and prescription medication is a hot topic in many (most) circles.  Not only is there debate among service providers, but general debate among individuals as far as validity of diagnoses and if mental health concerns are real and then medication adds a whole new element as well.  Emlel does a great job with his current book, “Descriptions and Prescriptions” with addressing these issues and concerns as he shares what he has learned throughout the years in his field of work and also the evidence of many hours spent in reading and researching. 

  • Michael Emlet’s Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses & Medications to assess the benefits and limitations of psychiatric diagnoses and medications. Emlet breaks these two concepts down into different parts of the book, attempting to give concise but substantive introductions and explorations of each. So, part one gives ten chapters on “Understanding Psychiatric Diagnoses”. Here, Emlet gives a brief survey of the history of psychiatric diagnoses, an explanation of how diagnoses are made, and an exploration of both the common pitfalls and benefits of diagnoses. In part two, the good doctor presents nine chapters on “understanding psychoactive medications”. He walks readers through the “classes” of psychoactive drugs, the theory of chemical imb

  • I was surprised at how technical the writing was. If you aren’t very medical, it will be very easy to get bogged down in the first few chapters. The author uses several stories to help tell what he is talking about so this does lighten up the depth a little. He concluded with the idea that there isn’t a right or wrong, but rather a mixture of the two with regards to every single patient being different and therefore needing different things.

  • Before coming home to raise my children, I worked as a Psychiatric Social Worker. I was extremely interested in reading this first installment in the Helping The Helper Series. Descriptions and Prescriptions is a mere 98 pages in length; however, this resource geared toward pastors and lay leaders in the church is informative on both a technical and practical level. Dr. Emlet provides the “science” perspective as well as a call for compassion and understanding for those who suffer among us with mental health issues.
    I found the chapter, “Implications for Ministry” particularly helpful. As a minister’s wife and one who on occasion provides leadership in both children’s and women’s ministry, I was challenged and encouraged through the thoughts shared by Dr. Emlet in this portion of the book.
    “We want to understand people so well and do such a careful job of re-interpreting their struggles through a biblical lens that a diagnostic label serves only as shorthand for their experience rather than the sum total of their experience. We want to be watchful that the presence of a diagnosis doesn’t give us tunnel vision that blinds us to other important aspects of the person’s experience.”
    Short, but packed with a mountainous amount of information, Descriptions and Prescriptions is an invaluable resource that should be utilized as we reach out to love others as Jesus did.

  • That’s why I chose to read the complimentary copy of the book below. The author shares the same concern; where do we draw the line or is there a middle ground. It also addresses the lacking areas in the medical area as far as diagnosis.

    While the terminology was described along the way, I still found it hard to read. I had to slow down and think about what each term meant before proceeding. It is a pretty thin book, so the slower reading didn’t cause too much of a hardship.

    I do recommend the book for the content itself despite this one hangup. I think a second read through might be more insightful, as I will be more familiar with the terms being used.

  • I liked how Emlet made a point that if a person has a psychiatric diagnosis, that’s not so different from a person who may have a physical diagnosis. Someone may be battling cancer, but they themselves are not cancer. It’s similar with mental issues, in the fact that someone may suffer from bipolar disorder, but that does not define who they are. They are still a human being in need of a Savior and compassionate interaction with fellow men. “A diagnosis, if present, is one of many starting points for ministry, and certainly not an end point,” Emlet encourages in Chapter 8.

  • Mental illness is a real — it’s not something we can say to them everything would be fine if they just pray more — in fact instead of helping, that can be harmful in discouraging the truly sick to avoid going to a psychiatrist. My grandmother landed in the hospital multiple times over her life because her pastor encouraged her to go off her medication — without consulting her doctors or being weaned off of it. Then there are times that someone knows there is a sin issue causing them problems and a pastor just says to go to Christian counseling. Can there be a good balance between faith and trust in God and medicines that help improve functioning? I believe so. And I am happy to say that the author of Descriptions and Prescriptions thinks so as well.

  • Descriptions And Prescriptions provides Christians with an insider’s view to the world of psychiatry, and is of particular interest to those who are seeking the right treatment for a mental health diagnosis.

    Written by a medical doctor turned Christian Counselor, the book provides readers with information on the history of psychiatric diagnosis, how psychiatric problems are diagnosed, and the value of psychiatric diagnosis in ministry. The book also provides an overview of psychiatric medications, explaining the different classes and what they can and cannot do.

    Although the book can be clinical at times, the information inside is invaluable to those in need of clear answers. The book will also interest other counselors and those in ministry.

  • This book is for the ministry and teachers, it is not a book that is easy reading.  It is very heavy reading and required lots of concentration.   If you are an educator then this is a great resource to learn how to teach and counsel regarding medications and illness………….

  • Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications by Michael R. Emlet wasn’t exactly what I was expecting – especially not in the first quarter or so of the book. But it had good information to impart, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I received some things to ponder, and now have an overall more balanced view of medications and how to help those dealing with mental struggles.

    For a long time, I’ve wanted to know more about the struggles of the mind. Helping people work through emotional/mental issues – counseling, on a small scale – has been something on my heart. On the other hand, I’m a deep thinker and I understand, to some extent, some of these mental struggles, having dealt with anxiety for many years.

  • Fruitbearers says:

    I appreciate the author’s emphasis on the relevance and significance of Scripture in helping the suffering because I, too, believe that Biblical wisdom is needed for soul care.

    Descriptions and Prescriptions is a small book (only 100 pages long) but it’s packed with valuable information and practical insights. Whether you are counselors, pastors, youth pastors, or laypersons who want to help those with mental distress, this book (first in the Helping the Helper series) is a useful resource for you!

  • Before I begin my review, it is important to mention that Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael R. Emlet is geared towards pastors and those who work in the mental health field. It is not written for patients with a diagnosis seeking answers.

    Now I can begin my review. I originally picked this up because this is a huge topic amongst Christian counselors. Or at least it was the Christian college I attended and received my counseling degree. The main reason that I was able to understand what the author was talking about most of the time was that I studied the DSM. If you’re not familiar with that, then all of the medical jargon will be quite confusing.

    The author explains in the first section of the book what descriptions really how and the history behind them. The second half of the book is about prescriptions and how they can be both helpful and unhelpful. The author also shares that while prescriptions can be practical and helpful, they aren’t a cure-all, and longs to help his patients have a relationship with the Lord. Most of his writing is neutral, but he explains that there needs to be some kind of balance which I highly agree with.

    While none of the information is new, this is a book that I think many Christians do need to read through because this is a topic that is often misunderstood. Although Christians are starting to be a little more accepting of things, many still think that many mental illnesses are derived from sin. While some are, not all of them are. I found the book quite interesting and the author shares sound theology and Scriptures to back up each statement.

    Highly recommended, especially since the book is short!

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications by Michael Emlet is a must-read for anyone involved in biblical or Christian counseling. This book was of particular interest in light of the recent debates about the sufficiency of scripture as it relates to biblical counseling. Dr. Emlet’s small book seeks to shift the opinions of all who are either “hot” or “cold” toward the use of psychological descriptions and prescriptions in the lives of our counselees. Emlet’s book was an excellent reminder that a blanket rejection of everything related to medicine and psychology is useless in our counseling. Similarly, it was a powerful admonition that a naive acceptance of everything related to medicine and psychology is not beneficial in our counseling.

    Overall, this book is a good introduction to a very complex issue in the counseling world. Emlet does an exceptional job of bringing these issues to the level of an average congregant while also being technical enough to adequately deal with some of the intricacies in the arguments being made. Whether you’re looking for an introduction to the relationship between biblical counseling and psychology, or you’re looking for more resources to further explore the relationship, Descriptions and Prescriptions is a wonderful place to start.

  • My Full Cup says:

    I was giddy with excitement over the opportunity to review this book.  As soon as it arrived in the mail I skimmed through it and couldn’t wait to dive in. 
    I found this book to be incredibly informative and is one I will need to read and re-read. It appears to be written from an assumption that those reading it will have a degree in counseling, psychology, or related field. Most it was over my head, because of this I struggled through it.

  • This book is fabulously focused and concretely concentrated on the issue at hand. I found it helpful to formally consider the strengths and limitations of the DSM from a biblical perspective. I especially appreciated Emlet’s references to our fundamental nature as image bearers and worshipers and how that influences our ministry to sufferers and sinners “…who struggle with disordered thoughts, emotions, and behaviors” (pg. 9). In addition to applicable Scripture references, there are a number of insightful word pictures to aid the reader in thinking through these sensitive issues. Most importantly, Emlet keeps the Gospel of Jesus Christ central to the discussion. In the end, Emlet doesn’t offer a “one-size-fits-all” approach but helps guide the reader toward a careful wisdom framework.

  • In this short, but in depth look at the world of mental illness, Emlet reminds readers that, “diagnosis is not destiny,” (pg. 37) and is not the sum of an individual’s identity. He also points out that where secular counseling is lacking, Christians have an opportunity to love people and serve them by pointing them to the hope of Jesus Christ. Rather than writing in a completely negative tone about the secular aspects of psychology and psychiatry, Emlet explains that there could be some useful aspects of those fields.

  • This book gives an insightful look at mental health and Christian counseling working together to help the individual. It discusses the use of medication which has been looked down on by churches of varying denominations. The great part of the book is the hope it provides for those who may suffer from mental disorder. You are not the disorder that is a small part of who you are in Christ and with Christ you can get better.
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

  • This won’t be a long review since this is a short book. If you are a pastor or church counselor, this book would be a great addition to your shelves or office. It’s a book that is filled with great information for those seeking help with their mental illnesses. It’s filled with Biblical sections and will help them better understand ways to help. The pages within give you a better understanding of the illnesses and what psych meds are used to help them. 

    Since I am not a pastor or a church counselor I can’t give this more than 3.5 stars since I am not into this type of book. However, that said, I am recommending this book to those that are in the clergy of the churches to help with those that come to them. You will gain good Biblical insight, along with good medical insight to help. Hats off to Dr. Emlet on creating an informative book for the churches.

  • I was eager to read this book as it is written by a MD who is a Christian so it was a great book that balanced biblical and scientific approaches to form a very insightful and thoughtful book. Too often these kind of issues get swept under the rug, but Mr. Emlet takes this tough issue head on and does so in a very thoughtful and engaging manner that really gets one thinking. I like how there is a good amount of information without being too overwhelming.

  • If you are a counselor, it is highly likely that you are helping someone who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic Statistic Manual, or DSM, to describe, categorize, and diagnose such disorders. Have you ever wondered how to help people who have been diagnosed and what your view should be of the psychoactive medication they are usually prescribed? In Descriptions and Prescriptions, Mike Emlet attempts to provide us with a framework for how to view both the DSM and psychoactive medication.

  • I recommend for ANYONE going into counseling, is a mentor or simply curious about how we should treat certain diagnosises.

  • As a social worker, I really enjoyed this book. I found this book to be very helpful. I felt that Michael was saying this isn’t an either or situation. Mental health isn’t just a medical situation, but isn’t without healing either. I felt like he was really addressing the issue of mental health in the Christian community and really taking a stand that Christians need to help out their brothers and sisters in a time of need.

  • This is such a powerful little book. When I first read that this was going to be a biblical view of psychiatry, I would be lying if I wasn’t a little nervous about it. I have to say that this is the best book I have read regarding psychiatry and it’s practice from a biblical perspective.

  • Descriptions and Prescriptions is a very short book; it’s really more like a brochure. It is not a book of diagnosis and treatments. It shares how counsels, pastors, and Christians need to look at mental disorders that people suffer with. The chapters are very short, only a few pages.

  • This review is for the book “Descriptions and Prescriptions” by Michael R. Emlet. This book is a Biblical perspective on psychiatric diagnoses and medications. Emlet begins the book by talking about how most psychiatric problems get diagnosed, and how many times there are problems with those diagnoses. He talks about how our culture influences psychiatric issues, how many times the abnormal becomes the normal, and about redefining behavior. And he talks about what this means for us in ministry. He also delves into the different classes of psychoactive medications which was really interesting because I didn’t know anything about these medications. The author talks about how effective these medications are, and how to be wise when taking them or referring someone to take them.

  • This is a comprehensive, but not prohibitively academic guide to both different types of mental illnesses and the different types of medications used to treat them. I loved Dr. Emlet’s balanced medical and biblical approach to these extremely sensitive issues. He doesn’t take the judging and condemning attitude common among many Christians, but rather strive for a balance of grace and truth. Biblical truth and medical treatments are not mutually exclusive, but we need to study both God’s Word and advances in medicine to make appropriate decisions (with our doctors) for treatment plans.

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