Question: "Should a Christian see a psychologist / psychiatrist?"

The question of whether a Christian should see a psychologist or psychiatrist as the key to overcoming mental illness is becoming more and more an issue. Christian psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors are numerous and Christians are seeking their advice regularly, most often for depression and anxiety. Because of a few incidents recorded in the Scriptures dealing with symptoms that appear to be similar to present-day mental illnesses, many Christians assume that all psychological problems can be attributed to demons. However, there is no way for us to know if these people were mentally ill in our modern sense of the term, and whether or not that is even relevant. The problem is that there are wide varieties of psychological disorders, some of which are emotional and some of which are physical, but all of which have a spiritual component.

A sinful lifestyle can be one cause of depression or anxiety. In the case of a true believer in Christ, the person needs to realize that God is waiting for them to confess their sins, repent of them, and return to Him. The Bible does tell us that Satan has a significant amount of influence over people (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is easier to obey Satan than it is to obey God because Satan encourages us to indulge the sinful nature we all have. In this way, a mentally ill person could be influenced by demons. It is important to remember, though, that Christians cannot be possessed by demons or influenced beyond a bearable amount of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is because believers are already possessed with the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9-11), and the temple for the Holy Spirit will not share quarters with demons.

Another thing people often don't take into account is that God has allowed mankind to invent and develop many different kinds of medicines for healing. If a person has a true mental illness caused by hormonal or chemical imbalances in the brain, medication may be necessary. It is no different from going to a doctor to get medicine for a thyroid problem, or diabetes, or any other physical illness. This is not to say that God cannot heal miraculously, because He can. But He does not always intervene in this way.

Whether or not it is OK to use medication is a personal decision. This becomes a matter of the conscience because the Bible does not deal with it specifically. Some things to consider are: Does my behavior affect others, especially my family? Is my illness causing me to be disobedient to God and refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to work through me? Is my witness for Christ suffering because of this disability? If a person knows he is sick, but refuses to get help for selfish reasons, that is sinful. If it is strongly against the person's belief system to take medicine for brain illnesses, and he has spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation, he should discuss any alternatives with his doctor and his pastor or minister.

It is not sinful to take necessary medications or to see a psychiatrist. This does not show lack of faith in God, although we should always go to Him first for healing and direction. He wants to be in charge of every part of our lives, and we should feel free to take our problems to Him in prayer for every situation and every circumstance. He often uses medications and therapists to heal His children. Seeing a trained Christian counselor or psychiatrist, however, is definitely preferable to a secular therapist who will only give advice from a worldly viewpoint instead of a biblical one. Let the Psalmist David's words encourage us: "He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God..." (Psalm 40:2-3).