February 14, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Psychologists Are Schizophrenic about Mental Illness

They can’t define it; they can’t form a consensus.
Maybe they should go back to Genesis.


Every once in awhile, a science news article appears that undermines confidence in a branch of science. Here’s one about mental illness that shows that psychologists and psychiatrists don’t understand their field. Can these presumed experts really do any good treating the “mentally ill” if they don’t even know what “mental health” means? Those who do achieve some success with patients might be doing it with with good old-fashioned human empathy and compassion more than methods of psychological ‘science.’

Researchers call for greater clarity over what constitutes ‘a mental health problem’ (University of Bath). It seems intuitively obvious that one must understand a problem to treat it. This article says that “A systematic review has uncovered a plethora of models used to understand mental health problems with ramifications for how people are assessed and supported.” Here are some of the ways that “mental health problems” are being assessed:

  • The biological model: focusing on problems with the physical body and brain
  • The psychological model: focusing on the mind and behavior
  • The sociological model: focusing on how social circumstances affect people
  • The consumer model: focusing on how patients have been treated
  • The cultural model: focusing on how treatments should be adapted to different cultures
  • The combo model: the catch-all “bio-psycho-social” model

That last “combo” model is no help at all. It’s telling a patient he has been diagnosed with a “biological psychological social” problem. Well, which is it? How do you treat that? Composite models are falsification-proof: if biology has nothing to do with it, the psychologist or psychiatrist has two other things to blame it on.

Details of the Study

Researchers at the University of Bath (UK) and the Bern University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland) analyzed 100 papers mentioning mental illness or mental health. They “identified some 34 different theoretical models used by practitioners, researchers and users of mental health services to understand the nature of mental health problems.”

Importantly, they found no criteria which could be used to prioritise why one model might be used over another. This matters, they say, because how mental health problems are understood has lasting ramifications for how people with mental health problems are assessed and supported.

In short, they are clueless.

Whilst previously, policymakers and practitioners tried to form consensus about using so-called ‘bio-psycho-social models’ – a catch-all term, which draws on elements of all different models – this consensus seems to be fracturing, say the researchers.

Maybe psychologists and psychiatrists should be diagnosed with schizophrenia—a fractured pattern of thinking.

Credit: Illustra Media, “The Image of God”

The “bible” of psychiatry has been the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5; see 6 Aug 2019 and 10 May 2013). These researchers say it has made things worse because of syndrome inflation.

Co-researcher, Dr Jeremy Dixon from the University of Bath’s Department of Social & Policy Sciences and Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy explains: “Uncertainties about what constitutes a mental health problem have become more pronounced in recent decades due to the increase in the number of mental health conditions being identified in the manuals which are used by general practitioners and psychiatrists.

This press release is damning to the fields of psychology and psychiatry. It’s a blow to public confidence that specialists have any idea what they are talking about. One professor from Bern University explained how important this problem is:

Mental health problems are often presented as something which are understood by medicine and psychiatry. Yet, debate remains about what exactly mental health problems are and how they should be treated. These are not just academic. Questions such as, ‘what are mental health problems?‘ or ‘what counts as a mental illness?‘ have impacts within health care systems. They can affect decisions around who might receive a mental health service and how behaviours such as aggression might be interpreted.

The Kicker

One conclusion of the study approaches the idea psychologists and psychiatrists should quit the business and take up good old-fashioned counseling as caring human beings. But will they accept the loss of prestige, and even their jobs? Professor Dirk Richter says,

“One way out of this issue could be to ask service users which model they feel to be most appropriate for them and their treatment. The consequence, however, would be that non-medical models might become more important than clinicians would be willing to accept.

The authors of the study call for more clarity on the issue of ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness.’ That clarity needs to come from outside the profession: “this debate needs greater input from non-medical professions and service users” like nurses and social workers. Would that include pastors and ministers? Why not? Given the confusion and lack of clarity, Richter even thinks that the specialists should not insist on offering scientific help.

Rather than insisting users of services accept biological or psychological perspectives, mental health professionals need to understand and work to people’s preferences.

For therapists who spent years getting degrees in psychology, these findings could be downright depressing. Should the patient on the couch and the therapist trade places?

Biblical counselors question the whole notion of “mental illness.” There is biological illness involving physical problems with the genes, the physical brain, or with imbalances in hormones or various physical problems arising from physical causes. Think of the abnormal behaviors arising from drugs, alcohol or dementia. Even one’s gut biota can cause behavioral problems. Many of these can be treated with medications. But calling something a ‘mental illness’ involves the mind—a nonphysical concept. The mind is the one thing each of us closest to, and we know it is not the same as our brain. The brain can influence the mind, but the brain is not the mind. A good source of material on this subject is the Discovery Institute’s Mind Matters website.

Nobody doubts that people behave in crazy and disturbing ways: the psychopath, the pedophile, the compulsive, the manic-depressive. Do these people need secular ‘experts’ trained in Darwinian ways of thinking? Can philosophical materialists address ‘mental’ problems? Why does anybody assume so?

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130


The Bible presents our origin: souls within animal bodies: created on Day Six along with the land animals, but with the distinction of the Imago Dei – made in the image of God (Genesis 1). The Fall because of sin (Genesis 3) gives the reason why man’s mental and social makeup has become flawed. The image of God remains, but every part of man’s makeup was corrupted by sin. That’s why Jesus came, to pay the debt for sin so that we could be washed clean and redeemed back into God’s family.

Adoption back into God’s family is instantaneous when a soul repents of sin and embraces Christ as Lord and Savior, believing that Jesus died and rose again for our justification. Becoming a Christ follower by faith begins a long process of sanctification (becoming righteous in our daily life), assisted by moment-by-moment obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our Maker gives us 24 x 7 access to a help line through prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is part of Jesus’ model for prayer.

The Bible’s solution to ‘mental illness’ has the clarity these researchers called for. It identifies the cause and the cure. It is plain and so simple a child can embrace it. In addition, God provided a manual, the Bible, that is not a confused mishmash of ‘syndromes’ but a real-world, living book with a singular focus on getting right with God. It is loaded with true historical stories of men and women who trusted God and found abundant life, and spiritual problems with those who did not. Its climax is the coming of Christ, the Savior of the world.

Getting right with God solves the ‘mental illness’ problem at its root. Godly pastors and teachers can assist in answering questions about specific instances by teaching Biblical principles and applying them to individual situations.

(Visited 472 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply