Non-Church, Non-Spiritual, or Secular Remedies and Treatments Don’t Always Work
This is not the post I had planned on writing.
I was briefly discussing in an older post that most American Christians and most churches are utterly terrible at assisting most people who have mental health problems (and I’d also add addiction problems, domestic violence problems, and many other types of problems).
In order to appreciate my position on things, I feel a reader might want to read about my experience with depression and anxiety.
From the age of 11 to the time I was approximately 32 or 33 years old, I saw around four or five different psychiatrists, one psychologist, and one therapist, all for clinical depression and anxiety. (I also saw the therapist to receive grief counseling.)
I know at least one of those several doctors was a Christian, though we never talked about Jesus or faith matters in our sessions.
I have no idea what the religious beliefs were of the other MHPs (Mental Health Professionals) I visited.
From around the age of 15 or 16, up until I was about 33 years old, I was prescribed various anti-depressant medications and about two different anti-anxiety medications.
The medication dosages were modified by the doctors when they didn’t seem to be working for me at their initial dosages.
At some point during my 20s (I do not recall the exact age or for how long, but at least one year), I stopped seeing doctors and stopped taking the pills, because the doctors and the pills were not working.
I also halted medical treatment of my depression and anxiety because I assumed God was refusing to heal me and help me because I was using non-faith means (i.e. medical science) for a solution.
A small part of this view of mine was due to Christian teaching I saw or heard that cast the use of doctors and medications for psychological problems as being sinful or as showing a lack of faith.
Much Christian material I read or heard on TV assured me that if I just prayed enough, read the Bible enough, and so on and so forth, that I could count on God to heal me of depression.
So, I prayed and told God I was sorry if I had offended him for using pills and seeing doctors for the depression and anxiety, and that from that point onward, I was going to trust him, God, for a healing.
I also spent a few years at that time reading my Bible more, doing good deeds for other people, I spent a lot of time in prayer and participating in other sorts of spiritual activities Christians often advise those with mental health problems to do.
However, none of these Christian spiritual means cleared up the depression or anxiety.
I really toughed it out there for a few years, just God and me against the depression. God never did lift the depression or anxiety.
I was still in my 20s (and had not yet gained my first full time, real job), so my parents had to pay for my psychiatric visits. I was worn out trying to fight the anxiety and depression on my own and merely by praying to God and reading the Bible.
I told my Mom the depression had gotten really bad, and would she please pay for me to resume doctor visits, and resume taking medication? She said yes.
I once more started seeing psychiatrists again, and I again took anti-depressant medications, and, I continued to pray and ask God for a healing.
By the time I got to around age 33, I stopped seeing doctors and taking medications for my situation, because I realized all the time I spent driving to their offices for sessions and buying the medications (by this time I had a full time job and was paying for my own health care) was a waste of my time and money.
Absolutely nothing worked in my case to take away the depression or the anxiety. I tried both the Christian faith (i.e., Jesus), as well as secular psychiatry and psychology.
Jesus did not help me with the depression, and medical science – the doctor visits, counseling, and medications – did not help, either.
I have mentioned all this before on other blogs, such as The Wartburg Watch. However, I have always qualified my comments to say that I am not attempting to discourage -anyone else- from seeing a doctor or taking medications.
I am bringing this all up for two reasons.
First of all, I know how hopeless a person of faith can feel when they have tried faith for a healing, but faith did not work, so they tried medical science but they were also failed by medical science.
By the time I got to my mid-30s, my depression was ten times worse.
I was so distraught because both medical science had failed me, but so too did religion (or “Jesus” if you prefer – I can just anticipate an annoying Christian screaming about how “Jesus” is not a “religion” and if I just had a “relationship” with Jesus my depression would’ve vanished. Well, yes, I had a “relationship” with Jesus but no, he never delivered me from the depression).
When one has tried both approaches – spirituality and then medicine – and both have failed, one feels ten times more trapped.
I became more suicidal by my mid-30s. By that time, I had been living with depression (and anxiety) for many years and could not stand to live another five seconds in psychological hell.
By my late 30s, my mother died. I was then consumed with grief for a few years after she passed.
A year or two after my recovery from grief, something began to gnaw at me.
I suspected that my real problem all along (even prior to my family member’s death) was not depression, but something else was going on, so I began researching topics I suspected may be to blame for my psychological problems.
There was a blog post recently at TWW (The Wartburg Watch) blog about R C Sproul Jr’s alcohol addiction and his other problems.
There is a member on that blog by the name of Velour who was posting quite a bit to that post. I felt her behavior was out of line towards myself and few other people in that thread.
In one of my posts, part of what I said was this:
One of the only reasons I came back to this thread was to add something about your insistence on people getting treatment (treatment outside of a church).
I weary, honestly I do, of you constantly finding the negative in things and never being able to cite people who you know who have benefited from outside help: 12-Step programs, in-patient treatment programs, therapy, psychiatry, etc.
Nothing in life is full-proof. But there is very good help for many problems that has helped and changed peoples’ lives. It would be nice if you acknowledge that. // end Velour’s quote
I have said many times on TWW and on other blogs, again, that I am not discouraging others from taking medications or seeing MHPs for help, as it may help them, even though it did not help me.
The only people I can think of who say they have been helped by secular counseling and/or by medication are people online, who leave comments on forums and blogs.
But in my own family? No, I cannot think of anyone who has tried secular medicine (in regards to emotional or addiction problems) and was helped.
I am unsure if my brother would say that Alcoholics Anonymous helped him with his drinking or not, because I never asked him.
I was too busy being disturbed or infuriated by the weird, troubling qualities attending A.A. for years had instilled in my brother to inquire about that from him.
So, if AA helped my brother with his drinking (I’m unsure if it did or not), yay, that is wonderful, but in the process, it also turned him into an obnoxious, victim-blaming jackass (not so yay).
(Well, my brother was always obnoxious, even before going to AA, but it added another level or flavor of obnoxiousness, I guess you could say.)
Again, I am so terribly sorry that my and my family’s REALITY does not mesh, jibe, or support Velour’s fantasy view of all things made better by secular psychology, twelve step programs, or psychiatry, or medications. But there it is.
I’m not going to invent fictional relative characters who had psychological problems and who used pills, counseling, or psychiatry and instantly got better, all to support Velour’s cherished beliefs or over-enthusiasm for non-spiritual treatments.
I am very weary of Velour holding up secular medicine (re: psychiatry and medications) as the fool-proof, never-fail solution, or only solution, for everyone and everybody, when in real life, people (such as myself) have not been helped by such.
Whether Velour likes it or not, psychiatry, psychology, medications, and twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous do not always work for everyone who tries them, and some of these methods can cause a person even more harm.
(Also (on National Review): “Doctors held a teenager involuntarily for a year and a half and said they were helping her.”)
Does this mean I am opposed to secular treatments, or to medications, psychiatry, or psychology? No, not at all.
People should absolutely consider the use of doctors or medicines, but I want them to have a realistic view of what may or may not happen as a result.
In the past year or so I’ve seen Velour on various spiritual abuse blogs, she has been on a very persistent, dogged pursuit to practically insist and browbeat anyone and everyone who expresses a problem in life, to immediately visit a psychologist or psychiatrist, or join something like a 12 step program.
Most of the participants on these sites are ages 40 and over (with a few 20- or 30- somethings present).
While I don’t see anything wrong in offering recommendations or suggestions to people who appear to be struggling, Velour is too heavy-handed in promoting secular help.
It almost feels as though Velour is bullying the wounded and hurting into her preferred methods of treatment.
The people to whom Velour are talking are adults.
Toss a suggestion at them if you think it may be helpful, but allow them to make up their own minds; do not badger them that they absolutely must see a psychologist or take medications. Do not assume that because pills and doctors worked for you or your friend that they will work for everybody.
Velour’s approach in how she talks to people about these subjects infantilizes the hurting. Most of the people on these blogs are adults and can make their own choices about when, how, or if they will receive Non-Church treatment.
My other problem with this, and to which Velour seems oblivious, is it may set people up for further pain and disappointment. It will add more pain on top of already- existing pain.
I do not hold out any one treatment or method as being a guaranteed success for anyone.
I do not believe that what worked for me will necessarily work for you – it might, but it might not.
In my case, as I was describing above, the Christian faith did not lift my emotional pain, and I was doubly disturbed and discouraged after years of trying secular (Non Christian) means, but that failed me as well. I felt I had no where left to go after both types did not work for me.
If God wasn’t going to help me, and now, it looked like doctors and pills weren’t going to work, I felt it was time to hang myself by a belt or take an overdose. How or why I didn’t give in, I don’t know.
Velour sort of depicts secular treatments as full-proof, guaranteed- to -work- no- matter- what solutions, when that is not so.
I am really put off that she brushed my personal experience aside in all this, all because, I guess, she finds it annoying that my true life experience does not support her rabid pro-secular-psychology-will-always-work agenda.
No, I was not helped for the most part, by Non-Church means (counseling, medications, etc)
No, my family members were not helped by Non-Church means, either.
Hearing me say that my family and myself did not get relief from secular programs or medicine really seems to annoy Velour and one or two of her friends at that blog.
It remains a fact, whether Velour likes it or not, that all the psychiatrists I saw for about two decades (about four of them), and one psychologist I saw, did not diagnose myself or my mother properly.
(My mother also saw a few different psychiatrists over the years and she too tried medication).
I have read books by other therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists that there are mental health professionals who are charlatans, quacks, clueless, or greedy, and who will be of no help to you if you see them.
These mental health professionals will advise readers of their books to be very careful when doctor shopping, because some doctors are either too inept to help you, or they do not truly care to.
It’s not just me saying this, it is people with medical degrees who were in practice for two or more decades.
Just as it’s faulty and dangerous to put too much hope and faith in spiritual (church) treatment plans and counseling, so too can it be faulty and dangerous to build up in people’s minds too much hope and faith in secular medical science.
R C Sproul Jr
The initial post at TWW blog was about RCJ (R C Sproul Jr). The title of that post is, “RC Sproul Jr Is Now a Convicted Felon Alcoholic and Is One Step Away From a Tragedy”
I could not figure out for a long time what Velour’s views were in that thread, and I read every post she made. I’m still not completely sure I understand, and I was trying to. She grew more and more impatient with me and started biting my head off.
I think Velour was conflating a few issues, comparing Apples to Oranges at other times, and reading too much into other people’s remarks, which confused a lot of people, including myself.
I don’t know much about RCJ.
There were others in the thread who have been apparently studying the guy for a very long time, who know way more about him than I do.
Some of the participants there said RCJ’s problems go beyond drinking too much: he’s a bully; he spiritually abused people at his church; he utilized cheating site “Ashley Madison.”
Other than Sproul Jr’s alcoholism, he sounds a lot like preacher Mark Driscoll. If you know anything about Driscoll (please go Google his name if you do not), you know the man is a sexist jerk, a bully, and should not be anywhere near a pulpit.
I have no idea why Velour would want to stringently defend this jerk preacher who sounds as bad as the other one.
About as far as I could make out, Velour was upset that another member on the thread, Barbara, said that alcoholics should be “kicked out of church.”
At one point Barbara or someone cited this Bible passage:
1 Corinthians 5:11-13
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Someone else quoted this from the Bible:
1 Timothy 3:8
In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
Other than saying she feels applying such verses to Christian alcoholics is mean and a case of cherry-picking, I didn’t see Velour discuss these verses or explain how those verses would not apply to RC Sproul, Jr.
As I told Velour, I am rather agnostic on the issue. I don’t know if I care or not about the topic intensely.
Velour seemed to be wanting to talk about alcoholics in general, when the thread topic was about RCJ specifically. I believe talking about RCJ in particular – a guy who is a preacher who also has other issues other than drinking – is in another, separate category from one of “how should churches handle addicts.”
At first, Velour scolded Barbara, Julie Anne, and a few others, allegedly because they were not advocating treatment.
However, nobody ever said that alcoholics should not receive treatment.
Velour was very, very insistent on the treatment aspect.
Then, at some point in the conversation, she focused on excommunication or ostracization and went on and on about how mean or cruel it would be to kick RCJ (or any alcoholic?) out of a church for being an alcoholic.
This is yet one more area I became confused in. If, at first, Velour’s point is that RCJ should receive treatment for his alcoholism, but later moves the goal posts to church attendance, I honestly cannot see how church attendance is an effective treatment for a problem such as alcoholism.
Funny enough, in researching my last blog post about AA (Problems With AA), I found a page by a woman who was defending AA, and she said this:
Yet many alcoholics I spoke to pointed out that doctors and mental health professionals had been unable to help them. “I’ve been in therapy pretty much my entire life. Since I was 14,” says Arianna T., an AA member from California. “And therapists would tell me that I had a problem drinking and I would not listen to them.”
Conversely, being counseled by fellow alcoholics has proven to be effective for many I spoke with. “Peer counseling is used very successfully in many fields,” says Tamara. “The peculiarity about addiction is that those who do not have it cannot understand it. That inability to fully grasp what it feels like and what it is to have this disease makes a non-alcoholic underprepared and under-qualified to service another alcoholic.” (Source)
So how is an alcoholic sitting in a church service going to remedy his or her alcoholism, unless every other pew sitter by his or her side also happens to be an alcoholic, and if no time is given for these alcoholics to specifically discuss their alcoholism during church services?
Someone on the TWW blog thread suggested that the point of allowing an alcoholic to attend a church service – to paraphrase their argument – is so that the alcoholic can get some Warm Fuzzies, some sort of emotional support.
I don’t think Warm Fuzzies are going to help someone stop drinking. Getting a handshake and a few smiles at a church service may temporarily cheer someone up, but I don’t see such interaction as being potent enough to conquer the desire to cope with life’s problems by drinking.
The anecdote shared on the thread didn’t really bolster this position either; it was posted by someone named “Friend” and reads:
A lovely woman in my church was an alcoholic. She was single and did not drive–harmful only to herself. Because she never appeared even tipsy, few people knew her problem. She refused help that was quietly offered. She had trouble finding work, but volunteered at church and around town about 60 hours a week.
Our clergy led by example, embracing her and letting her have the full dignity of worship and service.
Finally she allowed a member to take her to the hospital, but it was too late to save her life.
Someone tried to organize a bedside vigil, yet this proved unnecessary: many people loved this woman, and they showed up at all hours to sit with her, although she was unconscious.
When she died, the church (silently) bore all the funeral costs. Hundreds of people showed up. The scene was an absolute tidal wave of love. There was no condemnation of her drinking, just sadness and even more love, and powerful lessons about the price of alcoholism.
Had she been confronted and expelled from church, none of this would have happened. She still would have died, but alone and condemned. I daresay that people would have learned less about alcoholism, too // end quote
If not many people at this woman’s church knew of her alcoholism, how could they help her with it? Were they qualified to treat an addiction?
The post (by “Friend”) says:
Our clergy led by example, embracing her and letting her have the full dignity of worship and service.
Well, that’s wonderful, but did all the friendship and Warm Fuzzies deliver this woman? No, it appears not, for the post also says:
Finally she allowed a member to take her to the hospital, but it was too late to save her life.
The woman’s alcoholism, I suppose, destroyed her liver or created some other physical problems, which killed her. Sitting in a church for months beforehand may have cheered her up, but did it do anything to help her stop drinking or to fix her physical problems? It doesn’t sound like it.
The last comment from the post:
She still would have died, but alone and condemned.
So, this is arguing the woman wanted or needed emotional support (but I haven’t read too many instances where receiving empathy delivered someone of addictive behavior) – but it was Velour who seemed to be conflating treatment with church attendance.
Why would someone like Velour, who rightly frowns on most church or Christian treatment methods for psychological problems (such as Nouthetic Counseling), argue that an alcoholic can receive some kind of help or relief of alcoholism via those same Christians?
Unless all the Christians in attendance at that church an alcoholic is attending also have medical degrees and specialize in addiction – but how likely is that?
The Christian church is on record as failing miserably at many things.
Christians in the U.S. will tell an abused woman to stay with her husband, rather than to divorce; the only advice they will give such a woman is to say “pray and submit to your husband more.” That advice is terrible and only enables the abuse to continue.
Many Christians and churches will shame people with depression for having depression and for wanting to take anti-depressant medication and to see secular doctors for the depression; such hurting Christians will be told to “tough it out” and just rely on Jesus and Bible reading to get over or through the depression.
I tried that spiritual approach during all the years I had depression, and it did not work for me.
Churches cover up child sex abuse cases frequently, and they usually don’t offer to pay for counseling for the victims. They will even victim-blame the target and side with the abuser.
In light of all that, and many other examples that could be cited on how churches are too clueless, inept, or lazy to help the hurting, why would Velour, or anyone, be suggesting church as a solution for alcoholism, or for much of anything?
Because most Christian literature or TV shows I came across did not give helpful advice about depression or anxiety, and because Christians and churches I knew that I consulted during my grief over the death of a family member refused to help me through the grief, I accepted several years ago that Christians and churches, by and large, are ineffective and to be avoided.
One of my life lessons learned:
Never, ever expect most churches you walk into, or most Christians you meet, to actually care about you and your problems, or to offer to help you emotionally or financially or in other ways.
What you are likely to receive from Christians if you go to them for help is horrible advice on whatever life problem you are enduring (such as “pray the depression away”).
I would not advise someone with alcoholism, or whatever other problem, to try church or pastoral counseling. I have no idea why Velour and some of the others on that blog are so insistent that most alcoholics, (“Friend’s” anecdote aside about the dying alcoholic whose church paid for her funeral), is going to find any sort of support or treatment by Christians or at a church.
Velour said to me in one post
(the URL is:
I have noticed that you get stuck in a rut and keep going over the same thing over and over again, even though you know the issues have already been covered and logically and responsibly discussed.
Please work on that. // end quote
That was a very condescending tone. And, Velour had been very repetitive in that thread herself – she even posted the same set of comments four or five times. So, who was in a rut?
If I was “stuck in a rut” it’s because I was trying to make sense of Velour’s muddled argumentation and her conflation of different topics.
At this stage, my take away is that she is for a church firing RCJ but feels he should be allowed to be a member and sit in the pew every week. That’s about as near as I could figure out, but only God knows if I understood that right or not.
Someone named Gail told me in that RCJ thread:
Velour has been advocate for many hurting people here on this blog, offering prayer lists, & reminding people to give, if they can, to help those in need on TWW, also giving of her own resources. // end quote
That’s wonderful and all, but it does not give Velour a right to belittle my personal experiences, that of my family (which is what she did in one post), or being catty and rude to myself and a few others in that thread.
Over the duration of my life, I was verbally harassed by my older sister.
Where-as Velour uses her “niceness” as a shield to lash out at people on the TWW blog and not face consequences for it, my sister’s manner of evading personal responsibility for lashing out at me when I confronted her was to say, “Yes, I verbally abuse you, but it’s only because my life is so stressful.”
I finally figured out, partly from reading about abuse and just life experience, that there’s no excuse for one person to bite another person’s head off, even if they were having a bad day, if they are stressed, or if they were triggered by a topic.
A couple of years ago, I lost my temper at TWW blog and got pretty rude with a handful of people in a thread or so.
I came back to the blog a day or two later and apologized by name to the several people I screamed at.
I also came back a day or two later and apologized again, because I was not sure if my first apology was seen or not by those members, since the blog had moved on to a new post by that time.
I appreciate that Velour has tried helping other people at that blog, but she’s just as prone to losing her temper and getting rude with people as anyone else, and I don’t think doing nice deeds excuses that.
To recap the main point of this post:
It may not fit in with Velour’s preferred worldview, and it may annoy her, but the truth of the matter is that medications and secular treatment plans may not work for everyone.
Secular sources didn’t really work for me – but neither did the church or the Christian faith; Christians and Christian approaches to counseling are also pretty dismal at treating problems or helping the wounded.
(All the psychiatrists I visited over two decades never figured out what my real problem was. I had to do the research myself, alone, and figure it out. That should be quite the eye-opener to anyone who is placing an unrealistic amount of faith in non-religious practices.)
But, if you’re someone going through a problem, by all means, consider visiting a therapist, psychologist, a psychiatrist, or taking medication; just be prepared that you may not have a successful outcome.
Don’t get discouraged and give up, though. You may have to keep searching for something that does work, whatever that something may be.
Resources, on other sites:
The quest for firm answers is not what medicine is all about.
The following is by By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.:
I am, of course, all in favor of more people giving psychotherapy a try.
But I’m also a pragmatist and know that many people have already given psychotherapy a try, and unfortunately it didn’t work out for them.
Whether it was due to a bad therapist, a misunderstanding of the expectations of therapy, or whatever.
People don’t only want options — they need them.
So yes, let’s figure out the important question of why antidepressants work. But let’s also continue to give people the treatment options they need, and not pretend there’s a single answer to someone overcoming depression. There isn’t. (Source)
More posts, on this blog: