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NANC Myth #1 - NANC Trains their Counselors to Get Counselees off of their Psychiatric Medication

One of the most persistent myths I hear about NANC is that our certified counselors are vehemently opposed to psychiatric medication and are trained to tell you to stop taking it.  This is simply not true.

Taking psychiatric medications is controversial.  Many people have legitimate questions about their use and effectiveness.  Such questions and controversies are not unique to Christian conversations, either.  Plenty of secular and medical professionals are writing book-length critiques of the use psychoactive medications.

My job here is not to argue that the use of psychiatric medications is uncomplicated.  My job is instead to state that the decision to use them is outside the professional purview of most counselors.  Most people doing counseling today—of the biblical or secular variety—lack the medical licensing required to authorize the use of prescription medications.  This means that most counselors lack the training and permission to be able to put people on or take people off of these medications.

Counselors may have opinions about such things.  These opinions may even be well-informed, and backed-up with excellent scientific research.  At the end of the day, however, they are just opinions.  Any counselor who does not have a medical degree is simply not equipped, by law or professional training, to add behavior to their belief.

This same reality is true for most of the counselors certified by NANC.

NANC certifies many licensed and experienced medical doctors.  Whenever we host a NANC training event one of these physicians is present to explain what we know and what we don’t know about the use of psychoactive meds as well as other issues related to counseling and the physical body.  One of the many things these physicians share with our counselors is that it is not their place to get people off their medications. 

Many counselees desire to get off of their medication believing that they never really needed it, that it causes harmful side-effects, or that the biblical counseling they received removed the need for it.  When people raise that question our medical doctors train counselors to send their counselee back to the physician who prescribed the medication in the first place.   Several of our NANC counselors with decades of medical experience will not take them off meds even though they possess a medical degree.  Their reasoning: “I’m not the physician that put them on the medication, so I’m not going to be the physician to take them off.”

The reason we teach our counselees to handle the issue of medication this way does not only have to do with their lack of a medical degree.  The reasons also have to do with loving others well.  When someone comes off these medications it can have a very serious effect on the body.  A person’s life can be threatened.  These kinds of medical decisions where the health and safety of a human being are at stake must be left to medical professionals.

Does this mean that it has never happened that a NANC counselor somewhere has told somebody to quit taking their medication.  No.  In fact, I’m relatively confident that it has happened.  I am also confident that there is a cashier or two at the grocery store down the street that has stolen money from their register.  When they steal the money, however, I don’t think they do it because the manager told them to.  I also don’t think that if the manager found out about it that they would awarded employee of the month.

I hope you can appreciate that the same is true at NANC.  When a few of our counselors do things that we tell them not to do I want you to understand that they are working out of accord with their training, not in keeping with it.  I also want you to know that when they do that they are doing things for which they will be held accountable by our organization.

Physicians and researchers will be debating the utility of psychoactive meds for a long time to come.  At the level of counseling practice, however, we know what the best practice is.  We train our counselors that practical questions about the use of medication are best left to the physicians who can prescribe them. 

Anybody that says anything else is just spreading a myth.

Author

Heath Lambert

Heath Lambert, Executive Director of ACBC and the Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College, is also the author of Finally Free.

For nearly 40 years, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly known as NANC) has been certifying biblical counselors to ensure doctrinal integrity and to promote excellence in biblical counseling.

© 2014 Association of Certified Biblical Counselors