Mental health is big business in America today. From the kid next door on Ritalin to the Mom down the road on Prozac, managing mental health through meds—and through therapy—has become a fad and a phenomenon in secular society.
But what does the picture of mental health look like from a Christian perspective? Many individuals shy away from the topic, seeking to right what might be wrong through persistent prayer and strained self-help. However, mental illness is often overpowering and isolating; our best efforts are broken by cycles of doubt, despair, anger, regret or personal abuse and addiction that leave us powerless to change our predicament.
Here, then, RELEVANT magazine interviews Dr. Paul Meier, founder and director of Meier New Life Clinics, to gain a Christian perspective on asking for help when dealing with mental illness.
[RELEVANTmagazine.com] How can someone understand when they might benefit from the care and support a therapist or inpatient program might provide?
[Dr. Paul Meier] “Insanity” is trying the same things over and over again even though it never has worked in the past. When anyone wants rapid personal growth [beyond such patterns] a personal therapist is helpful. If [someone] is in significant emotional pain, a professional should know the shortest way out.
[RM] If I decide to seek professional help, what is central to a Christian approach?
[PM] A conscientious psychiatrist [or therapist], Christian or not, employs compassionate care; insight-oriented therapy that teaches the truth about [people’s] psychological beliefs, origins of false beliefs, etc… Also, the use of Gestalt techniques—getting people in touch with repressed emotions, the use of behavioral techniques—getting people to face their fears, and access to the best medications when necessary is essential. I integrate scriptural principles very lovingly and tactfully and bathe therapy in prayer, as do the other therapists employed at Meier New Life. Our approach is based on Christian principles, but extends to all; our Jewish, Muslim and atheist patients have never complained of offense at our Christian perspective. Again, principles are applied lovingly.
[RM] Could you speak about the young adults you see entering your clinics?
[PM] At our clinics we see lots of teens and people in their twenties who don’t share gut-level feelings; who relate on a sexual rather than emotional level, hooking up with various sexual partners. We also see some great young people with great goals and values, but the percentages seem to be tilting downwards.
[RM] Prescription drugs seem to be overwhelmingly popular for dealing with mental health issues today; is medication a necessity?
[PM] Eighty percent of our 3,000 patients each week at Meier New Life receive no drugs, just psychotherapy. Meds can be a cop-out, covering up symptoms without resolving root problems. But for severe depression, anxiety, and all genetic disorders, meds are miraculous lifesavers changing people’s years of misery to lives of joy in a matter of days or weeks, from psychosis to reality.
[RM] What kind of costs can I expect if I choose to seek professional help?
[PM] Outpatient therapy can vary depending on the income level of the patient and the training of the therapist, from $20 per session to over $200 for a workup in some cases. Inpatient care is more expensive. Hospitals, for suicidal or psychotic patients, usually keep patients four days at $1200 per day. Calvary Ranch Alcohol Treatment Center, which offers one-month programs, costs about $7,000; Meier New Life Day Programs, for wellness issues from anorexia/bulimia to depression, pack six months of therapy into three intensive weeks and costs $8,000.
[RM] How do individuals fund the cost of this care?
[PM] Insurance, cash or loans. Often, though, churches help pay for therapy of their own parishioners. In addition, Meier New Life Clinics did over 1 million dollars of discounted or free therapy last year (as we do every year) for certain circumstances.
[RM] What if I can’t afford long-term therapy? Are limited sessions worth it?
[PM] Yes. Many low-income people have had one visit and [at least] got the right [diagnosis] and/or medications necessary. Then, these people were able to remain on the meds for free from the government or drug companies.
[RM] Where can individuals assess whether or not professional therapy is available for their particular wellness issue?
[PM] People can go to meierclinics.com to see the variety of options for mental health care. Or, [if people] phone 1-800-NEWLIFE, they can ask for a clinic near to them. Trained people will answer the phones 24/7 and can guide people to the right kind of help.[Interview by Katie Meier. Full disclosure: Dr. Paul Meier, Katie’s father-in-law, is founder and director of Meier New Life Clinics, located in cities throughout the U.S. and abroad. He has published numerous books on mental health and wellness, most of which are available at Amazon.com. In addition, Dr. Meier hosts the daily radio show, “New Life Live,” featured on stations throughout the country.]
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