A Stronger Pill

It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy.

(Chinese Proverb)




In 1882 Philip Brooks, the one who wrote the Christmas hymn, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, issued a challenge, “Do not pray for easy lives, but pray to be a stronger man or woman. Do not pray for a lighter load but for a strong back. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers but pray for power equal to your tasks.” The 21 st Century mindset of many today is different and might be summed up as follows: “Do not pray for a lighter load but for a stronger pill. Do not pray for strength to cope with stress; pray for medication to numb the pain.”


“There are about 48,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. and most of them no longer provide talk

therapy, the form of psychiatry … that has dominated the profession for decades. The trend

today is to prescribe medication, usually after a brief consultation with a patient. Just a few

decades ago the average psychiatrist treated 50-60 patients … in a 45-minute weekly therapy session. Now the average psychiatrist may treat 1200 people mostly in 15-minute visits for prescriptions and adjustments to medical treatments…” (Gardiner Harris—New York Times).


Psychiatrist Dr. Donald Levin painfully admits, “In the beginning my goal was to help my

patients become happy and fulfilled: now, it is to just keep them functional. I had to train myself not to get too interested in their problems and not to get sidetracked trying to be a semi- therapist.” Dr. Levin could have accepted less money and provided more time to patients, but he said, “I want to retire with the lifestyle … I have been living for the last 40 years.” “Today it’s all about insurance, drug companies, and money. Brief consultations have become common in psychiatry and today the trend is to check up on the people and pull out the prescription pad” (Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein).


“Recent studies suggest that talk therapy may be as good or even better than drugs in the

treatment of depression, but fewer than half of depressed patients now get such therapy …”

(Gardiner Harris). “Medication is important but it’s the relationship that gets people better,”

writes Dr. Louisa Lance, a therapist, who refuses to give in to the less talk more pill pushing

approach to treatment. Two thousand years ago, James the brother of Christ, wrote, “Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” He outlines three concepts that have proven to be effective in helping and healing people for twenty centuries:

(1) He emphasizes the fact that it is not good for us to go through things alone. It is good to talk about problems.

(2) He stresses the fact that we are not powerless when encountering pain. There is no issue that prayer and love will not resolve. (3) And he concludes his thoughts by laying emphasis on the fact that we were not meant to live with disease or affliction. “There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer; no disease that enough love will not heal; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no sin that enough love will not redeem ...” (Emmet Fox).

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