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REVIEWS AND COMMENTS ON "BREAKDOWNS ARE GOOD FOR YOU"(BAGFY)

Our Inheritance (ProtestantsToday), BAGFY used for training pastors, Banner of Truth, Great effectiveness of TB Counselling (added 30 July 2002), English Churchman, Letter from a Manic Depressive for 25 years, American lady's heartfelt thanks, Amazon.com review.
31 May 2005 - 2 critical reviews added at end.

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OUR INHERITANCE - Winter 1999 p 22 (Magazine of PROTESTANTS TODAY)

At long last a really first class book by British authors dealing in a scholarly yet in an easy to read format, with True Biblical Counselling. This is a British book that does not fudge the subject or in any way compromise with modern secular methods.
There are not many modern books that excite this reviewer, this one does; it proved to be compulsive reading, a book that will be read over and over again, so full is it of good sound, practical pastoral theology.
The vast experience and expertise of the authors is clearly seen throughout, but this in no way overshadows their desire to give all the glory to God, or deflect on their reliance upon Him.
Divided into six helpful sections, the authors deal with a multitude of subjects, firstly carefully laying the biblical foundations, then proceeding to the fundamental cause of breakdowns, then moving on to the answer. Of all the moderns books this reviewer has reviewed, this is about the only one that gives a clear biblical definition of Repentance.
Adhering as it does to the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura, this book is highly commended. It should be compulsory reading for all students training for the pastoral ministry and is an essential work tool that should be seen alongside the Holy Bible on every pastor's desk, not merely to look good, but well thumbed. The book is available from the offices of Protestants Today.

Peter J. Gadsden.

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BAGFY USED FOR TRAINING PASTORS!!
Protestants Today run a "distant learning" course for trainee pastors in Pastoral Theology, where they work under a pastor while they are completing the correspondence course. This includes a course in counselling, and the study book is BAGFY. Asked how the students received it, they said; "like a duck to water". They had read previous works on counselling that included secular ideas, but "there is no other book like it." That they are under pastors means that they also will get to know the book; whether they will be prepared to accept it is another matter, but at least some future pastors are being grounded in TBC! Who knows if it will spread?

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GREAT EFFECTIVENESS OF TRUE BIBLICAL COUNSELLING!
LETTER RECEIVED FROM A COUNSELLOR WANTING TO JOIN THE ATBC (See relevant page on this website)

... Qualifications:- studied Diploma and Certificate in Psychology at the University of London. I am at the clearing and finals stage of a Biblical Studies BA Degree with Trinity (transdenominational - yet heavy emphasis on excellent and very Biblical Reformed Theology)
Occupation:- Trainer / Tutor contracted to the Employment Service. I deal with 16 - 24 year olds that have been unemployed for six months or more. It is my job to teach and motivate people into looking for and finding work, and keeping in work.
Counselling Experience:- Usual lay-Christian counselling. Dissatisfied with secular models, I had a breakdown myself. It was a Christian that got along side me and told me that Jesus was The Solution to my own self-pity, sin, and so called depressive outbursts! It was nine years ago that I was prayed for by the Christian, and I have never, ever been depressed since. God slowly led me to Himself as my personal Lord and Saviour. I received the Lord Jesus Christ into my life in 1994. I have counselled people with the Word of God after doing a secular introduction to counselling and not finding Christ in their ideas at all, hence, no permanent solution to the problems. I then discovered Jay Adams 'Competent to Counsel' and saw it as a break through. The turning point for me has actually been the last three months! I was 'surfing' the net looking for guidelines on how to counsel the so called 'mentally ill' when I came across such folk in my job. I found some young people were using their illnesses as an excuse not to look for work.
I discovered the book you co-authored on the internet. I ordered the book 'Breakdowns are good for you' from my local Christian Bookstore as per net instructions. It was three months ago when I received my copy, and I found it a great personal edifier, as well as giving a solid, concise, and refined easy to follow framework, as a basic structure for counselling.

LET THE RESULTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES:
[MB-The emphases that follow are his.]
In three months God has given me the privilege of counselling ten unchurched, unemployed, people suffering from all sorts of mental illnesses - from depression to non-organic and organic schizophrenia. [MB-these are the labels they had been given BEFORE the TBCounslling!]
ALL TEN young people left after ONE counselling session following the TBC method WITHOUT their depression etc.,!
Of the ten young people, EIGHT made a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Of the eight, FOUR want to start coming along to Church and meeting with God and God's people!
Of the four, ONE has already introduced ANOTHER!
With other youth workers / young people workers, we have set up a beginners discipling group, and looking for God's grace for the growth.

So, yes! I would definitely like to become a member of ATBC!

[Update September 2003.
Of the ten who made a confession, two came to some home meetings and to church, three came to church only and a different three came to the home meetings. One of the meetings was with young people who gave their testimony and this was well received by the youngsters. Unfortunately, due to medical complications in his wife's pregnancy, home meetings had to be discontinued. Regrettably, there was very little support from the church. The minister spoke to one boy but nothing came of it. The boys also did not feel comfortable in church. One boy got to the front door and then ran off!
Thus, I am satisfied that TBC was very effective, as far as it could go, in touching the hearts of these boys to make them think, for the first time in their lives, about matters spiritual.]

Other members can know my email address, and I have no qualms allowing my contributions to appear on the website.
I have approached a local consultant psychiatrist, Dr X, about some of these results - but he didn't want to know. Dr X basically told me that if I want to be a psychiatrist, I should go to university and be professionally trained - like him. When told that the model of TBC has been put together by a qualified doctor with six years experience in psychiatric hospitals, I was also snubbed.
I approached another local GP - he was quick to tell me that he already has a counsellor and was not at all interested.
Finally, my own GP, a committed and evangelical Christian has ordered a copy of the book for himself and will review the methods set out, and try them for himself.
At a local Church prayer time, many people thanked God for how He had used TBC through me. The delight and praise was followed up when two new faces that had been counselled by TBC methods, one of them had been prayed for that he would come to Church only the week before!
I thank God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ for how He has used TBC through me so far. I ask that I will receive more opportunities, and never ever thought that Counselling could also be a form of very effective evangelism!

[In a second letter he described his method which starts with the sketching of two boats ...!]
...I base my questions around the descriptions under the labels on Dr Laws Map i.e. "you say you are schizophrenic, do you really mean that you act mad to keep people away from you so as to keep away your closely guarded secret?" In this scenario, I would trace back along the map - something not necessarily put anywhere in The Sea on the Map (i.e. they said they are schizo, but didn't realise the Cowardice) - and take the next item as a question: "Could it be that you are self-protective because you are fleeing from society?" "Is this all because you are actually acting as a coward because you cannot face life because you cannot get your own way?" I then move to Self-Pity>Guilt>Rebellion. The client is a sinner. A sinner needs a Saviour. The client has to snap out of it and repent and give their life over to the Lord Jesus Christ.....
... My main role is a Tutor / Trainer, but I would love God to call me into full time TBC work because it works and the results are amazing. It is a wonderful way and tool and model in serving the Lord Jesus Christ!

Peace and Godbless, in Jesus' Name,..

[MB - I have clarified his method which is not only a very effective way of counselling but often a powerful means of evangelism also, for the counsellee often accepts Christ as their saviour when they see the problems they have got THEMSELVES into. To help with this particular method, I have separated the main groups of problems in Dr. Law's chart from the arrows, and made the latter sheet into a transparency to lay over the first sheet when the counsellee has completed it with HIS ringing of HIS problems. The full list of itemised and detailed way of counselling for those engaged in counselling and wishing to try the method, can be obtained from me. Readers intersted in this should email me for the itemised list and free membership of the ATBC -
Click here to email me direct - address is mb@mbowden.info]
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THE ENGLISH CHURCHMAN, February 21 and March 3, 2000, p 8

This is an outstanding book, a careful study of modern psychiatry - which is weighed in the balances and found wanting. To change the metaphor; the authors picture pastoral counselling as a lost art which has wandered into the wilderness of worldly wisdom, away from the Bible, away from the Church, and is trying desperately to find satisfaction in the husks of humanist philosophy.

Malcolm Bowden is well known as a stalwart defender of the Faith by his four books on Science and Creation. Robert Law has worked in psychiatric hospitals: when he entered the Anglican ministry he realised that the root cause of many people's problems is self pity and self righteousness...

..counselling used to be a normal part of church ministry ("comfort the feeble minded.., support the weak..), whereas today it has become an industry in which enormous sums of money change hands and 'counsellors' are selected not for their moral qualities but for their success in passing exams. Even Christian psychiatrists have been tainted (our authors maintain) by non-Christian philosophies.

So they seek to restore the church (in all denominations) to her ancient and honourable role, and the Bible to its rightful position as infallible guide. There are chapters on self-love and self-esteem, guilt, schizophrenia, depression, loneliness, anxiety, drugs, alcohol, marriage, divorce, bereavement, raising children, accepting criticism and much more.

One particularly helpful chapter for Christians is on "Killing Worry": "a balance has to be struck between working hard for the Lord and living a life of peace...". There are sixteen appendices including one on the "True Biblical way to counsel an unbeliever to faith". Also 6 "practice cases" (with answers) which enable the amateur to test his skill at diagnosing spiritual ailments and prescribing remedies. This book cannot fail to challenge all of us, however young or old in the faith.

David Watson.

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BANNER OF TRUTH. Issue 441 June 2000.
This is an extraordinary book on biblical counselling, in which the authors contend that all non-organic mental illnesses are due to self-centredness and self-pity. In both the diagnosis and the treatment of such conditions, they depart from much that is common practice amongst secular psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and psychologists; and they have deep reservations about much that goes by the name of Christian counselling, in so far as it adopts or is influenced by secular counselling theories.
The authors follow Jay Adams' approach to counselling, an approach which has been criticised by several well-known Christian counsellors. They are confident however, that a fully biblical approach without resort to the theories of Freud, Jung, et al, is needed in the treatment of non-organic mental illness. They cite Herbert Mowrer's book "The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion", challenging the churches to take counselling back from the professional psychiatrist: "Has evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?" Nonetheless, they are critical of his inadequate understanding of the biblical doctrine of sin and guilt. Does the biblical approach actually work in providing relief or a cure in cases of mental illness? The authors insist that it does and give numerous instance of successful counselling. They examine various kinds of illness, including schizophrenia; depression and multiple personality disorder, and outline a suitable method of counselling based on biblical principles.
The approach may be regarded by some as too confrontational, even judgmental, but it does seem to reach the heart of the matter and deals with the guilt that is associated with self-centredness and self-pity. Patients who are encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their actions, and are led in the way of repentance and faith in a spiritual and caring context clearly respond to this approach.
The authors deal with the basic approach in counselling sessions and examine the specific personal and social problems which may be encountered. They present some interesting case studies and end with sixteen valuable appendices covering a range of issues related to present day counselling.
Are breakdowns good for you? The authors clearly think so, if this means that under God facing the truth about one's moral attitude and behaviour leads to spiritual moral restoration. Dr Law qualified as medical doctor and worked in psychiatric hospitals until he entered the Anglican ministry. His collaboration with Michael [sic] Bowden in the production of this book began in 1998.

Hywel Roberts (Pastor of Penzance Reformed Baptist Church).

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At a meeting of the Exeter Reformed Ministers Fraternal, a minister asked to bring the book to the meeting's attention. He highly recommended it and described it as "powerful..superb book...makes you think."

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A LETTER FROM A MANIC DEPRESSIVE...

[In January 2000, I was given a leaflet on mental health that was much the same as many others on this subject, but the last few paragraphs were more in the direction of our book, saying "Life is not fair and we cannot expect a pain-free ride... BUT we have a Heavenly Father... God is our help in times of need.." and similar expressions. I contacted the writer who had suffered from manic depression for 25 years and sent him a copy of "Breakdowns are good for you". The following letter was received.]

Dear Malcolm, (3 Feb. 2000)

Thank you for sending a copy of your book so quickly and as I hinted I have been low in mood myself recently and this insight that so much of mental illness is based in our rebellious reaction to our circumstances is basically a great relief and revelation to me. I think when you have an organic mental health problem through your family as I have had you tend to hide behind your diagnosis and justify your behaviour because of your illness.
My recent experience has been of a mini-breakdown based on selfish behaviour and exhaustion from having sent out my project MH AT CH [the leaflet I received that he had sent to 8,900 evangelical churches! - MB]. I rebelled, quit, seemed to have no purpose. This whole experience can be seen in the perspective of your book to be fully a self pity "party" and a resentful reaction. Your book was like reading the script of a play after once again going through a breakdown. God allows us to go through these things to bring us to a new place, a new commitment.
Thank you personally for helping me understand that I don't have to go back to the mental health services for help and comfort when I can rely on God, and the Christian Way. I intend to go for some Christian Counselling next week (already arranged before I received your book).
In general terms your book is a very strong work, which covers the topic of mental illness and the answers that can be found in the Church, the Word and in God. I totally agree with the reminder from Mowrer that "evangelical religion has sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage."
The UK Church desperately needs to assist those with emotional problems in a caring and sensitive way. I believe your book will provide the fundamental basis for counselling in the Church and I hope it reaches those who are counselling the family of the Church. I think your chart of self-centredness (self-pity) as the root of Mental Illness behaviour is brilliant and I can, as I have stated, enhance your views as absolutely right.
People who are in emotional crisis need love and affirmation, a chance to talk, and some sound biblical teaching and a real understanding of the moral implications of their lifestyle. Thank you for providing the vehicle for this in your book. After all, at any moment in our life we may come to a point of trial, temptation or stress, that causes us to rebel, rather than obey. Thanks to both of you.

Yours in Christ,

Tim Harvey.

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AMAZON.COM REVIEW - ADDED 20 February 2004 -
I was browsing through Amazon.com and saw this review - it had given the book a 5 star maximum rating! It appeared in an Amazon.com review on 16 March, 2001

It may be rejected by many... but truth often is!,
Reviewer: Robert Shelley (robert_shelley@readersdigest.co.uk) -
This book is very well researched and presented. The authors, in the first few pages clearly set out their aims and objectives in terms of what they are claiming. They then exhaustively provide examples and proof, that what they claim is true. The book is not only for professionals, there are many wonderful little nuggets of wisdom and enlightenment, which would help the most inexperienced Christians.
I have discussed this book's claims with some non-Christians, and they were very interested in what it had to say about so-called mental illnesses. Even they seemed to be tired of modern theories and Freudian rubbish!
I heartily recommend this book to all, many won't like what it has to say, many will feel uncomfortable reading it, but true biblical counselling really should be placed in the lap of the church, and today's churches should be equipped and able to provide this service.

ANOTHER AMAZON.COM REVIEW! - ADDED 28 August 2010 -
"My mother has been battling with schizophrenia for over 30 years or so. This book helped us as a family to get down to the bottom of her schizophrenia (which we suspected for a long time - the book helped to confirm our suspicions). Interestingly my mother agreed to what the book said when I confronted her with the truth but she later recanted because to live with the truth (for her) was harder than living with the lie. I live in hope and prayer that one day, truth will prevail."
Highly recommend this book, but be warned, you may not like what it has to say if you believe that the psychiatry profession is the ultimate authority over such issues. In which case, you should probably start off with the psychiatrist, William Glasser's works.

[MB-I helped this reviewer counsel her mother. After one ElectroConvulsive Treatment (ECT) she improved amazingly and it was then that she confessed that she had been "play acting" all these years to avoid her guilty behaviour. Unfortunately, this was over the telephone and her daughter could not get to her immediatley, and as her mother was surronded by her family, she went back into hospital for more ECT and drugs and has refused to listen to her daughter since. She was so near to a complete cure! Read the full story at Dealing with schizophrenia within the family in "comments"
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TWO CRITICAL REVIEWS OF BAGFY! (Added 31 May 2005)

Unfortunately, there has been extremely strong opposition from good, sound, conservative, orthodox evangelical organisations, and we give below two very critical reviews for the reader's consideration. Whether they are fair reviews we leave to the reader's judgement. WHY they should oppose it, we leave to the reader's thoughts!
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"NETWORK LEEDS" REVIEW

The following review appeared in the "Mind and Soul" section of Network Leeds (a Leeds Christian network). The URL is http://www.networkleeds.com/index.pl?z=48&s=533
Reviewer unknown [but I strongly suspect he is connected to the medical/psychiatric profession!]

Breakdowns Are Good for You: A Unique...

Rev Dr RJK Law & M Bowden, ISBN 0950604259, £9.95, 270pp

Summary: Breakdowns are considered good because the patient comes to a moral realisation that they are responsible for their illness. They claim that all problems can be solved in counselling sessions. Unhappiness and difficulties
at work are tackled with the "5 R's" - responsibility, repentence,reconciliation, restitution and rebuilding on Christ.

Best point: Advice on dealing with 'life problems' not normally thought of as mental illnesses - eg loneliness

Worst point: Schizophrenia is said to be due to self-pitying and self-centred behaviour - this just isn't not true!!!

Rating 0-10: 1

Who should read : The book is aimed at the general public, but some of the language and concepts are quite high brow and would need some training in counselling to be able to apply.

Comment: The wide use of scripture seems impressive, but the authors seem out of touch with any modern concepts in psychiatry or psychology. Some of their advice is bordering on dangerous, and some is quite offensive to people with non-spiritual mental health problems. I cannot recommend this book to the general reader.
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"GRACE MAGAZINE" REVIEW

[Three articles about depression appeared in "Grace Magazine". I wrote a letter which was published (April 2004), in which I happened to mention that depressives "..are, in fact, immersed in a sea of self-pity." This brought the house down around me! Three critical letters were published, to which I was given no right of reply. Three people emailed me direct with criticisms, but all three became far more amenable when presented with further facts. Two bought BAGFY and one joined the ATBC! I have strong suspicion that one had their conscience pricked.
The second was interesting. She gave only the slimmest mention of her symptoms of her depression, but I said that these were NOT those of depression and were possibly hormonal. She replied that she had suggested this to her doctor but she had laughed at her, as did a medical team in a hospital. She became so disillusioned with her medical treatment and drugs that she used hormone treatment by herself. She was cured within a week! How was it that I could see it was not depression, yet the medics ridiculed her suggestion of hormone problems?
I was asked to send a copy of BAGFY for review , but I warned that "As it is critical of psychiatry, should it be reviewed by someone already involved in that field, the result can be predicted!"
It was in fact reviewed by a doctor - as follows.

GRACE MAGAZINE JUNE 2004 - p.14
"Breakdowns are good for you"
Authors: Robert Law and Malcolm Bowden
Publisher: Sovereign Publications (Distributors STL) Pages: 270
ISBN: 0-95060-425-9 Price: £9.95
This book claims to be unique: that alone is enough to make a careful reader wary! When we read early on, describing the approach to counselling by one of the authors, 'The Lord enlightened me in this whole matter' (p13), the sense of unease grows. And when we are told that we will be led into 'True Biblical Counselling' we naturally wonder where Christian thinkers have gone wrong down the centuries.
The basic thesis of the book is that all non-organic mental illness stems from a sinful reaction to circumstances: there will always be pride and, especially, self-pity at the root of depression, obsessive behaviour, schizophrenia etc. That of course begs the question as to how easy it is to distinguish between the organic and the non-organic. But in a brief review it may be best to concentrate on the authors' use of Scripture. That is an area where no specialist background is needed in order to reach conclusions.
In one of the many appendices, which make up about a third of the book, some Biblical characters are viewed from the perspective of self-pity. Take the case of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. From the single sentence, 'Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman', we are invited to see her as an example of self-pitying despair. This is chauvinistic and callous. It takes no account of the cultural realities and perspectives of the time, and is a horrifyingly insensitive reaction to the plight of a raped woman at any time. Exegetically, it has no leg to stand on. We simply don't know, because the scripture does not tell us, how long her desolation lasted, nor what her emotional life and reactions were in the longer term.
In similar vein, we are told that the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son! . .. is an example of selfjustifying, manic behaviour.' Leave aside the absence of any manic behaviour in the story. Two pages are given to imagining the days and months after the period which the parable itself covers. His workaholic lifestyle and self-pitying behaviour are assumed. As an imaginative expansion of the story, this may be acceptable. Basing an argument on it is to treat the Bible with cavalier disrespect.
Not everything in the book is as flawed and unhelpful. Self-pity is indeed a big factor in many people's emotional disease. But, taken as a whole, there is too much that is questionable or just plain wrong to be able to recommend it.
Dr Nat Davies, Frinton
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