This Is Your Brain On Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin is a fresh approach to psychology and how we interpret disorders like depression, anxiety and ADHD. Brain scans (also callet PET scans) are becoming popular tools in the psychiatric world in understanding how the human brain operates and what areas of the brain are affected when a person is experiencing emotional issues. By looking at these at these areas, psychiatrists can not only treat patients more effectively by getting to the actual root of a chemical imbalance, they can also see how medication and therapy are helping areas of the brain to heal.
Better yet, Your Brain On Joy (Thomas Nelson) is written by a licensed counselor who’s been integrating brain imaging into his holistic approach to patient care. And here’s the kicker—Dr. Henslin is also a Christian. So is Dr. Daniel Amen a well-respected mental health professional and a groundbreaking pioneer in SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) technology. Dr. Henslin spends a good chunk of the beginning chapters of his book talking about Dr. Amen’s work. Despite Henslin’s attempt to “dumb-it-down” for those not trained in brain physiology, the terminology can be a bit bulky and difficult.
The meat of Henslin’s argument is this—maybe Christians aren’t sinning when they continue to battle the same ol’ issues of depression, anger, anxiety, and so on. Perhaps there is something more going on and that something is damage to the brain itself. In a very intelligent fashion, Henslin uses a “Brain System Checklist” to explain what goes awry in one of the brain’s five mood centers when prolonged systems of mental illness are present. He also offers suggestions in how sufferers can find healing with a multi-faceted approach—psychological, physical, and spiritual. His suggestions are sensible, yet profound, as many churches are still treating mental illness as solely a spiritual problem. Unfortunately, the cost of SPECT scans and subsequent treatment is still high, but at least it is a step in the right direction.
I find this book exciting on a personal level as well. As a woman with a M.A. in Biblical Counseling and a sufferer of depression and anxiety, I found Dr. Henslin’s book makes sense. “See!” I want to shout, “See! I’m not a bad Christian. My brain just needs healing!” Like many Christians, I’m tired of being told to pray my pain away or read the Bible more because that’s what I’m already doing. In fact, my struggles have caused me to read more of the Bible than most people I know and the agony of illness brings me on my knees before God more times than I can count. To simply dismiss those suffering from mental anguish as “unspiritual” is simply absurd. Finally, someone with a M.D. gets it, too.
Not only is Your Brain on Joy an enlightening book, it’s a freeing book. Sufferers will find shackles of shame and guilt fall away as they realize it’s not their fault they feel this way. And while Christians are still asked to consider how to live a holy life despite his or her illness, there is relief in knowing that the illness itself is not a spiritual defect.