The Big Umbrella is an article written by Dr. Jay Adams. I believe this is an insightful essay on
The Institute for Nouthetic Studies is pleased to make available once again one of the seminal essays of the Nouthetic counseling movement. The Big Umbrella was first presented in lecture form to the student body of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary and then presented in numerous ministerial gatherings. It was ultimately presented in this written form and published in a volume by the same name along with a number of other lectures and essays by Dr. Adams in 1972. The Institute for Nouthetic Studies has made this essay available again (it is now out of print) because of the many questions that have come to us about the nature and characteristics of Nouthetic counseling. This essay answers most of those questions and addresses the great need for a truly biblical model and approach to counseling. Please remember it is still under copyright and is not to be reproduced.
During the last generation a big umbrella was opened. Beneath its huge, over-arching expanse you now find people with the most diverse problems and difficulties. Under its shadow they have been gathered together according to the novel idea that nearly everybody who is having problems, regardless of what his difficulties may be, is sick. The name of this umbrella is Mental Illness.
This umbrella was designed and opened by Charcot and Freud and others who worked with them. Until their time, "illness" meant physical illness. But they stretched the concept of illness until it pertained to nearly any and every sort of difficulty in life. I cannot review the historical reasons for this radical change, but if you want to learn more about how it came about, borrow Thomas Szasz's book, The Myth of Mental Illness, and read the first two chapters. You will find that he explains very plainly how this happened. What is of importance is that Szasz shows how Charcot and Freud used the medical model (illness) to declare those who previously had been called malingerers, to be sick. You will find this history most enlightening.
Regardless of the historical background, we are all aware that the umbrella is wide open today. Huddled together under it are people with organic problems and people with non-organic problems; people with perceptual difficulties and people with behavioral difficulties; people whose brains have been damaged and people who, to put it simply, have never learned how to get along in life. Those who are criminal or guilty or lazy have found shelter beneath the umbrella together with those who are senile and those who have glandular problems. This is truly a most motley mob.
All sorts of people, then, have been labeled mentally ill. My thesis is that you who are ministers of the gospel must not be content with these current conditions. You may not condone the practice of confusing illness with behavioral deviation; such a position is clearly contrary to the Word of God. Instead, you must do something to alter this serious situation. You must take out of the rack an entirely different umbrella, a much smaller one, for that big umbrella is the product of a wholly wrong concept. It was manufactured according to non-Christian specifications and has been used for humanistic purposes. You must do all that you can do to reduce the big umbrella to its proper size.
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