Dr Caroline Leaf – Contradicted by the latest research

This is my most popular post by far.  I truly appreciate the support and interest in this post, but I’ve discovered and documented a lot more about Dr Leaf’s ministry in the last two years.  I welcome you to read this post, but if you’d like a more current review of the ministry of Dr Caroline Leaf, a new and improved version is here:
Dr Caroline Leaf – Still Contradicted by the Latest Evidence, Scripture & Herself

* * * * *

Mr Mac Leaf, the husband of Dr Caroline Leaf, kindly took the time to respond to my series of posts on the teachings of Dr Leaf at Kings Christian Centre, on the Gold Coast, Australia, earlier this month. As I had intended, and as Mr Leaf requested, I published his  reply, complete and unabridged (here).

This blog is my reply.  It is heavily researched and thoroughly referenced.  I think it’s fair to say that while Dr Leaf draws her conclusions from some scientific documents, there is more than enough research that contradicts her statements and opinions.  I have only listed a small fraction, and only on some of the points she raised.

In fairness, the fields of neurology and neuroscience are vast and rapidly expanding, and it is impossible for one person to cover all of the literature on every subject.  This applies to myself and Dr Leaf.  However, I believe that the information I have read, and referenced from the latest peer-reviewed scholarly works, do not support Dr Leaf’s fundamental premises.  If I am correct, then the strength and validity of Dr Leaf’s published works should be called into question.

As before, I welcome any reply or rebuttal that Dr Leaf wishes to make, which I will publish in full if she requests.  In the interests of healthy public debate, and encouraging people to make their own informed decisions on the teachings of Dr Leaf, any comments regarding the response of Mr Leaf, Dr Leaf or myself, are welcome provided they are constructive.

This is a bit of a lengthy read, but I hope it is worthwhile.

Dear Mr Leaf,

Thank you very much for taking the time out to reply to some of the points raised in my blog.  I am more than happy to publish your response, and to publish any response you wish to make public.

ON INFORMED DECISIONS

I published my blog posts to open up discussion on the statements made by Dr Leaf at the two meetings that I attended at Kings Christian Centre on the Gold Coast.  As you rightly point out, people should be able to make informed decisions.  A robust discussion provides the information required for people to make an informed choice.  Any contributions to this discussion from either yourself or Dr Leaf would be most welcome.

I apologise if you interpreted my blogs as judgemental, or if you believe there are any misunderstandings.  You may or may not have read my final two paragraphs from the third post, in which I acknowledged that I may have misunderstood where she was coming from, but that I would welcome her response.  If there were any misunderstandings, it is likely because Dr Leaf did not make any attempt to reference any of the statements she made on the day.  You may argue that she was speaking to a lay audience, and referencing is therefore not necessary.  However, I have been to many workshops for the lay public by university professors, who have extensively referenced their information during their presentations.  A lay audience does not preclude providing references.  Rather, it augments the speakers authority and demonstrates the depth of their knowledge on the subject at hand.

YOUR DEFENCE

It’s interesting that you feel the need to resort to defence by association, and Ad Hominem dismissal as your primary counter to the points I raised.

Can you clarify how attending the same university as Dr Christaan Barnard, or a Nobel laureate, endorses her arguments or precludes her from criticism?  I attended the University of Queensland where Professor Ian Frazer was based.  He developed the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine and was the 2006 Australian of the Year.  Does that association enhance my argument?

Can you also clarify why a reference from a colleague was preferred to letting Dr Leaf’s statements and conclusions speak for themselves?  Dr Amua-Quarshie’s CV is certainly very impressive, no doubt about that, although he doesn’t list the papers he’s published.  (I’m assuming that to hold the title of Adjunct Professor, he’s published peer-reviewed articles.  Is he willing to list them, for the record?)

Whatever his credentials, his endorsement means very little, since both Dr Leaf and Dr Amua-Quarshie would know from their experience in research that expert opinion is one of the lowest forms of evidence, second worst only to testimonials [1].  Further, both he and Dr Leaf are obviously close friends which introduces possible bias.  His endorsement is noteworthy, but it can not validate every statement made by Dr Leaf.  Her statements should stand up on their own through the rigors of critical analysis.

On the subject of evidence, disparaging your critics is not a substitute for answering their criticism.  Your statement, “By your comments it is obvious that you have not kept up to date with the latest Scientific research” is an assumption that is somewhat arrogant, and ironic since Dr Leaf is content to use superseded references dating back to 1979 to justify her current hypotheses.

DR LEAF’S EVIDENCE

In the blog to which you referred, Dr Leaf makes a number of statements that are intended to support her case.  These include the following.

“A study by the American Medical Association found that stress is a factor in 75% of all illnesses and diseases that people suffer from today.”  She fails to reference this study.

“The association between stress and disease is a colossal 85% (Dr Brian Luke Seaward).”   But again, she fails to reference the quote.

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization has concluded that 80% of cancers are due to lifestyles and are not genetic, and they say this is a conservative number (Cancer statistics and views of causes Science News Vol.115, No 2 (Jan.13 1979), p.23).”  It’s good that she provides a reference to her statement.  However, referencing a journal on genetics from 1979 is the equivalent of attempting to use the land-speed record from 1979 to justify your current preference of car.  The technology has advanced significantly, and genetic discoveries are lightyears ahead of where they were more than three decades ago.

“According to Dr Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief, 2008), gene disorders like Huntington’s chorea, beta thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, to name just a few, affect less than 2% of the population. This means the vast majority of the worlds population come into this world with genes that should enable the to live a happy and healthy life. He says a staggering 98% of diseases are lifestyle choices and therefore, thinking.”  Even if it’s true that Huntingtons, CF etc account for 2% of all illnesses, they account for only a tiny fraction of genetic disease.  And concluding that the remaining 98% must therefore be lifestyle related is overly simplistic.  It ignores the genetic influence on all other diseases, other congenital, and environmental causes of disease.  I will fully outline this point soon.

Similarly, “According to W.C Willett (balancing lifestyle and genomics research for disease prevention Science (296) p 695-698, 2002) only 5% of cancer and cardiovascular patients can attribute their disease to hereditary factors.”  Science is clear that genes play a significant role in the development of cardiovascular disease and most cancers, certainly greater than 5%.  Again, I will discuss this further soon.

“According to the American Institute of health, it has been estimated that 75 – 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems (http://www.stress.org/americas.htm). Some of the latest stress statistics causing illness as a result of toxic thinking can be found at: http://www.naturalwellnesscare.com/stress-statistics.html”  These websites not peer-reviewed, and both suffer from a blatant pro-stress bias.

You’ll also have to forgive my confusion, but Dr Leaf also wrote, “Dr H.F. Nijhout (Metaphors and the Role of Genes and Development, 1990) genes control biology and not the other way around.”  So is she saying that genes DO control development?

EVIDENCE CONTRADICTING DR LEAF

Influence Of Thought On Health

Dr Leaf has categorically stated that “75 to 98% of all illnesses are the result of our thought life” on a number of occasions.  She repeated the same statement in her most recent book so it is something she is confident in.  However, in order to be true, this fact must be consistent across the whole of humanity.

And yet, in a recent peer-reviewed publication, Mara et al state, “At any given time close to half of the urban populations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America have a disease associated with poor sanitation, hygiene, and water.” [2]  Bartram and Cairncross write that “While rarely discussed alongside the ‘big three’ attention-seekers of the international public health community—HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria—one disease alone kills more young children each year than all three combined. It is diarrhoea, and the key to its control is hygiene, sanitation, and water.” [3]  Hunter et al state that, “diarrhoeal disease is the second most common contributor to the disease burden in developing countries (as measured by disability-adjusted life years [DALYs]), and poor-quality drinking water is an important risk factor for diarrhoea.” [4]

Toilets and clean running water have nothing to do with stress or thought.  We live in a society that essentially prevents more than half of our illnesses because of internal plumbing, with additional benefits from vaccination and population screening.  If thoughts have any effect on our health, they are artificially magnified by our clean water and sewerage systems.  Remove those factors and any effects of thought on our health disappear from significance.  Dr Leaf’s assertion that 75 to 98% of human illness is thought-related is a clear exaggeration.

Let me be clear – I understand the significance of stress on health and the economy, but it is not the cause of 75-98% of all illnesses.  I’m not sure if there is a similar study in the US, but the latest Australian data suggests that all psychological illness only counts for 8% of visits to Australian primary care physicians [5].

In terms of cancer, I don’t have time to exhaustively list every cancer but of the top four listed in the review “Cancer Statistics 2013” [6] , here are the articles that list the gene x environment interactions:

  1. PROSTATE – There are only two risk factors for prostate cancer, familial aggregation and ethnic origin. No dietary or environmental cause has yet been identified [7].  It is most likely caused by multiple genes at various loci [8].
  2. BREAST – Genes make up 25% of the risk factors for breast cancer, and significantly interacted with parity (number of children born) [9].
  3. LUNG/BRONCHUS – Lung cancer is almost exclusively linked to smoking, but nicotine addiction has a strong hereditary link (50-75% genetic susceptibility) [10].
  4. COLORECTUM – Approximately one third of colorectal cancer is genetically linked [11].

So the most common cancer is not linked to any environmental factors at all, and the others have genetic influences of 25% to more than 50%.  This is far from being 2% or 5% as Dr Leaf’s sources state.

Also in terms of heart disease, the INTERHEART trial [12] lists the following as significant risk factors, and I have listed the available gene x environment interaction studies that have been done on these too:

  1. HIGH CHOLESTEROL – Genetic susceptibility accounts for 40-60% of the risk for high cholesterol [13].
  2. DIABETES – Genetic factors account for 88% of the risk for type 1 diabetes [14].  There is a strong genetic component of the risk of type 2 diabetes with 62-70% being attributable to genetics [15, 16].
  3. SMOKING – nicotine addiction has a strong hereditary link (50-75% genetic susceptibility) [10].
  4. HYPERTENSION – While part of a much greater mix of variables, genetics are still thought to contribute between 30% and 50% to the risk of developing high blood pressure [17].

So again, while genes are a part of a complex system, it is clear from the most recent evidence that genetics account for about 50% of the risk for cardiovascular disease, which again is a marked difference between the figures that Dr Leaf is using to base her assertions on.

Atrial Natriuretic Peptide

I am aware of research that’s studied the anxiolytic properties of Atrial Natriuretic Peptide.  For example, Wiedemann et al [18] did a trial using ANP to truncate panic attacks.  However, these experiments were done on only nine subjects, and the panic attacks were induced by cholecystokinin.  As such, the numbers are too small to have any real meaning.  And the settling is completely artificial.  Just as CCK excretion does not cause us all to have panic attacks every time we eat, ANP does not provide anxiolysis in normal day to day situations.  Besides, if ANP were really effective at reducing anxiety, then why do people suffering from congestive cardiac failure, who have supraphysiological levels of circulating ANP [19] , also suffer from a higher rate of anxiety and panic disorders than the general population? [20]

The Heart As A Mini-Brain

As for Heartmath, they advance the notion of the heart being a mini-brain to give themselves credibility.  It’s really no different to an article that I read the other day from a group of gut researchers [21] – “‘The gut is really your second brain,’ Greenblatt said. ‘There are more neurons in the GI tract than anywhere else except the brain.’”  The heart as a mini-brain and the gut as a mini-brain are both figurative expressions.  Neither are meant to be taken literally.  I welcome Dr Leaf to tender any further evidence in support of her claim.

Hard-Wired For Optimism

As for being wired for optimism, the brain is likely pre-wired with a template for all actions and emotions, which is the theory of protoconsciousness [22].  Indeed, neonatal reflexes often reflect common motor patterns.  If this is true, then the brain is pre-wired for both optimism and love, but also fear.  This explains the broad role of the amygdala in emotional learning [23] including fear learning.  It also means that a neonate needs to develop both love and fear.

A recent paper showed that the corticosterone response required to learn fear is suppressed in the neonate to facilitate attachment, but with enough stress, the corticosterone levels build to the point where amygdala fear learning can commence [24].  The fear circuits are already present, only their development is suppressed.  Analysis of the cohort of children in the Bucharest Early Intervention Project showed that negative affect was the same for both groups.  However positive affect and emotional reactivity was significantly reduced in the institutionalised children [25].  If the brain is truly wired for optimism and only fear is learned, then positive emotional reactivity should be the same in both groups and the negative affect should be enhanced in the institutionalised cohort.  That the result is reversed confirms that neonates and infants require adequate stimulation of both fear and love pathways to grow into an emotionally robust child, because the brain is pre-wired for both but requires further stimulation for adequate development.

The Mind-Brain Link

If the mind controls the brain and not the other way around as Dr Leaf suggests, why do anti-depressant medications correct depression or anxiety disorders?  There is high-level evidence to show this to be true [26-28].  The same can be said for recent research to show that medications which enhance NDMA receptors have been shown to improve the extinction of fear in anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD [29].

If the mind controls the brain and not the other way around as Dr Leaf suggests, why do some people with acquired brain injuries or brain tumours develop acute personality changes or thought disorders?  Dr Leaf has done PhD research on patients with closed head injuries and treated them in clinical settings according to her CV.  She must be familiar with this effect.

One can only conclude that there is a bi-directional effect between the brain and the stream of thought, which is at odds with Dr Leaf’s statement that the mind controls the brain and not the other way around.

FURTHER CLARIFICATION

One further thing.  Can you clarify which of Dr Leaf’s peer-reviewed articles have definitively shown the academic improvement in the cohort of 100,000 students, as you and your referee have stated?  And can you provide a list of articles which have cited Dr Leaf’s Geodesic Information Processing Model?  Google Scholar did not display any articles that had cited it, which must be an error on Google’s part.  If her theory is widely used as you say, it must have been extensively cited.

I understand that you are both busy, but I believe that I have documented a number of observations, backed by recent peer-reviewed scientific literature, which directly contradict Dr Leaf’s teaching.  I have not had a chance to touch on many, many other points of disagreement.

For the benefit of Dr Leaf’s followers, and for the scientific and Christian community at large, I would appreciate your response.

I would be grateful if you could respond to the points raised and the literature which supports it, rather than an Ad Hominem dismissal or further defense by association.

Dr C. Edward Pitt

REFERENCES

1. Fowler, G., Evidence-based practice: Tools and techniques. Systems, settings, people: Workforce development challenges for the alcohol and other drugs field, 2001: 93-107.

2. Mara, D., et al., Sanitation and health. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(11): e1000363.

3. Bartram, J. and Cairncross, S., Hygiene, sanitation, and water: forgotten foundations of health. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(11): e1000367.

4. Hunter, P.R., et al., Water supply and health. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(11): e1000361.

5. FMRC. Public BEACH data. 2010  16JUL13]; Available from: <http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/fmrc/beach/data-reports/public&gt;.

6. Siegel, R., et al., Cancer statistics, 2013. CA Cancer J Clin, 2013. 63(1): 11-30.

7. Cussenot, O. and Valeri, A., Heterogeneity in genetic susceptibility to prostate cancer. Eur J Intern Med, 2001. 12(1): 11-6.

8. Alberti, C., Hereditary/familial versus sporadic prostate cancer: few indisputable genetic differences and many similar clinicopathological features. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 2010. 14(1): 31-41.

9. Nickels, S., et al., Evidence of gene-environment interactions between common breast cancer susceptibility loci and established environmental risk factors. PLoS Genet, 2013. 9(3): e1003284.

10. Berrettini, W.H. and Doyle, G.A., The CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster in nicotine addiction. Mol Psychiatry, 2012. 17(9): 856-66.

11. Hutter, C.M., et al., Characterization of gene-environment interactions for colorectal cancer susceptibility loci. Cancer Res, 2012. 72(8): 2036-44.

12. Yusuf, S., et al., Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet, 2004. 364(9438): 937-52.

13. Asselbergs, F.W., et al., Large-scale gene-centric meta-analysis across 32 studies identifies multiple lipid loci. Am J Hum Genet, 2012. 91(5): 823-38.

14. Wu, Y.L., et al., Risk factors and primary prevention trials for type 1 diabetes. Int J Biol Sci, 2013. 9(7): 666-79.

15. Ali, O., Genetics of type 2 diabetes. World J Diabetes, 2013. 4(4): 114-23.

16. Murea, M., et al., Genetic and environmental factors associated with type 2 diabetes and diabetic vascular complications. Rev Diabet Stud, 2012. 9(1): 6-22.

17. Kunes, J. and Zicha, J., The interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of hypertension. Physiol Res, 2009. 58 Suppl 2: S33-41.

18. Wiedemann, K., et al., Anxiolyticlike effects of atrial natriuretic peptide on cholecystokinin tetrapeptide-induced panic attacks: preliminary findings. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2001. 58(4): 371-7.

19. Ronco, C., Fluid overload : diagnosis and management. Contributions to nephrology,. 2010, Basel Switzerland ; New York: Karger. viii, 243 p.

20. Riegel, B., et al., State of the science: promoting self-care in persons with heart failure: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 2009. 120(12): 1141-63.

21. Arnold, C. Gut feelings: the future of psychiatry may be inside your stomach. 2013  [cited 2013 Aug 22]; Available from: http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/21/4595712/gut-feelings-the-future-of-psychiatry-may-be-inside-your-stomach.

22. Hobson, J.A., REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2009. 10(11): 803-13.

23. Dalgleish, T., The emotional brain. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2004. 5(7): 583-9.

24. Landers, M.S. and Sullivan, R.M., The development and neurobiology of infant attachment and fear. Dev Neurosci, 2012. 34(2-3): 101-14.

25. Bos, K., et al., Psychiatric outcomes in young children with a history of institutionalization. Harv Rev Psychiatry, 2011. 19(1): 15-24.

26. Arroll, B., et al., Antidepressants versus placebo for depression in primary care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2009(3): CD007954.

27. Soomro, G.M., et al., Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) versus placebo for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2008(1): CD001765.

28. Kapczinski, F., et al., Antidepressants for generalized anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2003(2): CD003592.

29. Davis, M., NMDA receptors and fear extinction: implications for cognitive behavioral therapy. Dialogues Clin Neurosci, 2011. 13(4): 463-74.

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143 thoughts on “Dr Caroline Leaf – Contradicted by the latest research

  1. Pingback: Mac Leaf responds to “Dr Caroline Leaf – Serious Questions, Few Answers” | Dr C. Edward Pitt

  2. Hi Dr Pitt,

    Thanks for being prepared to go on the record to seek clarity from Dr.Leaf in her research and how she communicates it to the world at large.

    You ask lots of good questions, many of which can be addressed by digging through the references that are cited in Dr.Leaf’s books.

    One area that I would pick you up on is relying on citations for medications.
    Virtually all clinical trials that use medications are heavily funded by the companies who have created the medications, leaving the results highly susceptible to bias and influence.

    This article and the links contained should send a chill up every clinical triallists’ spine:

    http://ethicalnag.org/2009/11/09/nejm-editor/

    Other than that, I commend your efforts to ensure Dr.Leaf is following scientific method best practice to the highest possible standard as she publishes her findings.

    • Nathanael,

      Thanks for your comment. I always welcome constructive feedback.

      Just two points:

      1. I have been through many of Dr Leaf’s references. Unfortunately, the vast majority are of extremely poor quality. Some of her references even contradict, rather than support, her arguments.
      2. I may have misunderstood, but if we can’t rely on citations regarding medications, then what is the better alternative? I understand the possible biases in relation to clinical trials, and I agree with you that the results of these trials always have to be considered in light of potential biases. But as far as I am aware, double blinded placebo controlled trials and the meta-analyses of them are still the gold-standard of medical/clinical research. To that end, I have and will continue to use those citations to support my arguments wherever possible. I encourage Dr Leaf to do the same.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      CEP

  3. Dear Dr. Pitt

    Thank you for all your hard work researching and testing the claims of Dr. Leaf.
    I admire your courage.
    Too many people accept things they are told without questioning the authority and reliability of the information they are given and the credentials of the speaker.
    I believe we should be like the Berean Jews who are commended in the Bible for testing what Paul taught them in Acts 17:11 . Paul was an apostle in the early church, had a brilliant mind and was well educated, but they still tested his teaching in light of scripture.
    Thank you,
    Zen

  4. Has Dr. Leaf responded to your correspondence? Thank you for your efforts to hold “truth” to an accountable standard of proper research, accompanied by thorough explanations.

      • my name is greg adams from phoenix. i was very discouraged to find i cant get anything substantial from dr. leaf without buying it. Period. i see her on TBN but that is simply a commercial for her wares. Discouraging. evangreg40.ga@gmail.com

      • Hi Greg. I can understand your frustration. I purchased one of Dr Leaf’s books that I reviewed, and I was given the other as a gift from a relative. I don’t think there are any free copies out there, and any website that claims to have free copies of her books is probably breaching copyright. The best I can suggest is to borrow, either library or friends. The eBooks are less expensive than the printed books, although the page numbers of the quotes probably won’t correlate. In terms of free official information from Dr Leaf, the information on her website is fairly similar to her books, so reviewing her website will give you a good gist of her various hypotheses on thought and stress. I don’t get TBN here in Australia, but having seen a couple of her clips on YouTube, I can’t say they looked particularly informative. Good luck. If you have any specific questions, feel free to post.

      • Good day

        Dr. Caroline Leaf speaks free of charge at churches. I have attended several sessions without paying for it. You can also download the pod-casts of her sermons at big churches; free of charge. I bought a set of DVDs at a church once with 4 hours of teachings. I only had to pay for the cost of the DVD; it was a very small amount.

        We have a monthly Joy magazine in South Africa that publishes her articles.

        So some of her work is free of charge.

      • Hi there Greg

        I forgot the mention. There are some stunning YouTube clips. In fact I have just listed about 15 for a friend this week and there are many more to see. That is free of charge.

        Hope it helps 🙂

      • I trust your motives here which I assume are for the benefit of folks who listen to and study Dr. Leaf’s materials and assertions. I am new to her and the claims she makes, although so much of what she says has been taught by Jesus and Holy Spirit for centuries. I have never been able to examine any peer reviewed studies supporting Jesus’ claims, but am not seeking any. I do assume you have published your credentials and that they are impressive. As a veteran, trained litigator, I am not really impressed by your conversation. Admittedly, I do not possess the knowledge base to evaluate what you or Caroline are saying. I do value Jesus’ instruction to examine fruit. It may be more helpful to review what others say who have adopted or embraced any parts of her teachings. Her apparent humility and the spirit behind her presentations persuade me. More importantly, her apparent love and reverence for the Lord and His people make it very difficult to conclude she is a fraud. To test her positions through the lens of “currently accepted scientific opinion” is unimpressive and does not advance the inquiry very far. I believe you mean well, and do not reject what you have written. Like every good trial lawyer, I am curious about your motives. All in all, as a family law practitioner laboring in a very real world full of suffering, I am not impressed with what modern medicine and science has brought to the table, despite claims of brilliance and intelligence by her detractors. Jesus exhorted us to test every spirit, so I will keep analyzing Dr. Leaf’s assertions, yet with real hope. Bless you as you endeavor to help as well!

  5. I hope all parties keep working towards the discovery of truth and relevance in this matter.
    Faith and science walk uneasy paths together on this road.
    It is delightful to pick up the language of dignity and honor expressed towards each other.
    The main thing to keep clear sight on the common goal is the agenda about informing humanity about physical ,emotional, relational,psychological well being and healing.
    Far too often the issues that come to the surface in these kind of forums of discussion , it becomes blatantly obvious to those ignoramus non academics like myself that ego,pride,prejudice,disdain,arrogance and greed on behalf of both science and faith based ministries.
    So often findings from research or opinions have been enforced upon the Unsuspecting ignoring public only to be updated and proven to be untrue due to the fact that flawed practices were accepted as truth, or that new discoveries and technologies have disproved those long held accepted truths.
    It would be refreshing to all stakeholders if there was an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation of diverse expressions and opinions when debating and discovering these weighty matters.
    Billy woods

    • Hi Billy, thanks for your feedback. I don’t think there are that many “ignoramus non academics” out there, and you’re definitely not one 🙂 . People are hungry for knowledge and are actively seeking truth. My aim is to make sure that all the facts are laid out for all to see, which allows those who are interested in the truth the opportunity to properly weigh the evidence. I agree that greed often gets in the way of the truth. I understand how you feel when you say that, “findings from research or opinions have been enforced upon the Unsuspecting ignoring public only to be updated and proven to be untrue due to the fact that flawed practices were accepted as truth, or that new discoveries and technologies have disproved those long held accepted truths.” Although I should point out that scientific knowledge is not absolute and unchanging, but is being built upon every day as more research is performed. Scientific knowledge, then, is more like a growing child rather than a statue. Those who teach need to stay up to date with the growth and change of knowledge to make sure their students aren’t disadvantaged or left behind. All the best to you.

  6. Hi Dr Pitt,
    Thank you for addressing concerns I have had as a lay person regarding Dr Leaf’s claims. I have lived with chronic pain for over 40 years due to a congenital birth defect and then compounded by injury from a bad car accident. It is truly painful when well meaning brothers or sisters in Christ want to ‘help’ me by referring me to people like Dr Leaf. I have had extensive treatment at excellent chronic pain centers, have a great team of doctors and therapists, and have had medical professionals comment over and over about my high levels of optimism and joy. Directly related to Jesus, praise God! So does this effect my pain levels? Of course it does, BUT does it eradicate my pain levels on a ‘bad’ day? Of course it does not! My hope is that we will understand that Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world”. How do I learn to find joy in the midst of adversity, if I think all I need to do is rewire my thought process? How do I learn about God’s strength, God’s power, God’s provision, if I don’t come to a place of complete reliance on Him? If I continue to try to change my circumstances because they are hard or painful, then I miss Who God is in my current circumstance. So thank you for addressing the concerns I have as a patient when I see tremendous pitfalls and discouragement for those who are suffering from chronic illness and already struggling to find joy and peace in the midst of tremendously difficult circumstances.

    • Hi Pam, thank you so much for your comment. And thank you for your openness and honesty about your situation. Your depth of insight into your situation shows a lot of wisdom, and your joy in the face of daily, sometimes debilitating chronic pain shows amazing fortitude and bravery. That you can honour God in spite of your circumstance demonstrates a remarkable spiritual strength and depth. So I want to honour you for that, and encourage you to keep persevering.

      The new psychological therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy show that one can change ones behaviour, manage distress, improve pain etc in spite of ones thoughts and circumstances. Dr Leaf is well-meaning I’m sure, as are all of those who have tried to help you by referring you to Dr Leaf’s teaching. Unfortunately Dr Leaf teaches from an old, now superseded theory. In fairness, she isn’t the only one. The notion that negative thinking is the cause of all of our problems is a hangover from the 1950’s. It’s folk-psychology, but it’s still widely held.

      Your situation and attitude reminds me a bit of Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12: “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” God’s grace is with us every day, but it’s in our weaknesses that it shines through the most. I think that’s why you’ve had so many comments about your optimism and joy. You may be weak, but that means that you can display God’s strength and grace all the more.

      I pray for God to continue to strengthen you, and that your joy and spiritual maturity would become a witness for those who don’t know Jesus yet, and an example for those Christians who find themselves in a similar situation. God bless you! CEP.

  7. Thank you for posting this, Dr. Pitt. I was directed to Dr. Leaf, and was disturbed by some of her claims, as a Christian, as an RN and as a person who has needed professional mental health services at times during my life. You addressed my questions, and provided a good counterpoint to Dr. Leaf’s simplistic ideas.

  8. Hello Dr Pitt
    Dr Leaf came to my attention via a Facebook post. I went to her site and was in utter disbelief at the bold and ground breaking claims she was making, none of which was substantiated by any citations (in fact I found myself yelling at the screen). I am only a first year psychology student, but if I put forward claims like that without adequate citations or references in anything I submitted, my tutors would cut me to pieces. I did check her reference list and many of her references are the bible. It actually really irks me that people can get away with sprinkling a bit of science in amongst a bunch of pseudo-science, then rely on the ‘appeal to authority’ of the audience to ensure the information is accepted without question.

    cheers for the article

    Richard

    • Hi Richard, thanks for your feedback. You’re spot on about the importance of citations. That Dr Leaf is able to get away with making outlandish, unscientific claims is because most church people are reluctant to speak out against a popular leader, and most church leaders don’t want to listen either. But if Dr Leaf has sufficiently raised your ire, I encourage you to tell your friends of your concerns, and also raise your concerns with the National Executive of the church denomination that you attend. If enough people stand up for scientific integrity, the church leaders, and Dr Leaf herself, will eventually have to take note. Thanks for your feedback, and good luck with your studies.

  9. Dear Dr Pitt

    Thank-you for your article. I too am someone who will judge everything/spirit. Because of my experiences with abuse and miss-treatments from our fellowman in all its forms from parents to dr’s, pastors, psychiatrists, physiologists, I have learned to take everything with a pinch a salt. Humbly – Even your article.

    I have learned that everyone’s “theory” is flawed, and all to often to the detriment of other’s like myself, who have not had the opportunity to add titles to our names, so receive the good that I can from what others are willing to share from their studies and life experience.

    What I appreciated and kept me reading your article was your humility and genuine desire to know the truth. (Peoples attitudes displayed here like that of Richard just irritate me and switch me off to their opinion).

    I will be 46 this year, and through all of life’s experiences, I have only ever found the Bible to be the constant foundation through everything I have had to endure, all other findings, theories, as Dr Caroline Leaf herself calls it, I treat it like an added bonus to help understanding the Bible and Gods meaning to scripture.

    She is obviously reaching out to a modern society, not a third world, poverty stricken people who suffer terribly with other serious concerns. Obviously her book would be of little value there. She’s reaching out to a society with very different kind of poverty and pollution – of the heart and mind, who are trapped in very stressful situations and lifestyles, plagued by a bombardment of theories that feed atheistic ideas that are intent on discrediting the Bible and rob people of what little hope they may have left.

    Christians like Dr Caroline Leaf, Ken Ham and so many others who have invest their time, risked their good names, all to linking science and Biblical doctrine should be held higher in esteem, prayed for and encouraged and not ripped apart by fellow believers because they doubt their theory, expect their life’s work for free or because it doesn’t work for them. They are already, I am sure of it, facing enough of that by atheists.

    If people like her can get Christians to finally think right it will change society all together and it will be a benefit to the rest of the world. Why discredit her theory? Lets stand together, take the good and give honor where it is due.

    humbly
    Natasha

    • Hi Natasha, thanks for your heartfelt comment, and your complement.

      If you’ve perceived that my work is to destroy her ministry and reputation, then I apologise to you, and others of a similar mind. It’s not my intention to criticise Dr Leaf personally. However, it’s imperative to think critically about Dr Leaf’s many theories and teachings. As you correctly say, there’s no perfect theory, which is why we need to have robust discussions about them, whether they’re Ken Ham’s, Dr Leaf’s, or indeed, my own.

      I think it’s dangerous to give someone a free pass just because they’re a Christian leader. Scientific integrity is an important witness to the community. We also have the Biblical imperative to “question everything, and to hold on to the good”. And we have a duty of care towards our fellow Christians to ensure that teaching from the pulpit is not potentially harmful. Personally, I think that we shouldn’t be leaving it to non-Christians to check our facts for us. We should be strong enough to do that ourselves.

      Thanks again for your openness and willingness to share your opinion.

      • Dear Dr Leaf

        Thank You for posting my comment and for your answer.

        I agree 100% with you. I have become someone who questions everything. I am busy studying her work for myself and as you say it is very difficult to go through all discoveries and theories to find the truth or fact. That is why I appreciate research like yours.

        But, I must add that her work was brought to my attention because Christian leaders are approving her work and confirming her work based on Biblical scripures.

        My experience with the medical field even with Drs claiming to be Christian and believe in miracles has been in some cases very disappointing and my research about it has disappointed me further.

        I too have been diagnose with mental illness (after answering a 15/20 point questionnaire and then within 30min discussion with a physiatrist) I trusted these people with my life but my family and I suffered even more for 3 years further while I was on all sorts of different medications… but then God stepped in… I discovered, in my experiences and research, that the medical field also has its hiccups with diagnoses, medications and researches, and can be just as unreliable and harmful as any other theory out there. Unlike Dr Leaf, I perceive that many Drs no longer have the time to work through peoples issues and prefer to hand out all sorts of meds as if they are a quick fix rather than deal with root issues, masking the real trauma people suffer in this world.

        The temptation to rather take meds than deal with issues is also great. We live in a world that has forgotten the art of self reflection, self discipline and spiritual communion with one another and our God and prefer the quick fix. Many times I would rather go back on meds than deal with the issues, but I have only discovered that they have cause more harm than good and we as a family still bare the scares of that experience.

        So, what I am saying is that finally there is a Dr who is willing to put her credible theory out there to help people like me who would rather deal with issues, fix them according to Gods word, linking it with credible scientific findings. It restores hope, that one no longer have to rely only on meds and mans diagnoses and theories, manipulated into take all sorts of different pills handed out like expensive candy.

        I am sure there are more Drs who do care and do their best to help relieve society’s modern mental sufferings but it has not been my experience.

        Warm Regards
        Natasha

      • Thanks for your courage in sharing Natasha. I’m sorry the medical profession didn’t help you in your time of need. I empathise with your pain and distress. Both I and my family have been through a lot because of my mental health problems. In the end, I didn’t take medications for my depression, but not because I don’t think they work. The treatment for any illness, mental illness included, is getting the right tool for the right diagnosis for the right person at the right time.

        In my experience on the prescribing end of the relationship, I can tell you that there are many people that respond amazingly well to anti-depressants, just as there are a number of people that do not. There are also just as many people that who seek a medication because they have had no success or have had difficulty with counselling, and there are people who do not want medication under any circumstances. Sometimes, there are some people that will need medication before the counselling is successful. So while I agree with you that we should be looking to fix underlying issues rather than just mask the symptoms with a pill, in my broader experience and my understanding of the science, sometimes the underlying issue is primarily biological, and while counselling helps, sometimes the pills are the key. Yes, they have side effects, but so does poorly treated depression and anxiety. Medications should always be used holistically, as one part of the broader treatment. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m very glad that you have found what works for you, and I understand that medications weren’t right for you. But they are useful in the right circumstances for the right people.

        Going back to your earlier points, I’m yet to find any of Dr Leaf’s work to be confirmed with scripture, even the ones that she quotes in her books. If you have any articles on Dr Leaf’s work being confirmed by scripture, please forward it through, I’d love to see them.

        And Dr Leaf is not a medical doctor. She has a PhD in communication pathology (a combination of speech pathology and audiology). Whether Dr Leaf’s theories are credible, well, I don’t think they are, but if you consider all of her teaching and my response and you believe that her teachings are worthwhile, then that’s fine. I have no problem with people agreeing with Dr Leaf if they have taken the time to examine all of the evidence first.

        All the best to you as you seek the truth.

      • Dear Dr Pitt
        Thank you for your response and taking the time out to answer me.

        I do agree, when it comes to certain medications, that what works for one does not necessarily work for others. But in my experience, (I am an avid Bible student for over 30 years and involved in ministry) the Bible works for everyone – period. No matter your race, culture, gender or age. It is the only thing that works. If people will finally stop, throwing the Bible on the floor, trying to find other solutions to their problems, but instead devote their attention to good, solid, biblical teachings that lead you to a surrendered, devoted heart and completely devoted to Jesus and His way, (I am not talking about religion but a lifestyle in relationship with his/her creator) they will soon find that they no longer need medication for a stable emotional life. There are many humanistic theologies out there that try to discredit Biblical theology of which, none “hold any water.”

        I am not sure where you stand when it comes to Christianity, but I do not believe it is my place to convince you of anything. We can argue about Dr Caroline Leafs PhD’s, experiences, convictions, and successes in her practice, medical findings and science until the end of time. I honestly am not interested in scientific findings discrediting other scientific findings, Honestly, I am not qualifies to do so in anyway. But I am interested in scientific findings affirming Biblical truths which cause a deeper awareness of how awesome our God is. But I can assure you she is spot on when it comes to how we think, and what we meditate on will eventually comes out of our mouths and become action and it does affect our lives, the people around us and affect us down to our very DNA. This Theory stands strong and is supported by the Bible. It is worth the study and practice.

        I can add verse after verse from the Bible and share explanation after explanation trying to convince you, but you do not even see the connection from Dr Leafs findings so I am not sure how what I quote will help. I believe, as I have done for myself in trying to figure things out that you have to take the time with God for yourself and ask Him to reveal the truth to you personally with a heart willing to receive from Him. It is not my or anyone’s job to convince you of anything only the Holy Spirit can do that as you take the time and effort in seeking it out. “Seek and you will find…Knock and it will be opened…” You being learned will more than likely come too far more amazing revelation that I can…

        Most people who doubt any theory will research it with the objective to discrediting it rather than with the objective to affirm it and will only see what they want to see. This is a hard lesson I have had to learn and have had to re-adjust my attitude if I want to know the truth. Just remember when studying scripture…

        The Golden Rule:
        IF YOU TAKE A BIBLICAL TEXT OUT OF ITS CONTEXT ALL YOU’RE LEFT WITH IS A CON.

        Warm Regards
        Natasha

        PS you may appreciate Dr Larry Crabb’s books.

      • Hi Natasha

        I think we agree more than we disagree. Obviously, there are a few small points where our opinions diverge. I respect your opinion but this discussion could end up going back and forth for months, so I’m going to make this comment the last in this exchange.

        Though to wrap things up, I want to say again that I admire your heart, obvious love for God, and commitment to seeking God’s truth in all things. And I’ve written the ‘golden rule’ in my book of favourite quotes … I think that’s an excellent idiom.

        I think you should be wary in claiming that if people “devote their attention to good, solid, biblical teachings that lead you to a surrendered, devoted heart and completely devoted to Jesus and His way … they will soon find that they no longer need medication for a stable emotional life”. I understand you’re coming from your personal experience and belief in the power of the Bible, and your motivations are honourable. However, the flip side of your belief is that Christians who do not have a stable emotional life or who need medications for their mental illness are spiritually deficient. Sometimes you can become depressed or anxious despite being close to God. There are many heroes in the Bible, like Moses, David, Elijah, who all went through episodes of emotional turmoil, despite being men of great faith. Personally I know of a number of people, one a very strong, devout Christian man, who became depressed and required medication. We are broken people living in a broken world. We should not consider Christians who need medications for mental illness to be any less spiritual or devoted than Christians who need medications for physical illness.

        For the record, I am a born-again Christian, spirit-filled, brought up in sunday school and Christian schools, and over the years, I have served the churches I have attended in nearly every way I could, from children’s ministry to the eldership. I believe in the Bible, which is the inspired word of God. My heart has always been to build the church. In this season, I’m advocating for a higher standard of scientific truth from those who would use science to promote their ‘ministry’. If that means that Dr Leaf’s teachings are held up to the hard light of day, scientifically and theologically, then so be it. Dr Leaf is welcome to respond, but at this point, she has declined to do so.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether Dr Leaf’s teachings really show that science is affirming the Bible or not. I know you think they do, and you’re welcome to your opinion. In my opinion, I have not seen any evidence that Dr Leaf’s teaching is anything other than a distortion of old psychological theories, mixed with misinterpretation of good science and scriptures stripped of their context. As you so rightly said, ‘if you take a Biblical text out of its context, all you’re left with is a con’.

        God bless you as you continue to serve him.

      • Hi Cecil. Thanks for taking the time to share. So, by your logic, I’m assuming that you’d also back the reintroduction of thalidomide, because it helped thousands of women with their morning sickness.

        It’s good that many people feel that Dt Leaf has helped them, but that doesn’t change the fact that it may harm others, or change its scientific and Biblical accuracy.

        All the best to you.

      • There is one thing that I have come to know….spirit can be felt even over a computer screen. The creator of this blog has strong negative feelings towards this doctor. Its as if he knocks down EVERYTHING she has to offer.
        Now the Word says that Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
        All of those that you mentioned that had mental issues were because of sin….we all do it……..Look back on all of those men and you will see the sin that brought on that state of mind.
        I had to start taking some responsibility for my mental state. Yes, I was harmed and wronged but my Mind would dwell in it, causing me to bring up these feelings, which caused a physiological reaction in my body. I believe that demonic forces have some part in it as well.
        Is she not trying to help her fellow sisters a brothers….
        I do hate that she ask for money for everything. If she was to simply ask for donations instead of selling her materials I believe that she would be blessed with more than she already receives!

      • Hi Kateer,

        Thanks for sharing your opinion. You’re welcome to judge this blog, and me personally, however you like. If you think I have strong negative feelings towards Dr Leaf, then you’re welcome to your interpretation. Though …

        1. Before you jump to conclusions, I would encourage you to review my entire work and judge it on its content, not your personal appraisal of its tone.
        2. I don’t “knock down EVERYTHING she has to offer”. Science does that.

        I’ve certainly tried to be as fair as I can be on this blog, including my approach to Dr Leaf. But this blog isn’t a sycophantic Dr Leaf love fest – Dr Leaf has lots of space on social media for that. I’m not here to reinvent the wheel. If you want to read how wonderful people think Dr Leaf is, just go to her Facebook page. There are plenty of positive comments there since Dr Leaf doesn’t allow any negative ones. My blog allows for an open discussion on Dr Leafs work – good, bad, or ambivalent.

        As I wrote in reply to a previous comment, it may be all well and good to try and help, but if that ‘help’ actually harms, it doesn’t matter how good the intentions are, harm is still done.

        Dr Leaf might have the best intentions in the world, and I have never questioned her motives. I only question the quality and the validity of her teaching, because teaching someone the wrong thing with the best of intentions is still teaching the wrong thing.

        All the best to you.

  10. After attending a week’s worth of classes at Pleasant Valley Church in Thomaston, GA, I can see the connection between what they teach and what Dr. Leaf teaches. She is likely referring to chronic diseases as the ones connected to happening due to our thought life and/or the thoughts of previous generations in family, etc. It all does make sense to me. Check out PV Church’s Be in Health program (better yet, attend; it’s totally worth it and biblically based) and you’ll get a better glimpse of all all.

    • Monterey, thanks for your input. I’m not familiar with the classes at Pleasant Valley Church, and its a bit far to go since I’m in Australia.

      Dr Leaf has repeatedly stated, in her books, and in her blogs, that “75 to 98 percent of mental and physical illness comes from ones thought life”. She doesn’t specify further. Thus, there is no conclusion other than she is referring to the broadest range of human illness. Even if she was talking about chronic illnesses alone, there is more than enough evidence to show that the vast majority of chronic illnesses have a predominant genetic component, with environmental factors beyond our control making up a significant proportion of the rest. I cover these topics in more detail in my book (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11), specifically Chapters 9, 10 and 12. I’m happy to be corrected if I have missed something.

      It’s good that Christians want to think the best of people, and it’s commendable that you’re looking for the best in Dr Leaf’s teaching. But Dr Leaf is presenting herself as a scientist, which has a higher standard of accountability compared to the average lay preacher, and so she needs to convey her conclusions accurately so that there is no ambiguity.

      Thanks again for sharing your point of view.

  11. There is little to be gained by arguing about the percentage of disease that results from thoughts and beliefs, does not the Bible tell us to focus on the good, to renew our minds, to be a living sacrifice? (Phil 4:4-8, Rom. 12:1-2, Isa. 26:3, Mk. 11:23-24 and so many more.) For as you grow, your faith should grow, as did Abram’s and then, as Abraham he experienced great wonders and was used launch redemption into the course of human history. Of course, it is natural to dismiss as impractical or irrelevant the actions and claims in the Bible and the lives of believers who turn the world upside down. It seems to me that a study of hope, faith and how things are created and held in place would divide the camp of people willing to accept or reject what Dr. Caroline Leaf is saying into two basic camps:

    1) One camp that accepts or is willing to accept that the New Covenant is a greater one than the old in providing physical, emotional, financial, relational, etc. healing, restoration, or prosperity,

    and another camp that

    2) rejects the premise of the first, saying that we don’t know God’s will in general and some of whom will make a case that God makes sickness or disease, poverty or lack of some good to be the lot of a person, because He is teaching them something.

    The first group is more willing to believe the promise of good and not bring to full manifestation the fruit of their beliefs in their lives, thus being an object of proof for why we should not accept these good things, rather than to examine the problems of incoherence in the life of the believer with that which is taught or promoted by them. I have seen my own willingness to believe the good, yet not walking out in it. The second group gives us the example of never attaining to the out of this world promise of good, as they don’t believe that God has promised it. The idea is a little like if you shoot for the stars and land on the moon, you are still further along the path of growth than those who don’t believe that the stars are for them and would not even shoot for them or the moon.

    The thing that will matter most in your life, those of your loved ones and your role in the Kingdom of God is the openness of your heart to receive God’s hope for you in the here and now. The religious people rejected the One whom they said that they awaited. Even one of the Zealot group, Judas Iscariot, tried to make God in his own doctrine and it was said that Satan entered his heart, that he was serving Satan’s plan of Kill, Steal, Destroy….

    If one learns to hear the leading of the LORD and to walk by His Spirit, it will typically run contrary to the habits, selfish interests and teachings of mankind. May you be blessed with a spirit of wisdom and revelation into the deep and intimate knowledge of God and His power and come to a deeper and more intimate knowledge of and experience of that power, the same power that was expressed in Christ when he was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father and is waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool by you entering into and exercising the power and authority that He gave you to employ in your calling of being an ambassador of the Kingdom of God charged with preaching the gospel to every creature, reconciling the world to God through Christ!

    Will you proceed in life looking for opportunities of how the goodness of God will be expressed or be more focused on the reasons that the hardship of your reality should persist? You can learn in either pathway, choose wisely.

    As for me, I don’t take most so-called research very seriously unless I read the parameters by which they will derive conclusions, as I frequently find that there are gaping holes in research projects. This is the problem with proceeding through life only from knowledge in trying to predict the outcome of complicated systems. The weakness of knowledge for the empiricist is that it only recognizes as true what is currently thought to be known. The conundrum that the complications of trying to reduce systems as complex as human health, prosperity, growing healthy crops, and so on on is incomprehensibly complex such that when new experience and knowledge is introduced, only tentative adjustments, not dogmatic final declarations may reasonably be made. The best denial of a causal relationship can only be put off for validation as more knowledge trickles in, building confidence in the causal factor.

    Mankind, as crab-kind, seem to be self down-regulating in that as crabs being harvested for dinner need only to be placed in a bucket without a lid because the crab that takes in mind to climb out of the bucket and escape being your dinner will be pulled back into the bucket of dinner destiny instead of being allowed to show a way of escape. For the crab, what is the problem if he gets out of the bucket only to be picked up and placed back in by the fisherman? At least the crab made a positive action for preserving his life. Yes, there could be several problems with this analogy, but superficially it has some good applications if we count ourselves as the crab. Similarly mankind systematically rejects a new hopeful idea such as experienced by Dr. Semmelweis when he tried to get doctors to wash their hands after doing autopsies before seeing other patients, especially to deliver babies.

    The down-regulating that I see in mankind is that of rejecting the great hope of great life which means great change that the Great Creator God offers from His Great Love for His Crown of Creation, you. Instead of picking out why the great good can not be realized in your life, you may achieve a great more goodness by focusing your mind on redemption and its wonder-filled possibilities: gratefulness, thanksgiving, confession of good things, implanting of good and positive thoughts into your mind as you open-handedly offer yourself to the use of the Great Designer who is calling for a closer, loving and trusting relationship with you as you identify in Christ rather than in your fallen nature.

    I have been blessed to see this attitude do so-called impossible improvements in the health and bodies of personal friends and have heard testimonials of the same in those I don’t personally know. Look at what the Bible says in places like Mark 11:23-24 and we see that there is a fundamental difference in what the Bible relates from what society relates as the way to live life. It is things like this in the lives of the newly born again, spirit-filled believers of the first century after Christ’s resurrection that caused those observing to complain that these Christians were “turning the world upside down” reflecting that the paradigm of pagan worship and living was shaken from its very foundations, challenging the livelihoods and lifestyles of its adherents.

    My goal is to “eat the hay and spit out the sticks” for any teaching. In light of the Semmelweis Effect of the so-called “authorities” or “enlightened ones” of the day, I don’t put high value on the credentials of the establishment, rather into judging, discerning, examining what is said and willing to grasp onto that which is good, glorifying of God, and with hope of redemption.

    This post got a lot longer than I wanted it to, and I still didn’t develop the ideas as much as I would like, but it is in the spirit of let’s all grow up into the mature, faith-filled, believers in Christ that we are called to be, confronted with views that will hopefully spurn us on to good works springing from faith, and the leading of God’s spirit spirit rather than the works of the flesh, no matter how good they are promoted as being—whether surgery or positive confessions.

    • Michael,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your views. I read the comment a few times but I’m still not sure what you exact point was, so I apologise if my reply isn’t addressing what you were intending to convey.

      Most of what you say is fine … I don’t disagree with most of your Biblical views, though I disagree with a few of your statements and assumptions, things that I think are critical to approaching Dr Leaf’s teaching.

      The Bible does indeed tell us to focus on the good, renew our minds, be a living sacrifice etc, but in order to do that effectively, we need to use critical thinking, or in Christian parlance, discernment. Paul encourages us to “question everything, hold on to the good” (1 Thess 5:21). If Dr Leaf wishes to stand on a pulpit and teach that 75 to 98% of diseases are related to our thought life, then this should be tested to confirm if it is indeed the truth. Whether Dr Leaf should make such claims in the first place is something that you would have to discuss with her.

      Half way through your comment, you made a statement, “Will you proceed in life looking for opportunities of how the goodness of God will be expressed or be more focused on the reasons that the hardship of your reality should persist? You can learn in either pathway, choose wisely.” In my opinion, this is a false dichotomy. We are sanctified at the moment of our salvation, but we are not suddenly prosperous and healed. The Bible says that we are “being changed into his image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18), and even the Apostle Paul wrote “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)

      Indeed, it is in our brokenness where the goodness of God has the most opportunity to shine through. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers, have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

      It is in our weaknesses that we come to know, and simultaneously demonstrate God’s strength. Paul (again) wrote these famous words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

      The goodness of God will be expressed through the hardships of my reality. There is no reason why I can’t fulfil the calling of God on my life just because I’m broken. Indeed, I would go so far to say that I will fulfil the calling of God on my life because I understand that I’m broken.

      You’re right in being wary of “research”, but again, good research illuminates the truth, not obfuscates it. We are called to use our discernment/critical thinking so that good research isn’t tossed out with the bad, because science is still critical to the further expansion of our knowledge, and indeed, to the ultimate worship of God as creator. I like the words of Prof William H. Bragg, awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915, “From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”

      You spoke of Semmelweis as an example of how mankind rejects new hopeful ideas. If anything, the example of Semmelweis proves the point that we should not simply rely on “expert” opinion, but on the results of good science, even if those results appear to challenge our implicit assumptions. Dr Leaf’s teaching follows the accepted assumptions that if we think positive and do not think negatively, then our lives will improve. However this is not backed up by the evidence. So why is the Christian church still allowing her to teach this from the pulpit?

      There are a number of other presumptive statements that you made, but in the interests of time and space, I will summarise by saying that I am doing what I am doing because I love Jesus, and I love the church, his bride. It pains me to see Christians gullibly follow every shiny new teaching. I believe that Dr Leaf is not teaching good science nor good theology, and I am willing to stand up for what I think is right, even if that leads some to think that I’m wrong. Hey, I’m not trying to win arguments. If people consider both Dr Leaf’s teachings and my critique, and still side with Dr Leaf, then that’s fine. But the critique needs to be made, or else there is no true choice.

      All the best to you.

  12. Dear Dr Pitt,

    Thank you for your thorough study on Dr Caroline Leaf’s citations.
    It’s actually something I wished to do but put aside after praying.

    I studied Biomedical Science for my bachelor’s degree and worked in the area of genome and cancer research for 3.5 years. I had two decent research publications as first and co-first author. I used to be very interested in Neuroscience but for many reasons, did not have the chance to study neuroscience for PhD and eventually left research field. For anyone with my background, scientific references are essential to convince.

    Diagnosed with Depression in 2009 and later Bipolar II in 2010, I experienced quite a number of relapses of depression, even after I accepted Christ in Jan 2010.

    1) Does anti-depressants or mood stabilisers help?
    – With my understanding of control experiments etc, I would say “it is unlikely”.
    – My first hypomania which leads to my diagnosis of Bipolar II was very likely due to antidepressant

    2) Does God’s scriptures help?
    – Every time I experienced breakthroughs from my depressive episode, it was actually scriptures/worship that lifted me up.

    Conclusion?
    1) from statistics point of view, sample size too small, n = 1.
    2) from pharmacology perspective, there are human variabilities towards responses to any medicine.
    3) from Bible perspective, His word is best medicine.

    Now, back to Dr Leaf’s teaching.

    I watched an episode about her teaching on brain toxicity in end 2012. I heard about her 21 Day Brain Detox program but did not make any purchase. Not that I was not convinced, but I did not

    In early Feb 2015, while in another depressive episode, I came over one of her seminars (2014.7.27) on Youtube. It made a difference. Together with other incidences that point me back to Jesus, I decided to take a look at her 21 Day Brain Detox program.

    Just like what you did, I looked at the reference list – all too back-dated, highly subject to cientific critics.

    However, it also came to me that I need to make a decision: Do I rely on my own literature review of recent scientific research, or give a try to the 21 Day Brain Detox Program?

    I prayed and decided to subscribe to her online program that cost 29 USD,

    I recently completed the first cycle and I give thanks to God that I was lead to subscribe to the program. Over the 21 day program, I noticed that the particular negative thought i was working on for that cycle (only one negative thought at a time for one 21-Day cycle) became less and less frequent.

    I’m not here to make any comments, but just to share a little bit of life experience.
    Yes, again, sample size is too small.
    Besides I did no literature review of her studies.

    I shall end my post with these verses:

    Isaiah 55:8-9
    8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
    9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways,
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

    1 Corinthians 1: 21
    21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

    God bless you.

    • Dear Yuqing,

      Thanks for your very humble and sincere comment.

      Let me start by saying that I’m very happy that you have experienced improvement in your symptoms and that your condition is no longer as severe.

      As the Paul exhorts us (Romans 12:15), “Rejoice with those who rejoice …”. In many ways, it doesn’t matter how you have improved, but that you have improved. I understand that there are many people that will be in the same position as you – many have testified that Dr Leaf’s teaching has helped them through some dark places, and for that, we should be grateful.

      However, I am a pragmatic sceptic. While I’m sincerely happy for your improvement, there are many variables in play here. Dr Leaf promotes herself as a scientific expert, and states that her ‘research’ shows that ‘science is finally catching up with the Bible.’ Thus, it’s not enough that she should be judged according to anecdotes, but according to the science. As you say, her references are out of date, and I would argue, also misinterpreted by Dr Leaf. If her foundational science is wrong, then her teaching is also wrong, and in my opinion, should be dismissed, along with her claim that she is an expert.

      In Australia, our National Health and Medical Research Council recently reviewed the science behind homeopathy and concluded that there was no conclusive scientific evidence that homeopathy was an effective treatment for any condition (https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/cam02a_information_paper.pdf), but there are millions of people around the world that think that it is effective. So should homeopathy be supported just because people think it does good? As the NHMRC wrote, “Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.” Homeopathy probably does more harm than good, because those who choose homeopathy often decline to use effective treatments, and then there is the financial cost of spending money on something that for all intents and purposes, is a sham.

      I think that Dr Leaf’s teachings could be considered in the same way. There will be a number of people that will ascribe benefits to her teaching, but that doesn’t mean that the science behind her teaching is sound, nor does it mean that there is not more harm that good being done by her teaching – those who subscribe to her recommendations may miss out on more effective treatments, while spending precious resources on something that may be nothing more than a slickly presented placebo.

      I understand that there are many people out there who would make the same argument about psychotropic drugs. I have been working in medicine for long enough to know that SSRI’s and mood stabilisers do not work for everyone, and I’m sorry that they did not work in your particular case (or as you say, may have made you worse). However, broadly speaking, medications are more effective than placebo, but like any powerful tool, should be used with appropriate caution, and medications are only one part of a broader treatment regime, which should always include psychological treatment.

      In summation, I want to say again that I am happy that you have found significant improvement in your condition. If you feel that Dr Leaf’s program is doing you good, then feel free to continue. I do not want you to feel as though I am criticising you personally, because I certainly don’t want to downplay your improvement. As I said before, I remain a pragmatic sceptic. But being sceptical, I will continue to voice my concerns about Dr Leaf’s scientific and Biblical basis for her ministry. And as you rightly point out, we all have to trust in the wisdom that God gives us to lead us to the ultimate truth in Jesus.

      All the best to you.

      • Thank you Dr Pitt for your detailed reply.
        Not to worry, I did not have any impression of being criticised personally when I was reading your reply.

        1)
        “those who subscribe to her recommendations may miss out on more effective treatments, while spending precious resources on something that may be nothing more than a slickly presented placebo.”

        My two cents:

        – If depression is due to hormone imbalance or other medication, anti-depressants could be effective. Otherwise, a change of mind/thoughts could be more effective.

        – From my understanding, the myth behind anti-depressants are largely unresolved too. Research on the effects of antidepressants are largely clinical rather than scientific. To me, clinical research is very different from scientific research.

        – Clinical studies on anti-depressants do not really produce consistent results.

        – The clinical study of the effect of anti-depressants is based on the assumption that all other conditions are equal, which is however questionable. Some patients may be getting help from counselling, family and friends, or religion while others don’t.

        – There are too many unknowns in neuroscience and neuroscience itself evolves over the years.

        – In my opinion, if references of a study are “out of date”, it’s better for the readers to do some literature review first instead of making any positive or negative conclusion about that study directly.

        – Since you are implying that Dr Leaf’s method may be nothing more than a slickly presented placebo, is there any scientific proof that her study may be a slickly presented placebo?

        2)
        Because of my scientific training and research background, diagnosis and personal journey with the Lord after I accepted Christ in Jan 2010, I have always been interested in finding out more about Bible scripture based remedy that helps people to get out of depression and the science behind it.

        Though Dr Leaf’s teaching may sound scientifically weak to some people, I am actually interested in well designed research with the objective to identify the neuroscience behind her method that work for many people. So far, I have only accessed some of her sermons that are available on YouTube, and her 21 Day Brain Detox Program. Do you know any institutes or laboratories that are doing such research or have the capacity to carry out such studies?

        3)
        From what i have read so far on your blog, I had the impression that your focus is on the scientific basis though others have made comments on the biblical basis of her teaching.

        May I know whether you would have concerns about Dr Leaf’s Biblical basis for her ministry? Sorry if it has already been covered in your blog.

        Thanks for your time.

        God bless you.

      • Hi Yuqing,

        I appreciate your time in considering both Dr Leaf’s teaching and my critique equally and objectively. I’ll try and answer each of your intelligent, considered questions as best I can.

        1. Antidepressants and the neurobiology of depression — I understand that there is a lot of conjecture about anti-depressants recently. Part of the problem is that the “chemical imbalance” hypothesis of depression has been replaced by the neurotrophic hypothesis – there is evidence that depression is probably caused by absolute or relative deficiencies in synaptic growth, and that SSRI’s help with depression by enhancing the action of BDNF and other neurotrophic factors which assists the brain in forming the correct synaptic pathways to enable adequate emotional and rewards processing. The neurobiology of depression is complicated, but I suggest that you read the paper by Palazidou (Palazidou, E., The neurobiology of depression. Br Med Bull, 2012. 101: 127-45 doi: 10.1093/bmb/lds004). There are other links that I could share, but given the limited space in this context, I will only include one more which I think is very pertinent to the discussion on anti-depressants, from Karatsoreos and McEwen, “Importantly, low BDNF may be a key feature of the depressive state, and elevation of BDNF by diverse treatments ranging from antidepressant drugs, such as fluoxetine, to regular physical activity may be a key feature of treatment. A growing view is that such treatments may “reopen” windows of plasticity, and effectively provide a means to engage plasticity systems that can help ameliorate depressive moods by altering the neural pathways that underlie them. Such drugs may also increase plasticity more generally, as the recently reported ability of fluoxetine to enhance recovery from stroke suggests. However, a key aspect of this new view is that, while such drugs open these “windows of opportunity”, the effects will only be capitalized on by a positive behavioral intervention, e.g. behavioral therapy in the case of depression or on intensive physiotherapy to promote neuroplasticity to counteract the effects of a stroke.” (Karatsoreos, I.N. and McEwen, B.S., Resilience and vulnerability: a neurobiological perspective. F1000Prime Rep, 2013. 5: 13 doi: 10.12703/P5-13)

        2. The effectiveness of antidepressants – Again, I understand that the efficacy of SSRI’s has been called into question recently as some have suggested that there has been too much interference of the drug companies in the testing of these medications. However, I have seen evidence of good effect in my own personal clinical practice, and there is evidence from the literature that SSRI’s are effective, although perhaps not as much as previously thought. However, I would point you towards articles such as Dobson, K.S., et al., Randomized trial of behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, and antidepressant medication in the prevention of relapse and recurrence in major depression. J Consult Clin Psychol, 2008. 76(3): 468-77 doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.76.3.468, and Arroll, B., et al., Antidepressants versus placebo for depression in primary care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2009(3): CD007954 doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007954, and clinical guidelines such as the NICE guidelines in the UK, Anderson, I., Depression. The Treatment and Management of Depression in Adults (Update). NICE clinical guideline 90.2009. National Clinical Practice Guideline. Vol. 90. 2010, The British Psychological Society and The Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, specifically p315-319.

        I will say again, I understand that the antidepressants aren’t for everyone, but if used cautiously and in the context of ongoing psychological therapy, I think they offer benefits.

        3. Your comment, “The clinical study of the effect of anti-depressants is based on the assumption that all other conditions are equal, which is however questionable. Some patients may be getting help from counselling, family and friends, or religion while others don’t”. I agree to a point. Because the brain and human behaviour is so complicated, I think we are only just scratching the surface of our understanding of the neurobiology and effective management of a whole plethora of psychiatric conditions. I don’t think scientists and doctors have assumed that all diseases are equal or that the same disease presents equally in different people. As I said before, the clinical evidence in mood disorders is for psychological therapy first line, with SSRI’s if required. However, each person is unique, and I have no doubt that some will respond to involvement in faith activities. There are many other non-drug treatments for mood disorders including exercise. As neuroscience develops better understanding of the different psychiatric diseases, I’m sure that better drug therapies will be developed, as well as better non-drug therapies which are being recognised as vital to most psychiatric treatments.

        4. Dr Leaf’s results. I have looked, but Dr Leaf has only published three Medline listed articles, all from the 1990’s from her mind-mapping/Geodesic Learning theories.
        – “Mind-Mapping approach (MMA): a culture and language “free” technique”, 1993 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8047932)
        – “The development of a model for geodesic learning: the geodesic information processing model”, 1997 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9819969)
        – “An alternative non-traditional approach to learning: the metacognitive-mapping approach”, 1998 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10472179)

        Dr Leaf has a long list of publications listed in her CV, although upon reviewing them, most of them are books or sermon series, and none are randomised or controlled trials.

        Dr Leaf did publish one study that she did of her program called “The Switch On Your Brain with the 5-Step Learning Process” http://drleaf.com/assets/files/Web-page-AA-research-project-1.pdf There are innumerable flaws in the design and interpretation of the study, which is probably why it didn’t make it to publication other than on her website. Please review it and see if you agree with my assessment. There are no published trials of her 21-day Detox, at least that I can find (and I’ve looked). So you’re right – strictly speaking I can’t say if it is a placebo or not, but given her track record of her recent academic work, I have significant doubts. The onus is on Dr Leaf to provide proper evidence as to it’s effectiveness. If you find some published research into the 21-Day Detox, please forward it to me, I would sincerely like to review it.

        5. Thus far, I have limited my formal critique of Dr Leaf’s teaching to the science, as I am not a trained theologian, although I have done some isolated rebuttals on my blog of some of her social media memes in which she incorrectly uses scripture. In due course I plan to formally review Dr Leaf’s use of scripture (which I do think is highly questionable), and have it reviewed by someone who has theological training before I publish it. In the meantime, I encourage you, and anyone who is interested, to review the scriptures Dr Leaf uses in their full context, and with the aid of some study tools, to decide for yourself if Dr Leaf use of the scriptures is in line with their Biblical meaning.

        I’m sorry I can’t be more expansive in my discussion of the neurobiology of depression and bipolar, although there is a lot of research out there, and it may pay to chat with your own psychologist or physician (or pastor) to help you apply it to your own condition.

        All the best.

  13. Thank you Dr Pitt for your detailed reply. Really appreciate your time and research.

    I give thanks to God that He provides all I need – I have very good support from family, church, friends and psychiatrist.

    I checked with my psychiatrist and pastor before I signed up for 21 Day Detox and both gave green light.

    I have completed one cycle of 21 Day Detox, and so far I haven’t noticed any scriptures that are used incorrectly. I wish to point out also that the principle of “scripture interprets scripture” needs to be applied when evaluating the scriptures being used in 21 Day Detox.

    From my own experience, I would highly suggest those at the initial stage of depression to start with daily exercise and weekly counselling for at least 4 weeks before considering antidepressant.

    Still, the best medicine for me has always been God’s word. Anti-depressant and mood stabilisers could serve as cushion, but never the cure.

    There was one time I thought of whether it would be possible to use clinical and scientific research to study the effect of God’s word on treatment of depression. Later I realised that regardless of results, there could be debates and doubts in the field of science. God does not need us to prove that He is the One in control.

    “He sent His word and healed them,
    And delivered them from their destructions.”
    – Psalm 107:20

    God bless you 🙂

    • Thanks Yuqing. I’d be interested to hear how you go with Dr Leaf’s program in the longer term. You’re welcome to drop me a line in about 6-12 months to tell me your experience with it.

      Thanks for sharing your personal observations. I encourage all Christians to hang onto God through their times of distress. As I’ve said before, psychological therapies are considered first line, and lifestyle management through exercise and good diet are also beneficial, but if someone needs medication for their mental health issues, there is nothing wrong with that.

      As for your idea of studying the effects of scripture on depression, I don’t see any reason why it should not be studied. If God is leading you that way, then be open to it.

      Good luck.

      • Thanks again Dr Pitt.
        Sure, I’ll keep you updated in about 6-12 months.

        Jesus loves you 🙂

      • By the way Dr Pitt I just came across that you plan to write a book on mental health for Christians. Praise the Lord!

        While doing the 2nd cycle of Dr Caroline Leaf’s 21 Day Brain Detox, I realised that the cure of my depression is to keep on discovering how much Jesus loves me. 🙂

        Would love to share Chris Tomlin’s song, “Jesus loves me” in his album, “Love Ran Red”.
        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPsidN2_ud0ilOHAEoegVLQ

        I was lost
        I was in chains
        The world had a hold of me
        My heart was a stone
        I was covered in shame
        When He came for me
        I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence
        I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His arms
        Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me
        Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me
        And it was a fire
        Deep in my soul
        I’ll never be the same
        I stepped out of the dark
        And into the light
        When He called my name
        I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence
        I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His arms
        He holds the stars and He holds my heart
        With healing hands that bear the scars
        The rugged cross where He died for me
        My only hope, my everything

      • I can confirm that I’m working on a book on mental health for Christians … It’s a slow and steady sort of project – it’s coming together although not as fast as I’d like. In it’s own time I guess. Keep an eye out for it, hopefully by the end of the year 🙂

  14. Dr Pitt,
    Thank you for asking the questions and doing the research into this. As a Christian who has suffered from mental health issues my whole life I find Dr leaf’s teachings disturbing and far too simplistic. The statements she makes, and many other Christians make have usually caused more harm and hindered my management and recovery. I have Bi polar, OCD, BPD and I am a survivor of SRA and Incest. I was just directed this morning to go and have a look at her teachings by a well meaning Christian. I have no control over the thoughts, flashbacks, memories that I have. The process of being in therapy with a Christian psychologist, medication and my relationship with God has helped me stay alive. Some of the teachings she has may be fine for the ‘healthy unwell’ but NOT people with severe chronic mental health issues. Again relieved to find your blog, being in Churches and trying to get support over the years has sometimes created more problems and left me feeling ashamed, inadequate, unheard, misunderstood and like I am choosing to be this way. Which I am NOT.

    • Thank you very much for your bravery and openness in sharing. I truly appreciate the feedback.

      You raise some very important points. I know it can be tough, but stay strong in God – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

      When it’s appropriate, share your concerns about Dr Leaf’s teachings with your pastors and your well meaning friend. And lets pray – pray for the church as a whole that God would bring more wisdom into the church on mental health, and for God’s peace and strength for those of us who live with mental health issues every day.

      All the best to you, and I pray that you’ll continue to know God’s love in your journey.

  15. I recently made comments on a post on ‘Dr’ Caroline Leafs’ Facebook post about her views on mental illness. As my comments were not in agreement with her beliefs and she content of her books and teachings, my comments and many others were deleted and I was blocked from commenting on the page. I feel that someone who feels so threatened by a conflicting opinion to hers cannot feel very confident in their own findings. This gives a skewed view of the acceptance and support of her books and teachings from the public. If all perceived negative response is removed from publication without fair argument, then they are trying only to promote book sales.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Larelle. Unfortunately this is a common pattern, something that Dr Leaf’s Facebook minders have done to a lot of people who dare to dissent, including myself. You are absolutely right that it gives a skewed view of the acceptance of Dr Leaf’s teaching. I encourage everyone who has concerns with Dr Leaf’s teaching to politely share their concerns with their friends, their pastor, and the national executive/council of the church organisation that they belong to. The only way people will know there are concerns with Dr Leaf’s teaching is if the concerned make their opinions known. Feel free to share any of my posts or information on your Facebook feed … at least Dr Leaf can’t censor that. Good luck, and feel free to let me know how you go.
      (PS: I fixed the typo … thanks for bringing it to my attention)

      • Thanks for your reply. This has unsettled me badly today. I have struggled with my faith in the last year and am desperately trying to seek counsel. Not entirely successfully, which is adding to my distress. I have always struggled to reconcile my mental illness with being a Christian. To come across this only validates the pressure that I am not good enough and a failure in my faith. I thankfully am at a place that it doesn’t effect me to my core, like it may have in the past, but it has caused me considerable distress.
        How can someone who professes to speak the Word of God be so insensitive to the needs of those suffering? It is a bad example of Christianity in a world that desperately needs love and compassion.

      • I’m sorry to hear of your struggles Larelle. I understand where you’re coming from.

        I can’t give specific advice in this forum. My standard advice is that if you’re really struggling, please see your own psychologist or doctor as soon as you can.

        Generally speaking, it’s hard when you’re a Christian with a mental health issue, for many reasons. But God’s love for us doesn’t change based on our mental health, or how good we feel. It’s in our darkest places that God’s love is sometimes the most evident. And sometimes it’s in our place weakness that we experience God’s supernatural strength through his grace – as Paul said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

        This is my personal opinion, but I think that those who struggle with mental health every day often show more strength and more faith than those who’re well. Faith is easy when nothing is a challenge, but hanging on to God when everything makes him seem so far away shows great faith and strength. Give yourself credit where credit’s due.

        As I said before, please chat about this with your doctor or psychologist if you are really struggling.

        As for Dr Leaf’s intentions and motives, I guess I can’t speak to them, but if you disagree with her views, politely make them known when you feel that you can.

        All the best to you.

      • I meant I was struggling to seek Christian counsel to address my faith issues. I have been very open with various local churches, my previous church was a little lacking in pastoral care, in my need for support and faith based comfort.

  16. dr.Pitt
    just a quick comment about your views on Dr Leaf. You certainity adhere biaslyto the fact that psychology only only asks ” why”. I feel sorry for the woman who took offense to Dr Leaf’s position to medications for mental illness. yes, medication can be a bridge BUT good CHRISTIAN Counseling also Can help Lauraette know God’s Love is unconditional! therefore there is no way she should feel that she is not good enough . I learned a lot from dr. LEAF’s books! There is also some heritage involved possibly there. Dr. Leaf strongly feels that the Bible Has had many answers before science. Romans 12:2 ……be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind….. This neuroplasticity and toxic thoughts are being expounded in Mayo Clinic self help books! Thanks for this opportunity Love

    • Hi Marylen,

      Thanks for offering your opinion. Let me clarify a few things.

      All branches of science ask “why”, but each branch of science, psychology included, considers the answer from different perspectives.

      I agree that good Christian counselling can help, but the operative word here is “good”. Good secular psychology can also help. So can exercise, social networking, judicious use of medications, and a number of other things.

      I agree wholeheartedly that God’s love is unconditional, but when you’re swallowed by the dark cloud of depression, it is exceptionally difficult to accept God’s love, or anyone else’s love for that matter. That’s because the neural pathways in the brain of someone with depression simply do not process the signals correctly. It’s like saying “I love you” to someone who only speaks French – you love the person but they can’t comprehend it. While it may seem perfectly obvious to you that the answer is to be counselled about God’s unconditional love, such an approach will not help someone with true depression until such time as their brain can process such information properly.

      I should also clarify that I am NOT questioning established scientific facts like neuroplasticity in my critique of Dr Leaf. I contend that Dr Leaf misrepresents such facts, and I suggest that you read my book for a full comparison of Dr Leaf’s teaching and the current scientific literature to understand why I have come to that conclusion.

      I’m not going to presume to know what Dr Leaf thinks of the Bible and science, or to try and speak for her on this matter. I would agree that the Bible does have answers to questions that science can not address, but as I’ve said before in previous comments on this blog, the Bible is not a science textbook. One of my favourite quotes is from William H. Bragg (1862-1942), a British physicist, chemist, and mathematician who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915: “From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”

      Perhaps you could supply the references for the Mayo Clinic books you alluded to. I doubt they’d suggest that thoughts are toxic as Dr Leaf does, but in any case, neuroscientists and psychologists are coming to understand that cognitive therapy and positive thinking is simply a form of “culturally sanctioned folklore” (as Herbert and Forman so eloquently described it). I’ve included the section from my book in which I discuss this at length, although if you wish to know more about the issues surrounding the science of Dr Leaf’s teaching, I suggest that you read it in its entirety. It’s available for free from iTunes and Smashwords (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11 or https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848)

      Thanks again for your opinion. All the best.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Does cognitive therapy really help?

      If Dr Leaf was correct in her proposal that thought is responsible for the state of our mental health, then therapies specifically aimed at fixing thought would improve psychological problems.

      But when examined scientifically, the opposite is true. That is, cognitive therapy specifically targeting problem thoughts offers no extra improvement over behavioural therapy alone. Herbert and Forman confirm this when they point out that, “proponents of behavioral activation point to the results of component control studies of CT, in which behavioral activation or exposure alone is compared to behavioral activation (or exposure) plus cognitive restructuring. The majority of these studies have failed to demonstrate incremental effects of cognitive restructuring strategies.” [1]

      This fact has been further confirmed by a number of meta-analyses [2] and by a large randomised controlled trial comparing behavioural therapy and cognitive therapy side by side with medication for depression [3].

      So therapies aimed at fixing thinking works equally as well as therapies aimed only at promoting therapeutic action. However, when thinking therapies are added to behaviour therapies, they add no extra benefit over and above the behaviour therapies alone [2]. This suggests that action is the driver of the therapeutic effects of psychological therapy. If thinking were the driving force of psychological change, the addition of cognitive therapy to behaviour therapy should have an incremental effect.

      That cognitive therapy works equally well as behavioural therapy may be related to their fundamental similarities. Dobson et al explains, “Behavioural Activation is implemented in a manner that is intended to both teach coping skills and to reduce future risk. The same is true for Cognitive Therapy, which adds an emphasis on cognitive change, but otherwise takes a similar skills-training approach.” [3] In other words, cognitive therapy is just behavioural therapy with bling.

      Herbert and Forman summarise it nicely, “The ideas that thoughts and beliefs lead directly to feelings and behavior, and that to change one’s maladaptive behavior and subjective sense of well-being one must first change one’s cognitions, are central themes of Western folk psychology. We encourage friends to “look on the bright side” of difficult situations in order to improve their distress. We seek to cultivate “positive attitudes” in our children in the belief that this will lead to better academic or athletic performance. Traditional cognitively-oriented models of CBT (e.g., CT, stress inoculation training, and rational emotive behavior therapy) build on these culturally sanctioned ideas by describing causal effects of cognitions on affect and behavior, and by interventions targeting distorted, dysfunctional, or otherwise maladaptive cognitions.” [1]

      I understand that many people will find this hard to accept. We’re encouraged to think positive so often that it becomes a self-perpetuating cliché. There can also be confusion around some of the semantics. Many psychologists think of cognition as more than just thought, and newer psychological therapies like ACT seem to emphasise the cognitive as well as the behavioural.

      It’s true that the first step in ACT is to defuse from our thoughts, although this isn’t changing our thoughts as per classical CBT (and repeated by Dr Leaf), but rather ignoring them so that meaningful action can then take place. Depending on the therapy, and the definitions used, some may argue that successful therapy has a “cognitive” component, but semantic squabbling aside, the fundamental pillar of CBT/Dr Leaf – that psychological therapy begins with fixing problem thoughts – is outdated.

      As noted by Harris, “If you look through the wide variety of writings on ACT, you will find over a hundred different cognitive defusion techniques. For example, to deal with an unpleasant thought, we might simply observe it with detachment; or repeat it over and over, out aloud, until it just becomes a meaningless sound; or imagine it in the voice of a cartoon character; or sing it to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’; or silently say ‘Thanks, mind’ in gratitude for such an interesting thought. There is endless room for creativity. In contrast to CBT, not one of these cognitive defusion techniques involves evaluating or disputing unwanted thoughts.” [4]

      Thus we improve our psychological health through action rather than fixing thought, although sometimes we need to stop fighting with our thoughts and give them some space first. This has been proven in multiple research studies, and by the success of therapies such as ACT, which do not rely on evaluating, disputing or trying to fix unwanted thoughts to achieve their results. Experts in psychological science confirm that Dr Leaf’s central teaching, that we have to change our thoughts to fix our behaviour, is nothing more than culturally sanctioned folklore.

      References

      1. Herbert, J.D. and Forman, E.M., The Evolution of Cognitive Behavior Therapy: The Rise of Psychological Acceptance and Mindfulness, in Acceptance and Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 2011, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 1-25.
      2. Longmore, R.J. and Worrell, M., Do we need to challenge thoughts in cognitive behavior therapy? Clin Psychol Rev, 2007. 27(2): 173-87 doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2006.08.001
      3. Dobson, K.S., et al., Randomized trial of behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, and antidepressant medication in the prevention of relapse and recurrence in major depression. J Consult Clin Psychol, 2008. 76(3): 468-77 doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.76.3.468
      4. Harris, R., Embracing Your Demons: an Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Psychotherapy In Australia, 2006. 12(6): 1-8 http://www.actmindfully.com.au/upimages/Dr_Russ_Harris_-_A_Non-technical_Overview_of_ACT.pdf

  17. Mind over matter eventually can lead to a mind that denies reality,in the extreme.We are earthen vessels.Matter counts.I am amazed how jaded the Body of Christ is against psychiatric medication and treatment.For the last 25 years I’ve prescribed psych meds and ministered from the Word for healing and deliverance.I believe medications are a gift from God if used properly..The brain is a symphony of chemical and electromagnetic circuitry which can go very wrong.A schizophrenic’s brain makes too much dopamine.Medication for this genetic illness can stop auditory hallucinations which are always destructive lies [systems of thoughts and imaginations] that torment the person with confusion and fear. The proper medication can close the door to these symptoms. Actually free the person’s mind allowing peace and the ability to think on these things….This is a beautiful example of the body,soul and spirit interface.Mind over matter seems to be the prevailing theology in some very popular protestant churchs today.We’re told if we can just stir up enough faith [mind over matter] we can be healed, happy, and prosperous.But the Word says we will prosper and be in health only as our soul prospers- [sanctification, in other words] The apostle Paul was told that his thorn in the flesh would not be healed, instead he was to accept and glory in his affliction and weakness,as he grows in faith and peace allowing God to be his strength, his all. My thorns include bipolar disorder.Without medication my soul [mind,will,and emotions] is under assault. Faith vanishes..Choosing life becomes very,very difficult. Another warrier is taken down .Dr Leaf has allowed a misrepresentation of her training to perpetuate.She is not a physician , neurologist or neuropsychologist. Nor is she a renown scientist-as the various web sites proclaim.She’s charismatic,pretty,and can uplift by her obvious love of the Word and her enthusiastic desire to minister to the body of Christ.Her lack of medical/neurological training help explain some of her blind spots,but she has been challenged to review and reassess .I pray she does this soon. Mary Baker Eddy was a woman who preached mind over matter.She founded the cult of Christian Scientist which essentially taught that the material world was not really real.No need for doctors because illness, if real, ,would have to submit to the mind. Do I pray for miracles of healing and deliverance? Absolutely,and I have received and witnessed plenty. Is the renewing of the mind real? Yes,by the washing of the Word -a lifetime process.But we must learn to divide soul from spirit, joint from marrow

  18. Your work is based on your carnality her’s is based on revelation from God and he knows more than you do since he is the creator of the mind. You don’t have any revelation except from the devil this is why you can’t understand her concept her’s is based on the truth which is the word of God. You come to tear down, and criticize because you are jealous, your concept is irrelevant because of your toxic thoughts to demean and tear down, you aren’t her and you don’t have her gift. It comes from God so your sinned filled tainted logic can never understand it is spiritually discerned. So you fail in your assessment stay in your lane. Every contact that human’s have ever had in this world comes to you through the five senses. We have gained no knowledge outside of them. So it comes through sense perception. This is why people who have only contacted the physical through the senses will deny the existence of God, nor can they have a true understanding,, because he cannot find Him in the material world. The carnal minded person interests are the things of this which are confined to the five senses which are unstable, vanishing and fleeting pleasures in this world. Sometimes we think we know, and then it’s nothing at all like what we thought. Most people want to deal with a God that they can control, we don’t want him to infringe upon certain things in our life that we don’t want to deal with.

    So consequently, we take what should be spiritual and we make it religion. You are blinded by the power of Satan and he’s successful at keeping you in the dark. You act as if you have the power to change things as you daily witness how dark this world is becoming, and you have no power to do a thing about it, none, but yet you believe you know more than the Lord or the gift that God has given Dr. Leaf you are too small to stop her gift.What we see, and what ever we hear are small things compared to what we think, because what we think interprets what we see and what we hear. Because you are limited to your 5 senses or the physical world your knowledge is limited, you never reach your destiny in this life, or your purpose. You never connect to the real source of your power and wisdom which is used by faith, so you are powerless to change this world or make a difference in it.That’s exactly why you are in the dark. Satan is also called the “power of darkness” and when we accept Christ we come out of darkness unto his light of wisdom. Darkness stands for ignorance; ignorance has ever been satan’s choice of weapon to keep people in bondage and unaware of his evil force in their life. Not only has he bound them with ignorance, but he also has given them a “fear” of light so that they fight the truth (light force) that could set them free. (And Fear is the opposite of faith), Get some Wisdom from God and then maybe someone will find out who you are because right now you’re not on a platform where your opinion matters to discredit her, You are pure example of toxic thoughts. being a hater..

    You’ve never created a World and you’re not certain of anything including your own life. So your wannabe belief is powerless. The devil is a deceiver. Folks that write this kind of mess are acting like the Lord is sitting in Heaven wringing his hands about this, how deceived is your ego. You’re a carnal minded person, basically dead because your mind is cut off from God. There are two kinds of knowledge in the world, one is the knowledge that we teach in schools. The other is knowledge that comes from God and it’s spiritual knowledge. Carnal people only can relate to what he knows and has obtained through the five senses; Christians have revelation from God just like what the Lord has given Dr. Leaf and he has exalted her that’s why you will never tear her down. you don’t have the power to do so, Your god satan is defeated already. The five senses are limited, and can only end in a miserable life and in destruction of your spirit until it finds the wisdom that is from above. He only knows only that which is physically discerned which is spiritual death. The hidden wisdom which God can only give is not of this world, God is spiritual life.There is no solution of the human problems without understanding of these two supernatural forces, spiritual life and spiritual death. If man, is dead in spirit, that is, if he is a partaker of the nature of satan, then we understand his need for eternal life.

  19. you have not written one thing in reference to the word of God to back up your assessment, that’s why I Know you are spiritually dead depending on you tainted logic and the five senses. And nothing to do with the word of God Dr. Leaf’s concept is based on the word of God. The most difficult project in the world is to reconstruct the human mind. The mind needs to be connected to the power and the source of God or else your mind is connected to your flesh which connects you to your circumstances. Whenever you elevate your mind you can control your situation. You are the sum total of all you have been conditioned to think and believe. The things that you think about the most, affects you the most and it determines the way you respond to a situation. You cannot have negative thoughts about yourself and not become a negative person, because ultimately your thoughts about yourself become your greatest enemy. You cannot detach yourself from your thoughts, and how it relates to you or your situation. And if you hate the situation you are in, you will end up hating yourself because of the decisions you made for getting in that situation, which leads to depression and low self-esteem towards self. Your mind is the most powerful organ in your body, and your mind is too powerful to turn it on yourself. You cannot afford to turn your mind against you, because you need your mind to off set the negativity of the environment that surrounds you. Reading your response is sad because the greatest tragedy in life is not death, but it is life without purpose. It is more dangerous to be alive and not know why then to be dead and not know life. Because the society in which we were born, bread, and conditions thinks so small about self, that you have to fight a battle within yourself first to believe God. Society has brainwashed you to think so small, God has to convince us to do what He told us we could do. If you chose to live under the curse you can have what you say. Death and Life are in the power of the tongue and they that love it shall eat the fruit therefore. He gave you an option and of Life or Death, Blessing or Curse, and then gave you the answer Chose Life! For by your words you shall be Justified or by your words you shall be condemned.

    • Thank you for expressing your passionate hatred of me and my work. I have been called many things, but a hater, full of toxic thoughts, and being of the Devil are new ones. I’ll add them to the collection of senseless vitriol that I’ve received. I suggest you re-read your comment and consider the large log that is firmly embedded in your eye before you start taking on the splinter that you perceive in mine. Your tangential ranting is unbecoming. Abusive intolerance will not be accepted in the future. If my work is inaccurate, then please be specific about what I need to correct, preferably with citations. Arguments like “You’re a carnal minded person, basically dead because your mind is cut off from God” and “No you prove her right you are of the Devil, and of course you would think this to even write this proves your Toxic Thoughts” are irrational, probably hypocritical, and don’t really make for good scientific argument.

      For the record, I have not delved deeply into the theological aspect of Dr Leaf’s teaching because I’m not a trained theologian. However, I have reviewed the scriptures that Dr Leaf uses, and Dr Leaf’s interpretations are clearly incorrect. If Dr Leaf’s tainted use of scripture makes her work “based on a revelation from God” and my correction of her use of scripture makes me one of the Devil’s minions in your eyes, then you may not have as good a grasp of scripture as you might think.

      Good luck to you.

  20. Hello Dr. Pitt,

    After reading your blog, and most of the many comments and responses, I feel that you thoughtfully and respectfully assert that her (Dr. Leaf) claims are baseless, or at best, are based on out of date science and/or opinions. I find your respect and patience for those that have replied to be most pleasant. But, I feel Dr. Leaf’s pseudo-science/ over-reaching/ false claims/ manipulation/ fiction for profit, etc., are bankrupt of any value, other than maybe dry humor. To gain wealth off what is more or less motivational books and videos, based on “her science”, should be criminal, because she is calling it science, and asserting medical claims. I put it in the same category as I would diet pills or Scientology (“technology”).

    I found your blog by searching google for “criticism about caroline leaf”, and happy to discover your writing and responses. The reason I was searching for “criticism”, was to get a perspective other than my mothers opinion of Dr. Leaf. I admit, I did not have to read much at all to recognize her opinion-driven assertions, which are farcical. Im not happy that my mother is presently interested in some of Dr. Leaf’s grandiose claims. I feel her (Dr. Leaf) statements and point of view contradict science, and I am not attacking Christianity, God, the Bible, etc., but only taking her “science” to task. I believe her material manipulates folks, while charging hefty sums for her material. She preys on certain people and uses TV-evangleist to hawk her goods.

    You had a previous reply from a lady, Natasha, who disagreed with you, and completely glossed over your points, and kept ending up more or less calling your faith into question, passively attacking you, and ignoring your very polite and patient attempts to counter her points. Some of Dr. Leaf’s outspoken defenders don’t seem to care about the facts, and would rather believe in fiction, rather than the truth. Some would rather just hide their head in the sand, because the lies and stories sound better than reality. As for the argument by some that say “her scientific methods worked for them”, are not carefully reading her writings, or are not comprehending what they are reading. Science is not subjective, and not based on opinion.

    Thank you,
    Dave

    • Hi Dave. Thanks for your very supportive feedback – I appreciate your passionate opinion, and you make some excellent points. I obviously disagree with Dr Leaf, although I respect her right to freedom of speech. The question of whether she crosses the line in terms of the legality of her medical claims is not something that I can speak to. Though, if you have significant concerns, you should ask the relevant US government department to look into it.

      In terms of Dr Leaf’s followers, I remain pragmatic. Everyone’s on different points of the Dr Leaf spectrum. I’m more than happy for others to disagree with me … hey, it’s a free world. My goal is to provide the counter-argument for those who are looking for both sides of the Dr Leaf story, and if people consider both sides objectively, then I’ve done my job. Actually, I’m reminded of the scene from the Matrix Reloaded, in which Commander Lock snarled, “Dammit, Morpheus. Not everyone believes what you believe”, to which Morpheus replied, “My beliefs do not require them to.” People will make up their own minds, I just need to make sure they have that choice. By and large, most people have been polite, although I’ve had my share of vitriol. Comes with the territory 🙂

      If you or your mother have any further questions that I haven’t discussed in my book or on the blog, please shoot me another comment. The other thing you can do is to alert your friends and church leaders (or government bodies) to your concerns. If enough people are willing to voice their concerns, then the church leaders who support Dr Leaf, or Dr Leaf herself, will have to review her teachings.

      Again, thanks for your encouragement. All the best to you!

  21. Thank you so much for this post! I saw Dr. Leaf at a recent conference, along with other speakers, and though I liked some of what she said, I was discouraged by a lot of it. I am 20 years old and I suffer from anxiety and OCD, and I have for as long as I can remember. Just within the last year, I have gone to the doctor for prescribed medication for my illnesses. And they have really helped! I am also seeking help through Christain counseling, and that has been healing for me, as well. That said, Dr. Leaf made me feel as though my struggles with these issues are my own fault. Like it is completely my own fault. And that is so hard to hear when you’re struggling so much and just want to get better, you know? Thank you for your research! I’m so grateful. 🙂
    Alison

    • Hi Alison. Sorry for my delay in replying. I had written a reply on the day you posted, but it didn’t upload for some strange reason. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. I am very glad to hear that the medications and counselling are helpful and that you are overcoming your illness. I’ve been through my own mental health challenges, and I know how you feel, they’re a real struggle sometimes! I’m sorry that Dr Leaf made you feel discouraged. Don’t feel condemned or guilty or ashamed, because mental health isn’t as simple as the thoughts we think or the choices we make. If you haven’t found it already, I’ve written about thoughts and how they fit into the mental health landscape in my book (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11), particularly the first three chapters. But I want to encourage you to keep going with the counselling and the medications, and pressing into God. Also, I encourage you to share your concerns about Dr Leaf’s teaching with your friends, your pastors, the organisers of the conference, and the national executive of the denomination you are part of. People need to be aware of how Dr Leaf’s teaching can be detrimental. If enough people are concerned, Dr Leaf will hopefully review the basis for her teaching.

      Again, thanks for telling your story. All the best to you, now and in the future.

  22. Good day Dr Pitt, I came upon your site whilst looking for information on multiple intelligences and the brain and was saddened to, once again, see children of God giving satan a laughing party so to speak. I have read much of Dr Caroline Leaf’s work and have critically analysed and compared her (as I do with all new information) writings to other theories and scientific research, and, as I consistently experience, there is good and bad in all, but I use God’s words, and my relationship with Him, through the Holy Spirit as my guide; and take the good (I found plenty in Dr Leafs work) and leave that which does not resonate with my heart or head. I understand that one has concern of church and church members in possibly directing “weaker” christians in a manner that can cause negative impact but truly believe the Lord is Big enough to squash that which is not of Him and uplift that which is. I have discovered that Prayer is a wonderful tool when I feel concerned for myself and others as regards the ways of people in the world. Personally I have found Dr Leafs work a huge blessing in my life. I am a mature woman who chose to study Industrial and organisational Psychology late in life and have spent most of my adult life enjoying reading and study on what I find incredibly fascinating, “God masterpiece”….me and you! May You be guided by Him in all your ventures and feel the Peace in your Heart as He takes you on your personal journey with Him at the Helm. Go well….Dianne

    • Hi Diane, Thanks for your candid opinion. It’s a good thing that you’ve been blessed or encouraged by Dr Leaf’s ministry. Dr Leaf occasionally writes things that are worthwhile. Though as you’ve pointed out yourself, not everything in Dr Leaf’s teaching resonates correctly. I’m not sure what your critical analysis of Dr Leaf revealed. I have analysed Dr Leaf’s works in considerable depth and I’ve documented my main concerns in my book (Hold that thought: Reappraising the work of Dr Caroline Leaf – free to download on Apple iBooks or Smashwords).

      Let me clarify that I did not spend nearly sixteen months working on this tome just for kicks, or to give “satan a laughing party.” This critique and the ongoing discussion I have on this blog isn’t necessarily out of concern for just “weaker” Christians either.

      Strong Christians who should know better, and who should be using the discernment through prayer that you refer to, are accepting and teaching Dr Leaf’s theories as though she really is an expert on mental health, when in truth, neither she nor they have any inkling on what constitutes mental health and mental illness. My concern is therefore for all Christians. How is the average run-of-the-mill pew warmer going to tell the difference between the good and bad teaching on mental health when they don’t have the training to sift the wheat from the chaff.

      And respectfully, publicly disagreeing with another Christian doesn’t make the devil deliriously happy. Critical thinking makes the church stronger. After all, God is the God of all truth, not blind acquiescence.

      Dr Leaf believes that “God is the Creator of the Universe and is the Author of Science” (http://drleaf.com/about/scientific-philosophy/). If that’s true, then God also gave us the Scientific Method, and the capacity for human beings to think critically, to unlock the secrets of his creation. And science involves repetition, reanalysis, and vigorous debate to grow that knowledge. Why should scientific teachings within the church be secluded or quarantined from this process? That would dilute those teachings down to the level of opinion, the level of every life coach or tele-evangelist that already plaques our land.

      Dr Leaf and her supporters can not have their cake and eat it too. Either Dr Leaf’s teachings are ‘scientific’, in which case they should be prepared for the necessary factual interrogation that should be applied to all science, or they are not scientific, in which case, they’re simply more unwanted and unwarranted opinion.

      If you truly believe that Dr Leaf’s work is rigorous in it’s science and theology, then so be it. Personally, I believe that Dr Leaf’s work is scientifically and Biblically untenable. Everyone’s welcome to their own opinion.

      All the best to you.

  23. Pingback: Can You Detox Your Brain? | Women of Grace

  24. At this point, Dr Pitt, the question I will ask is: does Dr Leaf teach anything against the Scriptures, knowing well enough that the Scripture comes before science? I believe she’s been very helpful to direct us back to the Bible irrespective of what science can offer. I will stick to it no matter what critics like you decide to do. If you want to help, come up with your own helpful theories. Thank you. Dr. David

    • Hi Dr David,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion. Of course, you’re welcome to believe or do whatever you want to. If people choose to believe that Dr Leaf has helped direct them back to the Bible, then that’s great. People believe in Homeopathy too. And the Tooth Fairy. Your belief in Dr Leaf work is touching, but it doesn’t make it any more scripturally or scientifically accurate.

      Specifically, you asked, “does Dr Leaf teach anything against the Scriptures, knowing well enough that the Scripture comes before science?” The answer is that Dr Leaf attempts to use science to prove scripture. However, she perverts both in the process. She doesn’t teach against the scripture per se, but twisting the scripture to suit her teaching may be similarly regarded by some.

      I’m somewhat bemused by your last statement. If you truly believe that only people with “helpful theories” are allowed to give criticism, then where are your “helpful theories” which allowed you to criticise my criticism?

      Personally, I don’t think the validity of one’s argument is dependent on having “helpful theories”? But if it makes you feel better, I took the time to postulate a model called the Cognitive Action Pathways model, based on my understanding of the several different factors that influence our stream of conscious thought, which I published in my book “Hold that thought: Reappraising the work of Dr Caroline Leaf” (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11) – see chapter 2. Please take the time to read the rest of the book as well. If you still disagree with my arguments about the validity of Dr Leaf’s teaching, then so be it. But I think you should be wary of dismissing my argument because of your pre-judgement that I’m just a critic.

      All the best to you.

  25. Thank you so much for the work you have put into this.Something about Dr Caroline Leafs statements that our thoughts held so much responsibility for disease was made me feel very uncomfortable and did not seem true, however its great to be able to read evidence to support that.Many thanks.I am a Christian who makes every effort to focus on the positive, and believes there is a strong connection between thoughts, emotions and health, however I would hate to think Christianity was going to start blaming people for their diseases, because they were thinking the wrong thoughts.

    • Hi Maria. Thanks for your kind words. The idea that there’s a connection between our thoughts and our health isn’t new. It’s one of those cultural norms we’ve been brought up with, so you’re not alone in your beliefs. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with focussing on the positive 🙂 Kudos to you for looking for answers rather than simply dismissing those uncomfortable feelings. I pray that you’ll continue to stay open to the still small voice and to new revelations. All the best.

  26. Hi Dr. Pitt,

    I stumbled upon your blog after doing some background research on Dr. Leaf, who I just discovered today. I don’t run in the circle with the word of faith people so I didn’t know about her or her ‘teachings’.

    I have been a student of psychoneuroimmunology because I was married to someone with chronic disease and no one I’m the church offered legitimate answers to our questions about sickness and disease.

    I have published a few books that came about as a result of dealing with serious health issues for over three decades. God has taught me much needless to say…

    My most recent book is entitled “The Physiology of Faith – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made to Live and Prosper in Health” . I think it is a honest look at trying to understand illness from a biblical perspective and how modern research is raising significant questions and possible answers about the root causes of sickness and disease. Ultimately there are no easy answers to the struggles of life – except one – Jesus is THE answer!

    Thank you for being a fellow watchman on the wall for the sake of the Church.

    Blessings to you.

    Craig A. Nelson

    • Hi Craig

      Thanks for your comment. I think I understand where you’re coming from.

      Psychoneuroimmunology is a fascinating topic, but it’s such a burgeoning field, and it’s still in it’s infancy, so I watch it with interest, although I’m wary of extrapolating too much from the early data. Though in response to Dr Leaf’s modelling on the place of thinking, I’ve proposed a model of my own – the Cognitive Action Pathways Model = https://cedwardpitt.com/2014/11/11/putting-thought-in-the-right-place-part-2/ See what you think.

      All the best.

      • Hi Dr Pitt,

        I definitely prefer your model. I agree with you that so much of this is in its infancy. Each time I read of another research project in one of the many related fields (and I have read 100’s and 100’s) I do see patterns emerging – which has led me to consider within the light of Scripture the possibility that how we think, and what we think about, has far great consequences to our health then we could ever imagine. My focus in ministry is primarily on forgiveness – both giving and receiving it – as the foundation of all emotional, physical and spiritual healing. I believe that the cure is placing trusting-faith in the great Healer, placing all our worries and cares at the feet of Jesus and then walking away from them.

        Keep up the good work!

        Blessings to you,

        Craig

  27. guys you all sound as if you sit and chat and chat, why not write a book and prove that Dr. Leaf is wrong, because i also got this revelation that I want to use science to prove that there is a GOD. SO, why not study the Bible, study physics and chemistry and do more than instead to chat and chat.

    • Would you care to clarify your statement ‘einstein’? It isn’t particularly clear if you’re being tongue-in-cheek, or you’re just misinformed, but I did write a book which showed that modern science did not support Dr Leaf’s teachings. My goal is to provide an alternative view to Dr Leaf’s work so people can make up their own mind on the validity of her teaching. You’re welcome to criticise my approach if you like. You’re also welcome to use science to prove God’s existence, if that’s what you’re called to do. Either way, all the best to you.

  28. Dr. Pitt,

    It is a pitiable soul who recognizes his own ideas to be so lacking in truth that he feels compelled to expend his own energies to denigrate a woman he knows speaks the truth. I pray that you eventually heed her truths- you will be a blessed and far happier man.

    • Hi David. Thanks for sharing your forthright opinion.

      I’m intrigued – which of my ideas do you consider to be “so lacking in truth” that you would be compelled to denigrate me?

      What evidence do you have that Dr Leaf is indeed speaking the truth?

      Personally, I have no problem in admitting that I may be wrong, and if there’s something specific that you can show where I’m erring, then I’ll happily publish a correction. You’re a senior research scientist, so you certainly have the scientific background to understand Dr Leaf’s work and my critique. I would welcome a fresh set of eyes to review my work. Please feel free to point out any part of my rebuttal of Dr Leaf’s work that you think is inconsistent with the published literature (and your citations, of course).

      Thanks in advance.

  29. Hi Dr. Pitt,
    I’m wondering if you are aware of all the people that Dr. Carolyn Leaf has helped, in taking back control of their thought choices. And in doing so has improved their physical state to a degree that according to you is in debate. Whatever degree it is, it is still an improvement.

    Your first emboldened headline on this page is an attack on the Person, not the person’s teachings. You state “Dr. Carolyn Leaf – Contradicted…” You do not state “Dr. Carolyn Leaf’s work, statements or theories are contradicted” , This makes your headline a personal rather than professional strike at her.

    Your second emboldened line in blue boasts on yourself, as being the reason for this post popularity. When in fact it is Dr. Carolyn Leaf’s fame and ground breaking courageous statements that bring attention to your post. If not for her fame, this post would be no more popular than another on your site. You get no credit for her being known, nor does your blog or even this post. Never the less you try to take credit for it.

    You complain when she doesn’t cite her work and you complain when she does. And in fact, you did not cite her work either. You did not present title, page number or author when you state her words, Yet you try to discredit her for doing the same thing.

    This entire post seems an act of jealousy to me, and obsession.

    Splitting hairs with genetics, makes no sense either, as all disease is genetic at it’s source, There is not one single flaw or sickness that cannot be traced back at some point to defective DNA. Yet you act like you can draw the line and show us where thoughts play no role and genetics does.

    She did not present her books in a court of law or to a team of scientist, yet you act as though she should present them with such detail and conclusion, as though she was.

    Books do not sell when they read like a research paper. And there are many, many, many books on the shelf that do a far worse job citing sources than Dr. Leaf has done. She has made her work understandable for the first time, to ordinary people. That is why they have the ability to help people.

    I suggest you write your own book without mentioning the name of the famous Dr. Carolyn Leaf If you need her fame to propel your own, then you have none to begin with. It should be earned by breakthrough work and bold statements. Is Dr. Leaf attacking doctors by name in her book?

    My grandson died at 3.5 years due to genetic defect which caused both neurological and organ problems. Doctors such as Carolyn Leaf and Jill Taylor give hurting people the ability to understand better how thoughts process, and the consequences of them. Helping us deal with sadness, hurt, anger and happiness. Helping us communicate with others in a positive, helpful. Of course there will be flaws but there will also be life changing truths. Even the bible has self contradicting statements, but do we spend our efforts promoting those flaws? Who do we help?

    What is your greater purpose and why were you put here on earth? To dog Dr. Carolyn Leaf for helping people? Why do you waste a great mind with negative pursuits?
    I would be surprised to see my post allowed, but as long as you see it that is my only care.
    I hope to see your focus turned off of Dr. Leaf and onto your own vision of good.
    Thanks
    John

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for taking the time to provide your critique. I appreciate honest feedback. I’m happy to reply in kind, and address the issues you’ve raised.

      Let me start by encouraging you to read my other posts and my book. It seems like you’re basing your view of my work solely on this one post. I have extensively quoted Dr Leaf’s published work throughout my book and numerous blogs.

      By reading my work, I hope that you will more fully appreciate that Dr Leaf’s work is contrary to how thoughts really work and their actual effect on our lives. I’ve used chapters 2 and 3 of my book to outline the scientific evidence for the cognitive neuroscience of thought (http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-2/). Dr Leaf can not be giving “hurting people the ability to understand better how thoughts process, and the consequences of them”, if her underlying theory is completely backwards. If anything, Dr Leaf will be doing more harm than good.

      I’ve seen some of the testimonies on Dr Leaf’s Facebook feed. And (seriously, no facetiousness implied), I’m glad for them. But bear in mind: 1. There is no rigorous scientific evidence to compare Dr Leaf’s teachings to a control group, thus her work may be no better than a placebo, though 2. Her previously published science on which her current teaching is based was shown to be the same or worse than her control group (see: https://cedwardpitt.com/2015/03/26/the-tedx-users-guide-to-dr-caroline-leaf/) and 3. Dr Leaf’s Facebook minders actively censor her site, blocking anyone who isn’t supportive of her work. This happened to me personally, to close friends, and to a number of commenters on my blog posts. Thus, it may seem to the casual observer that her work is supported by the general public, but this is a facade. So, there may be a number of people that may have been helped by Dr Leaf, but if there are just as many that are hindered, then how is that promoting the cause of the greater good.

      You say that, “Splitting hairs with genetics, makes no sense either, as all disease is genetic at it’s source, There is not one single flaw or sickness that cannot be traced back at some point to defective DNA. Yet you act like you can draw the line and show us where thoughts play no role and genetics does.” To be technical, not all disease is genetic at it’s source, although a lot of it is. But again, I question how much you’ve read of Dr Leaf’s work, since it’s Dr Leaf who categorically says, in several of her books, blogs, and from the pulpit, that “75 to 98 percent of physical, psychological and behavioural illness comes from our thought life”, whereas I’ve shown that such a statement is opposed by modern science (please see chapter 10 in my book for a full discussion http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-10/).

      You state, “She did not present her books in a court of law or to a team of scientist, yet you act as though she should present them with such detail and conclusion, as though she was. Books do not sell when they read like a research paper. And there are many, many, many books on the shelf that do a far worse job citing sources than Dr. Leaf has done. She has made her work understandable for the first time, to ordinary people. That is why they have the ability to help people.” Again, I have to disagree here. I have read much better books that have helped a lot more people than Dr Leaf’s works, which have been far more scientific and far better cited. I have also been to a workshop for lay people where the speaker, a university professor, based her entire presentation on research papers, complete with citations. So the ‘dumbing it down for lay people’ argument doesn’t really hold. Dr Leaf could cite her work properly if she wanted to, while still writing the text for a lay audience.

      It’s interesting that you would talk about the importance of readability for Dr Leaf’s books then criticise me for making my titles more readable. Your various other points essentially impugn my motives by suggesting that I’m only doing what I’m doing for personal fame. I’m sorry that you’ve interpreted my work that way. I don’t care for fame, and if fame was what I wanted, I certainly wouldn’t do it in a way that opens myself up to unfair personal criticism. Sure, people now know my name because of my stance against Dr Leaf’s teaching, but this is not my primary motivation. If Dr Leaf changed her teaching tomorrow, then I would be the first to congratulate her, and I would happily use my spare time for other things, like golf or massages.

      But I continue to use my spare time to compare and contrast Dr Leaf’s teaching to published science because of love. I see people every day who struggle with the stigma of mental illness, the daily dread from anxiety and the despair from depression. I see parents whose children suffer from ADHD – they have given everything to their children but have been worn down and wrung out, and who survive on nothing but adrenaline fumes. I see parents of children with cerebral palsy or Downs syndrome, who give everything for their children 24/7. I see people who succumb to cancer, who have always been positive, and continued to be so until their dying breath. Dr Leaf teaches that all of those people have no one but themselves to blame. She tells her audience that ADHD doesn’t exist. She tells people that medications for mental illness are damaging to the brain. She tells people that the mind controls the physical brain, not genes, not the external environment, but just our individual choices. How is that helpful? How should the parents of the children with Downs syndrome or cerebral palsy react when they’re told that their children are the way they are because they aren’t managing their thoughts correctly? How will the parents of the children with ADHD feel when they stop their children’s medications out of misplaced guilt? How will the person with depression feel when they stop their medications and unsuccessfully try to stop thinking negative thoughts, because Dr Leaf told them to?

      I will continue to stand for those who are vulnerable and down-trodden, who don’t need more misplaced guilt or shame, but who need to be given accurate information and empathy to help them truly overcome. Dr Leaf has been more than welcome to reply to my critique but has chosen not to for whatever reason, but my two-year old offer to fully publish any reply she makes still stands.

      You’re more than welcome to disagree with me, my science, my methods, and whatever you think are my motives. But I hope that you will see that my vision is only focussed on Dr Leaf because of my own vision of good.

  30. Hi Dr Pitt,

    I came across your page/blog incidentally.

    I appreciate you encouraging the need for critical thinking, especially within the Christian Church today.

    I have recently become a Christian (just over 3 years now) and I have at times seen the lack of critical thinking within the Church become a problem (Proverbs 19:2). I have also sadly seen an even greater need within the Church to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; John 13:35).

    I have only recently come across Dr Leaf’s material, so at this stage I am only vaguely familiar with her assertions and even less familiar with her scientific research.

    Rather than attempt to share my thoughts on the matter, including anecdotal evidence from my own life and others, I thought I would share a recent scientific article I have also recently come across incidentally:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/changing-our-dna-through-mind-control/

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.29063/full

    I appreciate that this study is not exhaustive with only preliminary findings. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth sharing in light of the discussion that has taken place.

    Hoping that we all can come closer to the truth, in the Spirit of Love.

    Isabel.

    • Hi Isabel,

      Thanks for the encouragement. And thanks for the link to the article. It’s a very interesting study.

      I guess the biggest issue with the articles findings is that we don’t know if the change in telomere length is significant, and what other variables might be at play.

      On the surface, the SciAm article sounds like it’s supporting Dr Leaf’s views, though delving into it, I think if anything, it runs counter to Dr Leaf’s teaching. Dr Leaf believes that our thoughts directly control the epigenetic tags on our DNA, and the energy from our thoughts directly manipulates the tightness of the winding of the DNA molecule. I discussed Dr Leaf’s assertion in chapter 13 of my book (THE “INGENUOUS” EXPERIMENT in http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-13/) The SciAm article discusses mindfulness, which is not related to heart rate variability, nor is mindfulness trying to fight with our thoughts or feelings, but simply to accept them. So even if the change in telomere length was shown to be causation not just correlation, there’s still no good direct evidence that changing our thoughts changes our DNA as Dr Leaf proposes.

      Still, I’m glad you raised the article, because it confirms what I’ve previously written about in other blog posts about mindfulness and our physical and mental health, and it’s certainly an interesting piece of research of its own accord.

      I welcome to you to review both Dr Leaf’s teaching and my work, and if you have anything further you’d like to raise, you’re always welcome. Thanks for having an open mind and continuing to look for the truth.

      All the best.

  31. Dr Ted Jacobs on 24 August 2015 wrote:
    Dear Dr Pitt, I have read your book “Hold that Thought”, thoroughly enjoyed all of it and heartily endorse everything you said.
    I had a similar experience to yours when I attended a church conference addressed by Dr Michelle Strydom on the same subject, which amounts to “how to heal yourself.” In case you don’t know about her, she is a medical doctor who has modelled herself on Dr Leaf, is her devoted disciple and quotes her affectionately. She also has a high regard for Henry Wright, another controversial figure. Dr Strydom is the South African version of Dr Leaf, and lectures at numerous churches in this country. I came away most disturbed, not just because of all of the scientific and biblical misinformation from the pulpit, but even more so because everyone of the more than 1000 listeners seemed to have left their brains behind at the door! How could believers just blithely believe such nonsense? I am staggered by the degree of gullibility of Christians. There is a real concern that a goodly percentage of Christians are biblically illiterate.
    Nowhere in the Bible is “clean thinking” presented as a model for physical healing. (eg “Is anyone of you sick… James 5:14)
    Dr Strydom claims that “this new teaching” is spreading around the globe… But how new is it?” One has to go back to Phineas Quimby about 150 years ago, who declared that all disease was the result of wrong thinking, and that the cure lay in right thinking. This was picked up by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, a mind healing religion, who echoed Quimby’s words verbatim. After them, influenced by Quimby, came the Mind Sciences (New Thought, Power of Positive Thinking etc), all claiming the ability of mind to create health (and wealth) for oneself. I believe the roots of Leaf and Strydom’s teachings are cultic. At this point I would like to say that I believe them to be sincere believers, and both lovely people, and by no means are they deliberately trying to harm, but they are sincerely deceived, and I am convinced they don’t realise it.
    This idea of the power of the mind was picked up by Kenyon, the father of the faith movement, and given the biblical term “faith”.(See “A Different Gospel ” by D.R.McConnell). We are being told that it is not God who heals you, but your faith (See “have faith in your faith…by Kenneth Hagin “Have Faith in Your Faith” pp 4-5) Is it any surprise that Dr Leaf seems to be the darling of the Faith churches? I noticed that on her recent preaching trip to South Africa she appeared at only or mostly on platforms of Faith churches.
    As Christians, we all have a commission to “…contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints…”. To that end Paul “urges” us. Jude 3. We are to care for the faith, with all of its content, preserve it, and guard against additions and subtractions. Today,the church is being bombarded by false teachings like probably never before in the history of the church, and “the faith” is beginning to look like something else. Here’s an illustration of what I mean: Maybe you know this, but all dog breeds are descended from the wolf, through genetic manipulation by man. Even the Pekingese was once a wolf. Let’s face it, there isn’t much in a Pekingese that reminds one of a wolf ! The point is this: Tinker enough with the DNA of a wolf, and you end up with a Pekingese. By the same token, tinker enough with the DNA of the Christian faith, and you end up with something other than the faith we are urged to preserve.

    • Hi Dr Jacobs,

      I’m very grateful for the feedback, and for your valued insights. I had heard of Dr Strydom before, I think mentioned by another commenter a few months ago, but I was unaware of the history of Phineas Quimby and Mary Baker Eddy. So thanks for sharing this.

      Dr Leaf has certainly made pentecostal churches her home base. Perhaps there is a trade off in that the more one is willing to rely on faith, the less one is inclined to use critical thinking. Maybe I’m unfairly over-generalising.

      Either way, I’ll keep my ears open to the teaching of Dr Strydom. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to write to the pastors who hosted Dr Strydom, and the national executive of the church organisation that the particular church belonged to. It’s only by standing up for the truth that people will hear it, and take notice.

      Again, I’m much obliged for the gracious feedback and wise words. All the best to you.

  32. Hi. Grace and peace to you through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want to encourage you in your labor, and add my prayers for your continued courage, strength, health and insight. God bless you.

  33. Hi Dr Pitt
    I haven’t read all of the posts so I’m not sure if this issue that I’m raising is repetition. I work as a clinical psychologist and Dr Leaf’s teachings also concern me. One of the “unwitting” side effects of “….98% of diseases arise from wrong thinking” or messages to that effect is that it can do so much damage to those that are suffering. Not long ago I saw a young mum (three young kids) with metastasized breast cancer who had been given a self help book that professed the same type of message. She couldn’t stop the guilt that her children would soon be motherless because of her thinking. This guilt was having profound effects on every area of her life including her capacity to deal with the sometimes onerous side effects of her treatment. She was becoming depressed and contemplated suicide.
    Obviously her thinking was important to her recovery. Thank God she was able to overcome her guilt and that she was not responsible for her illness.
    Thank you for your hard work. I will be sharing this issue with my Church.

    • Hi Graham. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Don’t worry about repetition – your professional perspective and insight is always welcome in the ongoing discourse.

      I agree with your concerns about the 98 percent myth and other similar teachings – it brings about unnecessary guilt and distress from the misattribution of personal responsibility for uncontrollable events and circumstances. It also misdirects people into programs that have no proven therapeutic efficacy.

      I’m really glad that you were able to help your patient through those feelings (and I wish her and her family all the best in their very trying times!) I have significant concerns that there may be others in the church may not be so fortunate, and I do worry that Dr Leafs other teachings, specifically where she calls anti-depressants unscientific and unbiblical, is likely to result in serious harm or suicide at some point in the future.

      So I would be most grateful if you were to raise your concerns about Dr Leafs teaching with your church and your professional colleagues. If you’re willing, I’d also be grateful if you would send a letter into the National Executive of the Australian Christian Churches. I’ve been a lone voice so far, but if other professionals also raise their concerns, I hope that church leaders will look at Dr Leaf’s teaching more seriously.

      Many thanks for the feedback. I’m always open to further comments or questions.

      All the best.

      • Hi Dr Pitt
        I’d be glad to write a letter.

        Can you tell me where she made those claims about anti-depressants?

        I think one of the holes in her theory (though I admit I haven’t read everything she has written) is the importance of relationship. You probably have heard of Pieter Roussouw who has researched and reported on neuroplastic effects of a trusting and safe relationship. His book Neuropsychotherapy outlines his research and practical applications. To me this is an example of how the natural reflects spiritual realities. Relationships are very important to God!

        Thank you again for what you do

      • Hi Graham. In her 2013 book, pages 31-32, Dr Leaf wrote this, “The first argument proposes that thoughts come from your brain as though your brain is generating all aspects of your mental experience. People who hold this view are called materialists. They believe that it is the chemicals and neurons that create the mind and that relationships between your thoughts and what you do can just be ignored.
        So essentially, their perspective is that the brain creates what you are doing and what you are thinking. The mind is what the brain does, they believe, and the ramifications are significant. Take for example, the treatment of depression. In this reductionist view, depression is a chemical imbalance problem of a machinelike brain; therefore, the treatment is to add in the missing chemicals.
        This view is biblically and scientifically incorrect.” (Leaf, C.M., Switch On Your Brain : The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health. 2013, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

        Which is ironic as Dr Leaf wrote the exact opposite in her 2009 book, “The Gift In You” (see my post here: https://cedwardpitt.com/2015/05/03/dr-caroline-leaf-contradicted-by-dr-caroline-leaf/)

        I must admit I haven’t heard of Dr Roussouw, although his conclusions don’t surprise me … when you break it all down, our brain is constantly adapting to our internal and external environment, and it does so through neuroplasticity, to the level of neuroplasticity that each individual brain is capable of. Relationships are another strong variable in our external environment. Hence why there’s benefit in IPT as well as other psychotherapies like ACT and CBT.

        All the best.

    • I will let this comment slide, but all future commenters, please note: this is an open forum for rational discussion about Dr Leaf and her teaching, far from the reach of Dr Leaf’s social media censorship team who remove all comments of critique, depth or intelligence. Comments favourable to Dr Leaf’s teaching or critical of my work are welcome here, but should show some depth of reasoning. General and/or overly sycophantic comments will no longer be posted, since there are far more appropriate places if you wish to show your support for Dr Leaf, like her Facebook page, or you can communicate to her directly through email or the post.

      • Hi Dr Pitt
        I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that says toxic thinking is the cause of disease. Surely “toxic thinking” can be classified as sin – missing the mark. Yet Jesus when confronted by the blind man and His disciples question – “who sinned – this man or his parents that he was born blind” was very clear and said “Neither he nor his father sinned…” and went on to perform a miracle all for the gory of God! I guess that this might be an example of the 2%.
        Another problem with such ideas is not only can it damage church goers, but colour the perceptions of those yet saved – and work against their salvation.
        I was co-erced into going to church and my first experience was a wonderful Godly man, who is also a GP, who gave a testimony about a miraculous healing. What made it powerful for me was his credentials and his obvious scientific mindset. If my first experience had of been Dr Leaf, it would just have confirmed my pre-conceived notion that Christianity is nothing more than a fringe idealogy. I did hear her speak once where she said that “…psychology is of no use – why would you see someone who makes you go back over and over the past”. She lost me right there. Trauma focused CBT for PTSD does precisely this and with the right protocol helps the person to reframe their experience. So going over things with the right person who asks the right questions can alter schemas – deep seated beliefs (or dare i say – strongholds). I’ve seen many Christian clients who benefit, just as much as non-christian clients.
        I haven’t written the letter yet but I will
        Thank you again for all you do.

      • Hi Graham,

        Thanks for the ongoing conversation. Dr Leaf’s claim to be a mental health expert seriously concerns me, and I say that without exaggeration. Your example of her stance against psychology, and her recent diatribe against psychopharmacology, will eventually turn the church against proven treatments and cause vulnerable Christians to a) not engage in useful treatments and b) waste money and time, and ultimately squander part or all of their lives chasing useless “treatments”. At worst, this could lead to suicide if someone anxious enough or psychotic enough stops their medication. It also sets an impossible goal for vulnerable Christians to try and think their own way out of their mental health problems, which inevitably will result in failure then guilt, and a pattern of on-going struggle, which needn’t have been.

        I’m also convinced, as you suggest, that non-Christian professionals will have their views of Christianity negatively skewed by Dr Leaf’s ideas and the churches blind acceptance of them.

        So it’s really quite frustrating to have Christians and church leaders falling over themselves to court her and promote her teaching. I hope that they will see the eminent dangers in her teaching before it’s too late.

        Going back to your first paragraph, I think you’re right, I don’t know of anywhere in the Bible that categorically shows that diseases are caused by toxic thinking either. If anything, the Levitical laws, which were as much a set of public health regulations as they were instructions for purity before God, had very little to do with thinking (if at all), and almost everything to do with physical care and social structure. So if 98% of diseases are due to our thought life, then why aren’t 98% of the Levitical laws to do with our thinking? I think it’s pretty clear that God thinks our health is due to our physical care and our social structure, and not our thoughts.

        I’m not sure I agree that ‘toxic thinking’ can be classified as sin. Ultimately it depends on the definition of ‘toxic thinking’, because the so-called ‘negative’ moods or thoughts like anxiety and fear, or even schemas or personality types such as neuroticism, still have protective benefits, for both the individual and their social group. And excessive happiness or optimism, the so-called ‘positive’ thoughts or traits, can sometimes be detrimental to individuals and groups depending on context.

        So if ‘negative’ thinking is not necessarily ‘toxic thinking’, then what is ‘toxic’ thinking? Is thinking ‘toxic’ if it’s excessive, or misdirected, or maladaptive? That may seem like a better definition. Excessive or misdirected anxiety can form an anxiety disorder, though the excessive or misdirected thinking is often secondary to biological abnormalities causing the excessive or misdirected thoughts, and since we don’t regard other biologically based disorders as sinful, then ‘toxic’ thinking should also not be considered sinful. Maladaptive thinking may also be considered ‘toxic’, but since maladaptive thinking is judged in context and usually hindsight, it’s really hard to make a blanket judgement about the sinfulness or otherwise of such thoughts, especially at the time.

        So I, for one, am not in favour of labelling any thoughts as ’toxic’, and especially trying to label them as ‘sinful’. I think it’s a particularly unhelpful label, which draws people into an endlessly circling eddy aside from what is truly significant and changeable.

        I also think Dr Leaf’s 98% rule is wrong, based on her misinterpretation of already poor science (see my book, chapter 10), so for me, I wouldn’t think that the blind man that you referred to in the Bible was part of the two percent since I don’t think there’s a two percent.

        Anyway, that’s just my opinion. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

        Thanks for your comments and encouragement. Still very much appreciated.

        Take care.

      • Hi Dr Pitt
        My comment about the blind man being in Dr Leaf’s 2% (not caused by toxic thinking) was a bit tongue in cheek – i definitely don’t think that.
        I agree with your comments about the meaning of “toxic thinking”.
        I raised the issue of toxic thinking in my last post to try and highlight an inconsistency between Dr Leaf’s thesis and the only time in the Bible that I can see where God was asked the question about the relationship of sin to sickness – “is this man’s affliction because of his sin or his father’s?” And His answer was an emphatic “neither this man nor his parents sinned…”
        God knows just how complex the effects on mankind are of the fall – and how creation was corrupted. Thank God He gave us brains to amongst other things – deal with these consequences through science.
        At the presentation I went to by Dr Leaf she had two plants or small trees – one thriving and the other very worse for ware. This was supposed to be an illustration of what happens to our “brain trees”. The thriving tree feeds off God’s Word (spoken and thought) whereas the near dead tree is damaged by toxic thinking. The clear implication is that toxic thinking is “missing the mark” or sin. Toxic thinking includes those thoughts associated with negative emotions like guilt, shame, rage and fear. So whilst she doesn’t overtly state toxic thinking equates with sin – that’s the implication of her thesis.
        Anyway – sorry I didn’t explain myself too well. I have an appointment with my Pastor next Tuesday. Thank you for all the information you have provided. I intend to use much of it in my meeting with my Pastor. After this I intend to write a letter as you suggested.
        Bless you

      • Hi Graham. Sorry I didn’t catch the ironic tone in your comment. My bad.

        You’re right about the trees analogy that she uses. Though I can say from first hand experience that she doesn’t just allude to toxic thinking being sin, but directly equates toxic thinking with sin, because during the first message that I heard her speak 2 years ago, she said, twice for good measure, “Toxic thoughts are sin.” Though if that’s the case, according to her definition of toxic thoughts, then Jesus sinned. I’m more included to believe the Bible than Dr Leaf. I’m not so sure about the rest of the church.

        Good luck for your meeting with your pastor. Let me know how you get on.

        All the best.

  34. Thank you for taking the time to research this. I was a bit skeptical when I read the percentage of illness and disease attributed to stress. And was curious about the lack of references to back up her claims. I do believe stress factors into a lot of health issues and I do believe we need to be renewing our minds. But positive thinking is not going to fix everything. Thanks again for your work, since I do not have the time to research it all for myself.

    • Hi Rachel,

      You’re more than welcome. It’s certainly one of the reasons I’ve maintained this site, to provide a scientifically accurate rebuttal of Dr Leaf’s work for those people who don’t have the time or resources to review it for themselves, so that as many people as possible can make an informed choice about Dr Leaf’s work.

      Thanks for the encouragement, and all the best to you.

  35. She makes big bucks doing her thing . Her gig appeals to a lot of people . Magical thinking sprinkled with science has been a long time way for educated folks to rake in , provided the information is well packaged , huge amounts of money .
    Televangelists make millions of dollars selling people faith . Faith is free and available to all without cost .
    In the end God will not be mocked .
    And , by the way , I am a bible believing Christian .
    I also want it clear , that I am sure Dr . Leaf helps many more people than she you might think . AT least she is getting people to think about their 10 billion dollar computer . She certainly teaches people about the mind , soul and spirit as it pertains to their life on earth . Her science may be flawed but who’s isn’t .
    She brings , to the public information . I have never heard her use her ideas to harm anyone . Let’s face it , all of us are playing to a North American , for the most part affluent audience .
    It is obvious to , those of us who play with this stuff , that we are aware we are not being listened to those in third world countries .
    Of course gross starvation , unspeakable hygiene , gross infectious disease , and all sorts of disease that we could treat in a flash , are not going to be helped by lectures on Cognitive Disodence .
    For the price of one Super Bowl ticket , we could treat countless thousands of suffering humanity . But we don’t . We like the game and we like to be entertained .

    • Hi Dr Wilkie,

      Thanks for your very sage observations. I understand what you’re saying and I do agree. I guess it all comes down to where one draws the line. It’s clearly not black and white, it’s a matter of how much grey is tolerable.

      So, for example, I agree that many people may feel that Dr Leaf helps them. But many people feel that horoscopes help them. Should we start supporting horoscopes?

      The other thing to note here is the primary pillar of medical ethics was always primum non nocere – ‘First, do no harm.’ I understand you may not have heard her saying anything that does harm, but I can assure you that Dr Leaf denies the existence of ADHD, has suggested depression isn’t an illness, has written extensively that psychiatric medications are unscientific and unbiblical, and a number of other claims that demonise and stigmatise mental illness. By denying the significance of depression and actively mounting a scare campaign against psychiatric medications, she risks causing significant harm to those vulnerable psychiatric patients who are on medication, who may be scared off their medications which increases the risk of suicide. I’m not the only person who has been alarmed about Dr Leaf’s various claims on mental health. Dr Leaf might be doing some good, but her unwillingness to change her teaching when there is a significant risk of harm is unethical, and unbiblical.

      As you say, in the end, God will not be mocked.

      I also take your point that it’s not just her science that’s flawed, but we’re not just talking about valid differences of scientific interpretation with Dr Leaf. Unfortunately, Dr Leaf misinterprets even the most basic science, and habitually cherry picks and misrepresents. Her problems with scientific interpretation are systematic, which gives rise to the question of whether any of her teaching is trustworthy.

      In the end, people will decide for themselves. My role is to question, contrast, give people the alternative view so they can make up their own minds.

      And of course, you’re right when you suggest that starvation, poor hygiene, infectious disease and the other diseases of poverty that afflict millions around the world aren’t going to be helped by lectures on cognitive dissonance. Collectively, we could and should do more to alleviate poverty. However, we also can’t ignore the suffering of those afflicted with mental illness, whom Dr Leaf has disenfranchised. And perhaps if people stopped paying Dr Leaf for misleading advice, there would be more money available to give to those in the greatest need.

      Thanks for your very insightful and interesting comment.

      All the best.

  36. Hi there friends,

    This conversation raises some questions for me.

    Firstly, were the issues raised directly with Dr. Leaf in private – this would seem to be the biblical directive. Matt 18:15

    There seems to be two arena of concern, firstly the scientific.

    If would seem that Dr Leaf is being criticised for a lack of professionalism, this includes referencing research material inappropriately and possibly claims of competence outside of her area of expertise.

    Should not both these concerns be taken to a professional body for judgement.

    Then there is the broader issue emerging – should Scripture be accountable to science or science accountable to Scripture?

    Maybe the answer is neither as science is the human investigation into what we perceive, whereas the Scripture is our God breathed account of matters concerning us from a divine perspective. While God celebrates our investigation into the wonders of His creation, our knowledge will always be limited. Ecc 3:11

    Then there is the matter of “mental health” How do we see Jesus responding to this condition?

    His response to the poor soul in torment, physically bound in chains because of his mental condition, Jesus releases him from his anguish by dealing with the spiritual cause. Notice that he was restored to his right mind. Luke 8:26-

    In this area the Body of Christ has largely abdicated it’s ministry to ‘professionals’ .

    Professionals are not equipped to deal with the spiritual and in like manner often bind poor souls in torment, to a life of drug dependence.

    It took me seven years to be completely restored from mental confusion, the professionals tried ECT and drugs. My release, however, came by much prayer, healing and consistent rebuke of the spiritual perpetrators. It is now 35 years since I was completely restored to my right mind.

    This process included authoritatively and wilfully refusing unwanted thoughts and their source, washing ones mind with the Word, and finding peace that comes from surrendering to Him and His order.

    So lets rejoice in the degree of revelation she does have. If there are concerns, take them to the right quarter – professional issues to her professional authority and spiritual issues to her eldership.
    This is better than hanging her out to dry with our personal judgements in a public forum.

    Blessings to all.

    Thos.

    • Dear Thos,

      Thank you for raising these very relevant questions and points of discussion. I’ll answer each of them in turn.

      1. Were the issues raised directly with Dr. Leaf in private?

      I’ve attempted to communicated with Dr Leaf directly as best I can. Unfortunately, Dr Leaf has refused to engage with me, publicly and privately.

      After I heard her speak for the very first time a few years ago, I sent an e-mail to the senior pastor of the hosting church that outlined my concerns. With my consent, he forwarded my e-mail on to her. At the same time, I reviewed the weekends teachings on this blog.

      Dr Leaf chose not to respond to my e-mail privately, but instead, Mac Leaf dismissed my concerns publicly in a comment on my blog.

      In my subsequent reply, I offered to publish any further comments Dr Leaf wished to make, in full and unabridged. I also offered to meet with Dr Leaf face to face in any city in Australia (and I’ve subsequently expanded that promise to include any city in New Zealand) to discuss my concerns. Dr Leaf has chosen not to take up that offer, although the offer still stands.

      I have also attempted to politely raise my concerns on her Facebook page, but like many other non-sycophants, I have been blocked from commenting by her social media minions.

      When Dr Leaf recently came through my home city, I went to hear her speak and after the second service, tried to approach her with the intention of introducing myself and shaking her hand, in the spirit of honour and maturity. Unfortunately I couldn’t get past her presidential style detail complete with body guards.

      So the answer to your question is ‘I’ve tried’. I have done everything that I can do short of stalking her. Unfortunately she has chosen not to listen.

      2. Should not both these concerns be taken to a professional body for judgement?

      Yes, but Dr Leaf is not part of any professional association to whom she is answerable. And there’s no governing body of world-wide churches to which she is accountable.

      I have approached the national executive of the Australian Christian Churches with my concerns for churches in Australia where she preaches, but their official response was essentially “It’s too complicated for us, and it’s not our responsibility anyway.”

      I approached the American Psychiatric Association for comment after Dr Leaf more or less slandered them in a blog post at the end of last year, and they declined to comment or take the matter further.

      So it appears Dr Leaf is a law unto herself. No one in the church is willing to be the first to publicly voice concerns, and she isn’t a member of any professional association to which she’s accountable.

      The only way that Dr Leaf will ever be held accountable is if she’s sued for damages arising from her teaching, but I sincerely hope the situation doesn’t come to that, because that will mean that someone has had to significantly suffer to justify damages, and I would expect that a hosting church somewhere would also be drawn into the lawsuit. I don’t want to see innocent parties suffer collateral damage.

      3. Should Scripture be accountable to science or science accountable to Scripture?

      I agree with you that the answer is neither. They’re two sides to the same coin – science explores the natural, and scripture explicates the supernatural.

      Or as so elegantly stated by Nobel Prize winning physicist and mathematician William H. Bragg, “From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”

      4. How do we see Jesus responding to mental health?

      I respectfully disagree with you on this point. The scripture you referred to was describing the man of the Gadarenes who suffered from demon-possession, not a mental health condition. They’re not one and the same.

      Mental illnesses result from different combinations of deficiencies in our biological, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions.

      I’m sure that Jesus would have healed those with genuine mental health problems in the same way he dealt with all sickness – Matthew 9:35, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”

      I think it’s a matter of personal opinion as to whether “the Body of Christ has largely abdicated it’s ministry to ‘professionals’”. Would you say the same thing about physical illnesses? Should the church be discouraging medications in favour of prayer? Generally, Christians have no problem taking antibiotics or anti-seizure medication, but baulk at taking psychiatric medications or accept them in shame, and this inconsistency is unhelpful to Christians suffering from mental illness.

      While it’s true that most medical/psychological professionals aren’t equipped to deal with the spiritual, it’s probably a little unfair to claim that professionals “often bind poor souls in torment, to a life of drug dependence.” As I said before, mental illness isn’t fully spiritual, and more often than not, medications and psychological therapies are helpful. I understand that they weren’t in your case, and I’m sorry to hear that, but I can tell you many stories of when they have helped.

      Finally, let me say that I’m not “hanging her out to dry with our personal judgements in a public forum”. Dr Leaf has left me no other way to voice my concerns. She has ignored valid criticism, and continues to preach misleading pseudoscience, and I would be remiss if I didn’t continue to provide the alternative viewpoint. When the church leadership steps up and takes responsibility, or Dr Leaf reviews her teaching and aligns it with good science, I’ll be happy to spend my time elsewhere. Also, my critique is of Dr Leaf’s teaching, not Dr Leaf herself. She could be the nicest person, though I wouldn’t know because Dr Leaf has refused to engage with me, but I’m really not interested in personal attacks. They’re empty and unproductive.

      Again, many thanks for raising such pertinent and important points. All the best.

      • This dialogue is the most interesting on this blog site. My career is devoted to resolving conflict and disputes, through mediation and any forum besides litigation. I am aware of a number of good reasons she may not wish to engage directly with her critics, or at least some of them. In a one-sided discussion of that, it is unfair to assign bad motives to someone who declines an invitation to meet or talk. Jesus and Paul conversed with some of their detractors but disappeared into the crowd on other occasions. Billy Graham declined to meet with the Underground Church in Eastern Europe at a crucial time, without explanation. So I do not believe it is fair or honorable to infer any negative impulse. The presence of “bodyguards” is quite routine with folks like Dr. Pat Robertson, Dr. Heidi Baker and others for good reasons. The absence of lawsuits is least persuasive. Some lawyers live to file lawsuits, and many of the large pharmaceutical companies employ some of the most ruthless. I see that you have invested quite a bit of energy in following Dr. Leaf………I would attend a discussion between you both in the right forum, but I wonder why the Lord has not made your efforts successful as He is devoted to the truth and exposing falsehoods. I will stay tuned. I do appreciate your tone and the dignity you show in this public forum!! Gratefully, Paul

      • Hi Paul. I’m very interested in what you have to say, especially from your legal perspective. Would it be ok if I emailed you so we could have a conversation in a less public forum?

  37. I really appreciate Dr Caroline Leaf’s work, It really works, there is nothing wrong when people express their views, people are given mouths not only to eat but also to speak any thing they choose to speak. I will not even care either when people slander or speak bad about someone’s work it doesn’t make any difference.
    I am going ahead to practice what she preaches and it is already working for me.
    Thanks

    • I’m glad her teaching works for you Giy. You’re welcome to believe whomever you want to believe and do whatever you want to do. I’m glad you do not even care when people slander or speak bad about someone’s work. Personally, I don’t care about passive aggressive criticism. All the best to you.

  38. Hi Dr Pitt,
    I came across your blog here by doing research on google to see if “Switch on Your Brain” (SoYB) by Dr Caroline Leaf would be suitable for people with OCD. Just for your interest I used the search term without quotes “Caroline Leaf OCD”.

    I bought SoYB book and SoYB audio MP3 after hearing about her on a Christian radio station here in New Zealand called Rhema.

    I have watched only one video about her on youtube where she appeared on a show with Sid Roth here on youtube (no need to watch) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xnw9vO8nhM

    I have only read your answer to Mr Leaf here on this page with some of the post question, answer and replies. I haven’t read SoYB yet or listened to the audio as of writing this post.

    Just for the record I don’t know anything really about biology and the brain, I hardly know much about the bible but have heard a bit of teaching about it, but I am a Christian, and have suffered from OCD since at least 9 years old, and still do now at 44 years old.

    I am glad you stated your world view earlier in this post, as that was going to be my main question and reason for posting here.

    I think you should make your declaration of faith at the start of this page a little clearer (rather than just a sub title in the heading) , so as people know you are not just making an attack on Dr Leaf because she is a Christian, as I initially thought when reading the start of this page, If I hadn’t waded through some of the posts here, I would have continued thinking this.

    So I am putting part of your reply to Natasha here in case others miss it in the myriad of posts:-

    ___________________________________________________________________________
    “There are many heroes in the Bible, like Moses, David, Elijah, who all went through episodes of emotional turmoil, despite being men of great faith. Personally I know of a number of people, one a very strong, devout Christian man, who became depressed and required medication. We are broken people living in a broken world. We should not consider Christians who need medications for mental illness to be any less spiritual or devoted than Christians who need medications for physical illness.

    For the record, I am a born-again Christian, spirit-filled, brought up in sunday school and Christian schools, and over the years, I have served the churches I have attended in nearly every way I could, from children’s ministry to the eldership. I believe in the Bible, which is the inspired word of God. My heart has always been to build the church. In this season, I’m advocating for a higher standard of scientific truth from those who would use science to promote their ‘ministry’. If that means that Dr Leaf’s teachings are held up to the hard light of day, scientifically and theologically, then so be it. ”
    _____________________________________________________________________________

    I have had mixed responses about my illness from the Christian Community:-
    some quoting scripture “Love casts out fear” and other scriptures
    some say “it is like any other sin and needs to be overcome”.

    I have questioned my own salvation because of it.

    My training is in Computer Science, but I am ignorant on the topic of gene programming.

    Just FYI there is a field of Computer Science that involves the research into DNA programming. Also certain foods like sugar and others can turn certain genes on and off. I was taught at home group that “Garbage In equals Garbage Out”. So if a person watches sex and violent movies, then the likelihood is that it will effect their behaviour and thought life.

    So if our brain is continuously being programmed from our decisions like what food we eat and what we feed our senses, and environment factors, then that will have an effect on our memory, which in a way is a sort of programming different parts that make up the brain. I suppose with what I have just said, my question would be:-

    “with all my OCD thought life being stored in my brain, and if gene programming is real, could some of that programming be passed on to my sperm and my future children inherit OCD?” I am also thinking could that be what it means in the bible in one context (not the only context) when it refers to a curse being passed down the family line?

    It talks in one of the gospels that Jesus healed someone of something, and Jesus said that it was their faith that healed them. Even Claire Weekes talks about faith healing of people with anxiety and that it comes about by acceptance.

    As I have not read your other blogs yet, I may be out of line, please forgive if I am.

    What I find with some Christian Bible Teachers is, they will present a subject matter where there is controversy, and not give a balanced argument for both sides.

    So my question is:-

    “What are the things Dr Leaf has written in her book SoYB that would be helpful for someone with mental illness and is in line with the bible, from your point of view as a Christian who has researched this?”

    If Dr Leaf is correct and that we can re-programme our brains, then that puts the responsibility in our hands to get better.

    I would like to add, that when people have a stroke a lot of them need to learn how to use theirs arms and learn to talk again. Is that a re-wiring of the brain?

    There have also been cases (sorry I can’t quote) where people have been in accidents, broken their backs, been unable to walk, and then have learned to walk again.

    Last comment:- I was listening to radio Rhema to the broadcast programme “Running with Fire” and the speaker tak bhana said he read in a book where a female was given a heart transplant and after she received it started to think for the first time and have a love for motorcycles. She could not understand why, as she had no interest prior to the heart surgery until she found out that her heart donor was a male who had a strong interest in motorcycles. I contacted Tak Bhana at “Church Unlimited” here in Auckland Glendene and asked him what the name of the book was and he replied with the name, but I can’t seem to find that email currently. If you are interested you could write to him as I am sure he will reply.

    • Hi Roderick

      Thanks for your comment.

      You’ve actually raised a lot of different issues, and I’m not sure I can cover them all in great depth, but I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

      And thanks for reposting my declaration of faith and purpose. I might put a revised version of this in the ‘About’ section, which might be the best place to put it.

      So with regards to OCD, I’ve written a blog about Christians and anxiety which you can find here (https://cedwardpitt.com/2015/10/31/the-prospering-soul-christians-and-anxiety/). I hope this might explain OCD a little better. The different responses that you’ve had about your OCD from the church community don’t surprise me. Unfortunately there’s a lot of misunderstanding of mental health in the Christian church. People are taught that it’s sin, or it’s a choice, or you need to think positive, or so many other misconceptions. Even the e-mail from Ps Tak that you forwarded suggested that your problem is an “emotional anxiety based illness” which might be helped with “positive words”. I’m just finishing off a book about mental health for Christians, and I wrote it for Christians in your position, who are looking for answers about their mental health from the church and getting misinformation instead.

      Please don’t question your salvation because of it. Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-39, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

      Who condemns us? No one. Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Nothing will seperate us from the love of God. In all of these things, we are more than conquerors.

      I also remember the other classic scripture in 2 Corinthians 12 “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

      Sure, your OCD might make you weak, but we’re all weak in different ways? However, when we understand God’s grace and allow it to work through us, we become strong in God, and God is glorified through our weaknesses. I explored this a little more in a previous post – https://cedwardpitt.com/2014/12/31/looking-backward-moving-forwards/.

      Specifically in terms of the biology and the questions you have raised, you’re on the right track, I think there’s just a few things to put into proper perspective. Epigenetics is important, but you need the genes in the first place in order for them to be switched on by epigenetics. OCD, like other anxiety disorders, probably has a moderate genetic component. These genes are usually switched on by early childhood stress. They aren’t switched on by sugar, thoughts, bad movies etc. There’s a chance that they may be passed on to your children like any genes, but that’s beyond your control and again, nothing to do with epigenetics or what you put into your brain (there’s scientific information on epigenetic inheritance in plants and some animals, but none in humans at this point). I think it’s a stretch to suggest that it’s related to the Bible’s four generations rule.

      In terms of rewiring, our brains rewire all the time. Neuroplasticity is a real science, but the results have been a little overhyped. But like the example you gave, people recovering from strokes do so because of neuroplasticity. In fact, it’s a general physiological principle that the more a tissue is used, the more it grows. If you exercise a lot, your muscles grow – in size and in strength. Same for your brain. The more you use a particular circuit, the more nerve branches grow to support that circuit and it also grows more efficient. This effect has been shown in London taxi drivers and their memory circuits, or in the motor circuits in those who learn juggling. The same is true in terms of OCD, because we know that good psychological therapies like CBT or ACT are helpful. But if there is a genetic limitation to the brains ability to grow those new branches, sometimes help is needed to encouraged the brain to form the new pathways, and this is where medications and exercise come into the picture.

      In all good conscience, I couldn’t recommend Dr Leaf’s work for therapeutic assistance. Your question is a good case in point, “If Dr Leaf is correct and that we can re-programme our brains, then that puts the responsibility in our hands to get better.” I’ve written a book discussing Dr Leaf’s work (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=13, or http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/hold-that-thought/), and in chapter 3 I talk about how much power we have to change. Dr Leaf does indeed suggest that it’s all our responsibility to improve, and this is a problem, because there are some things we can change, and there are some things we can’t change, and we need wisdom to know the difference.

      I usually recommend people to see a good psychologist first and foremost because I think psychological therapy is more effective than books. However, if you’re looking for a book to help you with OCD, I would recommend The Happiness Trap, by Dr Russ Harris (or the companion guide, which is more pictures and less words if you prefer that). ACT, which is the basis for The Happiness Trap, is a proven psychological therapy, whereas Dr Leaf’s work is not based on good science or good psychology.

      One last thing, in regards to the heart transplant story, it’s a common myth that our physical hearts can affect our thinking and memory. Dr Leaf tries to sell the same stuff in her books, and I’ve written a rebuttal in chapter 11. There’s nothing in the physical heart that stores memories of any form, so the story of the motorbike loving heart transplant is just that, a story, not based in science. Sorry, I don’t want to sound mean and dismissive, but that’s the cold hard facts of the matter.

      I hope I’ve been able to answer things clearly and fairly, and I hope that is of some assistance to you. If I haven’t explained something very clearly, then please let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify.

      All the best to you.

      • Hi Dr Pitt,
        thank you very much for the sensitivity, care, thoughtfulness, compassion and time you put into your reply to me. I will look more closely at the links you have provided later.

        I got the sugar and genes info from Mercola.com and here are some of the typical links that discuss things like it on his website. I used the words “sugar genes” but without quotes.

        Your Genes Remember a Sugar Hit
        http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/02/12/your-genes-remember-a-sugar-hit.aspx

        Cancerous Cells Cannot Thrive Without This
        http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/13/this-powerful-herb-changes-your-genes-to-combat-cancer.aspx

        Falling for This Myth Could Give You Cancer
        http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/11/epigenetic-vs-determinism.aspx

        Quoted from above link ……

        “However, scientists have completely shattered this dogma and proven it false. You actually have a tremendous amount of control over how your genetic traits are expressed—from how you think to what you eat and the environment you live in.”

        Too Much Sugar Kills Your Sex Life
        http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2007/12/01/too-much-sugar-kills-your-sex-life.aspx

        I subscribe to his newsletter, but, as I don’t know anything about biology, his articles read as though he knows what he is talking about.

        I’m not suggesting you read the entire article (unless it interests you), or give a an analysis, but I would be interested in your opinion if he is making “Sound Scientific Logical Sense”.

        Thank you for the book suggestions, I will look at getting those in the near future.

        You answered my questions very clearly.

        I do have other questions about OCD and Christianity, could you please direct me to another part of your web site where it would be more appropriate to ask them than this post which is reserved for discussing Dr Leaf’s work.

        Thanks once again, very much appreciated.

      • Hey Roderick,

        I can understand why Dr Mercola sounds convincing, but unfortunately he’s a quack (http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html). So I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in his articles.

        The reason why Mercola and his ilk are so believable is because they mix just enough truth with their misconceptions to make the mix look plausible. It takes a bit of research or training to see the mistruths.

        From my perspective, I think there might be a link with poor mental health and sugar, in that poor mental health increases the desire for sugary foods and drinks as a boost to serotonin in the brain, and because it’s nice and it offers a way of coping with the unwanted feelings that mental illness causes. I don’t think there’s any good evidence to prove that sugar causes mental health problems.

        You’re welcome to ask any question you like on this site. I don’t mind diverting slightly. Although if the questions aren’t suitable for a public forum, please let me know and I’ll contact you privately. But I’m always happy to try and answer general questions about mental health. Anything specific or individual, I always recommend talking to a GP, psychologist, or your pastor.

        Take care.

  39. Found a copy of the email about the lady who received a donated heart and started taking an interest in motorcycles like the deceased man whose heart she had.

    Here is the email copy and pasted:-
    ______________________________________________________________________
    Hi Roderick, this is a response from Ps Tak regarding your query about the neurosurgeon.

    Greetings, thanks for your encouraging words. I’m glad you find Running with Fire helpful. The details of the neurosurgeon comments are from ‘The Fourth Dimension’ by Dr Paul Yonggi Cho on page 67. Hopefully this book will also help with positive words in dealing with emotional anxiety based illness.

    Blessings,

    Tak Bhana

    ______________________________________________________________________

  40. Good day,

    You are obviously a person who cannot generate or come up with anything original, therefore, you can only criticize or attack.

    • Dear Andre,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      It’s clear that you’ve not read any of my other work, since I’ve come up with lots of original ideas. But what’s more pertinent is that my critique is just as valid and scientifically accurate, irrespective of my originality and creativity.

      Ultimately you can judge me however you like. You can hate me, despise my work, criticise my methods. Personally, I don’t care. But if the only argument you have to dismiss my work is that I’m critical, then that’s a poor argument indeed. I encourage you to read my work in detail, and if you can articulate a factual argument which is contrary to my work, please feel free to reply. If you prefer to maintain a closed mind and dismiss my work without rational consideration, then that’s your choice. Good luck to you.

  41. Hello Doc, I love this blog, I really enjoy the debate. I think it is so necessary in the science world, in fact everywhere, in every field as it helps to hone peoples skills, prevents them from exagerations, sloppy work and holds them to a high standard and accountability. You have done it with good grace too – so great to see that happen in a world where people are deeply unkind and vicious to one another on line. Great job. I really enjoy Dr Leafs work btw, I’m no expert but I love her positivity, entusiasm and delivery. I believe that no one should be beyond dignified and respectful questioning, even Jesus welcomed people questioning His claims graciously at one point – and my thoughts are, if the Son of God doesn’t get defensive then there is no room for any person to become defensive when respectful clarification is requested. Pity Mac became defensive but then again veiwed through a broader lens, he is the hubby so I guess he’s just feeling protective. I do hope she engages in debate, I really have found this so interesting so far, I’d like to see it develop further – we all have much to learn. Thank you for your well thought out blog entry and respectful tone.

    • Hi mykindaart,

      Thanks for the kind words. They’re much appreciated. And I agree, of course – no one should be beyond dignified and respectful questioning. If one want to be a public expert, then one needs to be publicly accountable. And I also understand why you would enjoy Dr Leaf’s work. She is a charismatic person, and her style is very engaging.

      Unfortunately her philosophy and factual accuracy let her down, and sadly, Dr Leaf has chosen to bury her head in the sand. She has rather firmly refused to engage with me in any way. I will expand on this more in a future blog as this story has a lot to unpack, but recently I wrote to her personally to humbly offer conciliation and to see if there was any scope for compromise. She chose to reply through her lawyer, so I took that as a ‘no’. One can only speculate as to why she refuses to engage … anti-intellectual, protectionist, arrogant, or maybe perfectly justifiable … that’s for other people to judge. But objectively, she’s made it clear she doesn’t want to listen to what I have to say.

      So for the time being, I’ll continue to review her work, and the Christian church can freely review both sides of the discussion and make up their own mind.

      Thanks for your interest and your comment today. All the best to you.

  42. You are correct a robust discussion is required. I am a sixty four aged Maori male from Aotearoa who has stood the passage of time against british insidious and perverted imperialism of my country and our neighbors the Mana Whenua of australia. I have learnt white australian call “ABBO’S. So my intuition know colonised policy from the natural world through my being all the way back to Maori story of creation, and backed up I might add by scripture.
    I have read and understood your explanation that I found useful in a positive sense and I also see Dr Leaf kõrero in the same light based upon how Maori see the two greatest constituted systems permeating every aspects of life [ a heaven, a earth.
    I commend you on your life work that I am friendly to, but without a spiritual dimension all I see is policy of the priviledge coming my way like a white tsunami invoking my history of british imperialist soldiers in 1860s burning our babies over a bomb fire at what is now known as Auckland International Airport.
    So in adding a universal view, and in fairness to Dr Leaf I would like it if you would back up all you say with scriptures including a full explanation otherwise I would agree with Mr leaf, it is judgemental and for me it is policy.
    Terīri Tai Rākena
    Ko Waikāto te Iwi

    • Dear Teriri,

      Kia ora! Thank you for sharing your perspective. I try and counter Dr Leaf’s arguments in like manner. Or in other words, I will counter her scientific statements with science, and her scriptural comments with scripture. I have also written about scriptural and spiritual topics in various blogs, and the new book in publication offers a scientific and scriptural basis for mental health recovery. Whether my scriptural content is sufficient is for others to judge, but please be assured, I work from both the scriptural and scientific perspectives.

      All the best to you.

  43. Wow dr. Pitt, it seems as though you’ve found your life’s porpose, which is to discredit dr. Leaf. All that time researching dedicated to proof her wrong. What else could you give this world with all the knowledge you possess??. She uses scripture correctly and her teachings are to be embraced alongside the Spirit of God.

    • Hi Wendy. You’re welcome to hold any opinion you please. My life is without porpose 😉 , though as for my life’s purpose, well, that’s to serve God and his church. I’m not discrediting Dr Leaf, merely providing quality assurance. If people are willing to be open minded and to look beyond the superficial, they would see that Dr Leaf is doing a good job of discrediting herself. I have done lots of good things beyond reviewing Dr Leaf’s work. And I will continue to do more. If you’re interested, have a look at the other articles on my blog.

      All the best to you.

  44. Pingback: Dr Caroline Leaf and Her House of Cards | Dr C. Edward Pitt

  45. Thank you Dr Pitt for being brave and principled enough to speak up. Dr Caroline Leaf is speaking in Perth this weekend and I am disappointed at the number of respected Christian friends who adore her and her message. I feel the message harks back to the hyper faith movement and that people are believing what they want to hear. For myself and others with mental health issues this message is not good news. What Dr Leaf is saying boils down to mental health issues being our fault and our responsibility to fix. I don’t think that this is a true or helpful, compassionate position. I am very tired of people following fads without really using their brain.
    Thanks again.

    • Hi Karen,

      Many thanks for your kind words of support.

      I understand your disappointment. All we can do is promote the alternative message, that mental illness isn’t the result of bad choices or toxic thoughts or our sins. If your friends ever talk about Dr Leaf’s teaching, gently suggest that maybe her teaching isn’t entirely accurate. Point them in the direction of this blog or debunkingdrleaf.com if that’s helpful. I’d also encourage you to write to your pastors and/or the leaders of the church hosting Dr Leaf in Perth. Share your personal concerns with them, and how Dr Leaf’s teaching affects you as a person who has suffered with mental health issues, and that her teaching isn’t necessarily accurate. I’d also encourage you to write a letter to the national executive of the church organisation that you belong to, again, expressing your personal view about how Dr Leaf’s teaching impacts on those with mental health issues. It’s only through the groundswell of ordinary church members expressing their opinions to their church leaders that the momentum of Dr Leaf’s ideology will be slowed then reversed.

      Again, many thanks for your support and encouragement.

      All the best to you.

  46. Wow, you are quite a busy critisizing human being, I iften find that when someone is on defence mode like you are, there must be some truth in the other persons argument. Wolf in sheeps clothes .

    • Hi Anna, you’re certainly welcome to draw whatever conclusions you like from my critique, but if your conclusions are dependent on your assumption that I’m being defensive rather than factual integrity, then they’re not going to be very robust. But hey, it’s a free world. Good luck to you.

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