Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Psychology and Theology (4)

Writing about Christian psychologists, I have not mentioned Dr. Gary R. Collins yet. I have his two books - Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide and Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality. After reading about various kinds of Christian counseling, I was quite interested about Christian coaching.

The difference between coaching and counseling, as Collins puts it, is that counseling deals with people's problems and their past, while coaching deals with their realization of their potential and their future. Counseling deals with the negative side and brings people to "zero," while coaching deals with the positive side and brings people from "zero" forward.

It seems that Christian counseling and Christian coaching are not always so clearly divided as Collins describes it. Some things from the realm of Christian coaching (for example, setting life goals) are sometimes included into Christian counseling. On the other hand, some things from the realm Christian counseling (not only such things as stress management, grief and loss, but even such things as phobias, anxiety, depression, etc.) are sometimes included into Christian coaching.

It may be that sometimes it is hard to divide counseling and coaching. For example, during the process of coaching, a coach may find out that a client has some problems that need to be dealt with. If the coach has sufficient qualification in counseling, he or she may counsel the client instead of sending him or her to a counselor.

However, the main idea is that counseling helps people to get rid of their problems, while coaching helps people to realize their potential. So, counseling is for people who have problems (who might have mental disorders), while coaching is for mentally healthy people.

In another blog post, I considered the difference between spiritual aspects of the post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest. Spiritual aspects of the post-cult recovery are in the realm of counseling, while post-cult spiritual quest is in the realm of coaching. This is one of the applications of the distinction between the realms of counseling and of coaching.

On the other hand, I believe that even purely psychological aspects of the post-cult recovery include not only matters inside the realm of counseling, but also matters inside the realm of coaching. On the one hand, ex-cult members may have some psychological problems, and these problems are in the realm of counseling. On the other hand, they also may need, for example, to set life goals and to reach them. This is the realm of coaching. In other words, "negative" aspects of the post-cult recovery are in the realm of counseling, while "positive" aspects of the post-cult recovery are in the realm of coaching.

I believe that it is possible to get rid of all the post-cult problems. They do not need to be permanent. In other words, the "negative" side of the post-cult recovery does not need to take the whole life. On the other hand, I do not think that the "positive" side of the post-cult recovery should take the whole life either. Well, during various transitional periods of life (moving to another city, getting a new job, getting married or divorced, and so on), people need to deal with things in the realm of coaching. Exiting a cult is also a transitional period of life. This is why the post-cult recovery includes some matters within the realm of coaching. However, when ex-cult members have other transitional periods of life, which have nothing to do with cults, although these periods will be within the realm of coaching, they will have nothing to do with the post-cult recovery. In other words, I believe that the "positive" side of the post-cult recovery, which is within the realm of coaching, only has to do with the transitional period of life after leaving a cult and has nothing to do with other transitional periods of life or other kinds of situations that may be in the realm of coaching.

Although there is a tendency to pay much more attention to the "negative" side of the post-cult recovery, I think that a more balanced approach would be to view it as a combination of the "negative" and "positive" sides.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Psychology and Theology (3)

In another blog post, I mentioned Dr. Jay E. Adams, the founder of so called nothetic counseling who promotes the idea that, with the exception of organic reasons (such as brain damage), all the mental disorders come from sins committed by people who suffer from these disorders, and that, instead of psychotherapy, they need to confess their sins. As I mentioned, one of the problems with this approach that it may lead to spiritual abuse.

It is usually believed that this approach uses only biblical and Christian principles and does not use psychology. It seems to be the most popular approach within The Scripture Against Psychology aka "Nothing Buttery" view. However, reading his book Competent to Counsel: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling (published in 1970) where he introduces his approach, I found out that his approach has much to do with psychology. In this book, Adams criticizes Freud and Rogers, but admires ideas of secular psychologist Dr. Orval Hobart Mowrer, and actually admits that he used Mowrer's ideas for his nouthethic counseling.

Adams writes in Introduction to Competent to Counsel: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling (pp. xiv-xviii):
... I remembered the name of a man whose works a Christian psychologist had once mentioned to me. That man was O. Hobart Mowrer.

I read some of Mowrer's works, including The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, and The New Group Therapy, which he had just published. These books astounded me. Mowrer had gone far beyond my own thinking. He was flatly challenging the very existence of institutionalized psychiatry. He stated outrightly that he believed that current psychiatric dogmas were false. He cited evidence to demonstrate that psychiatry largely had failed. I corresponded with Mowrer over certain points. In that correspondence Mowrer invited me to participate in his Eli Lilly Fellowship program at the University of Illinois, where he is Research Professor of Psychology. I went to the University of Illinois, where I worked under Mowrer during the summer session. That was an unforgettable experience for which I shall always be grateful. Getting away from all else and concentrating on the question of counseling for two months was exactly what I needed.

During the summer of 1965 we worked in two state mental institutions, one at Kankakee, Illinois, and the other at Galesburg, Illinois. In these two mental institutions, we conducted group therapy with Mowrer for seven hours a day. Along with five others, I flew with him, drove with him, ate with him, counseled with him and argued with him five days a week. I learned much during that time, and while today I certainly would not classify myself as a member of Mowrer's school, I feel that the summer program was a turning point in my thinking. There in those mental institutions, under Mowrer's methods, we began to see people labeled "neurotic, psychoneurotic, and psychotic" (people of all stripes) helped by confessing deviant behavior and assuming personal responsibility for it. Mowrer's emphasis upon responsibility was central. Mowrer urged people to "confess" their wrongs (not to God, but) to others whom they had wronged and to make restitution wherever possible. Mowrer is not a Christian. He is not even a theist, and we debated the issue of humanism all summer.

During that time I made a study of the principal biblical data on the subject of counseling, which special reference to what Scripture says about conscience. That summer's experience left me with some large convictions. First, I discovered why the large majority of people in mental institutions are there. Spending so much time with such persons afforded the opportunity to get to know and understand them. Apart from those who had organic problems, like brain damage, the people I met in the two institutions in Illinois were there because of their own failure to meet life's problems. To put it simply, they were there because of their unforgiven and unaltered sinful behavior. Secondly, the whole experience drove me back to the Bible to ask once again, "What do the Scriptures say about such people and the solution to their problems?"

Reading Mowrer's book The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, as I said, was an earth-shaking experience. In this book Mowrer, a noted research psychologist who had been honored with the Presidency of the American Psychological Association for his breakthrough in learning theory, challenged the entire field of psychiatry, declaring it a failure, and sought to refute its fundamental Freudian presuppositions. Boldly he threw down the gauntlet to conservative Christians as well. He asked: "Has Evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?"

In Crisis, Mowrer particularly opposed the Medical Model from which the concept of mental illness was derived. He showed how this model removed responsibility from the counselee. Since one is not considered blameworthy for catching Asian Flu, his family treats him with sympathetic understanding, and others make allowances for him. This is because they know he can't help his sickness. He was invaded from without. Moreover, he must helplessly rely on experts to help him get well. Mowrer rightly maintained that the Medical Model took away the sense of personal responsibility. As a result, psychotherapy became a search into the past to find others (parents, the church, society, grandmother) on whom to place the blame. Therapy consists of siding against the too-strict Super-ego (conscience) which these culprits have socialized into the poor sick victim.

In contrast, Mowrer antithetically proposed a Moral Model of responsibility. He said that the "patient's" problems are moral, not medical. He suffers from real guilt, not guilt feelings (false guilt). The basic irregularity is not emotional, but behavioral. He is not a victim of his conscience, but a violator of it. He must stop blaming others and accept responsibility for his own poor behavior. Problems may be solved, not by ventilation of feelings, but rather by confession of sin.

From my protracted involvement with the inmates of the mental institutions at Kankakee and Galesburg, I was convinced that most of them were there, as I said, not because they were sick, but because they were sinful. In counseling sessions, we discovered with astonishing consistency that the main problems people were having were of their own making. Others (grandmother, et al.) were not their problem; they themselves were their own worst enemies. Some had written bad checks, some had become entangled in the consequences of immorality, others had cheated on income tax, and so on. Many had fled to the institution to escape the consequences of their wrong doing. A number had sought to avoid the responsibility of difficult decisions. We also saw evidence of dramatic recovery when people straightened out these matters. Humanistic as his methods were, Mowrer clearly demonstrated that even his approach could achieve in a few weeks what in many cases psychotherapy had been unable to do in years.

I came home deeply indebted to Mowrer for indirectly driving me to a conclusion that I as a Christian minister should have known all along, namely, that many of the "mentally ill" are people who can be helped by the ministry of God's Word. I have been trying to do so ever since.

So, this idea that all the people who have mental disorders and various psychological problems are responsible for their problems comes not from the Bible, but from secular psychology. In fact, it seems that Adams' approach is better than Mowrer's because he emphasizes that counselees should be treated with love and sympathy, while he never mentioned that Mowrer treated his clients this way.

Well, maybe this approach is currently more popular among Christian ministers than among secular psychologists, but the fact is that it comes from secular psychology and not from the Bible. In fact, there are some biblical objections to this approach.

The Bible does not make such emphasis on admonition as Adams does. The Bible speaks not only about admonishing, but also about comforting one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NASB): "We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone." The Bible often encourages Christians to sympathize with one another, for example, Rom. 12:15 (NIV): "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

In chapter 9 of Effective Biblical Counseling, Larry Crabb writes:
Jay Adams has become widely known for his confrontational approach. In his insistence that his model is the only truly biblical one, he argues that the Greek word noutheteo, which includes the idea of verbal, directive, instructive confrontation, provides the central concept of Christian counseling. In chapter 1 I referred to Colossians 1:28 where Paul states that he "nouthetically confronts" people in an effort to promote their maturity. Although I agree with Adams that Christian maturity is the central goal of biblical counseling, I do not think that the strategy of confrontation exhausts all possible ways to achieve the goal. Certainly there are times when strong firm confrontation is right and necessary. But there are other times when gentle support, encouragement, concerned listening, exploration of inner dynamics, reflection, clarification, and acceptance of feelings are desirable.

A confrontational model is not nearly broad enough to cover all the ingredients of effective Christian counseling. Paul told the Thessalonians to nouthetically confront those who were disorderly in their actions, people who were stubbornly resisting their responsibilities. But he also instructed them to comfort people who were despondent or fainthearted. The Greek word for comfort is paramutheo and literally means to "speak close." It was used to describe an emotional expression of support and love without a hint of confrontational rebuke. To harshly confront a fainthearted person not only would be cruel but also positively harmful. Paul also advised them to hold strongly onto those who were weak. The thought seems to be that some people need to borrow from another's strength on occasion. Other encouragements to bear each other's burdens support the idea that the local body of believers is to be an interdependent fellowship including confrontation, supportive encouragement, strong assistance, and likely a host of other behaviors. Counseling then includes far more than confrontation and sometimes may not include confrontation at all. John Carter suggests that the word parakaleo and its cognate [148] paraklesis offer a "much more adequate model of counseling (than noutheteo) from a Biblical perspective." He points out that, whereas noutheteo and its cognate occur only thirteen times in the New Testament, parakaleo or one of its forms is translated (in the King James Version) twenty-nine times as "comfort," twenty-seven times as "exhort," fourteen times as "consolation," and forty-three times as "beseech." He also makes the more important point that paraklesis is listed specifically as a gift to the church (Rom. 12:8). Vine says that parakaleo denotes "to call to one's side, hence, to call to one's aid. It is used for every kind of calling to a person which is meant to produce a particular effort, hence, with various meanings such as comfort, exhort, desire, call for ... (and) beseech."

I agree with Crabb's criticism of Adams' approach here. Blaming all the people for all their problems, telling them that they need to repent, confess their sins, and change their behavior may seriously harm them, and the Bible does not encourage this. It encourages to comfort and support people who have problems, but this side is lacking in Adams' model.

I guess that abusive pastors may use Adams' ideas in order to blame people for all their problems. However, the thing is that this idea comes not from the Bible (as many people wrongly believe). This idea comes from secular psychology. Many ex-members of Bible-based cults and abusive churches tend to believe that Christianity is harmful and secular psychology is safe. But it is not really so. And, as I mentioned, Adams' approach seems to be much more compassionate than Mowrer's approach.

Another problem with Adams' approach is that he considers that there are two sources for mental problems: organic problems and personal sins. He states that the Bible does not say that there is any third source. Well, the Bible does not clearly says about organic mental disorders or about mental disorders that come from personal sins. However, the Bible does say much about demon possession that may cause conditions very similar to mental disorders. Adams does not mention demon possession at all.

Some Christians tend to pay too much attention to Satan and demons and blame them for all their sins (thus removing their own responsibility). This is one extreme. Adams seems to neglect demon activity completely. I believe that this is another extreme. The Bible not only speaks about demon possession (when a person is completely controlled by a demon or demons), but also about Christians' war against Satan and demons (in Ephesians 6:10-18 and some other passages). In chapter 5 of Christian Counseling A Comprehensive Guide, clinical psychologist Dr. Gary R. Collins mentions several possible reasons for mental problems, including organic problems, sins, demons, etc. Although he believes that demon possession is very rare, he does not deny it completely. I think his approach is more biblical. It seems that Adams' idea that there are only two sources of mental problems (organic problems and personal wrongdoings) comes from Mowrer and not from the Bible. It would be hard to expect that Mowrer believed in demons if he did not believe in God. Well, if a person is demon-possessed, of course, he or she should not be blamed for all their problems (though some people may intentionally invite demons). I guess it may be one of the reasons why Adams does not speak about a possibility of demon possession.

Then, the third problem is that Adams selects only the biblical passages that support his ideas and neglects those that do not match his ideas. For example, writing about biblical counseling, he quotes only the verses that mention admonition (in Greek "nouthesis") and rejects those that mention comfort, consolation, etc. In the same way, he "proves" that the cause of depression is always sin, taking three psalms (32, 38, and 51) where Psalmist sinned, experienced depression, confessed, and rejoiced. However, there are many more psalms where Psalmist experienced depression because he was oppressed and persecuted by his enemies. Adams does not mention them at all, obviously, because they do not match his theory. Actually, the only conclusion that can be made after reading and studying Psalms is that depression sometimes may be caused by unconfessed sin, but in many cases, it is caused by other reasons, such as ill-treatment or wrongdoings of other people. This conclusion does not match Adams' theory that is based on Mowrer's moral model of responsibility rather than on the Bible. So, he does not mention these psalms at all. This point is probably quite important for ex-members of cults who suffer from depression. Those who use Adams' model of counseling would probably tell ex-members of cults that if they experience depression, it is because of their own sins. However, the Bible clearly says that in many cases (probably, in most cases) depression is caused by other reasons, such as other people;s wrongdoings toward them. In other words, if ex-cult members suffer from depression, it is not their fault, but most likely it is the cult leaders' fault.

In conclusion, Adams' model of nouthetic counseling is based on Mowrer's ideas and contradicts the Bible.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Post-Cult Recovery and Other Life Problems

After leaving cults, many people spend long years in their post-cult recovery - up to 20 or 30 years, sometimes, the rest of their life.

However, it is quite obvious that people may have problems regardless of their cult involvement. People may have various problems during their childhood and adult life. People who have never been involved in cults may have these problems, and obviously people who were in cults may have them too. In other words, not all the problems that ex-members of cults may have are related to their cult involvement in any way.

Some psychotherapists tend to believe that all the people's problems are related to their childhood experiences. So, they take much time, analyzing these problems. However, some people's problems are related not to their childhood, but to various experiences later in life.

In a similar way, some people in the anti-cult field and some ex-cult members tend to believe that all their problems are related to their cult involvement. However, they may have some pre-cult and after-cult problems that are not cult-related at all. If people believe that all their problems are cult-related, they may neglect other problems, and I do not think that it is a correct approach.

Well, during the recent four years and especially recently, the most problems I had to deal with were not cult-related at all. Some of them were pre-cult (including some childhood-related problems), some were after-cult, but not related to my cult experience at all.

I think I should say here that I do not consider that to have problems and to have mental disorders is the same thing. Well, of course, people who have mental disorders have serious problems. But mentally healthy people may also have some problems.

Well, there are different definitions of what mental health is. Moreover, some of them are culture-related. For example, in the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), there is diagnosis "Neurasthenia" (F48.0). This diagnosis is absent in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Regarding this difference, there is an interesting explanation in Wikipedia article on neurasthenia: 'Americans were said to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, which resulted in the nickname "Americanitis."' Well, in Russia, neurasthenia is still considered as a valid diagnosis, and it is still called "neurasthenia," not "Americanitis." It has never even been renamed to "Russianitis." Most Russians have never been given this diagnosis (that is, of "neurasthenia," not of "Americanitis" or "Russianitis"). However, in Russia, it is not viewed as a serious mental disorder, just a kind of "nervosism."

Moreover, in ICD-10, there is diagnosis "Mental disorder, not otherwise specified" (F99), which can be used if no other code from F00-F98 may be applied. Well, I guess this diagnosis gives a lot of freedom to fantasy of some mental health professionals.

Anyway, my point is that what some mental health professionals consider as a disorder, others may not consider this way, and vice versa. Also, speaking about people who have some problems (including psychological post-cult problems) I do not mean to say that all of them have mental disorders.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Psychology and Theology (2)

In chapter 1 of The Integration of Psychology and Theology: An Introduction, John D. Carter, S. Bruce Narramore write that conflicts between theology and psychology are in fact "conflicts between either the facts of Scripture and the theories of psychology, the facts of psychology and our (mis)interpretation of Scripture, or between the theories of psychology and our misinterpretation of Scripture." Then, they write:

For years large portions of the the evangelical church have been influenced by the Keswick Movement. This movement, in espousing a "deeper" Christian life, has frequently taught a morbid form of self-denial and debasement that can stir up neurotic feelings of worthlessness and self-contempt in people prone to guilt and self-devaluation. <...>

Responding to such misrepresentation of biblical Christianity, many psychologists have attacked the Christian faith for promoting psychologically unhealthy attitudes and for being in conflict with accepted principles of psychological health. Ellis, for example, states that religion "consequently is self debasement and self abnegation as, of course, virtually all the saints and mystics have clearly stated that it is. In the final analysis, then, religion is neurosis. This is why I remarked at a symposium on sin and psychotherapy held by the American Psychological Association a few years ago that form a mental health standpoint, Voltaire's famous dictum should be reversed, for if there were a God it would be necessary to uninvent him."

In this conflict between one view of Christianity and one psychological viewpoint we have a rather typical example of mutual misunderstanding. Although some Christians do interpret the Christian concepts of humility and sacrifice in a self-debasing manner, most theologians would agree that this is a serious distortion of scriptural teaching. Similarly, many respected psychologists (Allport, 1950; Fromm, 1950) object to Ellis's diagnosis of religion as neurosis. The apparent conflict dissolves when we take another look at biblical teachings, which in fact do not propound a neurotic self-abasement, and at psychological research, which does not support the implication of Ellis's theory.

Well, I know theology much better than psychology. I am not familiar with Ellis' works, but I know very well what the Keswick Movement teachings are. The Keswick view on a human nature is extremely negative. Most Christians believe that people have a sinful nature as a result of Adam's fall, but there are different views on what the sinful nature is and how it affects people. The Keswick concept is that the whole human nature was corrupted and thus the whole human being in total is viewed as evil, as the expression of Satan. They also believe that all the people (both Christians and non-Christians) will remain in this condition until death. So, they believe that the whole human nature is completely evil and corrupted and will not be cured in this life. This is how a person who believes in Keswick teachings is expected to view oneself. However, the Keswick teaching does not stop here. It proposes its solution to this problem. This solution is to receive Christ as one's life and everything and to live every minute and every second in union with Christ, completely denying oneself and accepting Christ as everything.

This is the main idea of this teaching. So, there are actually two problems with it. First, it has a very negative view of a human being. Second, it sets very high and unattainable goals. In my opinion, this teaching really may lead to psychological problems and it also may lead to spiritual abuse (and I know cases when it really happened).

As Carter and Narramore correctly noted, it is not the only view of Christianity and many Christian theologians reject is. Just a couple months ago, I reread some of the literature of the Keswick movement, for example, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life by Evan H. Hopkins and a number of books by Andrew Murray. Evan Hopkins is considered to be the founder of the Keswick Movement, and his book The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life is considered to be "the standard textbook of the original Keswick teaching." Andrew Murray is considered to be "Keswick's foremost devotional author" who wrote much more books than any other of the Keswick writers. Rereading this literature, I noticed two things that I did not notice before:

1. The teachings of these authors are based mainly on their own ideas rather than on the Bible. Of course, as any Christian authors, they do quote the Bible a lot, but their interpretation of the biblical verses they quote is not correct. They take verses out of their context, misinterpret them, and so on. In other words, the Keswick teachings have no solid biblical foundation. They are not based on the Bible.

2. The Keswick teachings set unattainable goals. They require a person to reject all their own thoughts, feelings, desires, and so on, and to do this constantly, literally every second. It is obvious that it is just impossible to do so. Since the failure to reject one's own thoughts, feelings, and desires is viewed as a sin, this can easily make a person feel guilty. Of course, the problem is not with the person who fails to live this way all the time, but with this teaching itself. The Bible never teaches that a person should reject all their thoughts, feelings, and desires. This teaching is a serious misinterpretation of what the Bible actually teaches.

Although the Keswick teachings may lead to psychological problems, I strongly disagree with Ellis' statement that "religion is neurosis."

Carter and Narramore give one more example of an apparent conflict of psychology and religion:

Freud's (1913/1953; 1927/1961) assumptions about religion provide another good example of the confusion of fact and theory. In transferring his theory of the psychosexual development of the individual to his study of culture, he concluded that the idea of God is simply a myth created to cope with primitive people's anxiety in the face of natural disasters and the child's ambivalent feelings (love and hate) toward the same-sexed parent. <...>

Some people would hold that with this analysis Freud "disproved" religion or at least "explained God away." But as soon as Freud began speaking about the existence or nonexistence of God, he left psychology and entered the domain of philosophy and religion. Even if it could be demonstrated that people's concept of God arises from the intimate relationships with their parents, this would not justify the conclusion that God does not exist. A psychological fact is just that. It is not and can never be an ontological statement about the existence of God. If God so willed, He could have chosen to plant the rudimentary concept of Himself in the mind of every person through this very process.

Well, according to my understanding, most psychologists rejected Freud's concept of Oedipus complex, which he used for his statement that "religion is neurosis." However, it seems that some of them still believe that "religion is neurosis," even though they do not believe in Oedipus complex. It looks quite self-contradictory.

Also, it seems that a common problem of some secular psychologists (like Freud, for example) is that they tend to leave psychological facts and go too far in their theories, entering the domain of philosophy, which, strictly speaking, has nothing to do with psychology. It is quite obviously that there is a conflict between religion and atheist philosophies, but it is not a conflict between religion and psychology. I agree with Carter and Narramore that there is no need to view theology and psychology as contradicting one another, that is, according to the view of "Psychology Against Religion" or "The Scripture Against Psychology."

In their book, Carter and Narramore present their model of integration of psychology and theology on the basis of the principle that they call "the unity of truth":

Christianity affirms that God is the Creator of all things and that this establishes a basic unity of all truth, whether found in scriptural revelation or scientific experimentation (Gaebelein, 1968; Holmes, 1977). Given this unity of truth, it is possible to integrate truth arrived at from different sources and with different methodologies.

This principle comes from a widely accepted theological teaching of two kinds of revelation: general (through the nature) and special (through the Bible). Since both the general and special revelations come from God, there is no conflict between them. Scientific knowledge has to do with the general revelation, and there is no contradiction between scientific facts and proper interpretation of the Bible.

Although it is a widely accepted position in Christianity, many Christians do not agree to consider psychology in the same way as any other science. In principle, they do have some reasons for this. In psychology, there are a lot of various theories, and many of them have more to do with secular anti-religion philosophies rather than with psychology itself or with psychological facts. Also, in psychology, there are many different views, and psychologists disagree with one another even on fundamental things, such as a definition of mental health. There are more different opinions and disagreements in psychology than in any other science. In this way, psychology reminds more of philosophy with its different branches, schools, and opinions than of any other science. Well, the thing however is that Christian theology does use philosophy. Since the earliest times of Christianity, theologians used various kinds of philosophy. Of course, Christian theology usually does not accept atheist philosophies (though some liberation theologians managed to use Marxist philosophy in combination with the Bible). In the same way, there is no need to accept psychological theories that contradict the Bible. However, psychology contains not only theories, but also facts, such as various experimental data. There is no essential difference between facts of psychology and facts of any other science and there is no reason to reject them.

Not only those who belong to "The Scripture Against Psychology" camp criticized Carter's and Narramore's concept of integration of psychology and theology, but even some of integrationists, such as Larry Crabb. Crabb argued that, although errors are possible both in science and in interpretation of the Bible, he considers that the interpretation of the Bible (even though it may be mistaken) should be given preeminence over scientific facts because of the authority of the Bible.

Well, Crabb is a psychologist and not a theologian. It seems that he does not realize that the process of interpretation of the Bible involves the usage of a lot of data from sciences such as linguistics and history. So, interpretation of the Bible is not completely separated from scientific facts. Also, one of the principles of interpretation of the Bible is that the proper interpretation of the Bible should not contradict scientific facts.

In the past, people believed that the Bible says that the sun goes around the earth. Not only Roman Catholics, but also Protestants, including the leaders of Reformation Martin Luther and John Calvin, condemned Copernicus because they believed that his teaching was heretic. Eventually, it became clear that Copernicus was right and Christian theologians changed their interpretation of the Bible. It is important to note here that the understanding of the verses such as Joshua 10:13; Psalm 93:1; Ecclesiastes 1:4-5, which were used against Copernicus, was changed because their previous understanding contradicted the scientific fact, not because of any other reason. The current understanding of these verses in Christianity is that these verses present phenomenological view, not scientific fact. That is, when for a person on the earth, it seems that the sun goes around the earth, and so people still say about sunrise and sunset, although both words are not scientific, but are just daily life terms. The Bible is not a scientific book, but it does not contradict the Bible.

It is important to note here that the principle that the Bible does not contradict the science means that the Bible does not contradict scientific facts, not scientific theories. For example, Darwin's theory of evolution does contradict the Bible (at least, the most accepted understanding of the Bible because there is a theory of theistic evolution that combines the theory of evolution with the Bible). However, even though Darwin's theory is very popular, it is still a theory, which has never been proven.

Well, I believe that the same principle should be applied to psychology. Of course, there is a contradiction between many psychological theories and the Bible, but I do not think that there should be any contradiction between psychological facts and proper understanding of the Bible.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Post-Cult Recovery and Post-Cult Spiritual Quest

After leaving religious cults, ex-members may need to deal with spiritual issues. I think that dealing with spiritual issues of the post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest are different things. I consider post-cult recovery as the process that has a purpose to completely eliminate damage caused by the cult. It can be compared to recovery from a disease. (By using this comparison, I do not mean that all the ex-cult members need therapy. I consider post-cult recovery as an educational process rather than a therapeutic process.) However, spiritual quest is a process that does not have to do with any damage. It can be compared to physical exercises. A person who is recovering from a physical disease may need to take some medicines and at the same time do some exercises. After he or she is recovered, he/she will stop taking medicines, but may continue to exercise.

I consider that in a similar way, ex-members of cults may feel a need to deal with both post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest. People who have never been in cults, obviously, do not need post-cult recovery, but they may feel the need for spiritual quest. So, post-cult recovery is like getting recovered from a disease, while spiritual quest is a "healthy" process, but both of them may go together.

It may be not so easy to separate spiritual aspect of post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest. For example, after leaving a religious cult a person may have a need to reconsider beliefs. Will it be a part of recovery or a part of spiritual quest? It seems that getting rid of the cult indoctrination will have more to do with recovery, but formation of new beliefs will have more to do with spiritual quest. However, practically, the process of reconsideration of beliefs will probably be one process when a person gets rid of the cult beliefs and substitutes them with new beliefs. Well, in a sense, it may be compared to therapeutic exercises. On the one hand, therapeutic exercises are medical procedure to help a person is recovery from a disease. But on the other hand, they are physical exercises.

My personal process of reconsideration of my beliefs after leaving the cult, probably, consisted of two steps. In the beginning, I examined the cult doctrines and checked them with Christian theology and other (non-cultic) interpretations of the Bible. At this step, I made conclusions that the cult doctrines were wrong and not biblical. But after that, I studied theology, the Bible and Bible commentaries more. I studied various views, various interpretations, and various doctrines. Then, I compared them, considered them, and made my own conclusions before accepting any of them. It was the second step, and it was deeper and required more studies. So, I would consider the first step as a part of post-cult recovery, while the second step as a part of post-cult spiritual quest. However, I understand that for many people both steps may take place together.

In fact, probably, many people never do even the first step. They just reject any religion in total without any careful examination of the cult doctrines. I do not think it is good, actually. Let me explain why. I grew up in an atheist country and in an atheist family. I was a convinced atheist. I became a Christian one year before getting involved into a cult, but I was not a member of any church at that time and obviously I did not have sufficient time to become very grounded in Christian faith before joining the cult. After leaving the cult, basically, I had two options: to keep the cult beliefs or to return to atheism. I chose the second option. Many ex-members of cults do this, actually. However, if later I had felt that atheism does not satisfy me, what would I have done? It would be quite naturally for me to return to the cult beliefs because I had just these two options. Then, it would have been very natural and easy for me to return to the cult. Unfortunately, I saw this quite often among ex-members of the cult I was involved in. Some people were years out of the cult (one person was 10 years out of the cult), but they eventually came back. Why? I think one of the reasons was that their belief system was never changed. When I left, I decided that I did not want to ever come back. It was one of the reasons why I began to reconsider my beliefs.

On the other hand, if I had not reconsidered my beliefs, I would have still had some other problems. For example, suppose I am talking with someone or read something and suddenly I hear or read something about the Bible or Christianity or just about religion. (In fact, I had such situations very often.) How would I have reacted? Any such mention of religious things would have reminded me about the cult. I would have still view the Bible through the "glasses" of the cult interpretation of the Bible. Any mention of Christianity would have brought me remembrance about the cult doctrines and practices. So, any mention of anything that has to do with religion would have been very triggering to me. Well, it was how I reacted very soon after leaving the cult, but I do not react this way now. For example, the first thing I think when I hear or read about the Bible is my current understanding the Bible. If I think more, I think about other views and interpretations. And only after I think more, I may remember about the cult teachings, but they do not trigger me any more.

Well, I would not say that post-cult spiritual quest is mandatory for ex-members of cults. In fact, I even would not say that post-cult recovery is mandatory. Everyone is free to decide: to recover or not. However, I believe that post-cult spiritual quest and spiritual aspects of post-cult recovery are very beneficial.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Psychology and Theology (1)

Are psychology and theology (or religion) related or not? If they are, in what way? This is an interesting question.

Article Secular and Sacred Models of Psychology and Religion by Dr. John D. Carter published in Journal of Psychology and Theology, Volume 5, no. 3, Summer 1977, pp. 197-208, gives eight models of psychology and religion, four of them are secular and four are Christian. This article was later republished in Psychology & Christianity Integration: Seminal Works that Shaped the Movement, pp. 210-219, edited by Daryl H. Stevenson, Brian E. Eck, Peter C. Hill (2007). These models were also reposted in Biblical Counseling Seminar Materials, pp. 47-50 by Dr. Edward Watke Jr.:

I. Four Secular Models of Psychology and Religion.
A. Psychology Against Religion
1. Science or the scientific method is the only valid means of truth.
2. Truth claims other than science are destructive.
2. Religion is a myth rather than truth, and is destructive.
3. Religion's destructiveness is its prohibitive or inhibitive effect on its members and on society.
4. "Scientific" (valid) psychology is the solution to individual problems.
Examples: Ellis and Freud
B. Psychology of Religion
1. Man is a spiritual-moral being (at least, in a humanistic sense).
2. Religion, technology, science or society which denies man's spirit, and thus his nature, creates pathology.
3. Most or all religions have recognized the spiritual-human quality of man and thus have the right approach.
4. The particular cultural-social-theological definition of man must be discarded in favor of a truly psychological definition of human functioning.
5. Good psychology translates the valid insights of religion into psychology and uses them for human good.
Examples: Fromm, Jung, and Mowrer
C. Psychology Parallels Religion
1. Religion and psychology are not related.
2. Each exists in its own sphere. One is scientific and the other is not.
3. Religion is a personal (and social) matter, while psychology is intellectual and academic.
4. Both religion and psychology can be embraced. There is no conflict since they do not interact.
Examples: Thorne
D. Psychology Integrates Religion
1. A unifying or integrating view of truth in religion and psychology is both possible and desirable.
2. The truth or insights from psychology or religion will have some correspondence with the other discipline.
3. The truth or valid principles of religion and psychology are in harmony and form a unity.
4. Religion as socially manifested may be pathological but its intrinsic nature is not.
5. Valid religion and religious experiences are helpful in transcending the pains of existence or in assisting in the maturing process of growth.
Examples: Allport, Frankl, and Guntrip

II. Four Christian Models of Psychology and Religion
A. The Scripture Against Psychology
1. Basic epistemological assumption: Revelation is against reason, i.e., the Scripture is contradictory to human thought both rationally and empirically.
2. Soteriology and the Fall are stressed so as to eliminate and ignore creation and providence.
3. Basic psychological assumption: The Scriptures contain all the precepts of mental health.
4. All emotional problems are spiritual problems because they result from disobedience.
5. All problems can be solved by obedience to Scripture if the individual is confronted with a relevant passage of Scripture.
Example: Adams
B. The Scripture of Psychology
1. Basic epistemological assumption: Human reason is more fundamental, comprehensive (technical), and contemporary than revelation.
2. Creation and Providence are stressed so as to ignore or eliminate soteriology and the Fall.
3. Basic psychological assumption: Psychology has discovered the basic principles of emotional health, maturity, and good interpersonal functioning.
4. Emotional problems can be solved by consulting a therapist or applying the principles of emotional maturity and good interpersonal relations.
Examples: Relational theology
C. The Scripture Parallels Psychology
1. Basic epistemological assumption: Revelation can never be reduced to reason nor can reason be reduced to revelation.
2. God requires obedience to both revelation and to reason. Hence, there is an implicit tension existing in the approach.
3. Both Creation-Providence and soteriology are stressed but they belong to different spheres.
4. Spiritual problems should be dealt with by the pastor; emotional problems by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Examples: Clement (Isolation) Meehl (Correlation)
D. The Scripture Integrates Psychology
1. Basic epistemological assumption: God is the author of both revelation and reason because all truth (and truths) are God's truth and thus ultimately a part of a unified or integrated whole.
2. Creation-Providence is stressed equally with soteriology.
3. All problems are, in principle, a result of the Fall but not, in fact, the result of immediate conscious acts.
4. Since values are significant both for the Christian and for therapy, a genuine Christian therapy is necessary.
5. Paraklesis is the pattern for this type of therapy.
Examples: Crabb, Hulme, van Kaam, Wagner, Carter, & Mohline

In his book Effective Biblical Counseling, Dr. Larry Crabb gave somewhat funny names for the four Christian approaches:
1. "Separate But Equal" (the Scripture parallels psychology);
2. "Tossed Salad" (the Scripture and psychology are integrated with the tendency to view both of them as equal);
3. "Nothing Buttery" (the Scripture against psychology);
4. "Spoiling the Egyptians" (the Scripture integrates psychology; the Bible has preeminence, and only the components of psychology that are consistent with biblical teaching and principles are integrated). This approach is between the second and the third ones.

For a long time, I considered psychology and theology to be two completely different things and dealing with two different subjects, that is, my approach was "The Scripture Parallels Psychology" or "Separate But Equal." However, eventually, I came to conclusion that my approach was not correct.

The Bible does have a lot to say about psychology. Systematic theology includes parts that have to with psychology - anthropology, hamartiology (the teaching about sin), and some part of soteriology (the teaching about salvation). There is such a thing as Biblical psychology, which is rather a part of Christian theology than a part of secular psychology. This approach is presented, for example, in A System of Biblical Psychology by Franz Delitzsch (notice that this book was published in German in 1861 when, for instance, Sigmund Freud was only five years old), in Biblical Theology by Prof. Herman Hanko, in Christian Psychology by Dr. E. C. Bragg, and in many other works. Such approach is based on the Bible, not on the secular psychology. In fact, it existed long before modern secular psychology came to existence. Then, there is a branch of theology which is called pastoral theology. It includes pastoral care and pastoral counseling. Again, these things existed long before modern secular psychotherapy.

Well, supposedly, psychology deals with psychological problems and theology deals with spiritual problems. But it is not so easy to make a distinction between psychological and spiritual problems. For example, such things as anxiety, depression, irrational fear (phobia), sense of guilt, and a number of others are usually considered as psychological problems and many people go to therapists with them. However, the Bible has a lot to say about these things too. Of course, the biblical solution and the psychotherapy solution are different, but the point is that both of them deal with the same kind of problems.

As far as I understand, Sigmund Freud is considered to be the founder of modern psychotherapy. He used some ideas of Johann Heinroth who was a Christian psychiatrist and used Christian approach (Johann Christian August Heinroth: psychosomatic medicine eighty years before Freud by Steinberg H., Herrmann-Lingen C., Himmerich H.). Well, of course, Freud took away all the religious elements from Heinroth's works because of his anti-religious bias. Anyway, my point is that modern secular psychology has not appeared in the end of the 19th century out of nothing. It did use some things from Christianity, which had existed long time before.

Thinking over all this, I came to conclusion that it is not very correct to view psychology and theology as two completely different things ("The Scripture Parallels Psychology" aka the "Separate But Equal" approach).

I do not think that psychology should be rejected completely ("The Scripture Against Psychology" aka the "Nothing Buttery" approach). On the one hand, it seems that most people who prefer this approach use so called "Nouthetic (that is, admonishing) counseling" promoted by Dr. Jay Adams. Originally, this approach seems to be an extreme reaction to various unsupported ideas from the secular psychology, including the tendency to reduce people's responsibility for their socially harmful actions and view them as mental health disorders, such as Antisocial personality disorder aka Dissocial personality disorder. Adams rejects the concept of mental disorders and views all the psychological problems as the results of sins committed by people who have these problems. Counselors who use this approach first try to discover the sins committed by their clients and then tell them that they should repent and confess their sins and change their behavior. I think it is quite obvious that this approach may lead to spiritual abuse. In addition, this approach presents the Bible and Christian teaching in a very legalistic way. It neglects Bible passages on God's love, acceptance, support, comfort, consolation, encouragement. Christian religion is religion of grace, not religion of law. So, this approach misrepresents the core of Christianity. Therefore, I disagree with this approach. On the other hand, although I do not agree with anti-religious position of many secular psychologists and their philosophical premises, I do not think that psychology (or any other science) should be rejected.

I prefer more balanced integration approach, that is, "The Scripture Integrates Psychology" aka the "Tossed Salad" or the "Spoiling the Egyptians" approach with more inclination toward the latter approach because it gives priority to the Bible. There are many different approaches within the integration position. It seems that one of the most popular approaches within "Spoiling the Egyptians" approach is the view on Biblical counseling promoted by evangelical psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. Actually, his views changed over the years. In his early writings, he paid more attention on right thinking, right behavior, and right feelings, but in his later writings, he changed his emphasis to acceptance (like in his book Connecting: Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships).

In chapter 5 of this book, he writes that secular psychologist Carl Rodgers promoted connection through unconditional positive regard. Rodgers "offers acceptance without the atonement and understanding rather than forgiveness. In his thinking, there is nothing terrible in us that requires forgiveness. The problem is merely disconnection, a state of detachment that is the result not of rebellious independence from God but unfortunate psychological development. The atonement is therefore irrelevant. Unconditional positive regard is the total answer. <...> Rodgers sees no need for the atonement. In his mind, there is no sin to forgive." Crabb, being an evangelical, does not agree with Rodgers' rejection of the existence of sin and need of atonement and forgiveness. However, he strongly agrees with his concept of acceptance. He writes, "Why then do I feel so drawn to the kind of community that Rogers envisions, where acceptance supplants judgment, where we continue calling out the good in each other in spite of whatever ugliness we see? Why do I want to see some of Rogers's thinking rub off on pastors and on me?"

Well, this is a good example of integration approach when Christians use good things that secular psychology can offer. However, Rodgers was not the first person who promoted acceptance. Jesus said in John 6:37 (NIV): "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." He said in Matthew 11:28 (NIV): "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." He also said in Matthew 9:12b-13 (NIV): "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Jesus accepted all the people who came to Him. In Romans 15:7 (NIV) Paul wrote: "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." In Romans 14:1-3 (NIV) he wrote: "Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them." Acceptance is a biblical principle. It is not just something invented by Rodgers. And just like many Christians fail to practice what the Bible teaches about acceptance, I do not believe that many secular psychologists who like Rodgers' ideas really practice them.

His ideas actually seem to be quite utopic. As far as I understand, his main idea was that any human being is good, but this inner goodness cannot be manifested because of outward restrictions, and he viewed this as the main cause of psychological problems. His solution was that all the outward restrictions should be removed in order that this inner goodness may be manifested. It was in this context that he promoted complete acceptance of a person as totally good. Well, I guess it is quite clear what will happen in any society without any laws, any cultural norms, without government, police, and so on. In fact, the Bible gives an example of it. Judges 17:6 and 21:25 (NIV): "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." I do not think that many people would like to live in a society of chaos described in Judges. My personal attitude to Rodgers' ideas is similar to Crabb's. I agree with Rodgers' idea of acceptance, but disagree with his philosophy of secular humanism.

I do not agree with everything written by Crabb (and as I have mentioned, he changed his views over the time), but I definitely like his emphasis on acceptance and connection. In my opinion, this approach is much better than legalistic Adams' Nouthetic counseling (often called "Biblical counseling"). Actually, both Adams and Crabb call their approaches "Biblical counseling," but their views are completely different.

Well, there are many approaches in the secular psychology and there are many approaches in Christian psychology as well. I do not agree with everything there just because it is Christian (or supposedly Christian). However, I do believe that the Christian approach can be more effective than the secular approach.

About one month ago, I got interested in Christian approach to psychology, that is, the integration approach. I began with two books by June Hunt Counseling through the Bible: Biblical Counseling Keys and Counseling through Your Bible Handbook. I liked in her books that she presents an integration of psychology and theology. She identifies some problems and gives some information about them from psychology. She also gives Bible verses and spiritual principles of dealing with these problems. So, her counseling is based on the Bible and centered on Christ. When I was reading, studying, and considering over some chapters of her books, I prayed a lot and also read the Bible. In other words, I had not just human resources to deal with my problems, but I turned to God. It was really helpful for me, and I got rid of several problems. For example, I think most people heard very negative things about the Soviet psychiatry. I encountered it when I was a child. Actually, they did not treat me. They just examined me and did not find any problems, but the way how they examined me was very traumatic for me. This childhood experience affected me more than all my cult experience. Sometimes, I got help from other people for dealing with some of the problems that had to do with that childhood experience, such as phobia of mental health professionals. However, it was only recently that I got recovered from my childhood trauma completely. After I worked through and prayed through my childhood experience, I noticed that not only I do not feel any pain anymore when I think about it, but I even do not understand why this experience was so traumatic for me and affected my life so much. God has healed me from it. Completely. When I think about this now, three weeks later, what I feel is great joy, praise and thankfulness to God. Christian psychology works. It really works. God does heal psychological problems better than any human psychologist.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Psychological and Spiritual Post-Cult Recovery: Reconsidered View (Part 2)

According to my observation, it is easier to identify post-cult psychological problems that are manifested in the secular realm (in daily life activities, work, and so on) than those that are manifested only in the religious realm (in religion-related activities). There are, at least, two reasons for this: 1) the literature on the post-cult recovery mostly pays attention to problems that affect daily life rather than those that affect religious activities; 2) since problems that are manifested only in the religion-related activities are usually not manifested in daily life, it is harder to notice them and people who completely reject religion after leaving cults may never notice that they have problems.

However, there may be cases when religion-related psychological problems may cause problems in the secular realm. In Chapter 2 of Releasing the Bonds, Steven Hassan writes,

In the Jehovah's Witnesses, a person can have a severe phobia against merely walking into a church building. I remember hearing about an incident involving a young Jehovah's Witness who refused to participate in an emergency evacuation from a public school into a church. The ten year old boy, absolutely would not enter the building, and had to be carried in crying and screaming, because he thought the church was filled with "devils." 

Well, in principle, a phobia against a walking a church building is a phobia usually manifested only in the religious realm. It is one of the problems that I previously considered as spiritual and not psychological post-cult problems. Indeed, many atheists (among ex-members of cults) may never have a need to enter a church building and never learn if they have this phobia. Usually, it is only when they decide to go to church that they may discover that they have this phobia. However, in the case that Steven Hassan described, there was an emergency evacuation into a church. In this case, religion-related phobia was manifested in daily life. So, even if ex-members of cults completely reject religion, their religion-related problems may eventually become manifested in non-religious realm. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important to deal with these problems also, even if ex-cult members are not going to come back to religion.

I do not know how many ex-members of cults have or had a phobia of going to church. I had it, and it took me a very long time to discover it. For a long time, I had a kind of irrational fear when I was thinking about going to church and felt uncomfortable if I did go to church. I could not really understand the reason. I invented various explanations and excuses, but I did not understand that it was a phobia indoctrinated by a certain cult teaching (it was not a JWs teaching, I have never been a JW). When I realized it, identified that teaching, and identified that irrational feeling as a cult-induced phobia, I got rid of it. Two days later, I went to church and felt just fine there. This experience took place in the middle of December last year. Since that time, I did not have any religion-related post-cult problems. Well, at least, I have not been aware of their existence.

It was 10 year after I left the cult that I discovered that I had the phobia of going to church and got rid of it. It took me a long time because I did not have any desire to go to church for a long time. If I had not decided to start going to church (at least, sometimes), I might have never discovered it. One year before that, I discovered that I had a phobia of celebrating Christmas, which was also induced by a certain cult teaching. Again, I discovered it only when I thought about celebrating Christmas. Otherwise, I might have never discovered it. Likewise, I discovered that I was triggered by some things in the Bible when I began to read it. If I had not read the Bible after leaving the cult, I would not known that I had this problem. There were also other similar cases. It was only when I began to do some religious things (reading the Bible, celebrating Christmas, going to church, and so on) that I discovered that I had some psychological problems related to these activities. So, it took me quite a long time to discover and identify them and probably I would have still had them if I had remained an atheist after leaving the cult.

Previously, I considered that I had finished my psychological post-cult recovery in April 2009 (that is, by that time, I had finished dealing with psychological post-cult problems that are manifested outside of the religious realm). And I considered that I had finished my spiritual post-cult recovery in December 2012 (that is, at that time, I had finished dealing with psychological post-cult problems that are manifested only in the religious realm). Moreover, I considered psychological post-cult recovery mandatory and spiritual recovery optional. So, I considered that had I finished my post-cult recovery in April 2009 because I finished the mandatory part of it.

However, I changed my views regarding these things. I no longer believe that psychological recovery is mandatory and that spiritual recovery is optional. I believe that they both are necessary. In addition, I no longer believe that psychological and spiritual recovery should be separated. I believe that they are parts of one process of post-cult recovery. This means that I have to admit that I did not finish my post-cult recovery in 2009. At the best, I finished it only in the end of the last year. However, I am not sure that I have no other post-cult problems that are usually manifested only in the religious realm because it was quite hard for me to discover them. This means that I have to admit that I do not know if I am fully recovered from my cult involvement or not.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Psychological and Spiritual Post-Cult Recovery: Reconsidered View (Part 1)

Previously, I made a distinct separation between psychological and spiritual post-cult recovery on this blog. Eventually, I came to conclusion that I should not make this distinction.

First, let me give some definitions. I define psychological post-cult recovery as recovery from post-cult psychological problems, which are manifested in the secular realm, though also might be manifested in the religious realm. I define spiritual post-cult recovery as recovery from post-cult psychological problems, which are manifested only in the religious realm.

Let me give an illustration. Some of the common post-cult psychological problems are triggers and phobias. Among the problems that I had to deal with after I left the cult, were: 1) being triggered when I read the Bible; 2) phobia of celebrating Christmas; 3) phobia of going to church. These problems (triggers and phobias) were post-cult psychological problems, but they were manifested only in the religious realm, that is, only when I tried to do some religious activity: to read the Bible, to go to church or to celebrate Christmas. These problems were not manifested outside of religion.

Previously, I considered dealing with such kind of problems as spiritual recovery. I considered dealing with other problems, which are manifested outside of religion, as psychological recovery. I believed that in order to recover from cults, it is necessary to get rid of the psychological problems that are manifested outside of religion, but I considered that it is optional to get rid of the psychological problems that are manifested only in connection with religion.

I do not think it was a correct approach. Triggers and phobias are still triggers and phobias, regardless of whether they are manifested outside of religion or not. So, I believe that anti-cult psychological problems should be dealt with regardless of where they are manifested.

The reason why I made a separation between them was that secular mental health professionals in the anti-cult field usually do not pay attention to the post-cult psychological problems, which are manifested only in connection with religion or religious activity. Many books on post-cult recovery neglect these problems completely.

Paul Martin, the founder of Wellspring center, addressed both the post-cult problems as I considered as a part of psychological recovery and those that I considered as a part of spiritual recovery. In Chapter 10, Post-cult Recovery: Assessment and Rehabilitation in the book Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse (edited by Michael D. Langone), he described how both kinds of problems were dealt with in Wellspring program of recovery. He did not make a separation between these two kinds of issues, and now I agree with his approach much more.

A number of ex-member of Bible-based cults and abusive churches leave religion completely. It is not a secret that most of them leave it because they feel pain from their former cult involvement, feel that religion triggers them, and have other post-cult psychological problems related to religion. They think that their leaving religion will help them. Secular mental health professionals who counsel ex-members of these groups usually see nothing wrong with their leaving religion. Some mental health professionals even promote atheism or secularism as a safe and better option.

The problem with this approach is that some post-cult psychological problems never dealt with. They are simply put away and forgotten, but not got rid of. So, it seems that people who never deal with these problems never fully recover. They still have some post-cult psychological problems that they never dealt with. The problem here is not that these people left religion. The problem is that they still have some post-cult psychological problems, which they neglect completely.

When people had carefully dealt with these problems and then decided to leave religion, it is a completely different situation. But I do not know if there are such people. According to my observation, when ex-members of Bible cults and abusive churches deal with post-cult psychological problems related to religion, they eventually restore their faith in God. When they do not deal with these problems, they remain atheists or agnostics.

Although I previously believed that it is necessary to deal with post-cult psychological problems that are manifested outside of religion, but not necessary to deal with those that have to do with religion, I think it was a wrong idea. I believe that both kinds of problems should be dealt with in order to be fully recovered. I also think now that these two sets of problems should not be separated, that is, I believe that psychological recovery and spiritual recovery should not be separated. It is one post-cult recovery, not two post-cult recoveries.

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Statement regarding Steven Hassan

Although I did not plan to post on this blog anymore, I decided to make an exception and post this statement.

I wrote a number of critical posts regarding Steven Hassan on this blog. I also criticized him in other places. However, I came to conclusion that I actually was not objective and not fair to him.

There are several people who criticize Hassan's professional work (his counseling, his books, etc.): Monica Pignotti, Cathleen Mann, Rick Ross. Some people (David Clark, Carol Giambalvo, Noel Giambalvo, Kevin Garvy, and Michael Langone) did this in the past in the book entitled Recovery from Cults. However, this book was published a very long time ago. I used some of their ideas in my criticism of him, including some posts on this blog.

However, I am not a mental health professional. There are many different opinions in the mental health field. And the anti-cult field is especially controversial. There are different approaches to mind control / thought reform theories, to exit counseling, to cult recovery. According to my observation, professionals who work in this field often disagree with one another. Well, it is hard for me to make any conclusions here because I am not a mental health professional. I just do not have sufficient professional knowledge to make objective conclusions here.

Moreover, it may be a matter of the personal preference what approaches are used. It happens in many other fields as well. For example, there are different computer operation systems: Windows, Linux, Mac OS. Some people spend much time in endless debates which OS is better, for example, Windows or Linux. Well, the thing is that it is just a matter of the personal preference. Some people prefer Windows, some prefer Linux, and that is all. Suppose a person who is not very knowledgeable about computers will read these debates about Windows vs. Linux. Will he or she be able to make an objective conclusion? Probably, not because he/she does not have sufficient knowledge.

Likewise, I just do not have sufficient knowledge to be objective regarding Hassan's (or anyone's else) professional work in mental health field. Well, I may like some ideas of some professionals, but I just do not have sufficient qualification for making any conclusions in this field. It would not be objective. In the past, I agreed with some professionals who criticized him. But the thing is that I cannot really make conclusions regarding these matters. In fact, if I agree with someone's criticism, it means that I consider this person as an "expert" and a higher "expert" than Hassan. But really I do not know.

So, I have to admit that I was not objective and fair to Hassan. I want to make clear that I have never considered him as my friend. I just want to be fair to him as well as to anyone else.

Update. I removed my critical posts regarding Steven Hassan from this blog and from my site.