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.