Why You Should Steer Clear of Christian Deliverance Ministries

As a counselor who specializes in psychological and spiritual traumas, I have a very low opinion of Christian deliverance ministries. While I am quite familiar with Christianity and am personally quite a fan of the Deity that Christians refer to as Jesus Christ, Christian deliverance ministries grossly misrepresent both God and professional counseling tactics. Since deliverance ministries target traumatized people, I am going to explain why you shouldn’t go anywhere near deliverance ministries if you’re looking for help with soul or mind stresses.

Before I paint a black picture of deliverance ministries, let me say this: there are many well meaning folks who go into this field with a sincere desire to help people. It’s helpful to realize that Christians are taught to rely on other Christians for wisdom in life, not on the God who they talk so much about. So while Christians claim to follow the God Jesus, in reality, most of them are just following each other without questioning the wisdom of their role models. This leads to many well meaning folks adopting terrible counseling techniques that they get taught by their mentors, which in turn harms the clients who they attempt to help. In this post, I want to teach you why certain techniques are so inappropriate so you can steer clear of counselors who use them. The techniques I’m going to explain in this post are very encouraged in deliverance circles, which makes those communities unsafe places to seek psychological and spiritual help.

Getting Hands On With Clients

It is utterly inappropriate for counselors to physically touch their clients during a session. Since a lot of gut-wrenching confessions get made in counseling offices and many tears are cried, many badly taught counselors think it’s helpful to communicate empathy through physical touch, such as a tender rubbing of the arm or an arm around the shoulder or a squeezing of the hand.

Well, you’re never going to hear touch being condoned by this trauma counselor because I am death on any counseling practice that undermines the safety of the client. When you go to see a counselor, you are in a highly vulnerable state. Your emotions are all over the place, you’re often very confused about your own behavior, and you’ve got a lot of questions that you honestly don’t know how to answer. In cases of trauma, there is often a desperate yearning for touch as well, as many trauma cases have been severely deprived of the positive physical affirmation from male and female sources that all humans need. What all of this means is that you are very prone to becoming hyper bonded to a counselor who starts giving you forms of physical affection or affirmation. Hyper bonding to a counselor means you start feeling dependent on them to meet critical needs for you, and that sense of dependency causes you to not want to do anything to harm the relationship. When your counselor suggests an analysis that doesn’t feel right in your gut, instead of speaking up and sharing your view, you just smile and nod because you don’t want your counselor to become offended. When your counselor suggests an exercise that makes you uncomfortable, you make yourself do it and ignore your own internal warning signals because you are so desperate to keep your counselor liking you.

The horrifying stories you hear of counselors sexually assaulting their clients are a result of counselors being grossly unprofessional and clients failing to walk out when their guts were telling them to. You should always listen to your gut when you’re working with a counselor. What people call their “gut instinct” is really their subconscious mind (and sometimes their soul) giving them checks. Are these checks always right? No, because when your mind is terribly stressed, it makes many wrong assumptions. But you are still better off respecting your instincts than you are staying with a counselor who is making you uncomfortable, because your subconscious will not work with someone who it doesn’t like.

A counselor has to earn the trust of your subconscious before your mind will be receptive to real help. Real help gives your subconscious the tools it needs to start resolving its problems at their cores. False help makes you feel good in the moment, but it doesn’t address core issues, and it ends up making your problems worse in the long run.

When Jen bursts into tears and her counselor comes over and gives her a long, comforting hug, Jen is shocked by the touch, but she is also overwhelmed by how emotionally comforting it is. This is false help. It feels great in the moment, but when the hug is over, Jen senses that the dynamic between her and her counselor has dramatically changed. The professional distance is gone because the woman just acted very familiar with Jen–treating her more like a mother or a close friend than an adviser. Jen now feels confused by the shift, yet her counselor moves on like nothing happened. Jen is now having trouble focusing on conversation because her mind is spinning with ideas about how she could score another hug and re-experience that intense emotional comfort. By the end of the experience she decides that she and her counselor have become more like mother and daughter. This is huge to Jen, because her own mother abandoned her when she was very young, and her inability to cope with that rejection is one of the main things driving her dysfunctional behavior today.

Over the next three sessions, Jen gets three more hugs. She is now in a habit of intentionally working herself up into an emotional lather until her counselor comes over to comfort her. But during the fourth session, Jen’s counselor announces that she doesn’t feel she and Jen are a good fit, so she’s referring her to someone else and terminating their relationship. Because of her counselor’s unprofessional behavior, Jen is traumatized by this rejection and she rapidly spirals downhill as her subconscious struggles to make sense of this new mother figure shoving her away.

Can you see how messy Jen’s counselor made things by complicating this relationship with physical touch? Can you see how she confused Jen and inhibited Jen’s ability to focus on recovery once she identified herself as a source of empathetic touch? Counseling relationships are already intense by nature, and because clients are so vulnerable, there is a double responsibility on the counselor to keep the relationship safe and healthy for both parties. Unfortunately, many counselors don’t know how to do this, and they don’t understand mind mechanics very well, so they don’t realize the damage they are doing when they just wing it.

Now in the example with Jen, the counselor’s touching intensified Jen’s existing stresses over humans who she cared very much about pleasing. Imagine how much more messy things become if that touch gets associated with God.

In Christian deliverance sessions, the focus is on how supernatural beings (primarily God and demons) are interacting with you. So much of the theology that is taught in these sessions is complete bull. The power and ability of demons tends to be grossly exaggerated, while God’s abilities and attitudes are badly misrepresented. It’s very popular in these circles to demonize issues that have nothing to do with demons, which leads to deliverance ministers trying to “deliver you” from infestations of spirits who aren’t really infesting you at all. As is typical for religion based counseling efforts, Christian deliverance counselors have little to no understanding of the subconscious and the way it interacts with the other elements of your being. This makes them prone to misdiagnosing psychological problems as spiritual problems. Since they also have a lot of wrong beliefs about how demons and God work, their therapy techniques tend to range from useless to harmful.

Because deliverance ministers favor hands on techniques (a very common one being the minister laying his hands on you while praying for you), hyper bonding is a frequent occurrence. Clients quickly form a strong sense of dependency on the magical minister who acts as though he is a critical key to 1) driving evil spirits out of the client’s body, and 2) getting God to notice and/or care about the client’s problems.

“Let Me Pray For You”

Wedging yourself between humans and supernatural beings and teaching people that they must rely on you to hook them up with those beings is a very lucrative game to play. When I teach people about God, I always tell them to check with God directly for His opinion about what I am saying, because until you are talking to God for yourself, you have no basis for believing what anyone else says about Him. Counselors are supposed to be helping you. At the very least, they should be taking steps to not make you any worse off than you were when you first came to them. One critical way counselors do this is by teaching you how to hold good boundaries in the counseling relationship. If God is being discussed, then the counselor should be helping you treat God as the separate, higher Authority that He is while also helping you cultivate your own relationship with Him.

Prayer is when your soul talks to God. What you say to God and what He says to you is private, personal, and no one else’s business. Since God speaks to all humans directly, there is never any need for you to have another human talk to God on your behalf. Not only is it unnecessary for you to ask other humans to pray for you, it is actually harmful to your own relationship with God. Think about it: how secure would you feel in a marriage where you felt that your spouse wasn’t willing to talk to you? Suppose you believed that your spouse would only notice and care about your problems if the neighbor spoke to your spouse on your behalf?

Every time you ask someone else to pray for you, you’re reinforcing negative soul beliefs such as “God won’t talk to me directly” and “God doesn’t think I’m worth listening to.” Instead of encouraging you to cling to these false beliefs, a spiritual counselor should be helping you correct your wrong beliefs about God by encouraging you to talk to Him yourself and be receptive to the possibility that He is communicating with you directly.

Now it needs to be said that what I’ve just explained about prayer is not taught in Christian circles. Instead, Christians are intensely pressured to pray for each other, and they are brainwashed into thinking it is essential that they keep nagging God to notice and help their friends and neighbors. So when Christians pray for you, most of them aren’t consciously trying to undermine your relationship with God. Instead, they honestly don’t realize what a negative impact their prayer habits are having on themselves and others. But just as not realizing a glass of water has been laced with poison won’t stop you from being harmed by drinking it, not realizing that your approach to God is harmful won’t stop your soul from reinforcing wrong beliefs.

Since the way that you communicate with God has such a profound impact on how you view Him, you should be very guarded about letting other people interfere with your personal communication with God. Deliverance ministers are very big on praying for their clients (often while touching them), with the unspoken assumption being that the clients themselves are not capable of effectively communicating with God. Is it wise for you to submit yourself to therapy approaches that reinforce the theory that your own Creator is disinterested in you? If God invites you to talk to Him directly (which He does), then why would you invite another human to butt in on your personal relationship with God?

One of the fabulous things about God is that He doesn’t allow people to pick His friends for Him, nor does He allow us to influence the way He treats other humans. What this means is that no matter how “holy” some human thinks he is, that person is incapable of biasing God for or against you. God never bases His assessment of you on what other humans think about you. Having some spiritual leader with a bunch of fancy titles and a massive ego and a million fans pray over you is a complete waste of time. God doesn’t have a priority inbox that He collects the prayers of the “special” people in while your prayers end up in spam. Not being human, God doesn’t have human limitations, which means He never gets overwhelmed by billions of humans talking to Him at the same time. He hears everything you say to Him, and He is always listening to you.

It is totally unprofessional for counselors to pray out loud for you. In such situations, you sit there like a captive audience, while the counselor makes a speech without monitoring your reactions to see if they are making you uncomfortable. Monitoring clients for signs of discomfort is an important part of counseling well, and when counselors close their eyes and focus on telling God how they want the counseling session to go, they are not doing their job.

Since prayer is a soul thing, it can be done privately at any time. There is no need to make a big production out of it by saying: “Everyone stop! I’m about to talk to God!” If you want to talk to God, do it already. You don’t need to insist that everyone else pause to watch.

If you are seeking spiritual counseling, you should absolutely be talking to God before, during, and after the counseling session. Before, you should ask God to help you receive anything He wants to tell you. During the session as your counselor advises you and suggests theories, you should be privately asking God if there is any truth to what is being said. After, you should be asking God how He wants you to apply anything that you’ve learned, and if your counselor is worth going back to. If you’re in doubt at the end of the session about how you feel, don’t book another appointment until you’ve had a chance to pray about it. Counselors who are doing it right will be pleased that you’re treating God as a higher Authority than they are, because He is the higher Authority. Counselors who try to discourage you from talking to God or pressure you into making decisions that you’re not ready to make are ones that you need to cut ties with. Remember that God is the only Authority on God so don’t ever accept what some human says about Him until He verifies the truth of it to your personal soul.

In deliverance ministries, prayer is the main therapy tool, with the minister doing the praying while you are pressured to “amen” whatever he says about you. Prayer is viewed as a very powerful and effective weapon against evil spirits, even though in real life, prayer doesn’t do bumpkus to drive demons away from you (if they’re even there to begin with). The real purpose of prayer is to commune with God, not to control the way He operates. You’re not doing yourself any favors by sitting there like a lump while some human with a lack of reverential submission instructs God on how He ought to treat you.

Conclusion

Since Christian deliverance ministries emphasize two tools that are totally inappropriate for use in therapy–physical touch and praying out loud for the client–these folks are not safe options for you to seek help from. By the time you are in need of counseling, you’re in a very vulnerable state and quite easy to take advantage of. Being able to recognize inappropriate therapy techniques will help you stay safe and steer clear of shady counselors.

Looking for advice? You can submit an anonymous request through the Ask a Question page.