On my blog entry entitled Finding a Therapist if you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a reader posted the following comment (I added asterisks to any reference to G*d to help anyone who is triggered by religion):
I did want to say something in regards to Christian therapist, they are not all the same. I see a Christian clinical psychologist who’s priority is to keep me safe and trusting him at all times. He has a masters in theology and knows there is no place for blaming the wounded. G*d does not operate that way. When I am in his office I am taught the reality of a loving G*d who hates what happened to me and never blames me for any part of it. Instead He looks upon me with an endless love that is more than willing to heal me. There is no blame, shame or guilt put upon me for my feelings or whatever they may be. These sessions that are combined with my doctors skill and his spiritual reliance on the power of G*d to heal the brokenhearted, broken in spirit, broken bodies has helped me in so many ways. Sadly, I now see all to clearly how lacking the church is in actually being what Chr*st has called her to be-a place where all can belong and be safe. ~ Sarah
I am sure that there are exceptions to the rule, as Sarah describes, but I stand by my advice that someone who has suffered from child abuse needs to seek out a professional psychologist for therapy and not rely solely on a Christian counselor without a degree in psychology.
The reason for this is that child abuse survivors have suffered from some very serious trauma, and we need therapists who know what they are doing to help guide us through the healing process. Licensed psychologists have been educated about the cause and aftereffects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related disorders, including dissociative identity disorder (DID). Someone with a divinity degree does not have this kind of training.
If I was diagnosed with cancer, I might meet with my pastor and pray, but I would also seek out an oncologist because I want a specialist in the area of my illness. The same holds true for healing from child abuse. I am happy to receive additional support from clergy (and did when I was healing), but I am going to rely most heavily on the person who has the training and experience in guiding child abuse survivors through the healing process.
I have heard some terrible stories of Christian counselors whose well-meaning but woefully incompetent guidance only made things worse. My sister’s Christian counselor told her to write her “sins” on a piece of paper (her abuse was considered a “sin”) and then burn it. Just as the paper burned, God was removing her “sins” from her soul. When this one activity did not cure my sister’s PTSD, the counselor then told her that she had “Satan on her shoulder.” What a crock of $#%&!
I know people with DID who had Christian counselors tell them that their alter parts were “demons.” Because these people could not “exorcise the demons,” they assumed that their alter parts were condemning them to hell. Again, what a crock of $#%&!
I am a highly educated and intelligent person, and I have even healed from child abuse, but I do not presume to have the tools that a licensed and educated psychologist does. I can offer advice from my personal experience on my blog, but I would not meet with one of you weekly and “play therapist” because I am not qualified to do so. I think it is irresponsible for people who have not been trained as a therapist to presume that they can heal someone’s PTSD just because they have a divinity degree or have taken a couple of night classes on counseling. Guiding someone through healing from child abuse is a much more serious endeavor than premarital counseling.
If you are seeking a therapist, I strongly urge you to find one with the education and experience to help you heal. If you can find one who is also in a Christian practice, that’s great, but don’t assume that the word “counselor” slapped on a door makes the person qualified to help you heal.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt