Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Conning the Faithful: 'Christian' Pseudo-Psychotherapy

I was quite interested in one of the headlines in yesterday’s Independent newspaper which read..... ‘Paul McKenna: I can make you better’. It appears that the former Top Shop DJ, TV hypnotist, self help guru and multi-millionaire businessman, has moved into the questionable area of psychotherapy, having adopted the "Havening Technique".

McKenna, recently offered author James Moore treatment using the Havening technique to help him cope with the after-effects of a road accident that nearly killed him. Moore, a keen cyclist, was run over by a tanker two years ago. The effects of the accident were profound.....three weeks spent in a coma followed by a further nine weeks in hospital left Moore with profound psychological trauma. Drugs prescribed by his physicians caused hallucinations which were vivid and frightening.

After five months of therapy he had begun to feel better but confessed, “recently the demons have been jabbing, especially at night. So, while I'm generally suspicious of the self-help industry, and its gurus, I was more than willing to give McKenna a shot.”

The Havening technique is described by Moore as follows: “You think of a really nasty memory, establishing it clearly in your mind, and rate its intensity. You close your eyes and tap on your collar bone. You then open your eyes, clear your mind, and think of something pleasant. You then follow the therapist's finger moving rapidly this way and that.

After this you relax, and he rubs the top of your arms, while you imagine, say, tapping a keyboard, counting up from one to 20. You hum a few bars of a tune (say "Happy Birthday", or the national anthem), close your eyes for more arm rubbing, open them and rate the trauma's impact afterwards. After that it's lather, rinse, repeat. The therapist, so it is said, doesn't need to know the nature of the memory. Just the technique of desensitising it.”

Did the Havening therapy make James Moore better ?  Not really. Recounting his take on the experience, Moore lamented: “I'm not sure Havening is quite as miraculous as McKenna says it is. Psychological bruises from the accident remain with me and they're still sore. When he tried it out as a way of soothing the physical, neuropathic pain which is a constant companion, the effect was minimal.”

As a Christian I never cease to be amazed how techniques such as Havening, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Imago relationship therapy have infiltrated the church. A recent Google search threw up dozens of businesses and individuals offering ‘christian’ counselling and psychotherapy in most cases at a cost.

What’s on offer? Dr. Will Meek in his 2010 essay ‘Discredited Psychological Treatments’ argues that the therapies listed above have three things in common:

“First, they claim to offer incredible results beyond what is traditionally known for credible approaches (sometimes instant and near miracle like results are promised). Second, they almost always come from some kind of private industry or fringe charismatic inventor. Third, they are often rejected by scientific understanding or research, and continue to be taught through workshops rather than in universities.”

Neuro-linguistic programming is one of the most commonly used techniques by the so-called ‘Christian psychotherapists’.

Dr Meek describes NLP as, “essentially, a collection of basic ideas about communication repackaged and given a fancy new name that sounds "science-y". Research throughout the 80s and 90s discredited NLP and it has been rejected by the mainstream psychological community for many years. However, special workshops and a cottage industry continues to profit on NLP.

The most interesting thing about NLP is that it is nearly impossible to find out exactly what it is. Almost every free resource dedicated to it will not give any specific techniques or ideas. This is always a red flag because real treatments are widely taught to everyone willing to listen in credible institutions, not just by salespeople in expensive hotel workshops.”

I am going to give the last words on the efficacy or not of ‘Christian’ psychotherapy to TC McMahon and the late Dave Hunt of the ‘Berean Call’ web ministry:

“The heroes and heroines of Bible history all triumphed by faith in God and in His promises. They neither had nor needed any help whatsoever from “Christian psychology,” which didn’t even exist in their day. Wouldn’t faith in God and His Word, which has been proved thousands of times through the ages to be more than sufficient in every conceivable circumstance and in the deepest trials, be sufficient for Christians today, no matter what their trials and challenges might be? What could possibly persuade a Christian to look to psychology, invented by anti-Christians, for help in living a life pleasing to God?

Of course, [some] Christian psychologists claim to have a firm faith in the inerrancy of Scripture. But no matter how firmly a psychologist adheres to the inerrancy of Scripture, they all must deny its sufficiency. This is the only way to justify their profession. If any part of the Bible is in error, where can the line be drawn? If the Bible has not given us all we need to live the Christian life, that fact alone would be enough to make all of it suspect in view of the many places where it claims to be sufficient for living triumphant lives pleasing to God.”

‘Christian’ Pseudo-Psychotherapy.....definitely a very expensive con by any other name. To be avoided at all costs !


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