I recently received a telephone call from a Theophostic minister/therapist who uses the principles of the author of Healing Life's Deepest Hurts. He inquired about the possible relationship of these principles to primal-oriented therapies. I was immediately intrigued by his question and wanted to know more about Theophostic facilitation. I checked out Dr. Edward Smith's website and ordered one of his books. After having read the book I have concluded that the combination of a strict doctrinaire religion and regressive therapy techniques could have untoward effects. Nevertheless, I recommend the therapy. The background of my conclusions, together with a short historical perspective on other similar combinations of religion and regression therapy are the primary subjects of this review.
--John A. Speyrer, Webmeister - The Primal Psychotherapy Page
". . . a study of Theosophic facilitation sans Christ or religious doctrine would be most interesting. The question being speculation on exactly what does spirituality or religion add to Theophostic facilitation. It might add a lot, as both the early repressed memories and spiritual and religious feelings are accessed through the same keyhole of the brain - the temporal lobe. Coincidence? I think not.
-- The Reviewer
There are literally hundreds of Christian healing ministries in operation today. Dr. Edward M. Smith's Theophostic Ministry probably had its inspirational roots in the "Inner Healing" or "Healing of Memories" type ministry movements of some thirty years ago, such as those of Francis MacNutt, Agnes Sanford and others. While the majority of these ministries did not combine regressive experiences with their ministries, one of the earliest regression therapists who did build upon the work of contemporary spiritual healing ministries was Frank Lake, a British psychiatrist, Anglican theologian and prolific author. Dr. Lake, is perhaps better known for his pioneering work with LSD as a regressive psycho-therapeutic agent, an approach which he discontinued upon the discovery of primal therapy by Dr. Arthur Janov in the late 1960s.. (See listing of articles by Dr. Lake on this website at Alphabetical Listing of Articles )
Dr. Lake discusses part of his therapy methodology:
Our own practice is to begin, as always with prayer for the Holy Spirit's guidance, and then to facilitate the person making their own search into the prime occasions on which the feelings they are complaining of were felt with total intensity. Consistent deep breathing (so symbolic of the Spirit's fullness) enables the "adult" to go down into these experiences which were overwhelming to the foetus, or the baby with being overwhelmed or scared by them now. (Frank Lake, "Report from the Research Department #1," p 2, Quoted in Stephen M. Maret's Ph.D., Dissertation - Frank Lake's Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome: An Analysis )
As with most religiously fervent therapists, Dr. Lake's theology would sometimes intrude into his therapy practice. However, I am certain that he considered it complementary rather than intrusive as he wrote an article entitled, The Work of Christ in the Healing of Primal Pain.
His quoted scriptural passages were fewer, but like Dr. Smith, Lake twisted his biblical exegesis to make it adapt to his psychological theory.
Lake felt that Charismatic prayer groups placed undue emphasis on positive feelings while ignoring the negative ones from whence comes the healing material. Saying that although God makes all things possible to someone suffering from, for example, terminal cancer, being unreasonably optimistic in their particular case, is not helpful.
Similar to the work of Dr. Frank Lake, in terms of regressions to very early traumas, were a number of other regression therapists who combined religion with reliving the traumas of "one's inner child." Dr. Cecil G. Osborne, a Baptist Minister in California, during the 1970s and 1980s practiced a form of primal therapy and like Dr. Smith, conducted training for those who wanted to become therapists. He called his therapy "In-Depth Therapy," and in his books placed much less emphasis on scriptural passages, so I assume he ran a more secular type of primal-oriented therapy. Two of his books are reviewed on this website. (See, The Art of Learning to Love Yourself and Understanding Your Past: The Key To Your Future - A complete copy of Osborne's book is available from the first link in this paragraph)
Dr. Gordon Van Rooy, a former minister who worked in India as a missionary is presently retired and living in Colorado. He studied regression therapy with Dr. Osborne and had a therapy practice near Conroe, Texas, during the 1980s. (See his complete book, The Primal Primer, on this website).
I can remember when, together with a number of other leaders in the Anglican renewal movement, I met Frank in London to convey to him our concern and to beg him to not to go on suggesting that the text 'You must be born again' in John 3 could be validly exegeted as meaning, 'You must relive your birth experience'. We cannot have convinced him because he went on doing it. (ibid., quoting Tom Small in, Frank Lake, p. 84)
The question might arise in the readers mind as to how much emphasis the Theophostic Ministry of Rev. Smith places on the use of religious ministrations in his regressive therapy facilitation. In Healing Life's Deepest Hurts, the author recounts how, for many years, he had a more traditional counseling practice. The problem, he writes, was that his clients were not becoming well.
Smith practices what he preaches and uses the principles of Theophostic Ministry on himself. Good. He writes that the process is a lifetime journey, as many issues and conflicts arise as one lives one's life and is subjected to various emotional triggers (hurts). What he describes in his case studies are remarkable cures of stubborn psychiatric ills, such as bulimia and OCD. These interesting micro case studies are followed by a listing and short explanation of thirteen principles of therapy practice used in Theophostic Ministry. A number of them apply to both the primal-oriented therapies and his particular form of regressive therapy.
Some of the theory commonalities with primal-oriented therapies include:
The most important element in Theophostic ministry which distinguishes it from other primal-oriented regression therapies is on its emphasis that:
- Present circumstances are usually the trigger and not the cause of neurotic suffering.
- One only receives temporary relief if only the present difficult situation is examined.
- When the present triggers the past old experiential (feeling) knowledge is stronger than cognitive (intellectual) knowledge.
The author believes that the form of healing ministry he developed results in a "genuine recovery" unlike the previous seventeen years of patchwork and ineffective counseling which he did with sexual abuse victims and others. During that period he was able to give his clients insight into the origins of their unhappiness, he says, but insight therapy was not resolving their problems as they were not feeling any better.
- The "spirit of Christ" and the "truth from God" is what sets us free after or during the deep regressive experience.
Very earlier traumas cause us, Rev. Smith writes, to believe untruths about ourselves. These untruths he called "lies." He continues: "The lies we believe keep us in bondage to the negative emotions and the behavior that follows." Coming to a negative conclusion about ourselves, based on our early trauma(s) seems reasonable enough, but I believe that calling it a "lie" is an onus which should not be placed on the conclusions we arrived at during our infantile. early childhood and birth. Perhaps, my criticism is unfair. My complaint is really only with semantics.
Our early reasoning was wholly logical and understandable. These personality molding conclusions about self were logical when one considers the trauma endured, The impression that we believed a "lie" seems almost insulting and derogatory even if we ourselves manufactured the "lie." To me, it seems like a put-down as the victim does not deserve the accusation that he made up a "lie." The victim did not know his conclusion was untrue. I believe it would be preferable to use the term "faulty or negative conclusion" or any term which expresses the same meaning but removes the stigma of the client being associated with a "lie"
Scripture passages are quoted on practically every page of the book and used to justify to his clients and, I believe, to his fellow ministers that he is not outside the pale of orthodoxy in his Theophostic approach to emotional problems. I found 1,890 websites on Google's search engine, which mention Smith's ministry. An overwhelming number are favorable. The few criticisms are from Smith's fellow ministers who spuriously and unmercifully attack his Theophostics with their own biblical verses. Ah, the unforgiving opprobrium directed towards others who are judged to be heretics. Unfortunately, some religionists seem to prefer pagans rather than than their fellow Christians.
As far as I am concerned, all of the attackers I read were baseless as none of the attackers had even the most elementary understanding of Theophostic facilitation. Indeed, they were only interested in their own version of religious truth. The author attempts to defend himself when he writes: "Some may think I am minimizing preaching, biblical instruction, and personal study. This is not the case. All I am saying is that it is the Holy Spirit who 'leads us in all truth.'"
Yet, the link between Theophostics and the Father, Son or Holy Spirit and the bible itself is tenuous at best. I doubt that the scriptures justify any element of regression therapy. One will search in vain for references in scripture to feelings, either repressed or otherwise. Instead, scriptural emphasis is on moral and righteous behavior, being holy and having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ seemingly did no introspection of the type that would be necessary to regress into His early life nor did He recommend that his followers do so. How can one expect the Bible to report otherwise? Two thousand years ago nothing was known about repressed memory. It's a large jump in credulity to expect that all the important truths discovered, or to be discovered, are discussed or even mentioned in that one volume.
Dr. Gordon Van Rooy, the medical missionary who worked in India for many years, was once confronted by some Christian fundamentalists about his use of primal-oriented therapy. They asked, "Where do you find primal therapy in the Bible?" Gordon replied, "Right after that verse which authorizes a surgeon to remove the appendix." He acknowledged that the quip was borrowed from his teacher, Cecil Osborne.
Unlike Osborne, Van Rooy, and other ministerial therapists, the author does not seem to be able to use the principles of regression therapy apart from religious doctrine. It is as though that same surgeon is unable to remove the appendix without first bringing Christ into the operating room. Yet the principles and practice of Smith's psychotherapy, in and of themselves, are effective even without combining them with religion. But does the introduction of religion or spirituality into the Theophostic process facilitate the trauma resolution? And if so, why?
Such a study of Theosophic facilitation sans Christ would be interesting as would the procedure avec Jehovah, Allah or other supreme being. My guess is that, for devout Muslims, substituting Allah for Christ would be just as effective). The Theophostic theory would probably withstand the migration to another religion very well. So what exactly does a religion add to Theophostic theory? It might help at times as both the early repressed memories and spiritual and religious feelings are accessed through the same keyhole - the brain's temporal lobe and related structures. Coincidence? Maybe not.
In any event, Maret, ibid., quoted from Roger Moss' biography, Frank Lake: The Man and His Work, that Dr. Lake had also added an element of Christian theology to his primal-oriented therapy work. Maret calls this dimension a "communicated theology," as Lake saw that "the Cross of Christ, offered in depth at the point of primal impact, offers immense prophylactic possibilities" (my emphasis).
Thus, theological elements, introduced by psychiatrist Lake, were an important part of his ministrations of primal pain. Helpful? Perhaps. Necessary? No.
Lake saw biblical and theological content in every facet of his theory. He utilized biblical figures to illustrate certain psychopathologies. He sees parallel descriptions of the pain of the transmarginal states in the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil, and St. John of the Cross. He views the innocent suffering of Christ as paradigmatic of the innocent suffereng of the fetus in the womb." (Maret, op. cit. p. 4.)
However, many non-Christians and even atheists have been using regressive therapies for decades. In fact, I was personally told by a Theophostic therapist/minister that he has used the procedures taught during Dr. Smith's advanced seminars. He continues to be amazed at the results, but even on the occasions, when all references to Christ and God were omitted, seemingly, the techniques had worked as well. He presently no longer uses prayer in his version of theophostics. I am sure that for some patients adding theology to the therapy, detracts from its usefulness. What's this with the introduction of demonic influences into TPM by Smith? Perhaps it's a question of: if you seek, you will find.
At the end of (or during the session) Dr. Smith writes that his clients receive messages from Christ which provided them insight into the original cause of their problems: "I saw people consistently come to a place of rest in the presence of Jesus as He revealed His truth into their pain-filled memories." He was skeptical and reluctant to believe that these miraculous interventions could be taking place every day. For that reason, he felt a need to be certain that it was God who was origin of the messages and healings being received.
The author writes (pp. 102-3) that he developed three questions to help him decide whether it was God who was doing the healing during a Theophostic session:
I believe that each of these tests for indications as to whether or not the Deity helped in the healing can impede the effectiveness of the treatment by distracting the person undergoing the therapy. This is because the emphasis of therapist work must be for the support of the cure of neurosis of the client and not for the advancement of particular religious doctrine or for stressing a particular biblical interpretation.
- "Is the message received from God during the session biblically consistent?
- Does the person demonstrate the presence of the perfect peace of Christ in the memory that has been renewed?
- Does the person have genuine compassion and forgiveness for those who have hurt him or her?"
If a client would hear a deceptive message, he might assume that it was from the spirit of Christ. Smith gives the reader an example of such a message received by a client: "You must battle this problem, but if you do not give up you will win." This cited example, he believes, was actually from a demonic spirit. Why? Because it was not "biblically consistent," as there is no passage in the Bible related to the meaning of this message.
This can impede the main objective which should be the healing of the client. Having to ascertain whether or not the message came from the Almighty can interfere with healing. This litmus test of orthodoxy seems to be as important as the resolution of the client's past traumas. Here is another example of doctrinal supremacy: (p. 103)
1. The Error of Biblical Consistency
It would seem that Theophostic ministers should be scriptural experts. Indeed, Dr. Smith writes, "To be effective, the minister must be biblically knowledgeable and growing daily in God's Word." Then and only then does the therapist know that the healing was from God. Spouting only biblical truths might be a proof of theological orthodoxy, but how does that promote healing?
For example, a person might report hearing the Lord say, 'You are not alone. I am here with you,' in a memory of a time when he or she had been abandoned. These words are consistent with Jesus' words' 'I am with you always, even to the end of the age: (Mt 28:20). If the message received is not consistent with Scripture, then it is not valid. This 'truth' should be rejected because it is not from God."
Not only should the client follow the church approved line of scriptural exegesis, but also demonstrate "God's perfect peace" after the feeling. But suppose the particular feeling is not completely worked through, would not an insistent minister waiting for the client's "perfect peace" be disappointed? Would this disappointment be perceived by the client? Very early and/or very severe traumas may require more than one re-living for the complete relaxation of mind and body. That "peace" may not arrive until the trauma is completely felt, in many parts, over many sessions. With some severely injured clients, who have poor defenses, the sessions might end with severe anxiety and depression and without feelings of resolution. Having the "perfect peace of Christ" is not necessarily a reasonable measurement of connection to the early trauma.
Perhaps the "peace of Christ" is what allows the client in TPM to feel much better even though the negative early feeling has not been completely worked through. Religion can do that!
Raising defenses against our psychological pain is one of its well known functions. In secular regression therapies, there is no "peace of Christ" to build up the defenses which had just been lowered, and so no one expects nor receives rapid "cures."
So, in secular oriented regressive therapy, if the psychological pain continues or worsens, even after a long session, perhaps lasting hours, an explanation may be that the client released more traumatic memories that could be successfully worked through in that one session. Again, the overflow, in such cases would prevent the "perfect peace" from being experienced. The relaxation and tension free space might not be felt until more of the repressed feeling or different elements of the repressed feeling is re-lived.
Dr. Smith emphasizes that all truth comes from the Holy Spirit and that even though "(s)ome may think I am minimizing preaching, biblical instruction, and personal study." This he insists, is not so, as he is simply teaching that the source of all truth is from the Holy Spirit.
In agreement with the theory of other regressive psychotherapies, Theophostic ministry regards the various addictions, anorexia nervosa, depression, irrational fears and rageful anger, etc. neither as moral shortcomings, nor as "sins" - but only as symptoms or act outs of the real problem. This is a logical and reasonable conclusion. May Smith's insights continue.
Psychiatrist Frank Lake writes:
2. The "Perfect Peace" of Christ
Smith's solutions for addictions are not abstinence from the addict's drug of choice but in discovering the cause of the symptom and tracing it to its real source, "and to allow Jesus to reveal His truth. . . ."
Asking Jesus to remove the original pain at the same time that the client is feeling relief from the deep feeling connection to his early trauma obviously (but falsely) assures the client that the relief or the "perfect peace" is from Jesus. For shame! The truth is that the "perfect peace" is derived from the lifting of repression and releasing or feeling the now un-repressed trauma - the feeling or a portion of the feeling which had not originally been felt when the trauma occurred.
We do not choose (our) chronic sins. They choose us. We hate these blots on our personalities. We do not enjoy them, but we cannot be free of them. The element of personal responsibility in our going on commltting them is minimal. They are an evil we have suffered rather than an evil we have delighted in. Only ambiguously can these be called sins which require our penitence and our plea for forgiveness. . . . The clinical pastoral task is to deal with the evils we have suffered rather than with the evils we have generated. Frank Lake, Clinical Theology,1966, pps. 20-21
The further back you go to find the sources of later trouble and conflict in babyhood and infancy ('infans,' literally 'not yet speaking'), the more the responsibility for introducing the evil must fall, not on the very young themselves, but on the older, adult members of the species. Responsibility and culpability, to which the gospel is at present preached addresses itself, so that the conviction of sin may take hold, are minimal in these relatively innocent, because helpless, sufferers. (Lake, The Work of Christ in the Healing of Primal Pain, 1989, pps. 226-229. Both of these quotations are from Maret, ibid., footnote, p. 188)
Whether or not the client wishes to forgive or decides never to forgive the perpetrator has nothing to do with the benefits of therapy. Forgiveness is a theological issue which should never arise in therapy. It is only the religious agenda of the therapist which places an emphasis on the importance on forgiveness of the client's perpetrator. 100% of the client's concentration should be on feeling the early trauma, not on forgiving the perpetrator.
An essential element in determining whether God is doing the work of healing, according to Dr. Smith is, "Does the person have genuine compassion and forgiveness for those who have hurt him or her." I believe that the introduction of the question of forgiveness of the perpetrator can retard the client's progress in therapy. In this case, the introduction of an element which is really from religious doctrine can sabotage or otherwise retard one's therapeutic progress. Perhaps it may be many decades before the abused person arrives at the place where she is able to consider the question of forgiveness. Maybe she will never arrive at that point in time. If she does not, then she should not.
According to ex-psychoanalyst, Alice Miller, expecting, asking for, or requiring forgiveness is adding an obstacle to the healing. In Chapter 9 of her book, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, (1991), Dr. Miller explains why this is so.
", , , (F)orgiveness does not resolve latent hatred and self-hatred but rather covers them up in a very dangerous way. . . . A quasi-religious act of forgiveness can never resolve patterns of self-destruction." It can seriously impede anger work.
For example, expecting a daughter being able to forgive her mother, when the mother knows, aids and abets in the child's sexual molestation for many years (and never apologizes) is unconscionable. Even the therapist bringing up the subject of forgiveness is intrusive and harmful.
3.The Damaging Emphasis On Forgiveness
Alice Miller writes that she asked many therapists why they believe that their patients must forgive their oppressors in order to become well. She says that she never received a reasonable answer from any. She feels that a loving society would never insist on forgiveness for cruelties which cannot be understood by the person who was abused. It is always children who have to pay the price for forgiveness of their parents.
Miller calls this therapeutic insistence on forgiveness a "calamitous ideology." Demanding forgiveness endangers therapeutic resolution, she insists. She can only recommend forgiveness when the parents "recognize and admit to their failures." Withholding forgiveness can be therapeutic by deepening subsequent regressions which will be more heartfelt and sincere.
In an earlier book, Dr. Miller wrote that reconciliation with the parents is not needed; what is needed is finding out "what one's parents were really like" and acknowledging to oneself that that is how it was. Everything else but the recovery of the abused is an agenda of moral imperatives. Exhortations for forgiveness invariably will backfire and hide childhood reality. It is therefore important, she believes, that therapy ". . . not go along will this compulsion to spare the parents. Only then can it help the patient to relive his or her traumatic experiences. . . . " (Thou Shalt Not Be Aware - pps. 207, 209)
In, Don't Forgive Too Soon (1997) the Linn siblings continued their series of religious and self-help books. In 1999 they reached their in depth summit with Remembering Our Home: Healing Hurts & Receiving Gifts From Conception to Birth, , co-authored with regression therapist, William R. Emerson, Ph.D.
How are patients meant to resolve their feelings of guilt under such circumstances? On the contrary, they will simply be confirmed." She continues, "By refusing to forgive, I give up all illusions. A mistreated child, of course, cannot live without them. But a grown-up therapist must be able to manage it. His or her patients should be able to ask" 'Why should I forgive, when no one is asking me to. I mean, my parents refuse to understand and to know what they did to me. So why should I go on trying to understand and forgive my parents and whatever happened in their childhood. . . ? What's the use? Whom does it help? It doesn't help my parents to see the truth. But it does prevent me from experiencing my feelings, the feelings that would give me access to the truth. But under the bell-jar of forgiveness, feelings cannot and may not blossom freely.
The author does examine the theory of his ministry of regressive therapy in an original manner as he explains the difference between "experiential knowledge and logical truth." Furthermore, he writes that "in life situations experiential knowledge tends to override logical truth." (p.82) and writes, "We can choose to embrace logical truth in times of crisis, but generally we will submit to that which we 'feel' is true rather than that we 'know' to be true." His examples and explanations are clear and after he has explained a theory principle he gives a small case study which repeats and reinforces the point he is making.
Rev. Smith writes, "If my headaches are rooted in my lie-based thinking, God will not heal my headache. Yet He can give me experiential truth, and as a natural result my headache will go away on its own." (p. 85). So, yes, he believes that the "feeling" of the original trauma . . . sort of, . . . well, . . . allows God to make the headache go away. He seems to use any therapy situation to show the power of the therapy to cure one's pain, but it all is done, he insists, with the approval of God, but then - if and only if - the client can unlock those early memories.
In The Art of Learning to Love Yourself (1971) Cecil Osborne wrote about his type of primal-oriented therapy:
Although In-Depth Therapy did not deal specifically with religious values, the therapists at the Burlingame Center are religiously oriented, and feel that all healing, physical or emotional, is of God. A therapist or physician is simply an agent of God, the source of all healing. (p. 151)
I find Osborne's distinction as well as Smith's confusing. Perhaps, another way of saying this is that a bird does not fall from the sky without the consent of God. But then it seems that they preach that nothing happens without God's approval. Presumably, that would include children starving to death in Africa.
Rev. Smith writes, "Lies such as, 'I am bad, no good, not lovable, rejected, abandoned, shameful, evil and so on' cause us to feel bad -- not what has happened to us. What we believe happened to us is what causes the pain."
That is a given, but is he emphasizing the point that the parent's behavior may not be to blame, -- only our misinterpretation of the parent's behavior? In all cases; in some cases? What benefit does that have? Many are anxious to believe, indeed insistantly believe, that "I had wonderful parents." Does not this position reinforce that belief and can become an aid for denial? "It's all my fault for believing that my mother did not love me." "It's all the fault of my lying memories." Such denial that the person, as a young child, was unwanted and/or rejected can hinder un-repression of the memory. The client's reality should not be undermined. If the client is wrong he will discover that for himself in a later session. The facilitator should be neutral and should defend neither the parent nor the client. But that is what happens when religious dogma enters into psychotherapy. And the client suffers because of it. Support, support, support -- is what is essential for the therapy to proceed.
Encouraging the client to believe that anxiety, depression, and feelings of guilt are not the fault of anyone except his own false beliefs and that no bad things happened to him is unconscionable. You only feel that way only because of what you believe and that might not be the truth is downright encouragement of more denial, of which the client already possesses too large an amount. "We feel bad because bad things have hapened to us. To think that those events do not matter and that only how we interpret it matters, is an exercise in mental lucubration. Doesn't being raped by one's father count, or is it just how we saw and see it? Mind over matter? Or does real imprinted memory count; after all, that memory becomes part of the neurophysiology. The hippocampus shrinks in response to these kinds of trauma. Does it shrink because we have the wrong attitude, or because a terrible crime against our humanity has taken place?" (Arthur Janov, Ph.D., Grand Delusions, p. 15)
Dr. Smith's emphasis on "what you feel, not what happened," merely removes the parental action one step away from reality, since in am overwhelmingly majority of regression cases, the infant or young child does arrive at the correct conclusion based on the actual abuse (the lie - "I must be bad if I'm being treated this way; I deserve not being loved") which was arrived at. The child could then feel that it is "my fault." "If I had been less seductive then I would not have been sexually molested. I really mean raped."
". . . the first notion of identity in the infant, what is most his own, comes from the outside. . .
through the mother's gaze, the infant (receives) precise instructions as to
"who he is" and "how he must be" in order to be loved and recognized. . . "
-- Raquel Zak
The encouragement of the denial of reality in Smith's theophostic theory readily ties in with the theological concept of forgiveness which Alice Miller shows hinders the effectiveness of therapy. It reminds me of the forgiveness of pedophile priests by their bishops, moving them to a different church parish assignment and thereby enabling them to molest, I mean ... rape ... children once again.
This acknowledging by the client that perhaps what she thought happened, really had not happened can be so harmful. If the client believes that the incident occurred but did not, it has as much power as if it really happened. So even acknowledging that this is possible, even though rare, can fill the client's mind with, feelings of, "perhaps it really didn't happen." The person who was abused could be placed in a position where she believes that she might have made it all up. That's the position of so many who were molested. That is what so many sexually abused clients believe even before they seek therapy. Why take a chance of reinforcing their position? Support, support, support, is what is needed.
Smith is critical of guided imagery techniques and believes that they should not be used in Theophostic Ministry. Many times I have experienced benefit from its use. It was only a means of relaxing before beginning therapy work. Guided imagery can be used by the therapist or by the client himself. The therapist begins the exercise by setting a scene, such as,
I do not believe that the author is familiar with this most common use. Obviously, guided imagery plays an essential role in Theophostic Ministry. What is prayer, being offered in the presence of the client, if not guided imagery?
'It's a lovely early summer day, and you can hear the droning calls of cicadas as you walk down a winding country road. On the side of the road is a field where you can see a large live oak tree. Your body is feeling relaxed and peaceful. In your mind, look upward and notice the scattered cloud cover and the briskness of the wind as you walk towards the oak. The cicada calls are quietening, etc.'
Dr. Van Rooy, in How To Get Into a Primal explains how the use of the 'imagination route' can be helpful in relaxing a client before therapy begins.
Despite my lengthly and sometimes passionate criticisms of some of the principles of Theophostic Ministry, I sincerely believe that the work of Dr. Smith and his associates are to be preferred over a very large percentage of the psychiatric and clinical psychological work being offered today. I felt there was no need to discuss the many elements of his Theophostic Ministry in which there is agreement. Deeply re-living early repressed memory in psychotherapy (be it secular or otherwise) can be not only helpful but curative. Even if parts of his therapy could be harmful, the truth remains that such deep and feelingful regressions to one's early trauma are very helpful even though some of the theological additions he describes may lessen their effectiveness for some susceptible ones.
An important question remains: Does this technique produce more rapid and deeper results than other regression therapies extant today? I am concerned, since no mention is made of resolving pre- and peri-natal trauma which all serious practitioners of regressive-type stress as the most important source of trauma. (See my article, The Advantages and Disadvantages of Resolving Birth Traumas in Primal, Theophostic and Other Experiential Therapies .)
Does conducting TPM with the client seated inhibit the full release of the feeling and impede the connection to one's birth trauma? No, it has to be more than that. Unfortunately, if the Theophostic therapist has not felt her own birth traumas, there is a likelihood that the client will not access their own birth material. The typical TPM client may not remain in therapy for a long enough time for birth regressions to begin or develop to fruition.
Arthur Janov, the discoverer of primal therapy, writes that it is not until about a year after therapy begins that birth material starts to reveal its presence. If the therapy is stopped after only a much fewer number of sessions, as is typical in Theophostic facilitation, such material may never be accessed by the client. Perhaps, that is to be desired as birth material can be very disintegrative! Many of us would be happy to feel as we did when therapy decreased our symptoms but before the birth material onslaught began. Is that space where TPM clients are living?
My present hypothesis is that it is the consistent and persistent assault of the client's defenses in primal therapy, over many months, which allows birth and pre-birth material to reveal itself. It is not prayer in Theophostics which makes possible the regression, although those with a mystical or spiritual bent may have some psychological susceptibility to its effects.
Dr. Edward M. Smith is a pastoral counselor with degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in education, marriage and family counseling, and pastoral ministry. He has served in pastoral positions in Southern Baptist churches and has led Marriage Enrichment conferences with his wife, Sharon. Based in Campbellsville, Kentucky, Dr. Smith offers specialized training in Theophostic Ministry for laypeople, pastors, and mental health professionals both with in-person workshop seminars in Kentucky and with in-home study with video tapes and reading material. (From the book jacket back cover) See Dr. Smith's website for additional information.