Counseling: Deliverance Debate

Unconventional 'Theophostic' counseling cites results in rebutting its critics.
At a recent Theophostic Ministries seminar, a video showed one female client apparently consumed by fear, hatred, and confusion. After the screening, the same young woman stood before the seminar audience and looked poised and confident, a compelling before-and-after testimonial for the growing Theophostic counseling movement.

Theophostic's advocates claim this counseling method can provide rapid and complete "deliverance" from a host of psychological and spiritual ills. Some Christian critics, however, wonder whether Theophostic is another faddish counseling trend that promises more than it can deliver and rests ultimately on unorthodox Christian theology.

At the center of the movement is Ed Smith, founder of Theophostic Ministries (www.theophostic.com), based in Campbellsville, Kentucky. More than 15,000 people have taken his basic Theophostic training, and he estimates that more than 300,000 Christians have received some type of ministry using Theophostic. The approach is being used in 40 countries, and manuals are being translated into four languages.

Smith, with a doctorate in pastoral ministry from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, began full-time professional counseling in the early 1990s after 17 years of ministry in Southern Baptist churches. Working primarily with victims of childhood sexual abuse, he says he grew weary of teaching people to find what he calls "tolerable recovery"—how to cope with their emotional pain rather than how to see it resolved.

"I saw the same women, week after week, and we would go back to the same memories of childhood abuse," Smith says. "They would share with me the shame and guilt they felt in the memory, and I would tell them the truth—it wasn't their ...

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