God’s perfect healing after harmful counseling
I have the privilege of sharing here a beautiful testimony that came through email correspondence. This dear woman had sought out prayer ministry and counseling for early childhood abuse, and wrote in asking for guidance in how to deal with the disturbing effects of some sorely misguided interventions. She graciously granted me permission to share these excerpts from our correspondence. I believe many will gain important wisdom from the cautionary tale of the dangerous counseling method she suffered through. Even more, I am eager to share the beautiful encouragement of how the Lord led her through as she listened for His voice and acted on the words He spoke for her healing.
After introducing some of her background, she described this current difficulty:
… I went to see a professional counselor to pray for me… She did a specific counseling technique and in this, I had a ritual abuse memory. This shocked me to the core. It did not feel like this was my memory, and I left the counseling utterly confused and deeply troubled. In prayer I sought more wisdom from the Lord and I sensed this was indeed a repressed memory but at this point my senses and my discernment were already defective and infected.
I worked through this terror of a memory, and did all the forgiveness I could think of. And then my body started going crazy. I had what Leanne describes as “the wall coming down” and all these repressed emotions came to the surface. I struggled with this for almost a week. Nausea and vomiting, convulsions, insomnia, diarrhea. I booked 3 days with the counselor to resolve this, and the approach they used made me extremely uncomfortable. They ask the demons to manifest and then speak through you to give details on the ritual abuse. This is their deliverance technique. Then they do normal dissociative counseling, where they map the alter systems and then integrate them, after they let you experience a specific ritual abuse memory.
I had terrible body memories during this time, and the counseling did not leave me feeling more free or healed. In fact, I felt horrified (but at the time I thought it was due to the content of the memories). I then attended a training school with this counseling group on dissociation and deliverance and found myself terrified afterwards. In their teaching the power of the Cross seemed diminished to me, and the way they speak and command demons to reveal legal rights, unraveled me. … After the school, I still had terrible problems with insomnia, panic attacks etc. They said it was partly body memories, partly demonic. And that I need to keep on addressing the demonic and take authority.
This did not work very successfully and I was starting to get very confused with the healing process. I booked another 2 full days of counseling with the main head counselor, and he did more dissociative work, mapping alters, letting me work through memories (in the memories, they make you abreact to ensure you do not deny that it is real). After two days of this I felt like death. It was so hard to discern if my abreaction was voluntary or just as a result of what I saw in the memories. …
They said now that all the parts are removed, I just need to work through the memories (the parts are away and will no longer repress or block the memory, and as I go through the memories, I will abreact through them and then healing will come as Jesus enters every scene. Except my body kept going bezerk, and I could no longer see any memories.
They then asked me to return for more counseling, to check the demonic legal rights, and I just couldn’t face another round. I felt like drowning, and kept on seeing demonic images and kept on wondering if I was having body memories or if it is a spiritual attack.
It is then that I went back to Leanne’s books and I asked the Lord to guide me according to His truth. That somehow I do not trust to continue any more healing or counseling with this group. It is here where I sensed the Lord was telling me that they were practicing the presence of demons when they take authority over them, and say they are our servants. Leanne’s chapter on doing spiritual warfare the wrong way, was a BIG confirmation on this. So I immediately stopped speaking to the demons and rebuking them and instead I started practicing the Presence. I also worked through all the prayers in both the books of Healing Presence and Restoring the Christian soul.
It is in the Restoring of the Christian soul book that I found two insightful things and this is really my question. Leanne talks here about the wall of repressed memories breaking and describes all the symptoms I have been feeling. She also says that this is a natural part of the healing, and it can take months. I started doing the sample prayer she has there, about standing at the cross and hurting, and giving it all to Jesus.
She also has a story in there about a woman who came to a PCM conference who was a ritual abuse victim and who was petrified as Leanne prayed for her. From my understanding in Leanne’s writing, this women did not have to mentally and emotionally “see” and relive every single memory of what happened to her in the ritual abuse. Is my interpretation of this correct? In your MPC conferences and experience, does a ritual abuse victim have to relive every single memory to be healed?
In the meanwhile I am still having body memories, they normally last from 2 to 4 days. I now do the prayer, stand at the cross and hurt and try to endure. I do not have any memory at this time, just the body pain that bleeds out, and I do the forgive anyone who caused this to me as part of the prayer. My next question is, is it normal to have such intense body memories (it is now 7 months). Is it ok, to release to Jesus and the Cross, and stand and hurt in Him, or must every memory be seen and “relived”?
My response to this dear sister:
Thank you for this heartfelt letter, and for giving us the privilege of being involved in your journey! My heart goes out to you for your incredible perseverance in seeking wholeness, and in compassion for what you’ve suffered along the way. I am glad that you have had Leanne’s books to bolster your discernment about the counseling techniques that have been offered to you. I agree with your caution about the deliverance techniques and focus on demonic that was being used, and am so glad to hear that you have stepped back from that treatment. Yes, you have understood Leanne’s writings correctly: it is not a necessary element of healing to bring memories into consciousness or re-live them emotionally or physically. As you have so unfortunately experienced, that is a nightmarish misconception that comes from focusing on the darkness rather than practicing God’s presence. We never direct someone to relieve painful memories, or to strive after discovering memories that are not spontaneously brought forward by the Spirit.
It sounds to me like your present strategy of yielding your pain to the Cross, when it emerges, is right. You asked if it is normal to be having the level of intense sensations, and I understand that you’re wondering if, in our experience, that is a normal path of healing. I suspect that the somatic experiences you are having are at least partially related to the negative focus of your previous counseling, to which your body responded as a trauma, inadvertently adding to the suffering (rather than being a normal part of a spontaneous healing process). I believe this is good reason not to turn inward and focus on these sensations, trying to discover where they come from or to try to relive memories.
I encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus, as the healer of that pain, the One who bore it on your behalf and is even now radiating His healing power in your body to restore holy order, health, and well-being — whether the pain comes from earlier life experiences, or is the confusion your body is expressing as a result of the misguided counseling, Jesus is the bearer and healer of it all. In your times of standing in the Cross, yielding to Him, ask the Holy Spirit to draw your attention to His goodness and up and away from the pain you are feeling. Additionally, when the time seems right, you might also consider acknowledging before Him the error of that counseling, choosing to forgive those who led you astray, and renouncing any word or belief from that counsel that is remaining with you.
But most of all, I encourage you to fill your heart and mind with HIs goodness, to set your eyes on His beauty. I am praying for you even now, knowing the Holy Spirit is eager to pour into you images of glory, even new sensations of peace and well-being in your body. You may like to look at chapter 12 in The Healing Presence, in the second half which begins with the heading “Being and Creation.” Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that your suffering is related to introspection. But I do suspect that the remedy Leanne shares here will likely be tremendously helpful for you. Where she speaks of introspection, you could substitute “a focus on the specifics of the past or seeking after memories and painful details”. As Leanne so beautifully writes, “We come to know even ourselves… by turning outward to love all that is real and other than ourselves.” I believe you will find it wonderfully healing to focus on becoming incarnate of, to participate in, the good, the beautiful, the just, the true, even God Himself.
I have the impression that over this last year your attention and experience became increasingly focused on what might be wrong within you. I want to encourage you to consider that even in moving you to write to us, the Lord may be inviting you to pivot into a new season. This new season may be focused on His wholeness already present for you, His love which has always been and will always be over and around you, and the goodness that is present to you right now, even as simple as noticing your beating heart, the sound of HIs divine energy alive in you, His word to you, “Live!” It is clear from your letter that He has been with you through this storm, whispering guidance even in the darkest moments.
Please accept my deepest gratitude for your carefully crafted response. It came into my spirit like a gentle rain, and I carefully soaked each particle in. … I downloaded the Wheaton teaching on the “Disease of Introspection,” and then I did the repentance prayer that complimented it so beautifully. I also listened to the True Imagination teaching and did the prayer that accompanied that teaching. I found both teachings incredibly insightful and powerful.
The Lord did a beautiful “cleansing” work in the True Imagination teaching, and I felt in my spirit, when one of the team members were asking for the Gift of Divine Objectivity, that what transpired in my counseling sessions were not from God’s heart, and that it was simply not true. I truly sensed once my True Imagination was cleansed, that what I “saw and experienced” in the sessions were not my own memories, but projected there by the demonic. This is a relief but I do not feel fully delivered from all of the effects of this. My body will still go into spontaneous anxiety or panic attacks, in the middle of the night, and I still have trouble sleeping well. For the first 4 days after doing the True Imagination teaching and prayer, I slept wonderfully. But then as this weekend approached, the insomnia and the anxiety returned. I have been very deliberate about not practicing the Disease of Introspection, but looking upward and outwards.
I also listened to your teaching on the Healing of Memories and in this session, I forgave these counselors and their practice and I renounced what transpired in our sessions. I wept before the Lord, for all the physical and emotional damage this has caused.
Her further thoughts:
When I asked this sister her permission to share some of our correspondence, she realized that some reading this might wonder how she could have been so deceived. She shared one more important piece of background that gives good insight and another valuable word of caution. One of the ministries she sought help from recommended a book that chronicled the work of counselors with a ritual abuse survivor, which she read. In hindsight, she recognized that much of the raw material that the enemy used during her torment was gathered from her reading of this book. She believes the contents of this book helped feed the deception and her readiness to believe what transpired in her own counseling. This is a good reminder that we need to seek the Lord’s counsel about whether a book that may be popular is His best for us.
I am deeply grateful to this dear sister for sharing her story, for we need the wisdom it offers. In the pursuit of healing and wholeness, both counselor and counselee face a temptation to what Leanne Payne called the ‘carnal striving to make things happen.’ Methodological approaches to soul healing, however well-intentioned, are a dangerous way of taking matters into our own hands, and because they displace dependence in our triune God, open the door to the demonic. The gospel alternative is wonderfully simple, yet takes great courage and faith: we must await God’s timing and His divine direction.
There is more to this dear one’s story, and our correspondence continued in wonderful ways from here. It’s been an utter joy to hear of God’s perfect faithfulness to her. He has attentively and wisely answered each one of her questions and met every one of her needs. He has brought healing to each place where she’d been harmed in her pursuit of wholeness. He has even helped her repent where she’d made an idol of healing and come into a deeper trust in Him and acceptance of herself as she is today in Him. Our Father is a wonder-working God, and He is already bringing much good out of this dear one’s trial, including blessing us with this edification and encouragement. All honor, praise, and glory be unto Him, now and evermore!
Photograph: Gero Crucifix, late 10th century, Cologne Cathedral, Germany, photographed by Elke Wetzig.