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Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
Essays and Blogs Concerning Mental and Emotional Health

Exorcism: When is it appropriate?

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 12th 2008

The Washington Post printed a story the other day on a priest by the name of Andrzej Trojanowski who is planning to build out a center for exorcism in Poland. The act of exorcism involves the expulsion of an evil spirit or demon who has taken residence inside a person. As an activity designed to rid a person of negative influences affecting their mental state and behavior, exorcism is remarkably like psychotherapy. It is, however, definitively not thought of as a variety of psychotherapy by practitioners, who are careful to separate it from a treatment for mental illness. A quote from the Post article makes the point:

"Exorcists said they are careful not to treat people suffering from mental illness and that they regularly consult with psychologists and physicians."

In other words, exorcism is specifically thought of as a treatment for a spiritual problem (e.g., demon possession) and this class of problem is thought of as distinct from a mental or physical problem. This distinction being made between mental and spiritual problems is a critical point to focus on, I think. The basis on which this distinction stands or falls is, it seems to me, a cultural or religious one; on whether or not you are one of the faithful. If you have faith in the system of theological thought underlying the exorcism rite, then the distinction between the mental and spiritual is sound and the treatment is absolutely important, necessary and even precise. If you do not believe, then the distinction collapses and the treatment is just another non-evidence-based folk remedy which might do more harm than good if mis-applied. I wrote about just this sort of cultural faith vs. science clash in my recent essay on the nature of psychosis, in which I pointed out that in such cases, each side of the divide tends to view the other as being a little psychotic (e.g., a little out of touch with true reality). I find this sort of belief divide to be fascinating and powerful. It's just the sort of distinction that forces people who focus on it to stop being wishy-washy and come to a conclusion about their own personal understanding of who is out of touch with reality and who isn't.

I'm wondering what assessment criteria might be used when trying to determine when a problem is spiritual and when a problem is mental. The article does not speak to how this determination is made and it is important to know more about it. How do we know when a person's problem is caused by evil forces and when their problem is caused by maladaptive behavior or belief patterns or subtle disease issues? The Post article doesn't go into detail, but does describe some typical scenarios where exorcism is deemed an appropriate treatment:

"Typical cases, he said, include people who turn away from the church and embrace New Age therapies, alternative religions or the occult. Internet addicts and yoga devotees are also at risk, he said."

As part of my past caseload as a psychotherapist, I worked with a patient with Dissociative Identity Disorder , better known as Multiple Personality Disorder. It was a very disorienting, difficult and heart-breaking case. One of the truly remarkable things about sitting with this patient was how she would shift between personalities during session. At one moment she'd act like a normal adult, and in the next moment, like a regressed and abused five year old. It would have been very easy to think that this patient was possessed by a demon or three or eight, and yet, to my mind, demons had nothing to do with why the patient acted as she did. Vicious abuse had a lot to do with it, as did a talent for dissociation and a strong survival instinct, but I never met a demon. Would Rev. Trojanowski have come to the same conclusion as I did? Would he refer such a patient for psychotherapy and psychiatric assistance, or would he view this sort of case as an instance of demon possession?

For that matter, how would Rev. Trojanowski triage a person experiencing auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions characteristic of Schizophrenia ? There is, unfortunately, no shortage of faithful persons of every religious persuasion who have paranoid schizophrenia and sincerely believe they are being assaulted by demons. To my mind, however, what they are actually being assaulted by are subtle but disabling forms of brain damage and dysregulation.

How exactly do you tell what is mental illness and what is a spiritual affliction. I sincerely doubt there is any test that will please devotees of both sides of the cultural divide.

If the Post article is correct in suggesting that being tempted away from the church is sufficient grounds for being "plagued by evil" then are all lapsed faithful in need of exorcism? That seems more than a little like circular reasoning to me. But then what do I know. I'm on the Internet all day during the work week, and I have great respect for yoga. I should probably be making an appointment with Rev. Trojanowski myself....

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Presently, he is an Oakland Psychologist (Lic#PSY25695) in private practice offering evidence-based acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and addressing a range of life problems. Contact Dr. Dombeck by calling 510-900-5123, send Dr. Dombeck email or visit Dr. Dombeck's practice website for more information.

Reader Comments
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OCD,MPD, Demonic Possession. - Eysau - Nov 13th 2012


I have just started to look at exorcism for myself. I only "found" God last year so I first have a long way towards a better understanding and a context of action for this step. It was good to find your very sensible article so soon in my Googling!

I have had OCD for forty years. Recognised aspects of MPD twenty years ago. Have often felt demonic possession to be a good metaphor. Now I am most of the way through a psychology Bsc. We are encouraged to question the narrative aspects of science. Particularly in the perspective of phenomenology.

Though always a believer in experiment based science I grudgingly come to accept that scientists very often describe things without explaining them as though the description in terms of scientific metaphors is enough.  It isnt. For example, saying gravity is "caused by gravitons" is only a metaphor. It explains nothing. It is circuilar.

One metaphor is only as good as another, all else being equal. All else isn't equal. The metaphors deployed by scientists to (pseudo-scientifically) pretend to "explain" MPD / OCD fall very far short of reflecting the experience.  Truly, if you know what Popper explained, then much of "science" is discernably pseudo-science.

 The scientific metaphors have failed to address my core symptoms after decades of psychiatric attention. They feel hollow. The metaphors of metaphysics  offer a very palpable point of relevance. The metaphor of demonic possession very graphically conveys my experience. The latter is therefore more "true" at the phenomenological level. At the end of the day, which works?

Psychiatry is largely pseudo-science. A truly scientific examination of these conditions remains to be undertaken.

I am going to seek exorcism.


nope - - May 20th 2012

"Exorcism can't hurt first of all."


Whoa, whoa, stop right there. We are talking about catholic exorcisms, and they are everything but nice and safe. As a polish guy, I know people who undergo such cruel ritual as catholic exorcism. It leaves you with great trauma, not to mention physical scars for example, priests are not gentle. "Possession" never killed anybody, exorcisms did.

this is an emergancy letter please i need help - mohammed - Apr 22nd 2012

me and my family are suffering from a huge confusion , my little 15 years old brother is having this kind of exorcism ' but the problem says when we take him to the hospital they say its a mental problem or  epilepsy but when we bring him as we call it here shai'k he says his on a demon possession the question is guys i need a profesional help to guide us of a right this to do we need to know if my brother is on demon possession or mental problems? please reply on my e-mail only...

Random thoughts on good, evil and possessions - Wilhelmina - Feb 20th 2011

I came across this post by accident while looking for something totally different but found the coincidence surprising.  Just today I had written about Scientology and their stance on psychiatry and their intolerant limited interpretation of reality. This is what I wrote: 

It is silly to pretend that Scientology is anything other than what it is, a cult.  I think we are seeing some of  the very negative side effects of the cult right now.  The cult trains its members to say that so-and-so no longer exists. That those who deny their interpretations of reality are just suppressive people who must be ignored or avoided at all costs. Even if those people are family and friends.  Those are horrible lessons on how NOT to communicate and how to continue existing in your own fantasy world, despite what the rest of the world is saying.  They are also dangerous lessons of extreme intolerance. Cults need to teach their members those lessons very well in order to survive. Those are the lessons of a Totalitarian Cult, whether it be Scientology or Jehovah Witnesses or Moon or I don't care which one.  A religion which tells you to deny any viewpoint that is outside of the restricted grid, that demands that you deny family, friends and all non believers any type of consideration for their opinion (I don't care how "enlightened" that religion has made you feel) is not a religion.  It is a cult. Religions unite.  One etymology of the word religion is religare (something like that) which is from relier or to connect.  The word for cult is sect, which comes from the idea of separation, a sect is a fringe religious group that separates from the main religion.  It is all about separation.  

I do not believe in evil.  I believe in pain and suffering which then manifest themselves through evil.  I believe in the ability for love and forgiveness to help us rise above our pain and suffering and do good even when we have been hurt and have suffered.  I believe that faith in God can give us the strength to break the chain of evil that is begun through pain and suffering.  I believe that God meant for us to connect with our fellow human beings with caring and love and to try to understand their pain and suffering so we can forgive and perhaps soothe the pain, theirs and our own.  I believe that disconnecting from others is the work of the Devil, if I were to believe in the Devil that is, meaning evil comes from the inability or the refusal to connect with others.  But as I said I don't believe in evil, just pain and suffering.  If a religion however disconnects you from society or other human beings in the name of God or another higher entity, then it is an evil religion, a dangerous religion.  It is in the name of such religions that people blow up buildings, honoring a false God by denying that we are all holy beings deserving of love and life and connection to others.  So that is my opinion.  If your "religious" grid tells you that God says He is more important than fellow men, I think your grid is putting falsehoods in God's mouth.  God would never tell anyone to harm another human or deny him love and caring. Nor would he tell us to disconnect from others and deny their very existence.  At least not the God I was taught to love, it just so happens, by the New Testament and Christ's lessons which are, lets just say it, pretty damn good.  Even spinning Dervishes, devout Jews, and the Dalai Lama would agree that Christ was pretty amazing. To sum up in a very simplified manner : To connect is holy, to disconnect is evil. This can even be applied to the way we respect or disrespect all of God's creation, land, air, and sea, animals big and small.  To understand that we are all connected in God's love would do us all a lot of good.  The true great religions all say the same thing. The cults do not, they divide and try to conquer that way.  God does not need to be divisive, He is whole and all-powerful and does not fear our questions or doubts.  He just IS.

But I'm not a religious freak, just sharing my take on cults. I learned early on to recognize evil, in other words madness, even when it disguised itself in the "good one" who valiantly fought demons out of the home. Again I do not believe in evil, though I do believe that madness exists and looks very evil when it separates people from reality and has them calling everything else "evil" and "possessed".  Lets not even start on my interpretation of possessions.  I could go on for pages about the voices of fear that take possession of  the mind and push out all reality as the "possessed" crouch in a corner listening to the only voices they can hear, for the terror has reached such a deafening pitch.

So where do we divide the spiritual from the mental?  We don't.  Madness, which is nothing other than such pain and suffering that it causes a total disconnect from reality, looks very much like evil and possession because it is a terrifying separator, cutting off from other human beings and even reality.  If holiness is about connecting with others, nature and even with that which is holy within ourselves, then madness could very well be considered a tool of Satan, if one were to believe that Satan exists.  But if one accepts that evil and Satan do not exist, well then we go one step towards being able to see the pain that disguises itself as evil and we may be better able to love and forgive those who cause harm, as they are but sad victims themselves.  I call this "breaking the chain of evil". Like the turning of the other cheek, it is a gift from God when we are able to do this.

Clinical Trial - Qyasin - Oct 16th 2010


I must say I thought exorcism was as the article points out a form of therapy for those who already believe. However since I have come across this phenomena the closest thing I can get to proving it in a clinical way is that it can be done for example in arabic and using certain verses from the quran on someone who neither understands the language nor believes in the religion !

Nor is the subject told that they are being excorsied but told please take a seat and relax...

Would be intrigued to know your thoughts on this ? I am prepared to assist in clinical trial if need be.

Regards Yasin

Spiritual vs. Mental/Physical - John - Jan 19th 2009

I am wondering if anyone has heard of a referral service where Therapists and Naturopaths that aren't seeing good results (or just having difficulties) with patients who have possession-like symptoms (eg: fits of-- intense rage, blasphemy,vile anger, hollow stares, low growling voices, violent aversion to God or holy sacraments and biblical scriptures) could just refer their clients to a Deliverance Minister. These exorcists do not charge money, as Christ said "Freely I give, freely you shall receive." Usually donations are accepted, just like a pastor/priest would accept from a wedding, or on the mission field. Without getting into the philosophy of Dualism (Does Brain = The Mind?), or into theology or psychology, I'd like to suggest that Free Will and Willingness is a major component of being healed in BOTH exorcism (Deliverance) and Therapy, as well as Naturopathic remedies. Additionally, on the spiritual side of things, after a patient is exorcised that patient has then been "swept clean" and has their spiritual "house in order". However, if that patient is then not "filled with the Holy Spirit" they will inevitably be possessed greater than before. So it is essential to replace the evil with the Holy Spirit. I am currently doing research specifically on BPD and Exorcism and I am finding that there is a direct affinity between the BPD's marked aversion to the name of Jesus, scripture, and Sacraments and that of the behaviour of the possessed/oppressed. While therapy is helpful for BPD's, exorcism is much quicker, far more more intense, and is probably avoided more by the patient suffering from BPD because the spirits are so afraid of the consequences of being cast out. Many times these spirits will mock, curse, and even deny the authority of the exorcist, but it is a feeble attempt if the exorcist is claiming the authority and using the name of Christ, of which there is no higher authority. See books by Francis MacNutt, Derick Prince, and Chris Ward. Also see the 4 gospels in the New Testament. Jesus casts out demons with a single word or nod, as well as through prayer and fasting. As far as therapy goes, something like BPD can take up to 10 years to treat, IF the patient has the perseverance. Cheers, JM

Profitable cognitive behavior techniques employed by psychotherapists (psychologists) in Greece in order to extend indefinitely the length of therapy (Taken from A. Beck and distorted in a Greek style - tranty - Jun 23rd 2008

Profitable cognitive behavior techniques employed by psychotherapists (psychologists) in Greece in order to extend indefinitely the length of therapy (Taken from A. Beck and distorted in a Greek style).

1. Spotting the negative thought (cognitive error), for instance, examining if the therapy followed is a cognitive behavior therapy or a charlatan therapy. Writing it down. In case such a spotting of the negative thought is not producing any results, the therapist asks the patient to discuss about negative thoughts related to obesity, even if the patient is not oversized at all.

2. Giving to the patient a page with a childish outline and drawings and explanation of the usual negative thoughts, which doesnʼt make any sense at all, probably because the person who drafted it, was in a mental disarray. Discussing about the patients inability to understand what in the hell all these mean. The therapist is assuring the patient that 99% of his patient understand the meaning of the particular page and cooperating fully, writing down their negative thoughts. In addition the //Established Authority// uses them.

3. The therapist is proposing the patient to start reading books (bibliotherapy). However the recommended books describe a cognitive therapy which is totally different from the followed one at this time. The patient is understanding that he has a lot of negative thoughts. He is writing them down. He is presenting them to the therapist. The therapist feels embarrashed. (“I told you that with a difficulty I extract one single negative thought from my patients and you already brought me so many!”). The therapist forgets what he told about 99% understand at once and cooperating fully with the therapist analyzing their negative thoughts.

4. The therapist makes remarks to the patient about putting the negative thoughts in one column, while using other columns for the assumptions, intermediate core beliefs, reinforcing events, alternative suggestions, how he feels after his own suggestions. Spending a whole session on trying to explain to the patient the fact that the word “core” in core beliefs is translated into Greek with “nuclear”, “nuclear beliefs” and not core beliefs, as the ignorants believe. This is supported by two arguments. First it is translated in such a way in the Eginiteion Psychiatric Hospital, where disagreement is not favored (May be,as part of the decentralization program, the Eginiteion Psychiatric Hospital assuming the task of keeping and elaborating the Greek Language, replacing the Academy of Athens). The second is that it is translated in such a way in the Divryʼs English-Greek dictionary, written by George Konstantopoulos from the village of Divry in the mountain Parnassos.

5. Without analyzing and elaborating the produced and stored negative thoughts, the therapist asks the patient to look for some more. The patientʼs list is continually rejected by the therapist with the recommendation to make the columns more and more stylish.

6. Self disclosures of the therapist, so that the patient can grasp them and write them down as an exercise. He has to challenge his own thoughts, and write down how he feels about doing all the work himself. The therapist asks the patient no to take any more pictures with his digital camera because she has put cream in her face and is glistening.

7. At the request of the patient, discussion is being made about Judith Beck and her book “Cognitive Therapy, Basics and Beyond”, relating to the need for structuring the sessions, need for extracting some conclusions at the end of the session, bridging with the previous session, need for resuming at the end, realizing what the patient understood and what he didnʼt, about the process followed in order to arrive to a negative thought, intermediate belief, core belief etc. After having completed approximately 65 hours of sessions the patient realized from the words of his therapist that all these are not absolute. (“Yes, there are some colleagues of mine that follow this strict procedure. However it is written (where?) the patient is tired out of this, and in fact all my patients have come begging me, imploring me to talk freely, because they canʼt sand the structuring of the session. An as I am interested in their welfare, I donʼt structure my sessions”). A therapist that respects himself never reads the following

8. Discussing about any other therapies that the patient is aware of and related to the cognitive and behavior therapy model, which might give the patient ideas that he is being cheated by his therapist.

9. Discovering that in the dossier kept by the therapist there are numerous negative thoughts given by the patient which have not been elaborated for months. The therapist can disarm the patient by saying “the structure and the time used during the therapy is your responsibility. You shouldnʼt produce so many ideas during the session, Ha, ha ha, look how I smile like a “Spontaneous Child”!”

10. The patient could eventually contact thought email another cognitive behavior therapist, an ex cop, and receive the following answer: “In the cognitive behavior therapy there is always a structure, professionalism, and a clear timetable. The word “clear timetable” sounds like a bell in the patientʼs mind. He contacts his therapist.

11. The therapist could eventually send an SMS message to the patient asking him not to ask for a “clear timetable”, because he has been diagnosed as “borderline” (the diagnosis is sent though SMS) and there is a lot, a lot of work be done. The differences between psychologists/therapists from psychiatrists/ therapists is that the psychologist have a low self esteem and a disguised mental handicap. In Greece the majority of the mental patients are women. The majority of psychologists/therapists are also women. That means that a mentally handicapped woman would make an option, either continue to be a mental patient for the rest of her life, or become a psychotherapist. With psychiatrists we see something different. They have clinical experience in clinics and hospitals, while the psychologists have little or nothing. The //Established Authority// offers them supervised sessions that end in a few months with the therapist saying “We have now concluded our therapy, Good-by!”)

12. The therapist, without following the method described by Judith Beck, for moving from negative thoughts, to intermediate beliefs and core beliefs, could eventually throw to the patientʼs face whatever “nuclear” beliefs (what Americans call “core beliefs”) the patient should have (yes! Should have!) by virtue of the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder being already made. That means that in Greece first the therapist makes the diagnosis –usually at the bank when waiting for a bank loan- and afterwards looks for the “nuclear” beliefs that the patient was supposed to have. The diagnosis should be what the therapist has presented in her //Established Authority// as a difficult case, with imaginary behavior of her patients and has received with a general applause from the participants in the meeting. The patient is not entitled to disagree. If he objects the “nuclear” belief “the world is hostile and dangerous” he has to live with it. The therapist is never mistaken, especially if the patientʼs objection can make the therapist loose his diploma from the //Established Authority//.

13. The patient could contact by email another therapist. She might answer “you should go back to your therapist and discuss again the issue with him. You shouldnʼt break the relationship”. If you go to another one, the first thing to discuss in the disagreement with your previous therapist.

14. The patient could eventually visit another therapist (male) who is the boyfriend of the previous female therapist and one of the supervisors of the //Established Authority//. The established practice requires every cognitive therapist to contact every colleague of his or hers to find out whether the patient has escaped from them and seeks therapy elsewhere. When a patient escapes therapy, he is treated in a way resembling neutrality of foreign ships during a war blockade. They give description not only of his name, but also of his face, his height, weight, hair etc, so that they exclude that the escapee uses a false identity. The supervisor, after collecting the fees of two visits (2X70=140 Euros, or $ 100) could say to the patient:THERAPIST (male): I canʼt accept you for therapy because I shall be treating your wife in the same time.PATIENT: No, my wife has told you that she doesnʼt like to initiate therapy with you.THERAPIST: But she might change her mind!PATIENT: So you donʼt accept me?THERAPIST: You should go back to your previous therapist.The therapist can disguise herself when rejects an escaped patient by saying “I noticed that you eat meat more than twice a week. I know a therapist that is suited for you. There is no point of discussing other problems. I donʼt want to hear anymore. Go!” (Something similar happened to me!)

15. The reason for such a procedure followed is obvious: Solidarity is the key for the survival of the incompetent professionals. A therapist should never accept anybody who has undervalued the colleagueʼs opinion.

16. The therapist can accept the patientʼs proposal for a cognitive behavior therapy through email. In the cost of one hour e-mail session the patient is charged for 40 minutes that are required for receiving the message and 40 more for sending the answer, because the therapistʼs laptop is very slow and will be replaced later in May. The messages include material totally depleted of cognitive behavior material , for instance “ I should teach you how to remember names. For Mike Goof, you should remember Mikey and Gooffy.”

17. Judith Beck says in her book Cognitive therapy, Basics and beyond that “when there is a negative thought that is true –related to a fact –the therapist, instead of challenging the thought, should concentrate on how to help the patient solve the problem”. This is very embarrassing for the therapist because he or she has learned in the //Established Authority// only a photocopied textbook of 90 pages that includes all the cognitive therapy and no-one has ever heard of Judith Beck in his life. The usual symptoms treated by the cognitive therapist is “Oh my God I canʼt wake up at 7,00 in the morning”, “I canʼt stop eating”, “My boyfriend the supervisor doesnʼt like me” etc. They are unable to deal with real human problems.

18. The therapist has the ultimate argument that present to the patient after completing about 70 hours of therapy: Since you are not pleased by my approach (nice word!) you should go to another therapist. Of course at the same time the therapist undermines all attempts of the escaped patient to be admitted to therapy by another therapist, as described above. If the patient asks the therapist for a recommendation the therapist might claim that she came to Greece after a lengthy stay in Madagascar for studies and doesnʼt know any other therapist

19. Therapists should never feel bad when they are dealing with patientʼs negative thoughts in such a way. By using the above procedure the patient shall forget the initial cause that brought him to therapy (it could be a sort of homeopathy treatment). When the patient ceases to feel indignant of his therapist, that means he is close to the end of therapy.

20. Generally speaking, the cognitive behavior therapist must be Spontaneous Child, free from any feeling of guilt, loved by his friends and colleagues, that would examine everything with a smile and would never keep bad thought in his/her mind.

the truth about exorcism - robin fairweather - Mar 4th 2008

I am an exorcist and do it at a distance anywhere in the world. You can view my site at ""

It is a non-invasive exorcism done at a distance. If for examle you are present as an exorcism, then the entities can move into you, which I consider a major problem. AND, it is people with mental health problems that mostly need an exorcism. By this I mean people who hear voices(their entities) or are depressed, addictive or suicidal.

 I would be interested in doing more research although I have spent the last 10 years perfecting my method which is unique in the world. Also I have written a thesis on " earth Bound Spirits of the Dead" and I have a Masters, BBus, BA(Hons) degrees. Further, I have done thousands of exorcisms with complete success including removing people from comas.

With all my research the internet is full of nonsense and the RC church has not got a clue. Indeed, most written on exorcism takes their knowledge from movies. It is a most distressing environment in which to establish my exorcism site.I mean it is littered with disinformation and none of you know what is happening in reality. 

 regards robin


Blythe Spirit ? - Madame Arcati (no, JR, really) - Mar 3rd 2008

Strong aversion to sacramentals? Superhuman strength?  Knowledge of events that "transpired" in a time or  place the person was not aware of ?  No, however much of the not-so-blythe spirit I consumed  in my time, I do not think I ever reached that level of possession.  Mind you, I am assured that I was given, in a way, to Speaking in Tongues. I also evinced knowledge of events that occured in times and places that could not ever have existed, and attained complete forgetfulness of more immediate events that were all too terribly real.  Perhaps I was suffering from a "spiritual disease" after all?

Seriously, I can see that there may be applications for "spiritual remedies" in some exceptional circumstances.  More general, or catch-all applications to any group of sufferers still appears to be contra-indicated.



Triaging for exorcism - The Abbot - Mar 3rd 2008

From the literature on the subject by exorcists such as Fr. Fortea and Fr. Amorth, they begin to suspect demonic possession when the person shows a stong aversion to sacramentals (religious images, the crucifix, blessing with holy water and holy oil).  So part of the process involves determining whether the person is merely psychotic, or if the things they are experiencing indicate an unnatural reaction to things that are holy.  Fr. Amorth, I believe, points out that this reaction sometimes occur even when the person is unaware of the holy object (such as a relic of a saint in the priest's pocket). 

Along with that are the traditional signs -- superhuman strength, speaking in languages that are unknown to the person, knowledge of events that transpired in a time or a place the person was not aware of, and so forth. 


Voodoo with Bill W? - JR - Feb 16th 2008

Hmmm .... so it is inappropriate to administer "spiritual" remedies for "mental/physical" problems. Where does that leave the "spiritual" program of Alcoholics Anonymous and its therapist boosters? Does it depend on whether the sufferer perceives the problem of alcoholism as being "spiritual" or "physical"? Does it matter whether the sufferer is right or wrong on this point? And can a "disease" be, in its essence, "spiritual"? If so, should we be treating it in hospitals - or perhaps temples would be more appropriate?

Maybe what I really needed in my drinking days was a good seance to cast the evil spirit (in this case cognac) from my afflicted body. My experience of "treatment" since would suggest that it would have been as good an option as any other on offer- and rather less expensive than most!

But hold on - remember the Eleventh Step of AA: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." That, in its bargain-basement Buchmanite way, indeed describes a seance! Good, perhaps, for some - but not for others.

Best again from the Emerald Isle! - JR

Editor's Note: Excellent points JR! It is perhaps simplistic to think that any given intervention is solely spiritual or mental or physical in its effects. Most have a primary mode of intervention and then have secondary effects in other channels. AA presents itself as spiritual, but it is also very social, for instance, and there are opportunities for psychological/mental learning (e.g., ideally, you can see that others have maintained sobriety). Few therapists I've known recommend AA solely on the basis of it's spiritual effects.  Instead, they have been explicitly interested in having their patients gain benefit from peer interactions, a set of aspirational rules/guidelines and vicarious learning.

The larger point to make is that the various categories such as mental, spiritual, physical, are not independent of one another as the common model would suggest.  They interact in complex ways.  They may all simply be extensions of a single underlying thing.  For instance, the rigid mind vs. body distinction is largely depreciated now in the mental health professions view of diagnosis which is made on a bio-psycho-social basis.  What the professions have not come to grips with is whether there is such as thing as a spiritual substance in the universe that is separate from the bio-psycho-social stuff we work with as providers.  Therapists I know differ on this point.  Those who are religious think the answer is yes, and those who operate secularly would say that the concept of spirit is historical baggage which collapses into the mental/psychological aspect of things.  When we talk about the spiritual, we are beyond the realm of measurement and thus of science and we simply can't know anything definitively except on the basis of our faith commitments.  

exorcism...soul therapy - holy water salt - Feb 14th 2008

Exorcism can't hurt first of all. Secondly-- even Freud admitted Catholics are fortunate they have confession (stronger than exorcism by the way)--
There's something renewing to hear "your sins are forgiven ,go in peace" it's an amazing sense of closure and it's real, true.

Editor's Note:  I guess my idea wasn't that exorcism was hurtful in itself. As a means of treating mental/physical problems it seems rather benign or at least having placebo effectiveness (which is nothing to sneeze at).  The problem is that if you think of a problem as a spiritual one which is actually a mental/physical one, then you might forego the more appropriate mental/physical treatment in favor of the less appropriate spiritual one, and that lack of administering the proper treatment could have negative consequences.  The problem would be reversed if you mistook a spiritual problem for a mental/physical one and adminstered a mental/physical remedy which would not help the spiritual problem.  The issue is how do you make the distinction between what is spiritual and what is not?  If you get it wrong, you can harm the patient. 

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