How Christian Lay Counseling Can Exacerbate Abuse

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Robert.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on October 25, 2015.

There is a common occurrence within counseling in fundamentalist churches, in which a lay person, often someone with some experience or some qualifications, but not truly qualified, opens a client-therapist relationship with a fellow church member. Depending on the community, it could be a member of another church, who comes highly recommended by other church community members.

In the case of families with undisclosed or unacknowledged abuse, this situation can be highly damaging. A situation like this occurred within my own family on several separate occasions, with several different people who attempted to perform as lay counselors to my parents.

In the first situation, the lay counselor, a woman whose education was in nursing, and whose experience was working with teenage mothers, attempted to work with my father as a lay counselor. This was after I had moved out, at 17, which bizarrely, after many years of involvement with that church, was the first sign the church noticed that there was a problem in my home. When the church began to acknowledge that there was a problem, they recommended that my father see her for counseling. She tried to work with him by setting some proposed limits on his abusive behaviour. To my knowledge she never reported his abuse, although she was aware of it. She didn’t experience much success with him, and when he eventually left the family home (he was convicted of three counts of child abuse in a plea bargain) and was no longer open to seeing her, she moved on to act as a counselor to my mother. My mother was also abusive (although not to the same degree as my father) and neglectful, and this woman was aware of this but to my knowledge did not report it.

I can state that she was aware of my mother’s abuse and neglect because I had knowledge of her attempts to help my mother change her behaviour.

She made repeated attempts to help my mother by helping her clean up the house, which was extremely unhygienic. This was a highly unsuccessful venture. The house would simply become extremely unhygienic again, shockingly quickly. My father had maintained a high degree of control over the day to day running of the house, and without him there, my mother was not forced to keep the house clean and was not motivated to do it, on her own, or for the sake of her children who were living there. When trying to help my mother keep the house clean did not work, and trying to teach her to keep the house clean did not work, this woman turned to the children. I was not living at the house for most of this, but after my father was no longer living there I spent time there frequently (eventually I returned to live in the house for another year). During this time this woman also became friends with my mother, and it always remained unclear what part of her involvement was due to the friendship and what part was considered lay counseling.

She started out by requiring the children who remained in the home to clean the house with her. When this had no lasting impact on the state of the house, things became more tense. She had originally tried to help my mother mend her abusive and neglectful behaviour, but the tension in the house continued to increase. My siblings and I had placed the blame for all the abuse and neglect at my father’s feet, in court, since he was the more abusive parent. However, this came with the expectation that when given a chance, my mother would be a better parent. This didn’t work out, as she continued to spiral out of control. While I have empathy for her position as a fellow victim as well as an abuser, she continued to spiral for several years, at the expense of the quality of life of my siblings.

My siblings and I became frustrated with her inability to take over responsibility for the running of her home. She couldn’t coordinate comings and goings, budgeting, meal planning, household hygiene and food safety, and she wasn’t able to parent her children.

The lay counselor attempted to change tack again and be a family counselor for the whole family. However, she had gotten to know my mother quite well, and for whatever reason, was convinced that my mother was being re-victimized by her children. At that point the 9 children ranged in age from 20 to 5. Other people from my mother’s church got involved in the lay counseling as well, and the original lay counselor became less involved. My siblings and I, not months after sitting in court telling our story of abuse, were told by the church and the religious lay counselors they brought into our lives, that our mother would be a better mother, if only we were better children.

The older children were accused of usurping the parent role, for parenting the younger children when my mother failed to do so.

Our offence lay in helping them get through their daily lives, insisting on a certain level of behaviour, routine, and hygiene. These people enabled my mother to continue a highly dependent lifestyle, simply substituting church community figures to submit to, instead of my father. As these people remained in denial of the abuse and neglect that occurred, their input into our lives was heavily centred on how to make my mother’s life better, sprinkled with advice regarding continuing to respect our father. My mother depended on the lay counselors for advice and financial assistance and parenting, to minutiae. My siblings and I repeatedly requested that the church and lay counselors become less involved but that was treated as a disrespectful and ludicrous suggestion. It also seemed to us that the lack of success caused emotional distress to those involved, and that their efforts became more about experiencing the gratification of achieving some recognizable success, than it was about actually helping anyone involved.

There was another woman, also loosely affiliated with the church, became involved in the lay counseling in a scenario that was almost a perfect replica of the situation I just outlined, except that she was never involved with my father, and she was a counseling student with a Christian distance education program, and claimed that my mother was her senior project, apparently filling out reports on her work with my mother. They also claimed a friendship, and that situation also evolved into her coming into the home and claiming that my mother would have been a better mother if my siblings were better children. She took part in trying to clean the house, but again to my knowledge, never reported the abuse and neglect she observed there.

In the third situation, a pastor of a church that was loosely affiliated with our church, worked as a counselor. My understanding is that unlike the first lay counselors in this post, he had some education and some standards for his work, including confining his counseling to his church office rather than entering the home. It started out quite similarly to the first situation, with the counselor coming highly recommended. He also heavily relied on religious materials and ideology in his work, which was to be expected. He also experienced no success in counseling my father, and also had a failed attempt to do to marriage counseling with both my parents. To the best of my knowledge, he was also made fully aware of the abuse and never reported it. In my parents’ marriage counseling, as described to me by my mother, he did emphasize that my father should treat my mother better, but he was always oriented towards full reconciliation as the goal, rather than on changed attitudes and behaviours as the goal in a situation where there was significant abuse and neglect.

When this counselor experienced complete failure in facilitating reconciliation, he moved on to trying to counsel some of my siblings. However, he actually brought my parents’ files with him to those counseling sessions and relied on them to inform of him of the presenting issues for my siblings, rather than allowing them to present their concerns to him directly. His counseling sessions with my siblings were prematurely broken off as well, and my siblings expressed dissatisfaction with their sessions with him. All of these failures were openly understood by our church to be based in some moral deficit on the part of my family members, which only added to the othering that my family faced at the hands of the church.

I have referenced the Canadian Association of Social Workers “Guidelines for Ethical Practice”, to explain the problems that happened in those three scenarios. I chose a social work code of ethics because that is my educational background, and also because even though those three lay counselors were not responsible to any association in their role as lay counselors, I feel that is still reasonable to look to a code of ethical behaviour when discussing their actions in a position of power, that affected my minor aged siblings.

On page 8 of the PDF in the above link, 1.6.1 states that those who are aware of child abuse and/or neglect, need to report this to the proper authorities. There is no evidence that any of those lay counselors ever made a child protection report, and certainly none of them claim to do have done so. Items 2.1.1, 2.3.1, and 2.3.3 outline the responsibility of a social worker to look out for the well-being of vulnerable persons, in this case my siblings, and to take care in situations involving clients who are related to each other, and when personal friendships are involved.

As I outlined above, there were personal relationships between my mother and the lay counselors who later moved on to try to counsel my siblings without their consent, with the counseling largely revolving around asking my siblings to be better children if they wished to be better taken care of. Having a child go to therapy with a counselor who is so enmeshed with the parents places the child at a distinct disadvantage. For example in these cases, any words against the parents were directly reported back to my mother, for her to deal with as she wished. Also, after several months of involvement and awareness of the abuse at play, there was no hope from my siblings that these people would report the abuse and neglect, so these counseling sessions were really just scolding sessions where the lay counselor informed my siblings of their shortcomings.

This is not to be a generalized statement against lay counseling, and surely some lay counselors must be able to provide counseling among family members without this kind of harm being done. But the lack of protection for children in such situations is deplorable and should be shocking. When lay counselors are recommended to families in distress, they should be held to some kind of standard and care should be taken not to harm children in the process – which shouldn’t even need to be said! but clearly it needs to be.

There is no escape or protection for a homeschooled, isolated child who is put in contact with an incompetent lay counselor, with the full knowledge and agreement of the church.

When the Bible Wasn’t Enough: Sage Lynn’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Sage Lynn” is a pseudonym.

Content Warning: Suicidal Thoughts

“God is real,” I confidently asserted. “There’s indisputable proof, and his existence and saving us from hell is the only thing that makes life worth living.”

A girl about my own age countered, “God is a myth. Evolution is scientifically proven. God doesn’t exist.”

“Actually yes, he does. He created the world– science has disproven evolution over and over, but people don’t want to believe it. I believe in God’s sovereignty. I believe that he takes all the terrible moments of our lives and changes them into something beautiful, something worth having. Otherwise there’s no point in living.”

“I can find a purpose in living without God. No one really needs him. If you have to believe in a pretend deity to find meaning, then that’s not such a great way to see things,” she replied.

“Without God, nothing makes sense,” I replied. “People have been trying to find meaning without him for ages, and it just doesn’t work. He is the only one who can redeem the messes of our lives, the things we wish we hadn’t done and the things done to us. Without him, all the suffering in the world is meaningless, including ours.”

“You can believe that, but God doesn’t actually exist and life does have meaning without him,” the girl stated.

Thinking of this exchange makes me cringe. I am sick to my stomach, want to throw up and shove the memory of it far out of my head. But it’s important to me to remember. I was eighteen at the time, suicidal, depressed, starving myself to death, in the hospital because I had overdosed–at that exact moment I was sitting in a psych ward with six other teenage girls and two psych techs, in some group for coping skills or the like. The techs intervened at that point, bringing the group back on point, but I spent the rest of the group writing notes that bolstered my worldview that believing in God was the only thing that made life worthwhile and possible.

A few days later, after the 72 hour hold the emergency room physician placed me on expired, I checked myself out of the hospital. As a semi-minor, I had to have a meeting with my parents and the treatment team before I was released. My parents’ pastor and the biblical counselor I was seeing came along too. At that meeting, the treatment team asked me why I thought I was safe enough to leave the ward. I answered with more of the above, about having purpose because God was working everything together for good and it was all going to have a higher purpose, and I would continue to cling to that and draw strength from that and use it to fight the suicidal urges. The pastor and counselor and my parents all told me how proud they were that I defended my faith against psychological attacks. “You have the right beliefs,” the counselor told me. “That is what makes life worth living. We just need to help connect your head and your heart so that your beliefs guide your actions. God wants that for you–keep studying the Bible, praying, and asking the Holy Spirit to work in your life.”

After we left, I remember looking at the sky and being so relieved that I was out of the psych ward–yet so terrified because inside I didn’t know if the worldview I so stoutly defended was really enough to keep me alive.

And this is the story of my disillusionment with conservative Christianity. It wasn’t so much a lightbulb moment as a rocky path plagued by fits and starts, trying to go back, trying to believe, and coming up dry. Meeting people my religion condemned to hell and realizing they had a better outlook on life than I did.

Understanding that my parents’, pastor’s, and counselor’s approbation showed their overarching concern: that my soul’s security was more important than my body’s survival, that my ability to argue apologetics or memorize whole books of the Bible or “get my heart right before God” was more important than my ability to stop cutting or dreaming of death.

In fact, when I first started seeing the counselor, the first thing she said to anorexic, cutting, suicidal me was, “Before I even try to help someone with their life issues, I want to make sure they’re saved. Otherwise, dealing with the other issues will be ineffective.” When I ended up in the psych ward–again, and again–I would leave with resources to use, groups to attend, but the biblical counselor and pastor would tell me to quit them, to turn to their approved Bible studies and “counseling,” to pray more and make my life right with God. Over and over, this never worked. All the “right answers” just left me broken and battered, more wounded than when I’d begun to seek them.

Eventually, I went left home and started college. I was incredibly lucky to meet several therapists–ones with a degree who didn’t read me Bible verses for every session–who began to help me untangle the webs of lies and confusion I had been told. They affirmed my worth and value, and the priority of dealing with my depression and other issues, all without bringing the Bible into it or mentioning God or telling me my behaviors were sending me to hell.

As I healed, my parents expressed concerns about my salvation. In their eyes, my turning to secular psychology evidenced a rejection of the Bible and principles they wanted me to embrace. I spent hours trying to convince them–and myself–conservative Christian beliefs could be reconciled with reality in the world. I came up dry.
I also watched the way conservative Christianity treated people. I saw much talk about doctrine and scripture and grace and judgment and holiness and righteousness–and I saw an inability to listen to real people, real stories, real pain. From abortion to LGBT* people (before I had figured out I was one myself) to healthcare to immigration, I saw a plethora of articles and words about what should be done, what the Bible said about things, and precious little attention given to people who had lived these things.

Leaders my parents followed seemed to be more concerned about figuring out a doctrinal formula and backing everything up with Bible verses than they did with engaging in the pain and hurt in the world.

They were too quick to offer the “solution” that would fix some problem and prescribe the correct theology–talking–while refusing to listen or love.

A few months after I told my parents that I was queer, we had a conversation that had become commonplace. “I know you say this is how you feel,” my mom said, her face lined with concern. “But I ask you, who is Jesus to you? Do you call yourself a Christian? How can you back up that you are a Christian from the Bible?”
My voice trembling, the pull of religious fundamentalism that will always be in my blood tugging at my heart, I replied, “I can’t do this anymore. I won’t defend my faith to you. I don’t have all the reasons and all the answers and all the doctrines–and I don’t want them. I will never be able to justify my faith or lack thereof or uncertainty thereof to you. It only ends up hurting me and not answering you. My God, when I believe in them, is not the same as yours. They never will be. I am done. Defending my faith, defending conservative Christianity, almost killed me. I can’t go back. I am sorry, but this is not a conversation I can have anymore.”

That day marked a turning point for me. I gave up trying to reconcile my beliefs with conservative Christianity. Even though my heart still longs at times for the familiarity and rules that defined life for me for so long, I know I can’t go back. That bridge is destroyed, and it is for the better. If I remain a Christian, it will be in spite of conservative Christianity. In the end, love, truth and knowledge will win, defeating the hate-mongering, fear-mongering lies sold to people to modify their behavior. Until that day, I choose to live in love and acceptance, even if that means I don’t have all the answers

You Can Probably Guess What the Founder of “Biblical Counseling” Said About Domestic Violence

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Jay E. Adams is the founder of the “nouthetic counseling” movement, or what has become known as “biblical counseling” (though it is unworthy of being called either “biblical” or “counseling” in my opinion). Popularized by Adams’ seminal book Competent to Counsel, nouthetic counseling is based on the assumption that counseling should be based solely upon the Bible. This movement rejects mainstream psychology and therapeutic methods as secular and atheistic and thus ungodly.

The movement also assumes that pastors and other spiritual leaders — untrained in the actual practice and science of mental health — can adequately address mental illness because mental illness in this perspective is basically another word for sin. Adams’ method is currently championed by eminent evangelical Christians such as John MacArthur, who claims “behavioral sciences…are not scientific,” psychology is an “occult religion,” and Jesus and the Bible should be “the church’s only solution” to mental illness. This is the same method and mentality that respected (and formerly respected) leaders in the Christian Homeschool Movement — most notably Voddie Baucham, Reb Bradley, Doug Phillips, and Bill Gothard — have promoted for years. They have taught thousands of families at homeschool and other religious conventions around the country — and through their books and other educational materials — that mental “illness” is fake. It’s all just “sin” and “rebellion” and can be resolved through a “right” relationship with God.

An example of Adams chalking up mental illness to sin comes from his book Helps for Counselors: A Mini-Manual for Christian Counseling, published by Baker Book House in 1980. On page 29, under his section explaining how a counselor should deal with a client’s depression, Adams says, “The counsel must recognize his responsibility for depression” (emphasis added). A client has spiritual guilt for his or her own depression because, in Adams’ worldview, “Depression results from handling a down period sinfully.” Thus “counselees may spiral up out of depression by asking God’s forgiveness” and “can stay out depression by following God’s commands” and “repenting of any sin immediately.”

If you think Adams handles depression poorly, just wait until you see how he handles domestic violence.

The following passage is also from Adams’ Helps for Counselors, pages 19-20. In these pages Adams is addressing the importance of “Listening.” He writes,

III. Listen for all of the facts (Prov. 18:17).

A. There are two or more sides to many issues:

1. This implies that all parties should be present if possible,

2. That each should hear what the other says in order to explain, modify, amplify, etc. (note “examine”),

3. And it is clear that one must not be allowed to speak negatively about another behind his back (see also James 4:11).

B. The first to speak can sound quite convincing if heard alone,

1. But the additional information that the other provides can turn the conclusion about face.

2. As, for instance, when one counselee said,

“He hit me! He slapped me in the face!”

And her husband replied:

“Sure, to bring her to her senses.”

“To bring her to her senses.” Apparently that makes it okay!

Other posts on HA about domestic violence:

Note: if you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or visit their website here. There is help available and you are worth it.

Kevin Swanson, Child Abuse, and Dead Little Bunnies: Kathi’s Thoughts

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HA note: Kathi is a Bible-belt midwest transplant to the beautiful Pacific northwest. After homeschooling her kids for 10 years (she decided that high school math and science were not her strongest subjects), both kids are in public school. She is a former church goer and finds herself in that unstudied demographic of middle-aged Nones. She has a B.A. in Urban Ministry and a M.S.W. Her goal is to work with children who have been abused or are in foster care. She loves to knit, cook and read (not in any particular order). The following was originally published on Kathi’s blog Moving Beyond Absolutes on April 5, 2014 and is reprinted with permission. 

I had never heard of Kevin Swason until after I got done homeschooling. That’s how out of touch with the Christian homeschool movement I was during my homeschooling period.

When he did a show on March 18th titled, How to Recover from Sexual Abuse, I had to listen. This program included guest Keith Dorscht from Biblical Concepts in Counseling. Here’s an interesting point to make note of – at the end of the program, Keith Dorscht tells listeners how to get in touch with Biblical Concepts ( — this is the URL he provides). However, when you go to that URL, it shows up through Sedo’s Domain Parking and it gives someone the option to purchase that domain name. Because of this, I’m not sure how anyone who listened to Swanson’s program would be able to follow up with Biblical Concepts in Counseling.

I became interested in this particular program because of my social work focus in child abuse, my past work with children who had been sexually abused, and because of my own personal experience with abuse.

I admit that when I saw the title of the program I sighed and thought myself to be a glutton of punishment. (Swason’s voice tends to grate on me a little — okay, a lot. But, there’s nothing that a glass — or two — of wine can’t cure!) I tell you this because I am passionate about helping people who have been abused.

Unexpectedly, and thankfully, there were some good ideas and thoughts on dealing with sexual abuse. What did not surprise me were some of important things that were left out and the prevailing attitude toward victims that creeps in. I transcribed** the show and am here to offer my opinions on the good and the not so good of what I heard.

The Good

1. Keith Dorscht acknowledges the fact that sexual pleasure can be experienced at any age. At the 7 minute mark he says,

“What that means is that from birth, there can be sexual stimulation, excitement, that feels good. And, you can’t stop that as a child of any age, you can’t turn that off. God wants you to have that.”

That is true. It has been shown that babies are able to experience genital stimulation. Our bodies are hard wired to be that way.

2. Right after this remark, he continues saying,

“When some perpetrator comes in, takes advantage of that, but they also overwhelm you and you feel guilty because you know something is going on wrong. So one of the main damages is that someone at any age is experiencing something that feels pleasurable, but they’re feeling guilt. And there’s a knitting together, a marrying together, of those two emotions.”

Very true, too. Abusers will manipulate a victim for their own pleasure. Threats, fear or simple words such as telling the victim that this is something “special” shared between them and that no one else should know about it, are tactics used to keep them in their grasp. The victim, realizing that what this person is doing is wrong, may feel pleasure in the act. Thus, the feelings of guilt may become overwhelming.

3. As far as responding to a child who tells you that they have been sexually abused, Dorscht says the following after the 10 minute mark:

“You can pretty much trust that they’re telling truth. Only half a percent of children actually make up a story of this. So if you’re getting signs and statements being made and strange behaviors in your child, you want to definitely consider the idea that perhaps someone has sexually abused them and get talking about that.”

While there have been times when a child will lie about sexual abuse, it is very rare. If a child tells you that they have been sexually abused, always believe them.

4. Dorscht offers hope to victims of sexual abuse. Just before the 9:30 mark he says,

“There is so much hope for people who have been sexually abused. If I can say one thing on this program today and leave people with something, is that there is hope. That God can restore. He can finish the work.”

There is hope for a survivor of sexual abuse. A person can be made whole again. It takes a lot of time, patience and hard work with a therapist to get there. I do believe that God can help in that healing process. However, if the person does not have a faith in God, healing can also be accomplished.

The Not So Good

1. Kevin Swanson seems to think that sexual abuse did not happen as often in the 1800’s compared to today. In the opening of his show, just before the 1 minuted mark he says,

“See, we have social sins now that were almost unheard of in the 1800’s. And they are common place today. The 1 in 10,000 occurrences we saw in the 1800’s, now 1 in 100, the 1 in 100 now 3 in 10.  The free sex movement of the 1960’s has resulted in people thinking they can get any kind of sex they want for free. And they’re doing it all the time. They’re doing it with kids. It’s hard to get accurate numbers of sexual abuse. But accounts have it as high as 20, 30, 40%

“The stories abound. Priests abusing kids. School teachers abusing kids. Babysitters abusing kids. Everywhere. Part it is the absence of parental oversight in the training of children. And, part of it is the whole sale raw eros sex on MTV and the whole music culture. Part of it is the lack of phileo love, agape love, and all that is left is animalistic physical copulation. Whatever the cause, the consequences of this free sex, this fornicating sexual abuse culture, the consequences of this stuff is just devastating. The purity has been stripped away.”

And, just after the 5:30 mark he says,

“Just horrific to see what is happening. And of course I believe this has been increasing over the last 30-40 years. This kind of thing was not happening as much 100 years ago.”

Dorscht follows this statement by saying,

“No, and you can blame the internet for that. Blame media influences and parents letting their guards down with their children and not protecting them the way they need to be.”

Does Swanson realize that, while avenues for reporting sexual abuse existed in the 1800’s, the response to those reports were very different than today’s response? Also, means of storing numbers for statistical analysis did not exist in the 1800’s.

How about the fact that there really was not a clear definition of child abuse in the 1800’s or child abuse reporting laws or laws set in place to help protect victims?

My only other note to Swanson is that if you are going to supply a fact in the form of a percentage of something happening, please make sure you do your homework and make it very clear to the listener. This “20, 30, 40%” of reported abuse does your listener no good. Let them know the facts up front.

2. Swanson wants to deal with the problem of guilt. Rightfully so. Children who have been sexually abused may feel guilty about their participation in the act, or in their lack of ability to stop the abuse from happening. Just after the 13 minute mark he says,

“You know, some Christian perspectives of psychology will tell us that man suffers from guilt and often he will resort to masochism or sadism, that is hurting themselves or hurting others, as a means of atonement. Because, of course, guilt cries out for atonement. And when people try to self atone for that guilt, by mean of masochism or sadism, they are denying the atonement of the son of God who came to atone for those sins. And that in itself is a sin, right Keith? If we don’t go to Christ and say, ‘Hey, your atonement is sufficient for me,’ you’re denying his offering.”

So Swanson wants to heap on more guilt for a person who is trying to deal with their abuse. (Shaking my head) In essence, he is saying, “If you don’t rely on Christ, you are sinning.” I’m sure this extra layer of guilt will be helpful for the victim.

3. Bitterness — one of my least favorite words. Swanson wants to deal with it though. Just after the 14:30 minute mark he says,

“Well, Keith, there’s also the issue of bitterness. Perhaps we should talk about this as well. This is, of course, carrying other people’s sins and holding them against them. How often do you see this problem of bitterness where they hold this bitterness against the violator?”

Dorscht responded at the 15 minute mark with,

“They’re holding that bitterness. Every single week in the counseling office those people are holding on to that bitterness. The problem is too often that the perpetrator is out of their reach and not receiving any of that bitterness. And, again, it can turn back on them. Or turn back on a spouse, or to parents. A girl will have anger issues with a father or a brother, and they may wonder where that’s coming from. And those people are paying.”

Swanson continues the thought after the 16 minute mark,

“And, you know, as we bring the guilt and the bitterness together, this is precisely what Jesus puts in the Lord’s prayer when he says, ‘Forgive us our debts, our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ So, Keith, I think that these things come together in the counseling situation where we go to the cross of Christ. Yes, we drop our sins there, but while we’re there, we drop everybody else’s sins too. It’s almost as if the bitter person, the guilty person, is holding two burdens. He’s got his own sins, and then he’s got everybody else’s sins. I don’t think anybody can carry that much.”

It is important to note that Dorscht is identified as a “Biblical” counselor.

I don’t have any training in Biblical counseling, so I’m not exactly sure how a Biblical counselor works in a therapy session. What I have heard, though, is that Biblical counselors stress the need for a victim to forgive a perpetrator. Dorscht confirms this at the 17:30 mark:

“When they forgive that person, I’ve seen people instantly, when they pray, ‘God I forgive that person.’ And they open their eyes, they look at me, and they say, ‘Can I pray for that person?’ And I say, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ Just to kind of test them. They say, ‘Because I know how much I’ve been forgiven. And I know now how hurting that person must have been for them to hurt me.’ And not in every case does this happen. But, I think people can get to that point where they can say, ‘I want to pray for them because they are hurting also.’ And that is a sign of genuine heart-level forgiveness. They have compassion. If that person needed a meal or needed a cup of water, that person is free to give that to them. That’s a minimum requirement.”

KS: “Wow! That’s true deliverance. And, that’s walking in Jesus’ ways when he says, ‘Pray for those who despitefully [sic] use you.’ And, if there is anybody who would despitefully [sic] use somebody, that would certainly be one who sexually abuses. And, to pray for that person is exactly what Jesus wants to see happen there.”

I’m not downplaying anyone who says that they are able to forgive someone who has victimized them. If they are able to say and do that, then more power to them. However, some people may never be able to forgive the person who abused them. I would never consider that person bitter, and I would never question their faith. I would also never say a person needs to forgive their abuser because they were hurting too. There is never a good excuse for someone to sexually abuse another person.

Saying that a victim is bitter because they are unable to forgive the perpetrator is another way of placing guilt and shame on a victim.

4. Going back up to point #1, did anyone else realize that Swanson never states that parents may be the ones who are sexually abusing their kids? He mentions priests, school teachers and babysitters, but not once in this radio show does he admit that a parent may abuse their child.

Just after the 18:30 mark, Swanson asks Dorscht what a parent should do when a child tells them that they have been sexually abused. Dorscht’s advice is to first allow their child to talk openly about what happened; to hold them and cry with them. Then at the 20 minute mark he says,

“You’ll want to report something to authorities if that’s appropriate and necessary. You want to warn anyone else who may be in danger. Again, I said there’s a 90% chance that you know the person who abused your child, so you might know other people that could be in danger.”

Of course it’s “appropriate” to report sexual abuse to the authorities! Along with being there for your child, this should be the first thing a parent should do — even if it means that your spouse is the perpetrator of the abuse.

5. Toward the end of the program, Swanson talks about the cold, hard reality of sin in the world. Honestly, at this point in the program I started getting an uneasy feeling and here is where Swanson’s voice starts to grate on me. Just after the 20:30 minute mark he says,

“And, Keith, I think the cold, hard reality of sin and this sinful world comes home to us. Not just in the case of sexual abuse, but when the family has been robbed. You know, when somebody has broken into our house or into our car and stolen our things. Or, even when we have a horrible disease or when somebody dies in the family. I mean, you know, it’s not as if these people who have been sexually abused are the only ones who have suffered the consequences of sin.”

Okay, “these people”? How condescending are those words toward a victim of sexual abuse? I would never refer anyone to Swanson for counseling. I do not think he has the ability to feel empathy or compassion toward someone who is suffering.

He brings in another illustration to emphasize his “cold, hard facts” about sin in the world. This is just after the 21 minute mark:

“And the cold, hard reality of that sinful world comes home at certain times in our children’s lives. In fact, just yesterday, two little bunnies died that we were trying to take care of that we found in the wild all by themselves. And my little daughters were crying. Oh, it was such a hard thing to see the little bunnies die. And they’re still recovering this morning.  You know, we had to tell them, this is what happened when man sinned against God. This is what sin has brought into the world. Little bunnies die. This is the real facts of the matter. But, the hope is in Jesus. We’ve got to give them hope, don’t we Keith?”

Creepy. Dead little bunnies.

And to suggest sexual abuse is one of the the cold, hard realities of a sinful world that enters our children’s lives is horrendous.

*** Please note:: In my transcription I may have missed some words, and I intentionally did not include “filler” words (ummm…, and, or any repetitive words). Even though I left out the filler words, I maintained the cohesive thought of the speaker.