Spiritual Abuse and Religious Trauma

Spiritual abuse describes the experience of and subsequent damage from being manipulated and controlled by a spiritual leader or community and is often linked to cults and high-control groups. Religious Trauma Syndrome is a more recent term coined by Dr. Marlene Winell which can be defined as, “the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination.” Her work with religious trauma survivors paved the way for much of the discussion we see happening online today, especially in #Exvangelical circles. If you are a spiritual abuse and/or religious trauma survivor and you’re looking for a place to heal, reach out to one of TherapyDen’s knowledgeable and compassionate specialists today.

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Sex, intimacy, and connection are natural and essential parts of our lives and humanity. Unfortunately, many of us have experiences and receive messages from our family, church community, and culture during childhood and in our teen years that damage our overall sexual experience, knowledge, and attitudes. The results can stay with us into adulthood and may include shame, guilt, fear, trauma, and a life closed off from emotional and/or physical intimacy. Therapy can help to heal these wounds.

— Stacey Wright, Psychotherapist in Tucker, GA

As a gay son of a Pentecostal minister, I understand the pain of spiritual/religious wounding. Although this a relatively new focus area for psychotherapists, I feel like I have been doing this work my entire life. I help clients not only deconstruct negative religious beliefs but also reconstruct a new philosophy of living based on their values and humanistic principles.

— Lee Kinsey, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Boston, MA

I have sat with many clients and helped them process how their beliefs, specifically in Christianity, may have harmed their ability to live fully as themselves. I help clients learn to see themselves as worthy of being fully loved and known as they are. I am comfortable working with clients that feel that they need to leave their faith, as well as clients that are deconstructing and then rebuilding their faith into something that is honoring to who they are.

— Jessica Warburton, Professional Counselor Associate in Oregon City, OR

I am a part of a group of helping professionals through Release and Reclaim (founded by Marlene Winell, Ph.D) focused on supporting those who are experiencing Religious Trauma Syndrome, or other difficult symptoms stemming from fundamentalist or dysfunctional religion.

— Christine Chenitz, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Kennett Square, PA

Spirituality and religion can be important sources of support that promote greater well-being; however, many individuals have been wounded through their religious and spiritual experiences and communities. When working with religious and spiritual wounds and trauma, it is vital to have a safe space free of judgment. For over 20-years, I have worked with people from various religious and spiritual traditions struggling with spiritual woundedness, and I have also conducted research in this area.

— Louis Hoffman, Psychologist in Colorado Springs, CO

I have lived and professional experience with this topic. I am skilled at assisting clients with re-authoring their relationship with themselves and overcoming guilt and family issues often associated with religious and spiritual trauma.

— Easin Beck, Marriage & Family Therapist in Exton, PA

As a survivor of spiritual abuse and religious trauma myself, it is very important to me to offer a safe, trauma-trained space for fellow survivors.

— Beth Zumwalt, Licensed Professional Counselor in Chattanooga, TN

I work with individuals who were raised or influenced by a specific religion/spirituality and have realized that they no longer subscribe to those beliefs. These individuals often have lingering guilt and shame, internalized messages they no longer believe, ostracization by family and friends, and difficulty reconciling what they were taught and what they no longer know to be true.

— Jennifer Richards, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate in Bloomington, IN

Spirituality can be the rock that holds us through all forms of storms, or it can be the rock that beats us down into a pulp of nothingness. I love working with clients who are ready to deconstruct and reconstruct their belief systems into their personal relationship with a power greater than themselves. It is highly vulnerable and always life-changing work with immeasurable rewards.

— Rebecca Short, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Specifically, I have training and experience helping people affected by cults and other controlling group dynamics, including members, former members, and the family and friends of those caught up in a controlling group. I am able to hold a nuanced and relatively neutral view of the complicated factors involved in service of autonomy and empowerment.

— Kate Romine, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

While I work with all sorts of trauma; I have personal lived experiences and identify as an “Exvanglical”. I am very happy to work with those who have left/are leaving the church and/or are dealing with the troubles that come along with deconstruction.

— Ryoen Elizabeth Drewello, Addictions Counselor in Haverhill, MA

I am an ex-evangelical who has studied religious trauma and worked with many formerly indoctrinated individuals about recovering from fundamentalist religion.

— Kit Weathers, Sex Therapist in Seattle, WA

I work a lot with folks who have had some form of sexual religious shame and trauma. Learning how to cope, heal and thrive is an important part of the work I do.

— KIMBERLY CASTELO, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Spokane, WA

I have a unique perspective of having a personal relationship with God while actively fighting against ways some misuse scripture to spread hate. Spiritual trauma and religious abuse are very real, painful experiences that many endure. Working through these thoughts and emotions with clients is an honor + privilege of mine. I want to help you to pick up the pieces and re-establish the trust that you have with yourself, others, and God too - if that is something you want.

— Josee Jenkins, Therapist in Greenbelt, MD

I am passionate about working with folks navigating faith transitions while exploring sexuality and/or gender, and have specific experience working with individuals and couples navigating a faith transition from the LDS (previously referred to as Mormon) faith.

— Darrah Jones, Associate Clinical Social Worker