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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Due to the way spirituality/religion is at times used as a weapon, I am passionate about helping people heal from emotional wounds imposed in the religious context. The modalities I have received training in, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) therapy and IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapy, can be beneficial tools in addressing this pain.

— Rachel Legg, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Springfield, OH

A majority of my training as a therapist has been aimed at becoming more competent at treating trauma - specifically PTSD and Complex PTSD. I am EMDR and IFS trained, and have pursued advanced trainings in healing spiritual trauma related to evangelical Christianity. I am committed to helping unpack the harm done by these systems and helping you work toward healing and wholeness in your life.

— Amanda Steed, Clinical Social Worker

I myself have a history of religious trauma and spiritual abuse. I have been through a lot of my own therapy and healing in this area. I would love to partner with you on your healing journey through spiritual abuse/religious trauma to regain a sense of empowerment and self-identity in your life.

— Caroline Whisman-Blair, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in , MT

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 Phoenixville, PA

As a therapist practicing in America I am acutely aware of the way Protestant/Christian values shape our culture and systems for better and for worse. As a pastor's kid and Bible student myself my own faith and deconstruction journeys help me support clients in questioning and recovering from their own. I am passionate about finding ways to free clients from shame and harmful messaging from religious systems, and helping them find spiritual freedom in a way that makes sense to them.

— Melissa Hinshaw, Associate Professional Clinical Counselor

I have both counseling and theological training, and my own experience with traumatic religious experience and messages that distort our view of ourselves. I work with people to heal from the negative stories that have been imposed on them.

— Cillian Green, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Evanston, IL

While for many spirituality provides a source of hope and comfort, your experience with spirituality or religion may have instilled a sense of shame, unworthiness, and fear that separation from these institutions has not resolved. Further, our families, communities, and friends may have reinforced that harmful messaging. As someone who has experienced the harmful impacts of this environment, I am uniquely qualified to address the multifaceted and often

— Jett Roberts, Licensed Professional Counselor in Dallas, TX

Unfortunately, religion likes to twist scripture to THEIR liking. What religion doesn’t understand is that that mindset pushes people away from Jesus, rather than curious. God didn’t design us to be judgmental, closed-off, or pretentious. We were only called to love.

— Noel Tola, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern in , FL

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

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 specialize in Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), religious abuse or trauma, and/or Adverse Religious Experiences. This can be in a high-control religion or spiritual community, temple, organization, or cult.

— Kelsey Laulainen, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA

Spirituality and religion can be a lifeline and an important foundation for many, but for some carries the weight of trauma in the form of abuse. When we are able to break out of a controlling or unhealthy spiritual environment, many times our worlds are turned upside down. We are disconnected from friends and family and the very ideas we once held as truth. I work to connect my client's back to themselves.

— Robin Roemer, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

It takes a lot of courage to walk away from a religious community you've been conditioned to trust, knowing full well you'll be alienated & ostracized immediately when you choose to walk away. Spiritual abuse & religious trauma survivors know how destabilizing these experiences are and how lost one can feel as a result. If you're looking for someone who understands, I'd be honored to hold space for you and provide you the tools necessary to thrive in your new life.

— Dwight Bejec, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Warrenville, IL

Our founder, who holds an MA in Theology and a BA in Religion, has a specialized focus on supporting individuals who have experienced these specific challenges. We recognize the importance of addressing both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of your experiences. We aim to foster healing, resilience, and a sense of wholeness by integrating therapeutic techniques with spiritual support if desired.

— AMR Therapy, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles, CA

Many of us grew up in fundamentalist or high-demand religious systems. This type of entrapping spirituality may be as American as Ma, baseball or apple pie. But it needn’t be the continuing story of your spirituality. In our work together, we will find ways to recenter your life on your own voice. If you choose, we can discover new ways of engaging spirituality that fit you. And we can help get your life back on track, aligned with your intrinsic value and right to freedom.

— Greg Kilpatrick, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Pasadena, CA

Spiritual abuse and religious trauma, while different experiences, are often compounded by each other. I have a deep understanding of spiritual abuse as a form of child abuse and coercive control. I also have experience and understanding of the long lasting impact of religious trauma and the struggle to separate from the destructive religious beliefs or groups that knowingly or unknowingly act to control not just the victim but everyone in their circle.

— Erica Rampelberg, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Columbus, OH

Traumatic spiritual and religious experiences often lead to chronic shame, anxiety, fear, and unhealthy tendency to please and appease in order to feel safe, as well as a sense of powerlessness impending doom. I work to help you learn to trust yourself again and heal your nervous system. To feel safe again. To set healthy boundaries. To feel good enough. To enjoy today.

— Carolyn McElroy, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Drumright, OK

When you come from an insulated community, it's hard to recognize when violence is happening, let alone call it out when it happens. It doesn't matter what culture or religious community you come from--violence and abuse of any form is wrong. It's not your fault, and regardless of what people say, it is NOT your fault. You broke out of your community--a very hard thing to do, and you're coming to therapy, which is a great first step. Let's help you realize your life outside of your community!

— Tracy Vadakumchery, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in New York, NY