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Theophostic Counseling: Divine or What?


In spite of all the theological and psychological failings of Theophostic Ministry, it continues to grow at a rapid rate nationally and is now becoming an international phenomenon. Since we wrote the book TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy? Ed Smith, the originator of TheoPhostic Counseling, has produced additional editions of his manual Beyond Tolerable Recovery. His fourth and most recent edition contains a number of changes from his prior editions. However, our original criticisms still stand. Smith continues to provide an unproven universal antidote for recovery. Smith’s evidence continues to be his own say so and, with few exceptions, the most extravagant claims for cures we have ever seen, prolifically laced with case histories, unexamined by objective third parties.

No Proof for Theophostics

Case histories alone cannot be considered as evidence of effectiveness. Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Dr. Melvin Guyer, both experts in the field of memory, warn about serious problems with using case histories in their article titled “Who Abused Jane Doe? The Hazards of the Simple Case History.”Loftus and Guyer report on case histories used by well known and highly regarded individuals, which led to theories accepted and promoted for generations in the fields of science, medicine, and mental health. Loftus and Guyer reveal how the case histories used by Sigmund Freud (Oedipus Complex), Bruno Bettelheim (autism), Cornelius Wilbur (Sybil), and others led to theories, ideas, guesses, opinions, and hunches, which were accepted for years before they were finally debunked.In our book we say the following regarding Smith’s claims and cases: If one were examining TheoPhostic counseling from a scientific perspective, rather than simply believing Smith’s say-so claims, cures and cases, one would need to proceed with parameters and requirements of proof. Internationally recognized astronomer Alan Hale restates in an article what all reputable scientists know:
1) Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
2) The burden of proof is on the positive. If you are making an extraordinary claim, the burden is on you to produce the extraordinary evidence to prove that you are correct; the burden is not on me to prove that you are wrong.In all his written material and tapes, we find that Smith has violated both principles. We found no “extraordinary evidence” and no “proof.” There is no outside, third-party evidence or support for TheoPhostic theory or methodology. The evidence for the TheoPhostic system’s success is essentially Smith’s say-so. Subjective, personal testimonials alone do not carry weight as evidence or proof in scientific investigation.

Changes in Latest Manual

Smith has made a major change in that he has downgraded what he originally described as a divine revelation from God to being an insight from God. Ed Smith has also changed the format of his word “TheoPhostic” to “Theophostic” (without the capitalization of the “P”) and changed the name of his system from “TheoPhostic Counseling” to “Theophostic Ministry.” In the fourth edition of his manual he explains why. He says:Ministry better describes what you would be doing. This may be important to the lay person who lives in areas of the country where it is becoming more and more difficult to counsel without state approval and certification. If you are a lay minister I encourage you to discontinue the use of the word “counseling” as a description of what you do. The legality of this term may be a point of indictment you might want to avoid (p. 6).At the end of his 4th edition Smith includes a list of “References for further study.” Authors listed include Neil Anderson and John and Paula Sandford. We suggest reading the Christian Research Journal articles about Neil Anderson’s teachings. They are posted on the Christian Research Institute web site:. If you are not on the internet, call CRI to request these articles: 1-888-700-0274. Medical doctor Jane Gumprecht has a chapter evaluating John and Paula Sandford in her book Abusing Memory, published by Canon Press.While Smith has made some cosmetic changes in his abuse of Scripture by twisting the Word to elevate his Theophostics, the 4th edition is equally abusive. We challenge the reader to read each verse at the beginning of each chapter and within the text of the latest edition of Beyond Tolerable Recovery. Read how so many verses are misused in having their original intent distorted or misapplied to support Smith’s Theophostic bent. (See for example pp. 114-117, 4th ed.)

Changes in Pagination

References in our book to Ed Smith’s manual (Beyond Tolerable Recovery: Moving beyond tolerable existence, into genuine restoration and emotional inner healing) are for the pagination of the 1997 edition of the manual. The latest edition has different pagination and a modified subtitle. Therefore the quotations may be found on pages different from those indicated in our book unless they have been modified or deleted.

“All Available Means Possible”

Smith criticizes those who “demand a biblical model for all they do in ministry but have no problem for developing modern approaches for all other areas of their lives. I choose to use all available means possible (unless they are contrary to Biblical teaching) of reaching as many people for Christ as possible” (p. 7, 4th ed.).The Bible has already given us doctrines and teachings about the Christian life and how to change. There is no need to use Smith’s so-called divine insights to understand more in this area. The Bible has already spoken in the areas that Theophostic notions and methods have invaded.Smith refers to using “all available means possible (unless they are contrary to Biblical teaching).” Smith has kaleidoscopically amalgamated a number of known psychological therapies to produce his unique brand of therapy called Theophostics. However, there are numerous Christian psychotherapists utilizing various eclectic combinations of therapies that are often contradictory to one another and to Smith’s brew. For over twenty years now, we have challenged these Christian psychotherapists to name one of theirs who will admit that what he does is contrary to Scripture. No takers so far, which means that Smith’s “unless they are contrary to Biblical teaching” is meaningless, because all Christian psychotherapists will claim, at minimum, that their brands of psychotherapy are not “contrary to Biblical teaching,” even though contrary to other Christian psychotherapists.

Smith Denies Criticisms

Smith denies two of our criticisms of TheoPhostic Counseling (now Theophostic Ministry), which we discuss in Chapter One of our book. One of our criticisms of Smith is that he claims a divine source for his Theophostic Counseling. In response, Smith says: “For example, you [referring to us] have reported that I said that I received a Divine revelation from God. This was quite humorous when I first read it and is preposterous and totally inaccurate.” In the 4th edition of Beyond Tolerable Recovery Smith says: “The dear fellow out on the West Coast [referring to us] has said in his little book that I believe that I have been given a new revelation from God. Sorry, to disappoint him or others, but I cannot claim such notoriety.” Smith has also said on his web site, “For the record, I do not believe that I have received any revelatory information from God nor have I ever made such a claim.” (Bold added.)The following are excerpts from Chapter One of our book:Smith describes how TheoPhostic counseling came to him after a session with “a group of ladies who were all members of our >>Adult survivors of Sexual Abuse support group’” (p. 30). He says:As I drove home that night I asked God to show me a way to quicken this process of shifting from embracing the lie to knowing the truth. I did not receive an answer that evening in the car but over the course of the next few weeks a simple yet profound principle began to emerge. It was as though a spigot had been turned on and the insight of this process began to flow through my mind (p. 30).Smith claims God gave TheoPhostic counseling to him. He says, “After I had searched long and hard for that >>better’ method, He [God] gave me TheoPhostic so I would have no room to boast” (p. 31). [In other words, it’s all of God and none of Smith.] Smith tells in detail and with the use of metaphors how “God was revealing this method to me” (p. 32). Elsewhere in the manual Smith refers to “God’s gift of TheoPhostic therapy” (p. 17). Smith says he wondered why God would give him such a revelation as TheoPhostic and reports:My wife Sharon believes the reason was a simple one. She said to me, “The reason He gave this process to you was because you asked.” Could it be that simple? Did I “have not” simply because I “ask not”?The bottom line is, I asked and He gave, and I am grateful and willing to share it with those who will listen (p. 4) In describing this revelation, Smith says:Before God blessed me with TheoPhostic counseling, much of what is in this book had never passed through my mind. As I was open to learning a new approach God began to pour this information into my mind. I could not write down the new information fast enough to keep up with what God was saying to me (pp. 164, 165). (Bold added.)These words are reminiscent of such books as God Calling and A Course in Miracles, in which the writers claim to have received revelation directly from God or Jesus.Why Smith would deny the obvious is amazing to us. After reading the above, can anyone doubt that Smith, at least when he wrote those statements, believed he had received Theophostic directly from God? Smith now calls it an insight from God. So, what’s the difference? Divine Revelation or Divine Insight? And, as Smith says, “I could not write down the new information fast enough to keep up with God.” Also in Chapter One, we present the second criticism of Smith’s Theophostics as follows:Please note that Smith refers to what he believes God gave him as “new information” and says, “much of what is in this book had never passed through my mind.” We will demonstrate that TheoPhostic counseling is NOT “new information” to Smith and that much of what he does reflects the various psychotherapies he admittedly knew and practiced for “over twenty years.”TheoPhostic counseling is the result of many existent therapies, including psychoanalytic, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and cognitive-behavioral therapies. In addition, TheoPhostic includes elements from the inner healing movement, which includes guided imagery, visualization, and hypnosis. As a result of our analysis we conclude that TheoPhostic counseling came out of the evil cauldron of the perverted wisdom of men rather than from the mind of God. We present our reasons for this, our comparisons with what appear to be Smith’s sources, and a concern about how he misuses Scripture to support TheoPhostic counseling.Ask any licensed psychologist or professor who teaches psychotherapy and they will confirm the psychological origins of Theophostics.Note in the above that one of the psychotherapies we accuse Smith of using is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).We say in our book:As one reads the use of the scales in EMDR and in Smith’s TheoPhostic system the similarities are readily transparent. Even a cursory comparison of the cases discussed, means of rating the intensity of emotions, and the very methodology used is too congruent between the two to be coincidental. In fact, if TheoPhostics had been in existence before EMDR, we would accuse Shapiro of obtaining her material from TheoPhostics. However, EMDR preceded TheoPhostics by a number of years. If there were only one psychotherapeutic system to choose from as evidence of the psychotherapeutic origin of TheoPhostic counseling, EMDR would be it (p. 104).In the latest edition of his Theophostic manual, which Smith endorses “as the authoritative source for his views,” he says:Some have seen a likeness of this rating the lie with the work of Edith [sic] Shapiro and EMDR. (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.) I truly cannot say since I am not that familiar with her work nor have I been trained at any level in her methodology (p. 54, 4th ed.). (Bold added.)Smith claims that he is “not that familiar with her [Shapiro’s] work [EMDR].” HOWEVER, Smith has spoken publicly about all the therapies and self-help approaches he had learned and used, including EMDR! Smith said in one of his taped lectures, “I even went the route of the Eye Movement Desensitization and ReprocessingCChad people follow the bouncing ball. You know, I even did that” After completing the list of psychotherapies and self-help approaches he used, which included EMDR, Smith said, “I am not discrediting these people but I used them all.” Ask anyone trained in EMDR to read Smith’s manual and to compare Theophostic counseling with EMDR and come to your own conclusion about which of Smith’s statements are true, i.e. the one in the 4th edition of his manual or the one we quote from one of his teaching tapes.

Two Experts Respond to Theophostics

Prior to publishing our book on TheoPhostic Counseling we sent Smith’s writings to Dr. Gary Almy, who is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Loyola University School of Medicine and associate chief of the medical staff at an Illinois hospital. He has over twenty-five years of experience in the practice and teaching of psychiatry. We excerpt the following from Almy’s response, which was originally published in our PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Volume 7, Number 8 and is available at :TheoPhostic Counseling cannot be a revelation from God; it could, however, be a revelation from Satan. That this is possibly the case is evidenced in three general ways. First, Dr. Smith builds his system of therapy upon a common but fatal misunderstanding of biblical anthropology and sanctification. He also depends on an understanding of “mind,” “heart,” “soul,” and “spirit” that is entirely idiosyncratic and fundamentally wrong. Second, the system of therapy he builds is substantially Freudian in its processes, even though he uses Scripture and his own invented jargon. Third, Smith advocates a concept of truth that allows him to believe in his new brand of psychotherapy as God-given and to accept what his clients “discover” in their past as truth. In spite of his zeal and his confidence that God has revealed TheoPhostic counseling to him, it is just another version of the same old serpentine lie that the insight-oriented psychotherapy industry has been pandering for the last century. God can, of course, do whatever He chooses. If, however, Scripture is true and reveals to us the attributes of God He wants us to know and be sure of, we can be certain that God would never operate in the ways that Dr. Smith says He does in TheoPhostic Counseling. Similarly, we can be sure from Scripture that Satan could operate in the ways Dr. Smith advocates. Dr. Smith has surely been deceived. His teaching is false and false teachings are to be exposed. Mark Pendergrast has written a book titled Victims of Memory, which is recommended by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor and expert in the academic discipline of memory. After reading an article in Christianity Today about Theophostic Ministry, Pendergrast sent a letter to the editor, from which we excerpt with his permission:Smith’s cavalier lack of concern about whether memories of abuse are true or not is shocking. Your readers need to be warned about this man and his theoriesCCnot encouraged to seek his help. At a time when recovered memory therapy has been completely discredited, it is amazing to me that Smith is once again practicing it now, in the 21st century. It is particularly distressing that he is doing so in the name of religion, telling people that Jesus is the one who is revealing the “truth” to them.

Matthew 18 Not Applicable

In his latest manual, Smith demonstrates his ignorance of who we are and why Matthew18:15-17 does not apply to our critiquing his work. Contrary to Smith’s remarks about a “fellow,” the book TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation? or PsychoHeresy? was coauthored by both of us. Smith complains about our critique but reveals nothing to demonstrate that we have erred in our evaluation of his work. However, and this should be embarrassing to him and his followers, Smith says that there was a failure to apply the simple principles of Matthew 18 (p. 5, 4th ed.). In Matthew 18 Jesus refers to one brother sinning against another. There is nothing in our book that indicates that Smith has sinned against us. We have exposed Smith’s doctrinal errors to the church publicly because his teaching is public. In this we followed Paul’s example in correcting Peter in Galatians 2:11,14. Peter was public in his actions regarding the Gentile Christians and this required a public correction. We have done likewise. Also, we followed Jude 3 and 2 Timothy 3:16 and 4:2. If Smith’s TheoPhostic invention had been sent to us privately and not published publicly, we would not have written a public book about it. But his work is very public and thus requires a public response.We have invited Smith’s followers who have written to us to quote from our book where they believe we are in error and to demonstrate how we are in error. So far no takers on the specifics, only individuals who are upset about the book without justifying why. We repeat: we have at no time and in no place and in no way ever indicated or implied that Smith “trespassed” or sinned against us personally. Therefore, Smith’s followers who are parroting him on this issue need to be doctrinally corrected on Matthew 18, as well as on the doctrinal errors in Smith’s TheoPhostic doctrines and biblical misapplications.Think about the Reformation; remember the great doctrinal debates that occurred. There was no need for using Matthew 18 when it came to public verbal combats that took place over publicly declared doctrine. If the reformers logically followed Smith’s theology and reasoning on Matthew 18 there may have been no Reformation.

Should Theophostics be Banned?

Smith’s eclectic blending of all the psychotherapies he learned and practiced rests upon his unbiblical amalgamation with the Bible, perverted to fit his theophostic speculations. Smith’s attempted psychotherapeutic alchemy fails for both biblical and scientific reasons. A fair theological evaluation should lead one to conclude that Theophostics should be banned for believers for biblical reasons.

We hope more critiques will be written by Christians who do not have vested interests in teaching and/or practicing psychotherapy or who are already participating in psychoheresy. We honestly believe and our book, carefully read, confirms that if Theophostic Ministry were labeled a drug it would be banished by the Federal Drug Administration for its over-promotion without adequate objective proof. And, in spite of the glowing testimonials and case histories presented by Smith that attempt to support Theophostics, we believe some real damage has been done by it, which time and litigation will reveal, just as happened with other therapies that create and capitalize on false memories.

PAL V10N4 (July-August 2002) PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries4137 Primavera RoadSanta Barbara, CA 93110 www.pamweb.org


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