At Journey Free, we are available to support professional and educational interests regarding religious recovery.  These services include:

•  Consulting with helping professionals regarding clients.

•  Training helping professionals, both individually and in groups concerning Religious Trauma Syndrome.

•  Workshops and speaking engagements on Religious Trauma Syndrome and Steps in Recovery.

To inquire about these possibilities, book an appointment here.


Approach to treating harm from toxic religious experiences:

The adverse effects of certain authoritarian religious beliefs and practices actually constitute quite a range.  Some people are able to walk away from their religion relatively unscathed.  Others experience emotional flashbacks and other symptoms that qualify as trauma in the clinical sense.  The differences are due to variation in the severity of the circumstances (e.g. intensity of phobia indoctrination, mediating effects of family, etc.) and individual differences in temperament and resiliency.  The trauma itself is the individual nervous system’s response to the events.  Not all religion is equally harmful and not everyone is prone to being traumatized.

Hence, treatment for someone recovering from religious harm should be highly individualized.  This is true in therapy, personal coaching, and in group settings.   “Religious Trauma Syndrome” is a heuristic that refers to harm experienced over a period of time.  It is rarely one single event; it is more closely compared to Complex PTSD than simply PTSD.   From my observations of 30 years, there seem to be roughly three stages that are relevant:

1. Predeconversion trauma – the harm done by religious beliefs and practices during the time a person is religious or in a religious family

2. Deconversion – the acute period of leaving a religion

3. Postdeconversion adaptation – a) the long-term mental health issues, b) delayed development, and c) cultural adjustment in the “World”

Treatment goals and methods are understandably different in these various stages.

My opinion is that mental health professionals have a lot to learn about treating religious harm.  Important strides have been made in treating psychological trauma generally, and these advances are relevant to religious trauma.  I have studied with leaders in the field such as Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Eric Gentry, and am consulting with them about applying this research to religious trauma.  While I am not an expert in the biological details of trauma, I do take a body-oriented approach and I am a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional.  Among my influences are these books which I recommend to other helping professionals:

• The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

• Forward Facing Trauma Therapy by J. Eric Gentry

• Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors, by Janina Fisher

• Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman

• Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, by Pete Walker

With any case, the therapeutic relationship is of primary importance for healing.  Other principles and areas of knowledge are important such as safety and understanding of toxic religious experience.  (These are covered in the training and supervision that I offer).  In working with clients, I then draw from the following approaches:

Inner Child Work

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy


Clinical Guided Imagery

Narrative Therapy

Somatic Experiencing

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Relationship Counseling

Life Coaching

Sex Therapy

Expressive Arts Therapy

Group Therapy

Especially effective is the retreat experience, in which participants are able to overcome their perceived aloneness and learn strategies for healing together.

At present, my general approach is religious recovery coaching, which includes important psychoeducation about religious harm and trauma.  This is consistent with Eric Gentry’s “Forward Facing Trauma Therapy” which emphasizes coaching and psychoeducation rather than psychotherapy for treatment of trauma.