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Theophostic© Counseling (TPM)

TPM counseling: the process and reaction

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What is involved in TPM counseling?

Theophostic Ministry (TPM) is a counseling technique which was developed by Dr. Ed. Smith of Campbellsville, KY. He holds a doctorate in pastoral ministry from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has held various pastoral positions in Southern Baptist Churches since 1985. He does not mention having received any degrees in psychiatry or psychology on his web site. He does not appear to have taken any advanced courses which dealt with the functioning of human memory. 1

Smith defines TPM as "...simply the process of renewing the mind....Theophostic Ministry is about accessing memory, discerning the [deceptive] belief system held in the memory and seeking to allow the Spirit of Christ to replace the falsehood in...memory with His truth." 1 The basis of TPM seems to differ little from the RMT therapy that was widely practiced (and discredited) during the 1990's. Like RMT, TPM assumes that their clients have no conscious awareness of the full nature of past abuse when they enter counseling. They also believe that clients can recover this awareness through prayer. However, the version of RMT that Dr. Smith promotes involves:

bullet Less interaction between counselor and client that within classical RMT.
bullet The alleged direct intervention of either Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit in the healing process.
bullet Recognition that Satan plays a major role by building on past abuse and convincing people to sin.

Smith believes that a deceptive thought -- a lie -- is behind all of a person's sinful choices and actions. This lie "was implanted during a life experience." For example, "When a child is abused and no one is available to provide them with the truth, they will likely come to a false conclusion." 2 This is internalized in their memory as a lie.

As an example, he describes young people who are raised in an alcoholic home. As children, they may have internalized two beliefs: that life is out of control, and that they must take some action to normalize the chaos. In adulthood, whenever they feel out of control, the childhood memory will kick in, causing them to want to take some action to alleviate the stress. At this point, "the enemy" (Satan) intervenes and convinces the person to engage in a sinful behavior. Guilty feelings result from the sin. Since the person is not aware of the full sequence of linkages between stress, the deceptive thought/lie, the suggestion of Satan, the sinful behavior, and the guilt, they are destined to repeat this same sequence continually.

To be cured the client must first age regresses to the time of the memory that is the source of their pain. Then they uncover the lie that was/is associated with the memory. Finally, they allow Jesus to over-write the lie with His truth. "There is...only one way to freedom from the lies we believe and that is an encounter with the risen Lord." The client is expected to "either see an image of Jesus, hear his voice or sense his presence, and he would impart his truth to her." 3

The therapist must confirm that the messages that the client receives actually came from Jesus. According to TPM theory, they might have been derived from the client's own thinking, or may come from "a little demon offering its suggestions." 2 Only if message is consistent with conservative Protestant interpretations of the Bible can they trust that it came from Jesus. If the message conflicts with biblical teaching, then it is rejected and the client can be expected to quickly receive biblically "consistent truth from the Holy Spirit." 2

TPM promoters believe that memories of childhood sexual abuse and other trauma are not forgotten. They are not erased. The mind files them away in a part of the brain where they cannot readily be accessed. When a person is ready to handle the memories, they will reappear. Dr. Smith writes that "Neuroscience has proven that the mind does not actually forget anything." Every event "is carefully filed away someplace in the mind." 2

bullet This assertion appears to agree with the beliefs of some RMT therapists, who often refer to memory as analogous to a video tape. One only has to, in effect, select the correct tape, fast-forward to the time of the incident and play back the memory.
bullet But memory researchers have reached a consensus that almost all memories are eventually forgotten, and can never be restored, even by triggering. Researchers also have reached a consensus that memory recall is a reconstructive process. Memories are not like tape recordings that record the entire picture and sound. Minds only store elements of selected events. When the memories are recalled, the brain creates most of the memory's details, using the few elements that were stored as cues.

We suspect that the memory researchers are correct. Consider the amount of information that would be required to store video and audio for all of the events in a person's life. If this amount of information were recorded on a video tape recorder, it would require about 66,000 VHS cassettes for a person aged 65. It is difficult to imagine an information storage mechanism in the human brain that is so efficient that it can store this amount of data.

Smith teaches that when a client discovers "a repressed memory event" of abuse and resolves their pain with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, they can be expected to experience compassion and forgiveness toward the perpetrator. If they do not, then there are probably other currently inaccessible memories of other instances of abuse by the same perpetrator. They have to be uncovered before the healing is complete. More digging for traumatic memories would be required.

One assumption inherent in TPM is that Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit actually is present during counseling and is directly involved in the healing. This belief leads directly to the certainty that God would not allow any false memories to emerge as a result of the counseling. The vast majority of investigators who have studied Recovered Memory Therapy believe otherwise: that prayer before a therapy session, the leadership of a committed Christian counselor, and the belief that God is involved in the healing are no guarantee that false memories will not be recovered during therapy -- images of abuse that are unrelated to real historical events.

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Reactions of other conservative Protestants to TPM:

Dr. Smith says that he has trained either thousands or tens of thousands of conservative Christians in TPM. They are allegedly using the therapeutic technique effectively in their counseling. Four web sites by individuals who practice TPM are listed at the end of this essay. However, other conservative Christians feel that TPM is unbiblical and heretical. Four of their web sites are also listed below.

Some comments by investigators and clients of TheoPhostic counseling:

bullet Kim Clough, of Sun Prairie, WI is a client of a TPM counselor. Central Kentucky News-Journal records Cough's description of "Theophostic sessions as private meetings where the facilitator prays and asks Jesus to take the person back to 'another memory when you feel the same feeling,' that is considered part of the current distress." Clough said: "You talk about it, get stirred up and go back to three or four memories. The facilitator helps you discover the lie. When Jesus brings the truth, the pain is gone. It's like a miracle. It's usually pretty intense. There's horrible pain in these memories. Some of the memories are some things I remember, some are things I haven't remembered before." Before a session, she says that sometimes I feel like I'm walking to the guillotine. Then I walk out really a different person." Referring to a male relative that she believes abused her as a child, she said: "Forgiving him is kind of a process. It's hard to forgive something you don't know about." 13
bullet A book sold on the PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries' web site defines TPM to be "...a recovered memory therapy comprised of many existent psychological therapies and techniques, demon deliverance teachings, and elements from the inner healing movement, which include guided imagery, visualization, and hypnosis." 4("Demon deliverance teachings" is a  term that has largely replaced "exorcism" among conservative Protestants. They refer to methods of driving indwelling demonic spirits from a person's body).

PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries' suggestion that TPM is a form of recovered memory therapy appears to be valid. Their Dr. Almy quotes Dr. Smith as referring to "echoes of long suppressed (possibly repressed) memories" that are "buried deeply in the inner recesses of the mind." Smith allegedly emphasizes "revictimizing the person with their trauma." 5 However, the book's suggestion that TPM involves guided imagery, visualization and hypnosis may or may not be correct. Dr Smith "unequivocally denounces all forms of guided imagery, minister/counselor directed visualization and hypnosis." 6

Gary Almy states that "Dr. Ed Smith has elaborated a system of psychotherapy that he believes is a direct revelation from God." 5 Dr Smith rejects this, stating: "For the record, I do not believe that I have received any revelatory information from God nor have I ever made such a claim." 6 However, Smith once allegedly wrote that God "... gave me TheoPhostic so I would have no room to boast" 7

Almy also criticizes Smith's versions of conservative Protestant beliefs, such as sanctification, sin, salvation, mind, heart, soul and spirit. He criticizes TPM as being simply another "version of the same old serpentine lie that the insight-oriented psychotherapy industry has been pandering for the last century." 5 TPM's "...theories and methods are Freudian, except that they are decorated with scriptural vocabulary." 5

bullet Martin Bobgan, of Santa Barbara, Calif., a co-author with his wife Deidre, of "TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation? Or PsychoHeresy?" 14 indicated that he is most concerned TPM's use of regression therapy. He said: "You're dealing with memories that are so fragile. The weight of scientific evidence would be in opposition to what he is doing. People are naively pursuing this based on testimonies."
bullet Dr. Paul Simpson, of Tucson, Ariz., is an accredited Christian family counselor, and author of "Second Thoughts: Understanding the False Memory Crisis and How It Could Affect You" 15 He describes TPM as "pretty dangerous stuff....While recovered memory therapy has been completely debunked in the professional community, you've got this springing up from Ed Smith. And that's what it is: a dressed up version of recovered memory therapy."
bullet Two seminary professors, Philip Monroe and Bryan Maier challenged the theological foundation of TPM at the 2003 world conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors in Nashville TN. They conducted a workshop titled: "Trauma and Embedded Lies: A Theological Appraisal of Theophostic Ministry." The workshop drew a mixed response from the audience. Maier commented that TPM founder Ed Smith: "...said in his presentation 'Theophostic is not a theology.' Yet, his conversation and teachings focus on who God is and what he does. We have a problem with what appears to be his theological position that undergirds his Theophostic principles...His response is that his personal theological views should be separated from Theophostic...The point we're making is we have a right to look at Theophostic views. We're not looking at outcome studies. As founder and creator of Theophostic Ministry, we think his theology does matter. He criticizes the church, but doesn't identify where he lands." Commenting on the workshop, Smith stated: "That was their opinion of how they interpreted our training materials...The fact is, we have fruit, they have opinions. Jesus said you'll know them by their fruit. I have no other comments." Smith delivered a workshop promoting TPM at the same conference. It was titled: "Integrating Theophostic Ministry with Your Present Counseling Approach and Method." 16

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Study of Theophostic Counseling by Christian Research Institute:

The Christian Research Institute (CRI) is a Fundamentalist para-church organization which commits much of its energy to combating what it regards as cults. They examined the Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) in 2005 and found:

bullet None of the core theory and practice is unbiblical.
bullet Positive comments about its effectiveness justify further study.
bullet TPM's cure claims cannot be validated at this time.

CRI concludes:

"CRI does have several peripheral concerns about TPM, but we have been favorably impressed by founder Ed Smithís openness to constructive criticism and change."

CRI expressed concern about:

bullet TPM's inadequate explanation for sin in believers.
bullet Their view of sanctification.
bullet Excessive and unsubstantiated claims.
bullet Acceptance and furtherance of Satanic Ritual Abuse claims.
bullet Unbiblical teachings and practices on demon possession.

CRI notes that Smith was working on revisions of the TPM training manual in 2005 that will address the problems of false memories surfacing during counseling, including memories of Satanic Ritual Abuse. They also note that Smith has made a major reversal in his beliefs concerning spiritual warfare. According to a 2001 article in Christianity Today:

"Smith teaches that demons, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, may inhabit and influence a Christianís mind. These demons often work to keep people enslaved to what Smith calls the 'lie‐based thinking' causing their pain. He teaches that these demons have to be expelled for a client to see full relief." 18

CRI found in 2005 that Smith had undergone a major reversal of belief:

" believes that when the Bible says Satan was rendered powerless at the cross of Christ (Heb. 2:14) it means this in the most literal and unqualified sense: Satan was stripped of all of his power as god of this world and the only influence he is still able to exert is the influence we give him through believing his lies. Deliverance of demons and other sensational spiritual warfare antics are now considered distractions to the TPM process."

CRI's complete report is online. It makes for fascinating reading. 19

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Study of Theophostic Counseling by a conservative Christian: journalist

Jan Fletcher is a journalist, conservative Christian, and former Atheist from Campbellsville, KY. She is a faith correspondent for the Central Kentucky News Journal. She noted that Theophostic Ministries, which is located in her city, had generated a great deal of controversy in conservative Christian circles.  Some credit the therapy with miracle cures; others criticize it as being "from the pit of Hell."

She investigated the group and wrote a series of articles for the News Journal. She also reported on TP from conferences. 13,16 Later, she compiled these articles with other material into a book that she has published on the Internet. She concluded that Theophostic Ministries represents a danger "to Christians and to the general public. The recovered memory debate is a part of the story of Theophostic Ministry, but not the only part of this report. This report also includes information about the danger of spiritual deception, and dangers to the cohesion of Christian congregations that may be split over divergent opinions regarding the spiritual validity of Theophostic Ministry. For a Christian, these are very important issues."

She concludes that the number of false memories resulting in false accusations will steadily rise in the future. Eventually, she foresees people petitioning "civil authorities for redress. In the end, the negative will far outstrip the positive. One of the reasons this hasnít yet occurred in large numbers is because:

  1. The accused are often Christians, who 'turn the other cheek,' and suffer in silence in the hope that their wayward daughter, son or grandchild will come to his or her senses and retract the slander;
  2. The accusations are so humiliating to endure that most people are ashamed to even speak of such 'unspeakable' things outside of the family." 17

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Experiences with TPM within two congregations:

bullet Faith Baptist Church, North Yarmouth, ME: Pastor Wesley Harris is pastor of this church. During 1998, he attended a training seminar at the Theophostic Ministries in Kentucky. The Associated Press reported that "According to former members, the climate at the church changed" after he returned from the seminar. 9 Almost all of the women in the congregation have since undergone TPM counseling. According to former member Betty Bendixon, nearly every woman  recovered  repressed "memories" of sexual abuse during the therapy. (This is consistent with conventional RMT therapy, where about 80% of clients can be expected to recover such "memories".) Many of the women would stand, weeping, beside pastor Harris at the pulpit as he described in detail the sexual abuse incidents that they allegedly suffered, often at the hands of their husbands or fathers. Former church members said that two families have broken up and other family relationships have been severed as a result of these "memories."

In 2002-APR, a former adult male church member was arrested and charged with the sexual abuse of a boy, aged 7 at the time. Three women from the congregation subsequently reported recovered memories of having been abused by this same man. Pastor Harris allegedly refused to be interviewed about this by the newspaper -- first because God told him not to speak, and later because the sheriff's deputies asked him to remain silent.

Kate Wright is one of the women who underwent counseling. Harris allegedly told her that whenever she spoke during therapy, her voice was either God's or Satan's. She recovered a "memory" of sexual abuse by a relative during her childhood. She now believes that the memory is false, and that she felt pressured to create a "memory" because the other women had successfully recovered theirs."

Pastor Harris appears to have considerable support from his congregation. Nobody appears to be questioning why memories of sexual abuse are emerging in almost all of the women in the congregation. Investigators typically estimate that only a few percentage of girls are the victim-survivors of childhood incest. About 1% are sexually abused by their father, 1% by their step-father, and a similar percentage are molested by other family members or strangers. Either there is a phenomenal concentration of incest and child sexual abuse in this one congregation, or the memories recovered through TPM are false. We suspect the latter.

On 2002-JUN-26, Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney of Cumberland County, ME, dismissed the sexual-abuse charges against a Thomas Wright, and verbally accused Wes Harris, his former pastor, of "spiritual abuse." She defines spiritual abuse as the "manipulation and control over the hearts and minds of your flock. It instills fear in people." 11 Tom Bell of the Portland Press Herald wrote: "Pastors from several other churches criticized Harris' ministry and said they are worried about the estimated 60 people who still follow him. They accuse Harris of breaking up several families and of leveraging his influence over people to gain large financial donations." 11

bullet Unidentified Vineyard Church: Pastor Rev. Fr. Kevin L. Baker is a minister in the Association of Vineyard Churches. He reported that Theophostic Counseling had a number of negative effects on the members of his congregation:
bullet Most of the female counselors were spiritual heads of their households.
bullet Some of the men were being "feminized" in their spirituality.
bullet Some of the core beliefs of the church were being redefined in psychological terms.
bullet The female counselors asked for parity with the male counselors, and asked that the lead female counselor be ordained.
bullet Their request was turned down, and the conflict caused a split in the church.

In a liberal Christian church, the first four developments might have been interpreted as positive signs of a lessening of sexism and an increase of spiritual maturity in the congregation. However, the Vineyard movement teaches that spiritual leadership in the family is supposed to be supplied by the husbands. Spiritual leadership in the church is supposed to be all male.

Baker hopes that his essay will "prevent others from going through the difficulties and losses we experienced on our journey out of heresy into orthodox Christianity." 10

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A conflict within TPM:

On 2002-NOV-11, Bill Renn of Theophostic Ministry circulated "A Special Announcement from Ed Smith." It expressed concern that the outcome of TPM has not been consistently favorable. Some clients are reporting bad experiences during counseling sessions. Smith reported that "Every negative report has been due to people who have not adhered to the principles taught."

In order to distance themselves from instances of bad therapy -- perhaps to avoid legal liability -- TPM has
bullet Discontinued a service in which they had placed persons seeking counseling in contact with a pastor who has been trained in TPM and who has an active counseling ministry.
bullet Asked their trainees to:
bullet Provide a disclaimer in their advertising and on their web pages that they are not affiliated with nor endorsed by TPM.
bullet Adhere closely to their Ministry Sessions Guidelines.
bullet Not exceed their qualifications.
bullet Seek a professional to supervise them, unless they are themselves a professional.
bullet Report any trainee that claims to be affiliated in any way with TPM.

Their Ministry Sessions Guidelines require their facilitators to
bullet Avoid all types of guided imagery.
bullet Avoid all forms of directed visualization.
bullet Avoid making suggestions on what a client's "memory content might contain."
bullet Avoid interpreting dreams, visions and similar things that may surface.

Facilitators are required to avoid judging whether the recovered memories are true or false. However, they are also required to be "careful to discern and to call attention anything that surfaces that does not appear to be authentic and/or biblically consistent." it would appear difficult to differentiate between these two requirements.

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  1. Theophostic Ministries has a home page at:
  2. "Answers to Objections," Theopostic Ministries, at:
  3. Gary Almy, "TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine or What?," at:
  4. "TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy?," at:
  5. Gary Almy, "TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine or What?," at:
  6. "Answers to Objections," Theopostic Ministries, at:
  7. Ed M.Smith, "Beyond Tolerable Recovery: Moving beyond tolerable existence, into genuine restoration and emotional inner healing," Page 31. Cited in Reference 8.
  8. Anon, "TheoPhostic Counseling: Latter-Day Revelation from God," at:
  9. "Controversial therapy to unearth alleged abuse causes ferment in church," Associated Press, 2002-MAY-13.
  10. Rev. Fr. Kevin L. Baker, "A few words about Theophostic Counseling: Pastor to Pastor," at:
  11. Tom Bell, "Abuse charges dropped in church 'memory' case," Portland Press Herald, at:
  12. "A Special Announcement from Ed Smith," distributed by Bill Renn of on 2002-NOV-11.
  13. Jan Fletcher, "Controversial international ministry operates from Campbellsville," Central Kentucky News-Journal, 2003-JUL-2, at:
  14. Martin & Deidre Bobgan, "TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation? Or PsychoHeresy?," Eastgate Publishers, (1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  15. Paul Simpson, "Second Thoughts: Understanding the False Memory Crisis and How It Could Affect You" Thomas Nelson, (1997). Read reviews or order this book
  16. Jan Fletcher, "Theophostic Ministry focus of world counselors' conference," Central Kentucky News-Journal, 2003-OCT-5.
  17. Jan Fletcher, "Lying Spirits: A Christian journalist's report on Theophosticģ Ministry," at:
  18. Kevin Bidwell, "Deliverance Debate," Christianity Today, 2001-FEB-05, Page 18. Online at:
  19. "An evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry," Position paper PST001, Christian Research Institute, (2005), at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

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Copyright © 2002 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAY-19
Latest update: 2006-JUL-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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