Theophostic® counseling is a technique that employs Christian-associated prayer in an attempt to treat mood imbalances and various mental disorders. The modality was developed by a Baptist minister, Dr. Ed Smith, in the mid-1990s and gained support in some sects of the American evangelical Christian church as a viable alternative to orthodox mental health treatment. The term Theophostic® comes from Greek and is loosely translated as “God’s Light,” which refers to the force that is thought to consecrate the program’s therapeutic guidance and subsequent recovery from mental distress. Theophostic® counseling purports that intercessory prayer on the part of the patient and his counselor can lead to instantaneous healing by a personal god, defined as Jesus Christ. The technique is described in detail within official training materials that are available for established counselors or laypeople and is based, in part, on attempting to correct untruths that have become part of the patient’s inherent belief system by way of divine grace.
Smith says that the primary focus of Theophostic® counseling is to help the patient identify maladaptive cognitions, or “lies,” which are thought to be recognized by the practitioner in the form of contextual key words spoken by the patient as she recounts disturbing memories. These telltale verbal prompts are thought of as indicators that the patient may have uncovered the primary source of her mental suffering. At this point, the Theophostic® counseling practitioner may further explore the themes generated by the keywords in the form of additional guided reflection about the memory. When the practitioner senses the appropriate time, he may then ask the Lord to transport the client to the place in her psyche where the untruths and mental disturbances have originated and ask for a healing from the inappropriate cognitions.
Numerous controversies are associated with Theophostic® counseling. One of the seemingly most blatant discrepancies in the eyes of Theophostic® counseling critics is the system’s lack of medically trained practitioners, which led Smith to officially change the name of the program to the Theophostic® Prayer Ministry to avoid any legal issues stemming from malpractice claims. Another concern for critics is the technique’s similarity to another therapeutic modality, Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT), which has been highly discredited because patients that have undergone RMT treatment have a significantly high level of false memory recollection.
Other concerns include the program’s preternatural addenda that suggest that Theophostic® counseling may not be effective for some patients due to demonic possession and satanic influence. Many Christian congregations have difficulty with the majority of the system’s theological beliefs that are purported to offer parishioners an unproven and feasibly false “miracle” that replaces the conventional scripture study and reflection that is recommended by the church when facing emotional and spiritual anguish.