TheoPhostic Counseling (Divine Revelation? Or Psycho Heresy?) by Martin and Deidre Bobgan

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TheoPhostic counseling is a Christianized form of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Ed Smith in 1996.  Smith claimed that he received his system as a direct revelation from God apparently given in February of that year (pp. 7-8).  Its success rate, according to Smith, is nothing short of astounding.  Much of the burden of the Bobgans’ book is to challenge these claims, but first what is TheoPhostic counseling?  This brief description is given: 

Present problems are due to past (usually early-life) events, early interpretations of those events (“lies”), and their accompanying emotions.  The “lies,” which drive present thinking, feeling, and behaving, are embedded in early-life memories, located in the “dark room,” which must be accessed through “drifting” into the past in search of early “memory pictures” that feel the same as the negative feeling accompanying the present problematic situation.  During this search, the client is encouraged to find Jesus and describe what he is doing and saying.  Once the memory holding the “original lie” has been located, the therapist must identify the “lie” (e.g., “I’m bad,” “it’s my fault,” “I’m worthless”).  Then comes “stirring the darkness,” which involves having the client repeat the “lie” over and over again to intensify his emotions and prepare him to hear God speak “truth” directly to him, thereby replacing the darkness with “light.”

Concerning the system the Bobgans attempt to challenge TheoPhostic’s claim to  divine authorship by showing its misalignment with Scripture (pp. 33-48) and the oft repeated question as to whether God would deny his people access to this powerful therapy until 1996 (e.g., p. 42).  Why would God not reveal such important and relevant information in the Scriptures, but then do so two millennia later through Dr. Smith?  This is an excellent question. 

As for the effectiveness of the system, the Bobgans correctly observe that Smith’s claims are based entirely on testimonials, most of which are unverifiable (cp. pp. 24-26).  In addition, TheoPhostic results have never been put to the test of objective third party investigation and, therefore, lack concrete evidence (pp. 29-31, 93).

The bulk of the Bobgans’ critique compares TheoPhostic counseling with other secular therapeutic systems, especially, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” (pp. 95-110) and Freudian psychoanalysis (pp. 111-124).  These chapters not only demonstrate that very little separates TheoPhostic theory from mainline secular psychological systems, but also that Smith created TheoPhostic counseling not from direct revelation from God but by borrowing from these other disciplines.  In other words, the Bobgans have blown the cover off Smith’s claim of divine revelation.

The last chapter attempts to convince the reader that TheoPhostic counseling and other such theories are unnecessary in light of the believer’s complete sufficiency as found in Christ and the Word.  While I am in agreement with the Bobgans, I was disappointed that they were content to state this view without providing actual means whereby sufficiency can be applied biblically to the problems of life.  I would totally agree that “those who have been devastated by disappointment, who have suffered pain inflicted by sinful humanity, and who seek an end to suffering even unto death will find genuine, everlasting help in Jesus” (p. 142), but exactly how is this help found?  Had the Bobgans fleshed this out thoroughly this book would have been more helpful.  As it stands, the material serves as a helpful description and warning in regard to TheoPhostic counseling.

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