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Template:Merge Theophostic Counseling was developed in the United States during the mid-1990s by Dr. Ed Smith, a Baptist Minister.[1] After concerns about legal liabilities associated with offering counseling services, Smith later changed the name to Theophostic Prayer Ministry.[2]

Its name comes from the Greek theo (God) and phostic (light), and it is often associated with the Christian Inner Healing Movement. Quite specific claims are made for the approach, and Smith says people are being delivered from phobias, depressions, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, dissociative personality disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, sexual addictions, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and homosexuality through Theophostic principles. The name Theophostic is a registered trademark.[3][4]

Few independent critiques of Theophostic Ministry are available, although Christian psychologist Fernando Garzon says that current case study and survey data has yielded clinically significant changes in client symptom levels, and high degrees of client and practitioner satisfaction. [5]

However, another Christian psychologist, David Entwistle, has drawn attention to some concerns associated with its practice: "TPM follows in the lineage of 'healing of memory' techniques, though it departs from that lineage in a number of important respects. Numerous concerns exist surrounding insufficient attempts to ground TPM in biblical concepts; inadequate and often flawed explanations of basic psychological processes; dubious claims about the prevalence of DID, SRA, and demonic activity; estimates of traumatic abuse that exceed empirical findings; and the failure to sufficiently appreciate the possibility of iatrogenic memory contamination".[6]


Smith’s definition of Theophostic Prayer Ministry is: “Theophostic is a ministry of helping emotionally wounded people to acknowledge and to identify the true source of their inner emotional pain and find lasting peace through receiving personalized truth directly from the Lord.”[7]


According to Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Theophostic Ministry appears to be a form of counseling based on Recovered Memory Therapy to which has been added beliefs about demonic possession, Satanic influence, direct communication with "Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit" and "unique concepts about the inner workings of the mind".[8][9] It has used the drama of demonic possession, Satanic seduction and directly perceived experience of the presence of Jesus in its therapy sessions.[10] However, Smith himself strongly repudiates Recovered Memory Therapy [11], and in recent years he has taught that it is counter-productive to pursue or even allow demonic confrontations in a ministry session.[12] Smith lists fourteen basic principles of Theophostic Prayer Ministry,[13] the first being that “our present situation is rarely the true cause of our ongoing emotional pain”.


Certain underlying principles of TPM have been compared to those of Recovered Memory Therapy,[14] a now discredited approach that had the inherent risk of introducing therapeutic distortions by the production of false memories.[15] However, in his Basic Training Seminar Manual (and in each of the training videos), Smith warns strongly against making any suggestions that might affect the actual content of a memory [16], and he lists ten ways in which TPM differs from RMT.[17] Nevertheless, once a core belief about self has been identified through the memory (not in the memory per se), Smith does "invite the Lord" to speak truth to the ministry recipient concerning that belief.[18]

In an article about TPM in the Christian Research Journal[19], Elliot Miller said that to accuse TPM of practicing recovered memory therapy and visualization is to betray ignorance or bias against TPM that refuses to be corrected by clear and consistent facts.

There is concern over empirical validity, with psychologist David Entwistle raising questions about claimed literal appearances of God; ethical and legal issues relating to guarantees of healing; application of TPM to a variety of mental disorders without empirical validation; the legal question of whether it should be considered a religious intervention or a counseling procedure – and whether this was settled by changing the name from Theophostic Counseling to Theophostic Ministry; and the failure of Smith to welcome public analysis and critique of TPM. [20]

Legal and ethical issues have been raised in association with the practice of TPM. In Cumberland County, Maine, sexual-abuse charges against pastor Thomas Wright were laid after a church member's memory surfaced during Theophostic sessions, of Wright allegedly abusing a child. When the case went to trial in 2002, the charges were thrown out by the District Attorney because evidence was based on ‘unconventional and biased therapeutic methods’. The District Attorney noted that these methods were considered unreliable by the American Psychological Society. In Australia, a psychologist was found guilty of malpractice for using Theophostic methods in 2006 by the Queensland Health Practitioners Tribunal. The tribunal found that Irene Moreau, who practiced from a Christian counselling centre in Brisbane, 'inappropriately used Theophostic Prayer Ministry as a counselling technique'.[21]

Practitioners of inner healing techniques such as TPM frequently do not have formal training in psychology or counseling, although Fernando Garzon suggests that this in many cases may be beneficial, saying: " may serve people who might not get help otherwise, cannot afford professional therapy, do not wish to use insurance, or have access to counseling limited by managed care. Others belong to churches in which the pastor is either not trained, not interested, or not available (due to having too many other pastoral duties) to meet the needs for pastoral counseling. Still others simply may trust lay people, whom they know, more than a therapist, whom they do not know. In addition, the training itself may benefit the lay counselors spiritually and emotionally."[22]

In addition to questions about the efficacy, safety and reliability of TPM, it has also divided Christian observers with regard to the soundness of its theology. In the conclusion of their paper A theological analysis of Theophostic Ministry, Bryan Maier and Philip Monroe put it this way: "...on the issues of sin and healing, the question remains for Christian counselors and the evangelical community as a whole as to whether Smith's "theological basis" is consistent with responsible biblical doctrine. We do not think that Smith has warrant to make this claim. Furthermore we think these differences are so significant that we advise great caution before engaging in this ministry – whether as a client or as facilitator." [23]


No empirical research has been done thus far. In 2001, Fernando Garzon conducted preliminary practitioner studies which showed promise, concluding that "...outcome-based case studies and randomized clinical trials should proceed on TPM to ascertain whether the therapeutic perception of efficacy displayed in this survey actually has merit..." He also found that a wide variety of people were practicing Theophostic Ministry at that time, including pastors, lay counselors, and psychologists. According to Garzon, this raised questions about some practitioners' level of training. [24]


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  1. “Theophostic Prayer Ministry (Part One) - Christian Prayer, Occult Visualization, or Secular Psychotherapy?”, Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 3 (2006)
  2. [1], "Christian Research Institute" Position Paper: PST001, p.8
  3. [2]Business Information paragraph on About Us page of
  4. Christianity Today, February 5, 2001
  5. [Cognitive restructuring through contemplative inner healing prayer. VISTAS: Perspectives on Counseling American Counseling Association Press, Garzon, F. (2004).]
  6. Shedding light on Theophostic Ministry 1: practice issues – Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 2004, by David N. Entwistle
  7. Smith, Ed M. Freedom from Performance-based Spirituality, DVD, Theophostic Prayer Ministry (2004)
  8. Menu: Theophostic Counseling
  9. Theophostic Counseling (TPM) TPM counseling: the process and reaction
  10. Theophostic& Counseling (TPM) Introduction
  11. Smith 2007, p.215
  12. Smith 2007, p.124-126
  13. Smith, Edward M. Healing Life’s Hurts through Theophostic Prayer, p. 39, New Creation Publishing (2002, 2005)
  14. Controversial international ministry operates from Campbellsville – Central Kentucky News Journal, July 2, 2003 by Jan Fletcher
  15. Brandon, S.; Boakes, J.; Glaser, D.; Green, R.; MacKeith, J.; Whewell, P. (1997). "Reported recovered memories of child sexual abuse: Recommendations for good practice and implications for training, continuing professional development and research". Psychiatric Bulletin 21: 663–665. doi:10.1192/pb.21.10.663.
  16. Smith 2007, p.129-133
  17. Smith 2007, p.215-218
  18. Smith 2007, p.106
  19. “Theophostic Prayer Ministry (Part One) - Christian Prayer, Occult Visualization, or Secular Psychotherapy?”, Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 3 (2006).
  20. Shedding light on Theophostic Ministry 2: ethical and legal issues – Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 2004, by David N. Entwistle
  21. AAP General News (Australia) Article date: October 25, 2006
  22. Lay Christian Counseling and Client Expectations for Integration in Therapy Journal of Psychology and Christianity (in press) Garzon et al, Liberty University
  23. A theological analysis of Theophostic Ministry, Trinity Journal , Fall 2003 by Maier, Bryan N, Monroe, Philip G
  24. Theophostic Ministry: Preliminary Practitioner Survey – Pastoral Psychology, Volume 53 Number 5 May 2005, Fernando Garzon and Margaret Poloma ISSN 0031-2789

Smith, Edward M. (2007). Theophostic Prayer Ministry: Basic Training Seminar Manual. New Creation Publishing, Campbellsville, Kentucky.

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