Mercy Multiplied and Christian Counseling

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Allegations against Mercy Multiplied reveal the range of faith-based approaches to mental health.

Late last month, Slate published an article by Jennifer Miller investigating Mercy Multiplied, a Christian recovery ministry accused of hurting some of the young women it sought to help. Tracing the stories of more than a dozen former residents, Miller depicted a program that preached one thing but practiced another.

In an email to CT, Mercy Multiplied, which operates facilities in Tennessee, California, Missouri, and Louisiana, said that “Counselors are not required to be licensed in the locations where we have homes. However, Mercy is not opposed to licensure and over the years counselors have been licensed or have pursued licensure while working for us.” In their Louisiana home, counselors are licensed by the state, and all counselors are required to posses “advanced spiritual maturity and working knowledge of the Bible.” According to Mercy, counselors do not practice medicine, or even therapy, but instead follow a set format meant to aid the young women in the program in their recovery.

The claims in the Slate article underscore the various definitions of “Christian counseling,” even among Christians: Does the term include practices like exorcism and healing prayer? Is it primarily medical treatment in a faith-friendly setting? Since a growing number of ministries are taking mental health more seriously, there are more medically sound options for Christians in need of treatment. Still, patients may not know what to expect from a given program.

Mercy Multiplied reportedly crossed boundaries by accepting mentally ill clients when they weren’t licensed to do so. Miller wrote that

…Mercy staff’s lack of formal clinical training puts mentally ill or traumatized clients at greater psychological risk, even pushing them deeper into depression and addiction. Some say that under the guidance of their counselors, several Mercy residents falsely accused their families of horrific abuse.

These women—who suffered depression, addiction, self-harm, eating disorders, and abuse—said there was pressure to act and look healed when they weren’t fully recovered.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Laura Turner

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