Exploring the impact on counsellors of working with spiritually abused clients

Gubi, Peter Madsen and Jacobs, Rachel (2009) Exploring the impact on counsellors of working with spiritually abused clients. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12 (2). pp. 191-204. ISSN 1367-4676

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13674670802441509


This small-scale study explores the impact on counsellors of working with clients who have experienced spiritual abuse. Participants were five counsellors who have worked with spiritually abused clients. They were interviewed and the data analysed using a bricolage of heuristic and interpretative phenomenological analysis. The data indicate that counsellors experience symptoms of visceral traumatization and secondary traumatic stress disorder characterized by feelings of anger, outrage, sadness, grief, powerlessness, cynicism, helplessness, frustration, disassociation, needing to justify or vindicate God and protect the spiritual community—rather than the abuser—and wariness of leadership of spiritual communities. However, working with clients who were spiritually abused deepened and strengthened the counsellors’ relationship with God in a profound way. The research also highlights the need for greater awareness to be had of spirituality and spiritual abuse in supervision and training courses.

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