Cognitive Counseling

Counseling by licensed mental health professionals often has a cognitive focus, and is a very important part of the overall healing process. Cognitive counseling helps victims of an exploitive church, pastor or other trusted spiritual leader understand what happened to them, come to grips with how they were manipulated, deal with the shame and loss of self that often results, and address any lingering factors in their lives that may have made them vulnerable to that exploitation.

Typically, an abusive pastor or other spiritual leader will use his position of trust, power and respect to groom and then exploit victims who come to him for prayer, counseling, advice or other emotional or spiritual support during particularly vulnerable times in their lives. When this happens, mental health research – as well as leading court decisions – have concluded that a congregant is unable to give consent to any sexual, financial or other emotionally-dependent and thus exploitive relationship that might develop, regardless of who initiates it. That’s because the pastor or other spiritual leader holds enormous power and influence over his victims, and uses it to manipulate them when they are particularly vulnerable.

A pastor or spiritual adviser is always presumed to have the power to set, and in fact is responsible for setting, proper emotional, financial and physical boundaries when ministering to others. When those boundaries are breached, however, such respected and likable church leaders are usually given the benefit of the doubt, while the church typically blames the victims – who then are ostracized and shamed into silence.

Nathan’s Voice can make referrals to professional, licensed counselors – with Biblical commitments and extensive experience – who are effective at helping victims understand and deal these issues. If funds allow, we will try to help cover the cost of such counseling for those who are financially destitute. If you have health insurance, however, your policy likely covers most of the costs for professional counseling. Regardless, if you or someone you know are a survivor of an abusive church or church leader, contact us for help and appropriate referrals.

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