Critique of Counseling Theory: The Bondage Breaker
In The Bondage Breaker, Neil T. Anderson (2006) presents a very religious and somewhat controversial approach to therapy. He believes that some problems may be the result of demonic possession and his therapeutic approach incorporates traditional Christian methods for dealing with demonic possession. It is important to realize that Anderson does not believe all psychological problems are the result of demonic possession or even that they represent the struggle with sin. Instead, he believes that demonic possession and the concept of sin should be examined after ruling out organic and traditional psychological causes for problems. He points out that the belief that there can be metaphysical causes for real-world problems may go against modern scientific notions. It is supported, not just by Christian theology, but by the modern Western interest in what he refers to as the “two tiers” of reality: an upper transcendent world and a lower empirical world (Anderson, 2006). He also believes that Satan is overtly interested in manipulating people on the earthly plane, and that reliance upon Christ can be key to overcoming that manipulation, which manifests as mental illness. Anderson has a very basic theological approach to sin, in that he believes that earthly issues are inherently sinful. He believes Satan rules over Earth, while God rules over Heaven, though he also believes that every believer in Christ has authority over the “kingdom of darkness” (Anderson, 2006). He does not think of himself as an exorcist, nor does he believe that exorcism is necessary to free people from demons. Instead, he presents specific steps to spiritual wholeness: renunciation of any past involvement with non-Christian beliefs; changing self-talk to reflect truth; forgiving those who have sinned against the individual, submitting to God and resisting Satan; embracing humility; choosing freedom; and renouncing the sins and curses of one’s ancestors.
Strengths and Weaknesses At first blush, many in the counseling community may want to dismiss the idea of possession as a possible source of mental illness. After all, the history of psychology demonstrates a development in understanding of mental illness that has transitioned away from the idea of demonic possession, rather than moving towards the idea of demonic possession. Therefore, one of the weaknesses to his theory is that it may not be accepted by many mainstream mental health professionals and may even be rejected by other Christian counselors who do not believe that the concept of sin extends to actual demonic or satanic control over an individual. As a result, it could be difficult for a therapist embracing Anderson’s theories to work in conjunction with other mental health professionals. Furthermore, when one looks at the types of horrific abuses that some well-intentioned people have committed under the guise of exorcism, there is a concern that any discussion of possession will have people concerned about the ethical implications of such treatment. However, the reality is that Anderson incorporates a comprehensive approach to treating patients with a suspected demonic possession. First, he does not suggest avoiding scientific approaches; he is not against medication or traditional counseling interventions. Instead, he suggests that when someone has proven resistant to scientific, earthly interventions, it may be appropriate to examine metaphysical causes and take a metaphysical approach to healing. Furthermore, it is important to examine the core steps of Anderson’s intervention theory. None of those steps would appear to have negative mental health consequences, even if a person was not suffering from a possession. The only possible negative consequence would be that mentally ill individuals who did not find release from suffering through his program