PTSD and Religious Counsel


Welcome to June, which just happens to be PTSD Awareness Month.

For those of you just joining the party, I have PTSD. I was diagnosed shortly after I left my ex and was finally able to seek help for myself.

Being diagnosed with PTSD was painful, though I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was abused from infancy. It was bound to happen if I lived, which, obviously, I did.

I’m not sure the rate of diagnosis between secular and religious counseling. I do however know the difference between secular and religious counseling when dealing with people who have experienced serious or long-term trauma. As a result, I NEVER recommend any sort of religious counseling, even counseling, or maybe DEFINITELY counseling from a pastor.

For some reason, religious people are absolutely the pits when it comes to helping trauma victims. It is the rare religious person who won’t just brush the pain aside with a serious admonition that everything would be better if the victim forgives their assailant and “gets right with god.”

This is worthless advice, and anyone who offers it is intentionally clueless about suffering and pain, and also justice.

See, in religion, though they like to claim their god is about justice, their god is not. Most gods don’t really care about justice, because the people who created them are not comfortable with the idea of true justice. I’m not talking about sending a perpetrator to jail, I’m talking about calling evil evil instead of excusing the person who committed the crime in the first place.

Religion is mostly excuses for sin. So when a person who’s experienced trauma in the form of abuse, or rape, or some sort of physical attack, the religious counselor is first going to advise them of the worst thing they can do: Forgive.

This is bad on all levels. A good counselor never tells the patient what to do. Whether this is life decisions or small daily things, a good counselor doesn’t say “sounds like you need to find a new job,” or “sounds like you need to do …” So when the religious counselor starts with “you must forgive” they have already proved themselves incompetent.

My experiences with religious counselors has been detrimental. I have never seen improvement with them because they all seem to listen through the filter of their religious scripture. So all their answers are the same lies pastors tell you from the pulpit.

Getting right with god is not going to get rid of your PTSD. But some people think it does because one of the symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. It’s easy for a person suffering from PTSD to think a god has cured her/him because one of the basics tenets of faith is to pretend all is well and that god fixed everything. Coupled with the natural avoidance of the PTSD sufferer, it appears all is well.

But the symptoms will get worse, and the sufferer will now be stuck trying to pretend and constantly denying the pain. They will turn on themselves and tell themselves it’s because they don’t trust god enough, they aren’t good enough people, they aren’t trying hard enough. They tell themselves these thing because that’s what they hear from the pulpit, from religious books, from their religious friends.

Secular counseling really is the only way to improve. Yes, there can be bad counselors even in the secular world, I know, I’ve had one. And who knows if I’ll have another one. But your chances are better if the person you are talking to isn’t going to shame you into acquiescence to their belief system. That will never get you out of the hell that is PTSD.

Further reading:
The ‘Easy’ Cure for PTSD

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