Olive Leaf Network has a list of suggested resources for mental health professionals and frontline service providers wishing to support clients through religious disaffiliation, spiritual abuse, and/or high-demand group exit recovery. Please contact us for our latest copy of this information.
Therapists working with clients who have experienced harm in a high-demand or religious context need to be aware of the complex interplay of this environment. The harm may come from a combination of family members and religious or group authority figures, and the systems and structures of institutions on which they were formerly dependent. These factors may have not only contributed to harm or abuse, but additionally may have placed obstacles in the way of a person accessing help or putting a stop to the harm.
Many survivors of religious trauma or abuse have been taught not to trust outsiders to the group, including mental health professionals or others in positions of authority. If they have not yet left their group, there may be people close to them who are dissuading them from therapy. They may also have been taught not to assert their autonomy. With this wider social environment in mind, therapists must encourage relational trust, safety and sensitivity with the client and help rebuild their sense of agency, including in the professional-client relationship.
The Olive Leaf Network endorses and uses two easy-to-use resources in particular, in their support of those who are thinking of leaving a high-demand group; the “High-Demand Hand” and the “Thinking of Leaving?” booklet.
The “High-Demand Hand” image is displayed in this useful article outlining the term ‘high-demand religious group’. It is a visual depiction of all the key areas of life that are usually impacted by a person disaffiliating from a high-demand group, and can be used as a basic assessment tool for the client to identify areas of their life that need recovery or integration work. It graphically shows the wide impact that disaffiliation and/or excommunication can create; there are very few other life events or crises that radically impact so many areas of a person’s life simultaneously.
The “Thinking of Leaving?” booklet is a thorough, thoughtful compilation by a group of former members who experienced religious disaffiliation and excommunication. It is a useful, easy-to-read guide through many key areas of life that are impacted in these experiences, and can be used both in preparing for disaffiliation and in practical steps towards building self-agency.
Olive Leaf Network maintains a non-publicised database of New Zealand based mental health therapists or other professionals with experience, training and interest in these areas. If you are a therapist or similar professional and would like to be on our database, please contact us at email@example.com.
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