A new breed of therapist is seeking to heal “the mentally ill not with talk and drug therapy but by releasing troublesome or malevolent spirits who have attached themselves to their victims,” writes California State University professor Stanford Betty in the National Catholic Reporter (Dec. 28).
These therapists are not religious healers, but secular and often licensed psychologists and psychiatrists, “who have discovered, often by accident, that this new therapy works better than what they learned in medical or graduate school.” What is called “spirit release” therapy teaches that drugs only mask symptoms and talk therapy does not solve deeply rooted problems. The bible of the movement, William Baldwin’s 1995 book, Spirit Releasement Therapy: A Technique Manual, deals with spirits in a more conciliatory manner than religious exorcists, seeking to heal both these entities and the victims to whom they are attached, writes Betty.
Such spirits may come in the form of “earthbound” entities, which are departed ones still attached to people or vices they have left behind or “dark force entities” that have evil intent towards their victims. But both kinds of entities can be coaxed out of their victims and then “released into the light.” Betty writes that the proponents of spirit release therapy believe that everyone at one time or another has been inflicted with spirits. This claim is made on the basis of hypnosis sessions with their patients. The therapists often say that they discovered these entities by accident during the normal course of therapy, and some, such as West Virginia psychiatrist Shakuntala Modi, are not even sure that they actually exist.
Yet all the therapists agree that treating spirits as if they were real is “often the key to a startlingly quick recovery,” writes Betty. Spirit release therapy is said to be practiced by the credentialed and non-credentialed therapists and healers. William Woolger, a well-known transpersonal psychologist, sees the movement as the “next and essential stage in the development of psychology, a kind or return to the source.”