JWs and Counseling/Psychologists/Therapists

by Had To Go 22 Replies latest jw friends

  • Had To Go
    Had To Go

    Hello - I am hoping that some born-ins, still-ins, elders (ex), MS, etc. can help me with a question I have. What is the typical JW thought on seeking counseling via a licensed therapist or psychologist? My 12+ marriage has suffered since I decided to leave the Borg. My husband says that it is all my fault when in all actuality we have both changed. I guess all people do. I have recently suggested the two of us seeking counseling and he has thought of every reason for us NOT to go. (money, etc.) His latest was to tell me that the bible has all the advice that he needs and is it not good enough for me. What is he scared of?

  • baltar447

    He's probably hiding behind the bible and parroting the tired old "bible has all the answers". He just may not want to own up to his issues. You go see a therapist even if he won't. It will do you good either way.

  • Had To Go
    Had To Go
    parroting the tired old "bible has all the answers"

    LOL...have you been listening in on our conversations? Sounds like something you may have said yourself before.

  • brotherdan
    My husband says that it is all my fault when in all actuality we have both changed.

    That's not a good sign. When you go to counseling you both need to accept that there are things you BOTH need to work on. If he goes to therapy with that attitude he will try to turn it into a bashing session against you, most likely.

    About the societies stance on therapy is in the elders manual. If you read closely it seems to discourage it, however it leaves it up to the individual. Page 55 paragraph 25 it says:

    There are times when an emotionally distressed
    Christian may seek professional help.
    Whether a Christian or his family pursues treatment
    from psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists is a
    personal decision. An elder should not assume the responsibility
    of recommending a specific practitioner
    or facility. He may draw attention to or discuss material
    in the publications that provides cautions regarding
    therapies that may conflict with Bible principles.
    (w88 10/1/15 pp. 28-29; w82 6/15 pp. 25-29; w75
    pp. 255-256) While participating in group therapy by
    a professional therapist is a matter for personal decision,
    there could be a revealing of confidential facts
    about other members of the Christian congregation
    during such sessions if a Christian does not exercise

  • sir82
    What is the typical JW thought on seeking counseling via a licensed therapist or psychologist?

    Depends on the congregation.

    It can range from [viewed as normal] to [grudgingly tolerated] to [condemned as a certain sign of spiritual weakness].

    Officially, as in what is in print, the Watchtower "does not condemn or endorse" any medical procedure "so long as Bible principles are not violated".

    Of course, since quite likely a large proportion of someone's mental or emotional distress could be traced back to just being a JW, and a competent therapist would suss that out pretty quickly, that "violation of Bible principles" issue would probably arise pretty quickly.

    Over time, the stance of JWs in general has softened. Up thru the 70's or 80's, it was almost universally condemned in pretty strong language. Nowadays, as noted earlier, depending on the congregation, a little, some, or a lot of that old sentiment can be found.

  • brotherdan

    I think they are weary of it too because a sharply trained therapist will see the cult behavior and attempt to work it out. My wife's best friend went to therapy with her husband when they were both JWs (they are now divorced and she is no longer one), and the therapist confronted the cult mind-set right away.

  • Had To Go
    Had To Go
    When you go to counseling you both need to accept that there are things you BOTH need to work on.

    That is the problem. He has even ME questioning if I am the real problem and he has no horse in the race. He thinks that the downfall of our happiness was the day I left the KH. He asked me today to admit to myself, himself and everyone else that I won't be happy unless he is no longer a JW. Of course I would be ecstatic if that happened. Because I think this religion is what is driving a wedge in our marriage. Since I quit going he has been on a spiritual high and has yet to come down. I left this religion for a reason and it is still too big a part of my life and in my face DAILY.

  • brotherdan

    That spiritual high won't last forever, believe me. He's on his high horse right now because he feels like he is DOING what he is supposed to do. The organization calls him a spiritual widower and it sounds like he may be reveling in the glory of it all. But the organization is such a big illusion. He will come down.

    What you need to do is plant little seeds where you can, while not being overly obvious about it.

    YOU haven't done anything wrong in getting out of a cult. He is still stuck in the cult, so to him you look like a traitor. Let him think that for a while. But you can use this time to win him over. My wife was JUST like your husband in that I ruined our relationship by fading from the organization. But it has slowly gotten better. She now sees that I love her and she loves me in a way BEYOND the organization. We have much more in common than just a judgemental, legalistic publishing company.

    What you need to do is be there for him when he falls from the lofty perch of this organizational concept.

  • TotallyADD

    When if comes to going to Therapists for help it takes great humility on your part. You realize you need help. This is a sign of maturity of your part. The problem is most witnesses fear therapy because deep down they know JW orgainization is the problem. So the cult mind set is they don't want to bring reproach on God's organization. Remember all the Bible reading, field service and attending meetings will not help your situation at all. Put getting the right communication tools which the counseling will give you is what will help both of you. I went to a therapist serveral years ago. I was the PO at the time and it help me to become a better husband and father and saved our marriage. Best of luck to you and your husband. With love show him you really care about his well being and only want your marriage to be more loving and stronger because what you are doing now is not working. A born-in but now fading Totally ADD

  • Had To Go
    Had To Go

    Thanks for all of your comments and advice. It is so nice and extremely helpful to be able to "talk" to like-minded people who have been there and done that. It makes a terrible situation not feel quite as lonely as it otherwise is...

  • Retrovirus

    From HHG's thread on an Ezine article why jws are not a cult:

    Witnesses are not encouraged to leave their mates who may not be Jehovah's Witnesses, but to stay with them and work hard towards a good marriage

    Yet from BDs post

    The organization calls him a spiritual widower

    What an organization. . .


  • moshe

    My wife went to two counseling sessions with me (1989), it didn't take but a few minutes for the counselor to zero in on some negative JW conduct on her part that was destructive. She never finished the sentence completion assignment homework and after two visits she announced that she was done with counseling. Liars don't like therapy. She filed for divorce a few months later.

  • NewChapter







    John and Jane still love each other, so how will they try to save their marriage? They plan to go to a stranger, a professional marriage counselor. But what are they getting involved in?

    The professional marriage counselor is a modern phenomenon. He—or she—appeared on the scene in very recent decades—but at what a pace! “Counseling by child psychiatrists or family counselors has become a major growth industry,” according to the magazine U.S.News&WorldReport. A growing army of professional counselors—psychiatrists, psychologists, clergymen (pastoral counselors), doctors, lawyers, teachers, marriage and family therapists, social workers and persons with degrees in behavioral science—have replaced the felicitous but nonprofessional counselors and advisers of bygone days.

    After World War II, marriage counseling began to gain popularity in the United States. Now leading educational institutions have proliferated with masters and doctoral degrees in a field that has become a health profession on its own.




    Marriage counseling is, according to the Michigan, U.S.A., board that certifies marriage counselors, “guidance, testing, discussions, therapy, instruction, or the giving of advice, the principal purpose of which is to avoid, eliminate, relieve, manage or resolve marital conflicts or discord, or create, improve, or restore marital harmony.”

    That sounds exactly like what John and Jane need. However, this is but one of hundreds of definitions of marriage counseling. The science of behavior (of the body, the mind, the nervous system) is one thing. Efforts to apply that science has spawned myriads of theories and practices. Psychologist Allen S. Bernsten of Florida describes four schools of psychotherapy that, in turn, break up into 130 subschools:


    The therapist tries to explore unconscious motivations or why you behave the way you do. He explores earlier childhood memories, which may open insights into your actions now.


    In this approach he is less concerned about your inner motivations. Rather, he tries to change your undesirable habits or behavior by training and conditioning.


    In this approach the therapist places greater emphasis on self-awareness, self-growth, self-responsibility, to bring about changes in you and your actions.


    He tries to help you rise above it all and merge with some “universal will.” This one can get really mystical.

    One survey concluded that 64 percent of marriage counselors make up their own style out of a profusion of theories and methods. Yet many counselors seem to have a similar aim. Dr. Usha Anand, a marriage counselor in India, wrote that “the aim of marital counseling . . . is to strengthen the family unit and family unity.” Professor of child and family relations at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Eleanor Luckey, describes marriage counseling as “counseling two individuals plus a relationship.”

    And counselors do share a common goal: communication. They try to develop and build more effective methods of communication between the couple.




    Some states and countries license marriage counselors as a separate profession. However, according to Australian psychiatrist Dr. William Carrington, due to a shortage of trained counselors, there are many subprofessionals doing marriage counseling in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. In some countries in Africa, Asia and South America marriage counseling is being performed by seemingly untrained priests, ministers, physicians, educators and community leaders.

    “Marriage counseling,” concludes psychologist and counselor Dr. William Nichols, “is an emergent profession, a quasi-profession, and an amateur activity, a field that is populated by highly skilled, clinically sophisticated practitioners at one extreme and by well meaning but incompetent amateurs at the other.”

    So John and Jane have to do a lot of investigating if they go ahead with their plan to consult a marriage counselor. But, as a young married couple, there is one item of information they are doubtless intensely interested in:




    In the United States fees vary from free counseling at some community mental health centers to hourly rates for nonprofit clinics based on a sliding scale up to $45 or so. Private practitioners, from social workers to psychiatrists, charge from $35 to $150—whatever the market will bear.

    Is marriage counseling effective? “Many counselors say two-thirds of their clients are helped,” according to ConsumerLifeMagazine. Psychologist Morris B. Parloff of the National Institute of Mental Health says, “All forms of psychotherapy tend to be reasonably useful for patients who are highly motivated, experience acute discomfort, show a high degree of personality organization, are reasonably well educated, have had some history of social success and recognition, are reflective, and can experience and express emotion.”

    However, many pros and cons are thrown about. Internationally known marriage counselor Jay Haley concludes that therapists are sure neither of their techniques nor of their results. That is why, he says, they are reluctant to publish their findings.

    Edited to increase font size.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    When I was growing up (a while ago), I heard that psychiatrists could sap your will. I've seen plenty b/c of my Witness family and not one has sapped my will. They were akin to voodoo practicioners. Attending meetings should be enough to cure biological problems. Dragging someone to therapy against their will will not work. Would a divorce be a better option for him? My father would beat my mom and read scripture about how she had to submit. Horrible memories.

    I've seen the quote from the elders manual before on this site. It puzzles me. What do they mean about confidentiality? How can it be abridged? The contents of the session are not discussed. The shrink won't compromise the matter. It seems that they are worried about something else. If I were a Witness, "a personal decision" technicality would not sink in. The culture is so ingrained.

    My JW family was so abusive and chaotic that I fell apart when I left to go to college, which was my life long dream. I did not want to be a cleaning lady. When I was young, I dreamed of a Bethelite husband. Ha! It was very hard seeking help. I did not know anyone besides celebrity NYers who sought help. It was all Elizabeth Taylor or nothing. I could not tolerate the Witnesses. College was so awkward I was certain I would die. I stayed in with help. Law school was pure celebration. I did things I never dreamed of before in the Witnesses. Sometimes I think back and realize the difference in my life. I am moved to give thanks to Christ, the true God for me.

  • NewChapter

    I think a lot of attitudes about therapists/psychiatrists have been updated because so many JW's need psych drugs just to survive. However, as I remember it, they weren't so liberal when it came to marriage counseling. Since god is the author of marriage, I think they believe that following scriptural advice is what saves marriages. I posted the only thing I found on counseling, but in the halls, in practice, I think it is frowned upon.

    They can reason the going for personal reasons is a medical issue, but going for marriage steps on their god's feet. I can't imagine jw's trusting marriage counselors. Marriage counselors sometimes recommend divorce. Perhaps they would recommend more equality in the marriage. Perhaps they would recommend a woman pursuing her dreams with the support of the husband. In the end, they will not share the same values as JW, and so, they are a threat.

    Yet, you may belong to a more liberally minded cong, and your husband will play. I just don't have much hope for that though.

  • Scully

    If your husband won't go to counselling, then you need to go on your own.

    Officially, the WTS and/or the Elders™ are not supposed to comment on personal decisions to go to counselling. They were recently instructed that they cannot recommend a counsellor to congregation members. Their "scope of practice" as it were is only for spiritual counselling, not psychological or medical counselling.

    If you really want your husband to go, you could always tell him that you're going to discuss things that may require his side of the story to be heard, and you just want to give him that opportunity.

  • Had To Go
    Had To Go

    Well he finally said this morning that he wouldn't be totally opposed to going. I "borrowed" a few things you guys said and I guess it worked!

    NOW for the hard part. I guess I have to decide if I can stand to watch my husband and 2 young boys go off to be indoctrinated and recruiting every week. It kind of makes me sick to my stomach. My husband is not a tyrant by any means. His "headship" never bothered me before because I don't usually mind someone taking the lead so much. But what is always in the back of my mind is that if I do leave at least my boys won't be quite as indoctrinated because they would be with me (and not going) at least 1/2 of the time. But is it that serious? Do I want to break up a marriage over it? I also want to stick around in hopes that he will see the truth about the truth and I will be here to help him...and I know that that does not happen overnight.

    Brother Dan - I know you have kids...how do you do it?

  • leavingwt
    Well he finally said this morning that he wouldn't be totally opposed to going. I "borrowed" a few things you guys said and I guess it worked!

    This is encouraging news.

  • DesirousOfChange

    I know you have kids...how do you do it?

    Frankly, I think our kids did better being raised with some kind of religious/moral (JW) guidance than their peers or other family member's kids who lacked it. So far........ no abortions, illigitimate kids, arrests, DWIs, (serious) drugs, etc. But the fact that they were sintelligent and encouraged to think on their own has made them discerning young adults and kept them from being swept away totally by all the Koolaid propoganda. All at least completed some level of college/university, one on the way to being a doctor. But would they have any advantage had we been Catholics, Baptists, Atheists? I don't think so.

  • Scully

    Had To Go:

    It's been more than 15 years since Mr Scully and I left the JWs, and for about a year and a half before we decided to leave together, I did a lot of personal research. At the beginning, it was nothing that would be considered Apostate™ - I was suffering from postpartum depression which was made worse by the way the local JWs treated me as a depressed person. By chance, I found a social psychology course that aired on the university channel and watched it faithfully for the whole semester. It was so fascinating to learn about group dynamics and pressure tactics that groups used to manipulate members - things like labelling / exclusion / exerting social control - and it was one of those a-ha! moments to realize that those were the exact tactics that JWs were using. It was such a relief and totally helped me cope with the way the JWs behaved and I learned some ways to deal with it. That was so empowering! It helped immensely with my depression.

    Once it became clear that JWs were not the "loving" people described by Jesus at John 13:34, 35, I sat down with Mr Scully and let him know that I wasn't going to attend meetings anymore. I talked about the way I had been treated, how we had always been hospitable and kind and generous with people in our congregation, and then when the tables were turned and we needed their support, they treated me like I was demonized and dangerous. I said that I didn't want my children to grow up in such a closed-minded group, that I wanted them to learn love and kindness and generosity from people like him and me, who knew what it was like to need help from others but had been treated badly. I didn't want them to learn about love the way JWs taught it - that it was only deserved if you went in service all the time and attended all the meetings (which we had done, plus hosted the book study and service arrangements in our home!) and sucked up to the Elders™ and their wives (which we didn't do).

    Appealing to Mr Scully on that level - when he saw how unkind Brothers™ and Sisters™ had been to me while I was sick - was exactly what opened his eyes. Once that was established, he was very open to researching on his own and we borrowed a bunch of books from the local library and ordered Crisis of Conscience from a Christian bookstore.

    My point is that sometimes patience and subtlety will have a better result than in-your-face opposition to the JW belief system. If you can instill values of love and kindness in your children without tying their behaviour to "making Jehovah happy", your husband will be able to see that it is possible to raise a family with solid values without the JWs' influence.

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