Archive for Rants & Complaints

Psychosis and Paganism

I’m frustrated.  A friend (not patient) of mine has apparently been in and out of the hospital lately.  From her writings, she does not sound too well — likely a bit psychotic right now, jumping from topic to topic too much, and half-lost in references and delusions all her own.  But even more disturbing is that she may be right about something at least in part — that her fundamentalist parents and hospital views of her religion are combining to make this far worse for her than it actually has to be.

She complains about hospital questionnaires that she knows are designed to test for psychosis — but that Pagans answering truthfully would trigger.  I have not seen her questionnaires, but I have seen similar.  I can only hope the professionals handling her case have some compassion and insight on matters of religion and spirituality.

The possibility that parents or hospital staff might persecute her may be enough to make the delusions and psychosis all the worse since there could be a grain of truth to them.  I’ve observed on many occasions that upset people tend to become more unbalanced.

I’d really love to consult with that hospital on Paganism and handling Pagan patients.

Blessings to her recovery.

— Michael


Why So Close?

The New York Times has an article entitled “Psychologists Vote to End Interrogation Consultations”.  That’s the good news.

The amazing news here to me is that the APA vote was 8,792 to 6,157.

Wouldn’t torture be a bit less popular?

I’m curious for insights into why the vote went this way.



OT: Palin, Religious Theocracy, and Voting

I should really leave politics alone.  Believe it or not I do have several excellent Christian and Republican clients and this is a blog on therapy and Paganism, not politics.  However, the following topic continues to bug me and I have writer’s itch over it.

Somehow, I’d become resigned to a non-choice between the two corporate parties.  Lately in the Bush govt. it has seemed to be primarily a matter of corporate domination and less so one of religion.

In this context I was heavily contemplating a vote for Cynthia McKinney with the Green Party — a candidate closer to my own positions with little chance of winning — rather than holding my nose and voting for the Democratic candidate as the least objectionable realistic choice.

Back in 2004 when I voted for Kerry, and then watched as he didn’t even try to contest Ohio, I finally realized nothing good will come of either major party.  I realized we have to build an alternative by voting for what we truly desire even if there is no near-term chance of winning.

Now however comes this article entitled A Palin Theocracy, and ones like it, uncovering Sarah Palin’s extreme views and likely Dominionist tendencies.

So now I’m weakening — I’m once again contemplating the sick choice of the Obama ticket.  At least with Obama we are only owned by business.  We may maintain a separation of church and state.  We may not have to worry about our religous freedoms.



Dual Relationships

There’s an old argument in the counseling community regarding how to restrict dual relationships between therapists and clients — that is, any sort of relationship between the therapist and the client outside of the therapeutic context (like running into each other at Pagan events, shopping at the client’s store, having sex, etc.).   Certain activities (like sex) are universally condemned while others (like attending the same large event or going to a client’s wedding) attract a variety of opinions.

There are LOTS of good arguments why dual relationships are generally a bad idea.  Why this is important to Pagans is that periodically there are attempts to make the various professional society ethics codes more rigid so counselors can not knowingly have dual relationships.  This is a BIG PROBLEM if we want Pagan therapists to be able to see Pagan clients given the still small size of our communities.

Anyway, someone with alot of clout has been advocating the rigid position lately on a widely-read Yahoo Group for therapists and got my dander up.  Here’s my response, with some references for those interested in learning more towards the end.  I’ve edited it slightly since the whole discussion thread is not reproduced here so it makes more sense:


I tend to think the dual relationships ethics debate in counseling is not dissimilar to the abortion debate in our society.  You end up with good people on all sides of the debate, and after a while they can scream all the facts and arguments at each other they want – no one is going to change their minds.


I could point out that relationship boundaries between healers and their clients have varied widely throughout history as the various healing professions have sought the right balance between closeness as a healing tool versus distant and boundaries as a defense.   To my thinking, the wide variance of opinion on this topic amongst good quality counselors argues for some latitude in the ethics guidelines.  This, however, won’t persuade someone who believes there is an absolute right and wrong – an absolute professional standard – that must be upheld.  (Similarly, I tend to see abortion as a personal choice, but choice is no acceptable compromise to those who see it as murder.) 


Rural counselors who can’t avoid dual relationships have been pointed out as a reason for some latitude in the ACA ethics rules.  This can be extended to any small community – even nestled in the middle of a large city – when clients from that community believe that there is an advantage to seeing a counselor who is also a member.  I’m thinking specifically of religious communities.  There is some research showing that evangelical Christians and Jews often prefer or demand counselors who are of the same faith and worldview.  These groups are not so small, so dual relationships are not a common problem, but I suspect future research will show the same preferences amongst members of smaller religions as well.


So what are potential clients from smaller, little understood religions like Ifa, Umbanda, Santeria, Neo-Paganism, Wicca, Voudun, Asatru,  etc. supposed to do when they want a counselor?   These religions have unusual worldviews compared with mainstream Western culture.  They believe in spirits, magic, direct communication with the dead, and a whole host of other beliefs that they (rightly or wrongly) fear will get labeled as psychotic by counselors from a mainstream orientation.  Their religions tend to have only a few hundred to a few thousand members in any given metro area.  Religious gathering draw as few as 5-10 people to as “many” as 50 or 200 at large events.


A strong argument can be made that a disservice is done to clients if counselors from these alternative faith paths (or any small distinctive community) can’t see people from their own community for fear of an absolute ban on dual relationships.  Harm to such clients may include: 

a)      Never seeking counseling at all for fear counselors will misunderstand them,

b)      Inferior quality of counseling relationships if in fact mainstream counselors do have some trouble relating to them,

c)      Failure of knowledge about these small religions (and other subcultural groups) to reach mainstream counselors.  If counselors from small, distinctive communities can’t help their own community, they will be unable to develop expertise in what the unique concerns of that community are from a mental health standpoint.  They will then be unable to raise awareness of such and/or train the rest of the professional community.

There are many arguments (and research papers) regarding how to best handle the complex subject of dual relationships other than enacting tough, nearly absolute bans on them.  I believe the best known author in this area is Dr. Ofer Zur.  His website can be found at Another (and rather rare) article on this topic, entitled “The ethics of a dual relationship, psychotherapist and Wiccan clergy” by Ellen C. Friedman can be found at  It has references as well as a discussion of choice-making decision models on this topic.   Another version of it (as well as some materials on how counseling members of a small religion (Wicca) is different) can be found at Thanks,Michael

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Got Milk?

I sometimes wonder if there is an original bone in the bodies of mental health marketers. Here is the latest contribution from the ACA (American Counseling Association) to promote “Mental Health Awareness Month”:

Got Issues

Just makes you want to do therapy, doesn’t it? (NOT)

They want me to order posters of this to put up in my office. LOL! No, really, they do.

But wait, no need to worry, there are other organizations doing mental health marketing too. Here’s an example postcard I recently lately:

 Got Clients

Let it never be said we are not a creative, innovative profession.


Today’s Hall of Shame Nomination

Amazon has a knack for rubbing me the wrong way with their book-buying suggestions that they send to me via email based upon past purchases. Mary Greer, for those of you who don’t know, is a well-known Tarot writer.

( We could have a whole other discussion on whether or not Tarot should be a tool used in Pagan Therapy. I enjoy it on the side, but don’t use it professionally myself, preferring instead to stick closer to what I learned in graduate school.)
Anyway, here’s Amazon’s email — anyone else see a problem with this?


Dear Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated books by Mary Greer have also purchased Devil-Worship in France (Large Print Edition): or The Question of Lucifer by Arthur Edward Waite. For this reason, you might like to know that Devil-Worship in France (Large Print Edition): or The Question of Lucifer is now available. You can order yours for just $14.99 by following the link below.


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