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Recovered Memory and TPM

Is TPM like or similar to Recovered Memory Therapy?

Note: It would be beneficial for you to read the Ministry Session Guidelines before working through this section. A link is also at the bottom of this page.

There is no comparison of TPM with Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT). As one compares the basic tenets of the two approaches, it is clear that they are not the same or even in the same court.

Prior to the early 1970s, there was little discussion about cases of domestic-related child sexual abuse in our country. Students preparing to work in the mental health professions had little or no training in dealing with this issue and were thus led to believe it did not exist or was a rarity. During my masters and doctoral work (1979-84) I do not recall childhood sexual abuse being mentioned. However, in the late 70s and early 80s several new therapy techniques emerged, including what is now referred to as Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT). In retrospect RMT has proven to have both good and troublesome aspects in its approach to helping people.

RMT and other less controversial methods of working with traumatic memory exposed the ugly reality of widespread sexual abuse in our society, pulling down the wall of denial that had kept it hidden for so long. This exposure resulted in jumbled outcomes—both beneficial and harmful. Our society was forced to come out of denial in regard to our false "Ozzie and Harriet" perception of American home life, and to acknowledge that child abuse was occurring in American homes (and had been occurring all along). But, as often happens in such sensitive areas, the new information led to overreactions—including a frenzy of assumptions and careless practices in therapy. So, although society's exposure to the truth about the sexual abuse in its midst was good, there were also the unfortunate cases in which the reports were false and innocent people were accused, arraigned, and sometimes jailed. It was almost inevitable that the public exposure of abuse would be met by a counter swing in the societal pendulum toward viewing recovered memories as "false memories." However, it appears now that the swing toward "false memories" may have reached its full length, and public opinion may be moving back to a more balanced and realistic position.

While there is no doubt that false realities do sometimes show up in the allegations of abuse that people make, it is inaccurate to conclude that all recovered memory is inaccurate or invalid. Obviously, the testimony of outside witnesses who can verify the truth of the memories a person "recovered" during counseling or ministry sessions strengthens the likelihood that what the person reported actually happened. Further, if the perpetrator confesses to the remembered abuse, or if physical evidence supports it, it becomes almost impossible to rule out the fact that repressed traumatic memory does exist. But the question still remains—does the absence of corroborating witnesses invalidate what a person remembers? Or does it simply make verifying the memory more difficult (if not impossible)? A responsible therapist/minister must take a double stance: (1) he or she must avoid assuming that what is reported is absolute fact unless substantial corroboration is obtained and (2) he or she must avoid dismissing the authenticity of someone's report simply because it cannot be corroborated by outside witnesses. The challenge is not to decide whether or not repressed memory is valid, but to determine the validity of each person's memory, case by case. To make a blanket statement that ALL recovered memory is true or that ALL is false is presumptuous and arrogant at best. The answer is obvious; there are both. The challenge is being willing to look carefully at every case one at a time. What is most beneficial is that the therapist, counselor or minister does everything in his power to avoid any practice that would make any suggestion about any aspect of a person's past. Avoiding all acts that might lead to a person coming to a false conclusion is a primary focus and practice of TPM.

Today, many practitioners of these earlier techniques, including Recovered Memory Therapy, appear to be laying them aside in favor of a more careful, balanced approach to handling repressed memories. While these former techniques served society well by penetrating the façade of innocence veiling the evil presence of abuse, we needed a wiser, more cautious, and safer approach to confronting that reality. One ministry method that is now filling that gap is, of course, Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Theophostic Prayer Ministry is proving to be an effective and safe way to surface and attend to people's deepest wounds. While Theophostic Prayer Ministry acknowledges the existence and long-range influence of repressed traumatic memories, it also provides guidelines to keep both counselors and counselees from making false assumptions and reaching wrong conclusions. As such, it has no commonalities with the former approaches, and differs sharply from Repressed Memory Therapy. In fact, it opposes the techniques that RMT advocates.

It is important to note that Theophostic Prayer Ministry does NOT view the recovering of repressed memories as its goal or focus. Most of the memories people surface in Theophostic Prayer Ministry sessions are memories that they consciously knew prior to ministry. If a ministry recipient does surface a repressed memory during ministry, it will not happen as the result of the facilitator's "digging" it up or "implanting" it in the person's mind if indeed the facilitator is practicing true Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Please understand that should this happen, the facilitator has stepped outside ministry session guidelines and is engaging in a technique that is specifically NOT Theophostic Prayer Ministry.

Is Repressed Memory Genuine?

This ministry has been questioned by some critics who do not believe that a person could ever repress a traumatic event in their life. They would suggest that because it is traumatic it therefore cannot be "forgotten." Then because represed memory is sometimes reported by people receiving ministry, Theophostic Prayer is thus discredited. It is important to note that an abundance of mental health professionals and researchers fully embrace the fact that people do sometime repress that which they do not want to remember having ocurring in childhood.
There are many documented cases of this being so. The following links are a starting point for those interested in learning more about this reality.

For additional information go to:



The Role of Memory in a Ministry or Counseling Session

The memories people surface are never completely accurate in all details. The very nature of how our minds record and assimilate information does not allow for perfect recall. Memory consists of the information that passes through the person's five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) at the time of the event, which is then mixed with, and interpreted by, other memory experiences—resulting in the memory fluctuating over time. Memory recall is not a video playback of the event (though I once held this view myself). As time passes, it is influenced by a whole network of related experiences. Does this invalidate memory? Of course not. (If it does, we should open the prison doors for anyone who was sent to prison by eyewitness testimony.) The fact that there may be inaccuracies in the details of a memory does not invalidate the experience itself. Just because a person cannot remember the time and place or even the person who hurt him does not mean the person was not hurt. All memories (conscious or repressed) that a person reports during ministry sessions require careful consideration on the part of the facilitator.

The argument ("the report lacks verification") used by those who contend that all repressed memories are fabricated can also be used to discredit conscious memory. How do I prove that I saw a bald eagle on my nature hike if I was the only one on the trail? Those who seek to discredit repressed memory sometimes appeal to studies that indicate children can be led to believe things that did not happen. For example, if one suggests to little Johnny that he saw Bozo the Clown at the theme park he visited, he may agree, even though the clown he saw introduced himself as Smiley the Clown. However, his agreement does not constitute a "false memory," since Johnny did go to the theme park and he did see a clown. It just was not Bozo. His error was not in whether the event ever occurred, but in the details of the memory—making it a true memory containing false information, not a false memory. This experience would prove that it is possible to implant false information in a true event, but it does not suggest that a person could be lead to believe an event occurred that did not. It is also a far cry from suggesting to a person that he or she saw "Smiley" and not "Bozo" and convincing a person that "Smiley" sexually traumatized him. The ministry facilitator needs to act cautiously as he or she seeks to sort out the details in a memory.

Whenever possible, it is good to find outside corroboration of other witnesses. Nonetheless, the absence of such does not invalidate what has been reported. In one study, college students were asked to write reports about a national tragedy they had recently witnessed on the news. Years later, when they were asked to write another report about the same event, their recall of what had happened had changed. According to this study, their memories had fluctuated and faded over time. Nevertheless, they still believed the event had occurred and their memories of the event were still suffused with a sense of national tragedy. A memory should be considered invalid only when the particular event itself is determined to be false, not because some aspects of the event have fluctuated in the person's memory. While verifying the accuracy of the details of a memory may be important, inaccuracy in the details that a person reports does not invalidate the fact that something happened. This perspective is especially important in memory work—while we may accept the fact that the abuse event a person remembers actually happened, we should hold the details of the event, including the identity of the abuser, loosely—unless and until they are verified.

We must be slow to assign guilt and/or confront the guilty, and we should do so only in the peace of Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit and with court proof evidence. The goal of Theophostic Prayer Ministry is to help people reach a place of perfect peace in their memories and experience genuine compassion and forgiveness for those who hurt them. For this to occur, people must acknowledge the reality (conscious or repressed) of what happened to them and let God provide them with His perspective, His truth. If the truth of what happened to a person includes the fact that someone whom she needed to be able to trust proved untrustworthy, God's transforming truth will release the abused person from her desire for revenge. However, the person's relationship with the abuser can never be mutually reciprocated in love until the one who has violated such trust comes clean and takes responsibility for his or her actions. Until that happens, the healed person can simply offer forgiveness and pray for her offender—in peace.

What is Recovered Memory Therapy?

Those who practice Recovered Memory Therapy believe that dysfunctional symptoms are almost always rooted in a repressed traumatic memory, and that people's repressed memories can only be uncovered using such techniques as symptoms check-off lists, group dynamics, visualization, hypnosis, trance writing, dream interpretation, body massage, drugs, relaxation therapy, and spirit guides (none of which are practiced in TPM). They believe that by exposing their client's repressed memories through the use of these techniques, the symptoms will be resolved. Theophostic Prayer Ministry does not practice any of these techniques listed here. However, Theophostic Prayer Ministry does believe (as do most other venues of ministry and cognitive therapy/counseling) that most people's present emotional duress is rooted in what they believe, and that negative thinking results in unhealthy mental and spiritual choices and consequences.

This is the essence of Cognitive Therapy. Theophostic Prayer Ministry holds that people tend to feel and act out what they have their minds set on—as described in Proverb 23:7, "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he," (NKJV) and in Romans 8:5–6, "Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."
Theophostic Prayer Ministry has as one of its goals to expose falsehood (lies) and replace it with God's truth. In fact, the same biblical perspective is held by many other professional and pastoral counselors who knowingly or unknowingly practice some type of cognitive therapy in their efforts to identify faulty thinking and replace it with truth.

One important distinction between Theophostic Prayer Ministry (and most other cognitive counseling methods) and Recovered Memory Therapy is in how people's memories are accessed and how the truth is distributed. TPM focuses more on discovering the false belief contained in a memory experience than on exploring the memory itself. TPM seeks to help people receive and assimilate the renewing truth that God reveals to them, not just to expose the memory content. In contrast, Recovered Memory Therapy appears to view the uncovering of the supposed repression as the means of achieving resolution, which, if that is all that occurs, may leave the person in a worse emotional state than he was in before his discovery. Simply uncovering a memory does not bring any real resolution, since the pain in the memory is rooted in the lies contained therein and not the memory itself. Simply uncovering a repressed memory (along with the person abreacting) does not promise any level of resolution or recovery. Resolution occurs when people receive truth from God.

Distinctions between Recovered Memory Therapy and TPM

There are several distinctions between the basic techniques used in Recovered Memory Therapy and TPM. Each of the basic techniques of Recovered Memory Therapy listed below is followed by an explanation of how TPM differs. This is not an exhaustive list of RMT techniques, but it covers the primary ones.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy sometimes uses a "check-off" list of symptoms. The check-off list includes symptoms that are believed to indicate the presence of repressed memory. Examples are: Do you have an aversion to sex? Do you feel uncomfortable in enclosed places? Do you have a fear of water? Does the number 666 bother you?
  • The Theophostic process does NOT utilize any symptoms check-off list. There was an emotion identification chart supplied in an earlier edition of this manual that was used by some people but not required. This chart was used to help the person better identify what he or she is presently feeling, but is not a listing of questions or symptoms as found in RMT. Instead, people are asked to identify the emotional pain in their lives and seek to discover its source. The source is usually a false belief that was learned in a real life experience and is now stored in a consciously held memory. This process is quite similar to the cognitive approaches typically used in biblical counseling.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy seems to assume that recovering repressed memory is essential to symptomatic improvement. It is said of RMT therapists that they seem to accept the premise that ALL symptoms indicate repression.
  • TPM holds to the belief that painful emotions, dysfunctional behavior, and many disorders (eating, personality, etc.) may have sources that are rooted in faulty thinking. It assumes that bad symptoms are generally connected to bad thinking, whether conscious or repressed. Since it is probable that some of the faulty thinking of some people is rooted in repressed memory, logic would tell us that if a person's faulty thinking is rooted in repressed memory, it needs to be exposed and replaced with truth before his or her symptomology can change. But—and this is crucial— TPM does NOT hold that symptomatic improvement occurs because repressed memories are recovered. It holds, rather, that symptomatic improvement occurs when the lies in either repressed or conscious memories are exposed and replaced with truth. Merely uncovering a person's painful memories will have no real impact on reducing the discomfort. In fact, it is likely that, unless the lies in the memories are resolved with truth, simply uncovering the painful memories will further intensify the person's problems. TPM teaches that it is not the traumatic event itself that sustains the painful emotion the person feels; rather, the persistent negative emotions come from the person's lie-based interpretations of the original event.
  • RMT often uses group therapy; putting people with similar issues and symptoms together. It is possible that in the context of RMT group therapy, the soil is cultivated for the implantation of "false memory" into the minds of the new participants. As new group participants who have not yet come into the knowledge of their supposed repression mix with those who have already reported repressed memory, the abuse stories and memory content of the more progressed members are accepted by the new members as their own.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry does not advocate using group therapy when administering the Theophostic process. This is not to say that group dynamics do not have value in their proper context. However, Theophostic Prayer Ministry does not hold to the belief that people need to discuss their personal struggles/historical wounds in a support group in order to receive renewal and changed emotion. The Theophostic method encourages individuals to embrace the emotional pain they are carrying and discover the lies underlying the pain. Theophostic Prayer Ministry focuses on the individual's specific lie-based issue(s) with the goal of helping him experience a personal encounter with the living presence of Christ.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy utilizes visualization techniques to achieve age regression. These techniques tend to be hypnotic in nature. For example, the therapist might ask his client to envision himself entering an upper elevator and descending floor by floor toward the basement—the descent representing regression to earlier ages. The intent is to uncover the repressed memories stored in early childhood events. The lower the person descends, the younger he becomes.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry views visualization as a questionable therapy technique and opposes its use. Theophostic facilitators do NOT encourage their ministry recipients to create mind imagery to be used as a vehicle for time travel. However, Theophostic Prayer Ministry is founded on the principle that a person's present emotional pain is often not solely rooted in his or her present circumstances. While the person's current circumstances may contribute to his or her emotional distress, the emotional responses that surface day after day are generally rooted in unresolved lie-based memories (either conscious or repressed) that are triggered by events of a similar type in the current life situation. For example, a woman who has a painful emotional reaction (i.e., panic attack) to her husband's sexual advances may be "triggered" by something she believes about sex that is contained in an historical real-life event. If this is the case, the negative emotion she feels in the current situation can act as an "emotional smoke trail" that she can follow back to its lie-based source. It is important to note here that all cognitive activity is rooted in memory. Apart from the present moment, all experience is past tense and can be known only through memory. This means that no matter what method a therapist uses, he has no option but to deal with memory. If I am working with a married couple about their relationship I have no choice but to talk with them about what has already happened (memory) in order to deal with what they might do to avoid future conflict. Memory is really all we have apart from the immeasurable moment we call the present. So the issue under consideration here is what method is used to help the person deal with his or her past? While Recovered Memory Therapy encourages the use of visualization techniques, Theophostic Prayer Ministry helps the person identify his current painful emotion and follow it back to its lie-based memory source, where the lie can be replaced with God's truth.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy sometimes uses "trance writing" or "inner child journaling." Sometimes these practices take place during hypnosis. The client is given a pen and encouraged to allow his supposed "inner child" to express hidden memories and feelings in drawings. The therapist then examines the drawings to discover what might be the presence of a repressed memory.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry does not advocate any practices such as this. In Theophostic, people are not encouraged to get in touch with their "inner child." There is no use of hypnosis. Neither is journaling employed during ministry sessions (although journaling can be valuable in its proper context). Instead, people are encouraged to learn to listen to what they are really thinking and saying to themselves in order to discover what it is they believe that is producing the emotional distress in their lives.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy sometimes uses body massage in order to release hidden memory. The therapist massages the area of the body where he believes the cells have stored the memory of a particular trauma. The practice is based on the premise that traumatic memory is stored in body cells and needs to be released to the brain in order for the person to get emotional resolution.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry does not advocate or use any form of massage therapy.
  • Recovery Memory Therapy utilizes dream interpretation. Dream interpretation is often used in the context of hypnotherapy. The person may be hypnotized and asked to replay the dream, which the therapist then interprets in regard to possible repressed trauma and abuse.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry strongly discourages any interpretation of dreams, visual images, inner thoughts, etc., that could provide the person with false information. The facilitator is taught to avoid adding any personal input regarding any aspect of a person's memory content. He works only with the information that the person surfaces on his own. For a more detailed understanding of the role of the facilitator, read the TPM Guidelines.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy sometimes uses drugs such as sodium amatol to aid in memory recovery. Sodium amatol is a barbiturate drug (truth serum) that produces an altered state of deep relaxation in the client. After administering the drug, the therapist will question the person about his past, using age regression techniques to probe for assumed suppressed memories.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry NEVER uses any drugs in any form for any purpose.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy may suggest using "spirit guides" to lead people to his repressed memories. The person is told to look for a personal spirit guide along the pathway he envisions leading into the hidden places of his mind. The spirit guide is to aid him by revealing hidden "truths" about the past. At some point the person may report meeting a spirit guide—who may even say he is Jesus.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry opposes this practice as total deception and probably demonically driven. Theophostic Prayer Ministry views any spirit guide (even a "Jesus") that a person encounters in such practice as a demonic spirit—nothing more than either an evil impersonator of good who will ultimately lead the person into deception or a fabrication of the person's mind. This practice falls in the same category as channeling, and is totally repudiated by Theophostic Prayer Ministry.
  • Recovered Memory Therapy uses relaxation therapy techniques. The therapist may have the person visualize a quiet, safe place where he can let down his defenses and relax. It is while the person is in this relaxed and susceptible state that the therapist may offer memory suggestions.
  • Theophostic Prayer Ministry does not engage people in any form of relaxation therapy. People receiving ministry are NEVER told to visualize anything or imagine being in any place other than in the chair in which they are seated. They are not told to relax or calm down or seek a place in their mind that is peaceful. To the contrary, they are encouraged to focus on their absence of peace (if this is the case) and move toward the place in their thinking that is causing the discomfort. They are encouraged to feel the painful emotions, not escape them. They are encouraged to focus on the pain they are feeling and go to where they are willing and where God empowers with courage to go.


Theophostic Prayer Ministry is unapologetic in its use of focused prayer. Theophostic Prayer Ministry is prayer ministry. Those who charge the Theophostic process (closed eyes, inward focus on feeling and thinking) with being a form of hypnosis or a relaxation technique must concede that all religions that promote prayer and meditation are guilty of the same practices. As Christians, we are told to cast all of our anxiety on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7)—to own what we feel and cast it on Jesus. In the Scriptures where we are told to "be still and know that [He is] God," we are not considered to be practicing hypnosis. This owning, feeling, and casting our anxieties on Jesus is essentially what Theophostic Prayer Ministry is about. As we focus on Him and allow Him to renew our thinking with His truth, we are able to enter into His peace and walk in His victory.





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