The piece below was originally published on “Dysgenics: Dispatches from a degenerating mental environment” and can be viewed here. In this piece, Beth examines Mercy Ministries analytically with quotes from authoritative sources, Mercy Ministries’ own counselling manuals and an interview with Mercy Survivor Chelsea Darhower. This piece looks at Mercy Ministries’ therapeutic practices that result in false memories, and the psychological control that Mercy Ministries exert.
…And this girl had been in the program for maybe a month, a few weeks, I don’t know, not very long. And we knew she had been diagnosed with multiple personalities. […] Well we knew, you know, a psychiatrist is not going to say somebody has multiple demons. But in her case that’s what we were dealing with, demonic powers.
— Nancy Alcorn, president and founder of Mercy Ministries
Recovered Memory Therapy, Conversion Therapy, and exorcisms: this mishmash of harmful pseudoscience and archaic religious practice is foisted on the vulnerable young women at Mercy Ministries by their under-educated, inexperienced mental health care-givers. During her stay, former resident Chelsea Darhower experienced first hand the oppression and cult-like atmosphere that has made Mercy Ministries infamous among many of its graduates.
Here is her story:
Beth: …No one at Mercy Ministries has the authority to diagnose – can you confirm that that’s the case? At other clinics the girls and women risk coming out with a diagnosis that haunts them the rest of their lives.
Chelsea: Nobody at Mercy Ministries has the authority to diagnose. The only time a girl would come in contact with a doctor at Mercy Ministries is for three reasons:
- She goes completely postal and is dropped off at a psychiatric ward.
- She comes in on psychiatric drugs and she is sent to a psychiatrist. Even then the psychiatrist they would send her to doesn’t diagnose, he just writes scripts.
- They have a outside family doctor that deals with medical incidences.
In general though, Mercy Ministries is very anti-psychiatry so you will not see them adding any type of diagnosis to anyone. They like to distance girls from the psychiatric world and any type of future help, not give them new diagnoses.
Nancy Alcorn may get jolly over the prospect of having someone who was diagnosed as “DID” in the psychiatry world, but that’s only because she thinks they are possessed by spirits that she has to take authority over. If you say the words “I was diagnosed with DID”, a staff member will get its wings at Mercy Ministries. She thinks your “parts” are evil spirits that infested your soul while you were being abused.
[A]ny potential for biblical counseling to be compared with the liberationist anti-psychiatry movement of R.D. Laing in Britain or Szasz’s less fruitful attempts in the United States falls flat. Biblical counseling, far from being against social control, is an agent of social control, by which evangelical churches seek to minimize dissent among those members deemed mentally ill or deviant.
— John Weaver, The Failure of Evangelical Mental Health Care: Treatments That Harm Women, LGBT Persons and the Mentally Ill