This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog “External Mercy” and can be viewed here.
As Mercy Multiplied has come out with their new name and (supposedly) expanded mission, one of the things they are selling (oops, I mean, giving away in exchange for a donation) is a PDF download called “Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Center”. It seems that Mercy Multiplied has been so successful in their endeavors that other people are looking to them for information on how to do the same. This seems to be part of the reasoning behind the “Mercy Multiplied” moniker.
Now, if you know anything about Mercy Multiplied, chances are the idea that they would be telling people how to “build their own Mercy”, strikes you as a REALLY BAD IDEA, to put it mildly. Furthermore, if you are a mental health professional familiar with the needs of individuals in crisis with a mental illness, chances are you are horrified.
So I and some others at Mercy Survivors were pretty curious as to what magical guidelines Mercy Multiplied had managed to put into 41 pages. I mean, 41 pages that would provide any random person the information they needed to up and start a residential counseling center? That’s pretty impressive. Did they leave a bunch of stuff out? Did they write it in four point font? Because from my position, people who do this sort of thing have gone to college for a four year degree in a related field (like psychology, counseling, or social work), then go to graduate school for another two-to-three years to receive specific training, participate in a minimum of six months of internship in a counseling position under the direct supervision of an experienced practitioner, pass rigorous written certification exams, fulfill hundreds of hours practicing as a “junior” practitioner again under the supervision of an experienced practitioner, and only then are they fully certified to be a therapist or mental health practitioner. And that’s for an entry level counseling position, definitely not the experience required (or that should be required) to establish a mental health facility.
Since I’m assuming Mercy Multiplied hasn’t managed to fit all of the relevant information into the “manual”, I’m guessing that they choose the information that they thought was most relevant and important for someone interested in making their own Mercy Multiplied. Curious as to what they might see as the important principles of the process, I bought a copy of their manual. I’m reading through it, discussing it with some other former residents, and will review it and offer my (often sarcastic) commentary on the contents.
Also, you should know as I share that I’m going to be giving Mercy Multiplied the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to assume that the self-publication of this manual is motivated by a genuine desire to help people who are struggling with life-controlling issues (to use their words). I’m going to assume that they actually believe that they are doing a good job ministering to their residents, but want more people to be reached and are thus passing their knowledge and experience on to others who have a heart and calling for this type of ministry. I’ll leave you to speculate individually as to whether you think there are less-admirable motives involved.
To start off, I’ll give you an idea of what it looks like.
Despite Mercy Multiplied’s reputation for glossy, well-marketed materials, this digital manual would not fall into that category. Only the title page is in color and scrolling through the pages reveals no photography. It’s got a no frills look to it that you’d be hard pressed to find in any of their promotional materials, but perhaps that’s to be expected. After all, this is not meant to be used in garnering donations or making their organization known to individuals who are in need, this is a guidelines manual. This is serious stuff! Even Nancy Alcorn alludes to that in her opening letter. She says the purpose of her sharing is to give the reader information that would be helpful in making the final decision about starting a “Mercy-like” ministry. She urges individuals not to mistake the call of God to be a “helper” with that of being called to establish a ministry pointing out that “starting a residential counseling ministry for residents is not just something that one should ‘decide’ to do.” (Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015).
I like to begin discussions from a common and agreeable understanding, and this is something that hopefully we can all agree on. Doing this sort of work, whether faith based or secularly, is not a decision to be made on a whim or simply because it seems like a fun thing to do. It’s hard work and people need to be prepared for that hard work, but as you’ll see in the posts to come, Nancy Alcorn and I greatly disagree on the extent and nature of the preparation and requirements.