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01.01.1970 01:0000    Comments: 0    Categories: You Asked (Text Files)      Tags:



Question asked: 


What is the Theophostic Prayer Ministry position on offering TPM to people by way of the telephone?


Ed Smith's response:


This is a very good question and should be considered from several different perspectives. In general this ministry does NOT endorse, encourage or suggest that any person provide this form of ministry by phone. Those offering this form of prayer ministry, especially to the general public, by way of phone are not doing so with our blessing or acknowledgement. We would also ask that any person that offers ministry by phone not use the name "Theophostic" on their web site or in any advertisement or in any way that might cause a person to assume that they were affiliated, endorsed or connected with TPM or that this ministry is endorsing using the phone to do this ministry approach. Some may feel this is extreme and limiting to some people seeking to do ministry. I truly appreciate this and am sorry if any person is offended by my position. However, I do believe there are unavoidable risks that are a part of this approach to administering TPM by phone that will not allow me to approve of this approach to ministry. If any person is aware of anyone identifying what they do in ministry as TPM and are using the phone to provide such ministry, please inform them of this email response.


 Eight to ten years ago, in the early years of TPM, I did occasionally provide ministry by phone and learned from experience that things can happen quickly when the facilitator is not in the room to oversee the situation. From these early experiences, I discovered there are many factors that must be taken into account. I realize that there are people already doing TPM by phone and reporting good results within the limitations of their cases, nevertheless I believe this is not with significant risk.


I have administered thousands of hours of TPM sessions and KNOW what can happen in a ministry session without any warning. I would not want to be on the other end of a phone line while someone was in emotional crisis. One doing TPM or any other form of ministry or counseling never knows what is going to open up when a person embraces the deep pain in his or her life. It is best to have a supportive person near by in these times of emotional duress.


Today, as a rule, I am always present (in the same room) to see with my eyes what is happening and thus be able to render support as is needed. What can a facilitator do if the person enters into a psychotic state, loses touch with reality, drops the phone, becomes delusional, suicidal, starts self mutilating etc. if he or she is not in the same room when such occurs? I have talked with attorneys and other mental health professionals familiar with the law and all shared great caution. I am afraid that offering ministry by phone might be a lawsuit waiting to happen as it could be viewed as negligence. It is highly unlikely that a facilitator would ever encounter this, however, all it takes is one time to produce a very bad situation. I have and will continue to encourage people NOT to use the phone to do this form of ministry. It would be wise for any person rendering ministry by phone to discuss this practice with a knowledgeable attorney to see how such practice is regulated in his or her state. 


 Yet, I do want to make it clear that I have no problem with "counseling" over the phone where pastoral instruction is being offered, life skills taught, practical advise or other cognitive things are being shared where there is not "memory work" being processed. If a person called me wanting help with basic communication skills, help with parenting or marriage counseling I would do this without hesitation. However, to have a person focus on his emotional pain and then find himself in a traumatic memory while sitting alone in his room is not a good scenario. There is a big difference between what can go on when a person is discussing his or her marriage and where he or she is abreacting through a childhood traumatic memory. Cognitive forms of basic counseling have been done and are being done successfully in many places (Ex. Focus on the Family and James Dobson's ministry.) But where people are encouraged to feel deeply and look at traumatic memories, I believe that there needs to be a supportive and equipped person in the room rendering care as needed.


Another exception to phone counseling would be in the arena of crisis intervention and or suicide hotlines. However, it is understood that in this scenario the person is calling who is in crisis and the counselor's goal is to stabilize the person until someone can provide face-to-face care. This situation is different than ministering to a person who has set up an appointment and then moves into a crisis emotional state while processing traumatic memory. With a crisis hotline the facilitator has no choice but deal with the person where they are. In a TPM session a person can predetermine to have emotional support in the room before the session begins. Some have suggested that the phone is the only option they have for receiving ministry due to not living near anyone doing TPM. My suggestion here is that this person seeks to "create" a community of people equipped in this ministry. There are many people who had no one near them, but chose to seek out friends, a pastor or other lay ministers in his or her area and trained them and then developed a group that could ministry with each other. Sometimes the only option is to travel as far as necessary to receive ministry. I have had people cross over the ocean to receive prayer ministry. The bottom line is, we do what we have to do. I also believe that God "is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).


However, there are a few exceptional situations in which TPM might occasionally be a viable option over the phone. Here are my suggested parameters.


 1) The person receiving ministry should be limited to someone with whom the facilitator has worked with face to face over an extended period of time already. The facilitator should know how the person processes memory and thus has no reason to suspect any surprises. There are people in my own life with whom I have an ongoing relationship that I have ministered to many times before. I have no problem doing ministry with some of these over the phone if this is what the situation calls for.


 2) There has been no history of emotional abreaction during ministry, no history of suicidal ideation, no symptoms of multiplicity/ DID, no evidence of severe traumatic memory (especially reported SRA memory), no history of self mutilation, no indication of borderline personality, etc.


 3) The person receiving ministry should not be in the room alone during the phone session. There should be a stable support person in the room that can pick up the phone and take instruction should something go wrong. This person can be a go between for the facilitator, provide basic crisis management, call 9-11 etc.


 4) TPM phone ministry should NOT be made available to the general public, i.e., people at large in a church, community, etc. Only people who meet the above requirements and conditions should be considered.


Finally, I do not assume that all people will agree with me on this issue. I honestly have no desire to police the world doing ministry. However, I do ask that people simply not attach the name "Theophostic" to what they are doing if they choose to act outside of these recommendations. I encourage everyone to be very careful as they seek to minister the love of God to people who come to them for help.


Hope that this helps


Ed Smith

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