Is Reparenting A Ministry?

The reparenting technique is a type of psychotherapy based on transactional analysis or TA.

TA was popular in the 1970's and continues to reinvent itself in things such as reparenting which presumes that defective parenting gives rise to difficult relationships (that is...difficult transactions) in the client's adult world.

Some TA practitioners use melodramatic metaphors such as mother wound and father wound to describe the source of a client's deficient transactions with others.

(Reparenting has a counterpart in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) where it's called rewriting personal history

And reparenting and rewriting personal history are known to be effective in helping some people fix problems from their histories that interfere in their present lives.

However, a minister doing such therapy may think he or she is doing ministry...because many sincerely believe everything they do is ministry. Even though we are warned solemnly in the Scriptures (Mt 7:21ff) that this assumption is fatally flawed.

Here is an example of "Father Bob" attempting to reparent a father wound.
As you read decide about the boundary violations if any...

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Is Father Bob doing ministry in his hot tub?

Father Bob is a 42 year old priest and pastor of a well-to-do parish. With a few workshops on TA behind him... he began to concentrate his ministry on young adult women.

They usually came to him for confession (the sacrament of reconciliation) or for counseling about various troubles they were having.

Father Bob believed that the mother wound and the father wound he learned about in workshops accounted for all of their difficulties. But he specialzed in the father wound in his meetings with these young women.

After he laid the foundation with the women so they too thought their problems came from their history with their fathers...Father Bob carefully introduced the idea of reparenting them.

This held out hope to the young women. And Father Bob's gentleness and willingness to listen led them to trust him and to believe his analysis of their problems.

Father Bob suggested that the meetings between him and his wounded clients take place as individual sessions in his hot tub.

He made it seem safe by assuring the young woman that he and she would both wear bathing suits.

In the hot tub a young woman could be relaxed as she spoke about her father. She could even be playful in the water and splash her "reparent" -- Father Bob. Or she could duck his head under the water...and he hers...just as if they were father and daughter having a good time together.

Eventually the hot tub sessions took place with wine..."refather" and daughter having a drink together in pleasant surroundings.

Then in the name of complete "openness" and honesty between "refather" and daughter...the bathing suits became superfluous and were dispensed with. The playing and rough housing became more gleeful -- and more intimate.


And from the universal definition of ministry on our homepage...
you'd have to agree that Father Bob is not engaged in religious activity...

and you'd have to agree that a hot tub romp is not designed to bring either of them closer to God.

That's the potential danger of thinking anything a minister does is authentic ministry.

And that's the beauty of the universal definition of ministry given above... it let's ministers know immediately if they are doing authentic ministry or something else entirely.

Reparenting...done properly and not as in the example above...may be good therapy...but it's not good ministry.  And the example violates not only religious boundaries but even lay professional boundaries... of

  1. Effective time management because these hot tub sessions took place were after hours...in the evening.
  2. The context and location were in a private section of Father Bob's house where the hot tub was located.
  3. Therapeutic touching boundaries were violated because of Fr. Bob's sexual agenda.

Definitions are crucial to defining boundaries. Boundaries are crucial to creating contexts. Knowledge of the ministry context tells a person to stay inside professional boundaries proper to ministry.

And when "everything is ministry" and reparenting can be defined non-therapeutically as incest...irrationality and chaos rule a person's actions.

Such "ministries" have nothing to do with Jesus' healing ministry...which was always carried on in public and always in relation to well-defined symptoms.

A minister's role is to bring people closer to God through religious activity. Accordingly, the minister may have to intervene psyhologically in a person's conscience...but not help organize a list of real or imaginary parental deficiencies and help cure those through sexual actions.

Have A Helpful Story About Reparenting?

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