…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.
1. She goes completely postal and is dropped off at a psychiatric ward.
2. 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.
3. 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
Chelsea: For me, before I went in there, providers thought that maybe I was abused and I told Mercy Ministries this. And that’s when it started.
Beth: Interesting. The providers – your treatment providers at the time, you mean, prior to Mercy?
Chelsea: I was really hyper-vigilant, but it was because I was constantly tired all the time from my narcolepsy. One doctor [prior to Mercy Ministries] suggested to me that I might have DID and I told [Mercy] this. It used to be a question on the application, so I told them right away. The DID diagnosis happened in between the application to Mercy and arriving there. And my counselor’s face turned white. I asked her if something was wrong and she said “No” and I said “Is that bad”? And she said “No”. And I was still pressing her, because she looked sick to her stomach. And I said “What’s wrong? DID, like Dissociative Identity Disorder?” And she was like “I don’t know what that is”. And I was like “Like multiple personality disorder, just the new term for it”. And she’s like “No, no I’ve never heard of it, let’s get back to what we were doing”. And I was like who has never heard of Multiple Personality Disorder? And then after I left and did all this research on Mercy I learned that Nancy Alcorn’s Ministry had this thing for DID cases.
Our counseling model was called “Restoring the Foundations” and it was started by the Kylstras. Basically they started this training program on how to “help” people with DID “the Pentecostal way”. And Nancy Alcorn was obsessed with this training process, and with training her counselors for this training process. I provided a link to just one of the many places that have been trained by the Restoring the Foundations Model on how to deal with DID clients. This is how bad it is.
Chelsea’s link led to the following website: “Restoration in Christ Ministries – Hearing the Cries of the Sexually and Ritually Abused”
From the website: Secular therapy often fails to adequately resolve the complex spiritual issues involved in the healing process of abuse victims. … as much as 10% of the general population and 20% to 50% of psychiatric in-patients are dissociative to some degree.
In 2008, amidst a flurry of accusations of financial fraud and abuse of the residents, the two Australia based Mercy homes were shut down. Residents alleged that they had been subjected to exorcisms to rid them of their mental and emotional maladies. In June of that year, Alcorn announced that Mercy Ministries was developing its own counseling model, Choices That Bring Change. According to past residents, Choices That Bring Change has far fewer references to casting out demons, but keeps the same key features as Restoring the Foundations. A quick look at some of the printed material for both programs demonstrates that they are, in fact, quite similar, and the basic counseling techniques — particularly those that are known to cultivate false memories and extract false confessions — are unchanged.
Nancy Alcorn and the Mercy Ministries staff shun psychiatry and conventional mental health treatment, attempting to “fix” the residents via supernatural means: salvation, prayer, casting out demons, and being “filled with the spirit”. But they share a common bond with an ever-growing subset of conventional therapists; namely, the secular, faux-therapeutic element of Mercy Ministries’ past and present therapy models is drawn directly from the pseudo-scientific quackery of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISST-D), an organization which actively promotes Illuminati and Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theories and facilitates the continued development and use of modern Recovered Memory techniques.
Setting aside their disdain for the worldly sophistication of secular psychology and psychiatry, Restoration in Christ Ministries’ “What Is DID” page acknowledges charter members and past presidents of the ISST-D as their primary sources of information:
- and Treatment of Multiple Personality and Dissociative Disordersand its use in treating Multiple Personality Disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder)
- here. This email inquiry to Dr. Putnam touches on just a few of the problems with his testimony: expert witness testimony for the defense of a woman who murdered her non-verbal, non-communicative autistic son can be seen
- matter of public record scientific dishonesty is a
- Onno Van der Hart, a Satanic Ritual Abuse and Recovered Memory proponent from the Netherlands
But whatever meager oversight is given to properly accredited, licensed mental health care facilities, the unlicensed, unaccredited Mercy Ministries has no such standards to meet, and the residents are without recourse.dubious foundation upon which DID and Recovered Memory proponents build their beliefs and professional practices.
Beth: Wow. I’m just looking over the main site, but the “ritually abused” in their tag line at the top of the page caught my eye. They quote Colin Ross!
Chelsea: Yeah… the pentecostal DID and false memories are two decades behind the rest of us. I wonder if Colin Ross would even call these people crazy though, the way they do things.
Chelsea: You have Pentecostals and then you have Benny Hinn Pentecostals…
Beth: I grew up in a conservative home, very fundamentalist, but almost the polar opposite of Pentecostals. We sang hymns and were fairly prim and proper during the church service. Pentecostals were like a different breed. My few visits to Pentecostal churches, it all seemed very wacky to me.
Chelsea: Oh it was definitely wacky to me. When I went to Mercy Ministries and people were not acting like they typically did, it freaked me out. I remember at one point one staff member suspected that demons were all around the house, so they took “blessed water” and made crosses above each room with the water. Everyone went around and yelled in tongues. It reminded me more of devil worshiping.
…And the reason for this “cleansing”?
Chelsea: Apparently two girls were caught kissing.
Beth: I know this experience at Mercy was a horrific one for you, but that’s hilarious.
Chelsea: Oh I totally know… I was terrified back then but now I just have to laugh at half of the stuff and realize that if it happened to me today and I was as confident as I am now, I would have been kicked out for making fun. I can’t imagine getting through something like that unless you can find the humor in it. I was totally kicked out because they said I was rebellious and manipulative.
I think what they meant to say was, half the time they told us to do stuff, I stood there and rolled my eyes.
Beth: Well, there’s something else that also made you incompatible with the survivor community — you placed a higher priority on knowing the truth than on being accepted and having that status. That’s a difficult thing for people, especially when that’s their only source of validation and affection. It would be a hard thing to do, pursuing the truth and risking all of those connections and the support.
Chelsea: Yeah that was a really hard time. Especially because Mercy had wrangled in my entire family and friends. “Oh we’re so perfect and if anyone can fix your friend, daughter, sister, it’s us and we are so perfect that in fact if she doesn’t make if through, it means that she had to be the screw up”. So it meant much more than losing Mercy, it meant making all my friends and family mad at me for months. It led to a suicide attempt, a psych stay and eventually years later their affection for Mercy dwindled and I won their love back. Yay happy ending!
Beth: I’m sorry it took years, but yes! So glad there was a happy ending!
Chelsea: I think in most part because some of my family is religious and they equated Mercy to God.
Beth: Yes, my family had its share of difficulties, too. We had to suffer through it because most of the Christian counseling facilities did not have well trained therapeutic counselors back then. They had counselors with theological backgrounds who insisted all problems were spiritual, and told their clients to pray and read the Bible when their tempers were flaring.
Chelsea: Ick, yeah, that was the whole spiel they gave us at Mercy. Girls would go up to staff “I feel like I need to self harm”. “Go pray about it”
Beth: So, really, as you said, a lot like what you experienced at MM. Of course, there are some people who might see some benefit from that. Praying can be meditative, and some people report improvement in mild anxiety and mild depression when they meditate. But then you have everyone else, who gets no benefit from it at all. And the self-harmers, what happens when they keep self-harming?
Chelsea: As far as self harming at Mercy Ministries… They threaten you A LOT. That’s how they keep you in order. They really pin you against your life. Basically you show up to Mercy half dead and you’re begging them to make you alive again. But they will use the fact that you owe them, or that they can kick you out for anything.
Beth: That’s what I suspected; the threat of punishment, isolation… wow. What a place to be stuck in.
Chelsea: If they threaten to kick you out, thoughts of “omg my family will hate me, I’ll probably die from suicide, Mercy ministries says I won’t survive out there without them” circle around in your head until you nearly faint. So you just do what they say. Stop self harming? Fine. Read books when you hate reading? Fine. Don’t sleep when you have narcolepsy? Fine. Until one day you just crack and the next thing you know you are briskly walking away from the establishment in what the staff members refer to as an “escape”.
Beth: So they play on your desperation. It’s a shame it caused so much conflict with your family, but kicking you out was the biggest favor they ever did for you.
Chelsea: I KNOW. I totally and 100% agree.
The graduates that are against Mercy are often stuck in this foggy in-between. Can’t choose. They know Mercy is bad, but they gave them a graduation ring and they still have friends from Mercy. For me, my friends from Mercy cut me off right away. If you get kicked out of Mercy you’re not even allowed to say goodbye to the other girls, let alone speak to them afterward. It’s almost like you’re a leper. You don’t have that other side that doesn’t see the truth about Mercy tugging on your shoulder constantly. They walked away on the same day everybody else did, one fateful day in October in 2008.
Beth: Is there any one particular issue that brings girls to Mercy? As in, is it primarily eating disorders, or self harming, anything in particular?
Chelsea: They like to deal a lot with disorders that tend to make sponsors feel sorry for people. So avoid disorders like “schizophrenia” “bipolar” and hone in more towards disorders like “eating disorders and depression and self harm”. They do ask for past treatment providers info.
Discussing a hypothetical: “What if someone were to go in undercover?”
Chelsea: I guess inevitably I have to ask the question “how strong of a person is the person you have in mind?” I guess that in the long term you would have to be sure that you’re not helping to send someone susceptible into Mercy. Nobody knows Mercy’s dirty side better than I do. If I haven’t experienced it, then I’ve talked one on one with a girl who has. I’ve spent hours with girls talking them into reaching out for help, even though Mercy was supposed to be help.
If someone were to do this you would have to prepare her for whatever she would come across and also put her in contact with others who have experienced this, who may have other things to add. Because in the end we are all susceptible to cults and mind control, no matter how much we like to tell ourselves we are not.
There are certain things she would have to know. For example, they will try and convince her without a doubt that she is not allowed to leave, cannot leave, and if she leaves the property, whatever is her worst fear will come true. But this is not the reality. Mercy is not a court commitment. They don’t take court commitments. In this instance you should think of it as “I went over to a friends house and I can leave whenever I want”. If they physically try to keep you there, it’s called kidnapping. You could, at anytime while you feel unsafe, walk out of those doors, and to a phone or a neighbor. And they can chase after you with their vans, manipulate you with every morsel in their body and you can keep walking. They cannot grab you and put you in the van. That’s also called kidnapping. For me, for example, when I ran away they threatened to kick me out and I said “Good”. Then
they told me [if I left] I would “shut down all of Mercy Ministries”. Which to me was horrible at the time, because I thought they were a good program and I would hurt others. I also was so fearful they would call the cops and have me brought back to Mercy. But if they would have called the cops, they would have gotten themselves in trouble. But I was so off, that I didn’t know who the bad guys were and I assumed it was me.
Words can be much stronger than a physical grasp and trust me, they teach words to the staff at Mercy Ministries. There are a billion other things this girl would need to know and needs to be prepared for.
The fact that she will have limited access to the outside world. No phone calls during the week. Incoming phone calls Saturday and two outgoing phone calls on Sunday and at anytime they can just block somebody from calling “just because”. And that Staff do and can listen in on conversations. No access to news/newspapers/radios/regular music (Christian music only). The assignments she’ll be doing, the toilets she’ll be scrubbing, the fact that she will in fact have to act happy when you are in fact angry with how the whole program pans out. She will have to pretend talk in tongues, pretend praise and worship (hands in the air). At some point she’ll have to do alter calls. She may even be encouraged to be water baptized again, because even if she says she was baptized as a child, it may not count to them.
She will need to learn the most crazy boundaries ever. No hugs, no touching people ever, even permission is needed to do others’ make up and hair, changing in small stalls in the bathroom. Possible separation contracts (actual written out contracts that prevents you from coming within 5 feet of another person) if they feel she is getting too close to another girl for any reason whatsoever and totally out of the blue. All of this is to prevent lesbianism.
She would have to learn not to trust anyone, because everyone is just scanning everyone else, waiting for someone to mess up so they can go tattle on them and score more brownie points. She would have to resist all their “Herbal remedies” they push on everyone. If she can’t sleep, she better keep it to herself, because otherwise she’s getting melatonin shoved down her throat. She’d have to deal with the stringent exercise and diet routine. An hour everyday at the YMCA plus totally organic foods. And she’d have to try and not puke at all the legitimate places that support Mercy Ministries after what she sees go on inside those doors. (Chik Fil A, YMCA, Honda, etc)
It would take her awhile to learn about Mercy. Mercy Ministries is not Castlewood. Castlewood has at least some standards they have to live up to. Mercy Ministries is the Wild Wild West and Castlewood is Boston.
Beth: Right, Castlewood has standards because they are a licensed mental healthcare facility, whereas Mercy Ministries is listed as a charity and is not even licensed to practice. They keep flying under the radar.
Chelsea: Mercy Ministries is a free program and their wealthy donors donate their money expecting to help women with mental illnesses. Unfortunately Mercy’s donors have the wool pulled over their eyes that they are in fact not helping any women with mental illnesses, but some day, some how the truth will come out.
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