Hurdles for Hope Alive in Dealing with Dangerous Deviations

Posted by on May 13, 2012 in Clinical Examples

It has been brought to my attention that in one country, Hope Alive counselors have characteristically done 2 sessions per week and all weekend.
How this started and how it escaped our attention I am still puzzled about. Needless to say it is wrong. It is dangerously wrong and must stop before someone is badly hurt by it.
Our adage “Do it right or not at all” is there for everyone’s benefit.
Let me explain.

1. Healing takes time.
Surgeons do not pile one serious operation upon another. They know all too well that if they do, the surgery is not as successful because the body can heal only so fast. If you stress the body with too much trauma, it’s systems break down and complications accumulate until what would have been routine, becomes a nightmare of systems sequentially shutting down.

2. He/she can take only so much.
If surgery is traumatic, real mind healing is far more stressful. That is why we are careful to evaluate potential counselees before they start. All human systems work in wonderful harmony, but when over stressed they may work against each other.

3. We are made of dust.
Only after a major crisis can people comprehend how tough and resilient God made them. Yet your counselees may be near the end of their coping capacity and no one, not even they will know this. If they are “pushed over the edge” there may be a cascade of decompensation of body, mind and spirit.

4. People need time to recuperate.
Between one stress and the next. Recent research has found how vitally important sleep is. Sleep deprivation underlies many anxiety disorders. The body rests for many reasons. If the body needs rest, so much more does the mind need time to recuperate by building up reserves of energy etc.

5. Remember Jean Piaget.
We learn new material like an amoeba. We incorporate (ingest), assimilate (digest), accommodate (new material to old) then rebuild the old structures so they will now work as though the new material is and always part of us. This process takes time, reflection and energy.

6. Discuss with fellow counselees.
We learn also from trying out our new way of thinking in
discussion, debate and defending what we now believe. This will take
take time in subsequent groups.

7. Discuss with God.
We must not forget that we want people to find Jesus as Saviour and Lord. In that process they will want to pray and listen to what God says about what they are learning.

8. Letting people learn on their own.
By giving time to people to think and learn on their own, we give them greater responsibility for their own healing. This makes our work easier and keeps us from the temptation to be gurus.

9. If it is serious, treat it seriously.
Since killing one’s own child is the most serious sin, deepest human tragedy, greatest distortion to God given instincts and most dehumanizing behaviour humans can do, we must treat it seriously and carefully. If we run thru the process in a rush, the message to all and sundry is that it really isn’t such a big deal after all. The fact there are a plethora of post abortion ministries who treat the whole tragedy like it was a toothache, is no excuse for our doing the same.

10. Patience and discipline.
In medicine we painfully learned to hit (disease) hard the first time and wait to see how it (antibiotic) is working. This waiting is made easier by the demand of many other patients. So it is for us. Start other groups.

11. Don’t be arrogant.
Hope Alive by difficult education and frustrating experience and plenty of research and God’s persistent guidance took about 30 years to develop. I have found that longer and more frequent groups actually slow the progress and the results are not so good. Please don’t assume you can do it better. When you have successfully done many groups, measured your success rate and found you could do some parts better, and then you can start innovating.

12. Hope Alive is not in concrete.
I want the HA process to keep improving and growing. It is not perfect yet. But there is a prescribed way to innovate. a) Make and keep careful observations. b) Form your hypothesis clearly eg. I think if we did this, we could increase the rate of writing and sending LORs. c) Decide on what measures will help convince yourself and others that it works. d) Bring the idea to the next AGM for discussion and modification by your colleagues. e) If approved by COSAT and after measuring their baseline rates, try it out on the counselees of one group while using the same measures on a similar group without the innovation. f) Whether it seems to work or not, try it out again. g) Present your results for discussion and praise, whether or not it works, at the next AGM. h) Get some of your colleagues to also try the innovation using the same technique of measurement. i) Combine their results with yours and make a formal present at our next AGM and at some professional meeting for further discussion. j) Put a motion at the next COSAT mtg. that your innovation be accepted and taught to all new trainees. k) Be prepared to help retrain your colleagues if necessary. l) Through the whole process be patient and thank the Lord and give credits where due to all who have helped and taught you. m) Write a scientific paper for publication. n) Become rich and famous. (Then you will know for sure you are on the wrong track)

If you try flying by the seat of your pants with what you think is a very good modification, the following may (at least to some extent will) happen.

1. You become rich and famous. Since truth is very seldom recognized in its time, you can be quite sure you are off track.
2. The results in suffering people or in all your groups are not as good as they could be. As a result: a) Hope Alive is brought into disrepute, fewer people trust it, and your colleagues efforts are not as well rewarded with many trusting people. b) Your counselees have less confidence in the program and because they are trying so hard to heal, they will try to trust and encourage you more with flattery etc.
3. With more frequent groups, those who try to keep up will become anxious and act out with suicidal threats, somatic symptoms etc
4. With greater pressure to “get on with it” some counselees will: stop doing critical homework or do homework superficially or avoid attending.
5. When under pressure to keep up, some counselees will act out in group with more competition, aggression, seduction etc.
6. When counselees have less time to talk out problems they are more inclined to act out conflicts in their relationships about which you may never hear or carry that pressure into their parenting where they may become harsh with their children.
7. Express their frustration with anger at you by suicide. (This has happened to a counselor who changed the HA program.) And remember if that person’s family brings a suit against you, COSAT will not help defend you and may be subpoenaed by the plaintiff to testify you were doing it wrongly.
8. You will not benefit by learning how to do clinical research.
9. You will be tempted to plagiarize and claim you are the original author.
10. Undermining the credibility of Hope Alive may detrimentally affect thousands who could benefit but won’t want to engage in HA counseling because they can’t trust it.


1. Let us be humble, thanking each other and most of all our Lord for all He is teaching us. And really praise the Lord by telling the world about all He is and wants for humans.
2. Be open to discover and eager to innovate the correct (scientifically approved) way.
3. Have zero tolerance for unauthorized changes.
4. Report deviations to your supervisor who will bring it to COSAT for investigation, rebuke and correction when necessary.
5. Be honest with your case presentation about what you really do, especially if you suspect it is not approved. No one will eat you.
6. Take it seriously. Remember you are dealing with the greatest epidemic, resulting the highest death and damage rate in all of human history. And you have with the least effort and expense possible, a program that really benefits (scientifically validated) and brings people to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
7. Report on colleagues that are wandering off the approved techniques.
8. Hold to your commitment to do the whole Hope Alive program in the right way.
9. COSAT must renew their determination to remove certificates and inform organizations and referral sources that person’s certificate is no longer valid.
10. Each new graduate should be given a formal graduation ceremony, attended by at least one COSAT representative, at which the graduate formally reads each part of the Commitment to Professional Conduct and makes a public affirmation to adhere to it.
11. Truly spend as much time preventing the problem as we do attempting to treat its adverse effects.

Lord may this be to your honor and glory.