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10 Red Flags Signalling That Your Healer, Therapist, Spiritual Teacher, Psychedelic Guide, Or Coach May Be Untrustworthy

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October 28th, 2022

By Lissa Rankin, MD

Guest writer for Wake Up World

We’d all like to believe that someone we entrust with helping us heal when we’re vulnerable can safely protect our tender hearts, confused minds, and beautiful bodies. Yet sadly, some of the most traumatized and unapologetically ruthless people hang up a shingle and call themselves a spiritual teacher, therapist, shaman, psychedelic guide, lightworker, or life coach. The red flags can be easy to spot, once you know what you’re looking for, but as my wise sage daughter said, “If you’re wearing rose colored glasses, red flags just look like flags.”

As cult recovery specialists like Steven Hassan, Janja Lalich, and Rachel Bernstein teach us, “undue influence” and “coercive control” can show up anywhere, not just in cults, but in cultic romantic relationships, abusive family systems, and sadly, even in therapeutic settings where people abuse their power over someone vulnerable.

There are a lot of people functioning as “therapists” out there under the guise of energy healing, spiritual counseling, or life coaching, trying to tell trauma survivors how to live their lives and promising healing, but many of them cannot be trusted. I wrote several chapters about this topic in my book Sacred Medicine. But here are a few flags to look out for.

  1. You wind up in a “dual relationship” with your “therapist.” 

Good therapists know that it’s dicey boundary territory and can be harmful to the client if the therapist engages in relationships beyond the professional therapeutic container with vulnerable clients. But unethical healers will recruit clients they can coercively control from within a friend group, crossing boundaries from the very beginning. Or they’ll befriend the client so they can vampirically suck the client dry energetically, turning the client into narcissistic prey. Or they’ll invite clients to become employees. Or they’ll hit on their client romantically or get their jollies off being close to them outside sessions. Or they’ll invite the client into their “family.” Or they’ll take advantage of the client for free labor. Or they’ll exploit the client financially and ask them to invest in their business or pay their overhead as a way to support “the mission.”


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