World Vision & Psychoheresy

       World Vision recently published a Stress and Trauma Handbook, which is a further testimony to their commitment to an integration position. The integration position is one in which Scripture and psychology or secular ideas are integrated. The introduction to the book states:

For the last five years World Vision International, the world’s largest international Christian humanitarian organisation, has been developing a comprehensive programme to provide staff with the support and care necessary to ensure continued health and safety (p. 2).

This is certainly a worthwhile goal, but we find that the strategies for achieving the goal are highly ecumenical and diminished by the secular and psychological bent of the authors.

      The Stress and Trauma Handbook [Handbook] gives testimony to World Vision’s insufficiency-of-Scripture position, because their strategies promote the secular and psychological wisdom of men, fail to include the use of Scripture when ministering to those suffering from stress and trauma, and thus indicate that they do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for ministering to the deepest mental-emotional-behavioral needs of humanity.

      The subtitle of the Stress and Trauma Handbook is Strategies for Flourishing in Demanding Environments. The book relies on and promotes secular and psychological authors, checklists, questionnaires, descriptions, definitions, and, worst of all, secular strategies to “flourishing in demanding environments.” From a broad ecumenical and very secular view, there is much excellent and informative material in the book. However, when it comes to the essentials of the sufficiency of God’s Word empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister to “stress and trauma,” the Handbook is a total failure.

      The Handbook does not even suggest one visibly biblical approach as a “strategy” or “intervention” for dealing with stress and trauma, and none that involve the Bible. The “anecdotes and case-study accounts” ­referred to on page 5 exclude references to Christ, Christianity, and the Bible. They could be used in any book produced by a secular or psychological organization. If one were only to read this one World Vision book, one would conclude that World Vision is Christian in name only. The extreme ­ecumenical spirituality promoted and the secular and psychological strategies recommended demonstrate that World Vision is not a Christian organization in the biblical sense.

      While cautions are stated regarding the check lists, questionnaires, and inventories made available, the underlying message throughout is: “Any concerns about mental health should immediately be brought to the attention of a mental health professional” (p. 232). The very beginning of the book makes it clear that “Any and all clinical diagnosis, and subsequent treatment, must always be performed by an appropriately qualified and trained specialist” (p. 2). As applied to stress and trauma, it largely refers to mental health professionals.

      The love for secular psychology can be seen everywhere in the book and comes to a culmination in Appendix 3, which is authored by an individual schooled in ­psychology and who is “passionate about the application of integrated psychology and integrated management” (p. 248).


      Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a psychological approach to “stress debriefing.” While the author mentions “professional criticisms of CISD” (p. 21), and while there is a caution about using it (p. 226), he nonetheless says, “CISD is a well-constructed therapeutic intervention for groups of people exposed to a single shared traumatic event” (p. 21).

      In direct contrast, the Psychotherapy Networker, a publication for mental health professionals, says:

Nowhere is the gap between researchers and clinicians more evident than in the debate about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). Researchers have rarely made such a point of singling out treatments for exaggerated claims about their effectiveness as they have with EMDR and CISD.

The Psychotherapy Networker article further declares:

Despite its widespread application, considerable research indicates that those who receive CISD typically do no better than those who don’t, and that a significant number of people treated with CISD do even worse than those who didn’t receive any treatment. This negative reaction seems to emerge ­because, for some people, the very act of focusing on their negative feelings in CISD increases their distress and leads to more difficulties, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety attacks. According to trauma expert Richard Gist, “Not only did CISD not deliver much in the way of preventive efficacy, it seemed to inhibit natural resolution for some.” The Cochrane Collaboration of Great Britain, one of the most prominent gatekeepers in medicine, charged with assessing the effectiveness of procedures ranging from open heart surgery to psychotherapy for ­depression, evaluated CISD and found it to be without empirical support (Jay Lebow, “War of the Worlds,” ­Psychotherapy Networker, Vol. 27, No. 5, p. 79, bold added).

      Science News reports the following:

Efforts to get firefighters, disaster ­survivors, and others to talk about traumatic events immediately after such experiences, with an emphasis on venting emotions, have mushroomed in the past few years. That growth has ­unfolded despite the absence of ­evidence that such psychological ­debriefing actually aids recovery from highly upsetting events, according to a review in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest. . . . “For scientific and ethical reasons, professionals should cease compulsory debriefing of trauma-exposed people,” the researchers conclude (Nos. 25 & 26, Vol. 164, p. 398).

Personality Inventories

      The confidence exhibited and recommendation for using personality inventories in the Handbook are, also, wholly without academic support. For example, they say:

The use of tools such as Myers-Briggs or DISC would be useful as a means to enhance team cohesion (p. 59).

In Myers-Briggs [MBTI] terms, an ­introvert is likely to find fieldwork, ­especially where bedrooms need to be shared, to be highly stressful, whereas extroverts may describe the whole experience rather like a very long party (p. 180).

Assessment tools such as those developed by Myers and Briggs have been used extensively by NGOs [non-government organizations] and should form part of any individual and team preparation (p. 180).

      One textbook says: “Undoubtedly the most important question to be asked about any psychological test concerns its validity.” The National Research Council has evaluated the MBTI. The Council members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. In appraising the MBTI, the National Research Council says:

McCaulley estimates that the MBTI is used as a diagnostic instrument by 1,700,000 people a year in the United States, and Moore and Woods list the wide variety of organizations in business, industry, education, government, and the military that use it. It is probably fair to say that the MBTI is the most popular “self-insight, insight into others” instrument in use today. Unfortunately, however, the popularity of the instrument is not coincident with supportive research results (The National Research Council, In the Mind’s Eye, D, Druckman and R.A. Bjork, eds. (Washington: National Academy Press, 1991), p. 96).

      In other words, research results do not support the popularity! The Council’s ­particular concern is the lack of validity for the MBTI. In concluding the section on ­validity the Council states: “The evidence summarized in this section raises questions about the validity of the MBTI” (p. 99).

      The conclusion stated above about the MBTI regarding the so-called introvert is one example of many in the Handbook where statements are made entirely without ­support or footnote references. The end notes to the chapter (p. 186) contain no references to support the use of the MBTI. The absence of footnotes or support occurs for a number of important categorical statements made in the Handbook.

      For example, no evidence is provided for the following statement: “Individuals should have a good idea as to their personality type before heading out on field missions” (p. 180). Immediately after that, the author makes the following contradictory statement:

Although basic personality type tends to remain fairly constant, situational influences at the time of testing may alter test results. Some evidence exists that over time, quite significant changes in personality type can be observed” (p. 180).

One concludes from this that one’s personality type “tends to remain fairly constant,” but “that over time, quite significant changes in personality type can be observed.” No explanation; no research support; no footnote.

Relaxation Techniques

      One exercise recommended under ­“Relaxation Techniques” is Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response (pp. 181, 182). Ten steps of this meditation are listed for the person to follow. The author may not be aware that such techniques as guided meditation can lead to a trance state. Dr. Michael Yapko, author of Trancework, says:

Many times therapists aren’t even aware that they’re doing hypnosis. They’re doing what they call guided imagery or guided meditation, which are all very mainstream hypnotic techniques (FMS Foundation Newsletter, Aug-Sept, 1993, p. 3, bold added).


      World Vision’s Handbook raises a serious question: How would the prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament, the disciples of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the saints of God over the centuries have been helped by these strategies? We say many would have been derailed or eliminated from their godly callings.

      The Handbook provides much in the way of secular education regarding “flourishing in demanding environments,” but very little spiritual food for the suffering soul.

      “A review of the professional psychological literature” spans 25 pages of the book and is replete with publications that exalt the use of psychology, while the spirituality chapter (“Spirituality as the foundation for growth”) is only 10 pages long. However, even this chapter is ecumenically aimed and absent of the true spiritual food and resources found in the only fully accurate Description of man and Prescription for help.

      Underlying the entire Handbook is the fact that World Vision is a highly ecumenical organization. The Handbook provides secular psychological information, but no true Gospel of Jesus Christ will be found in its pages. It does not contain biblical resolutions to stress and trauma. It does contain the very wisdom of man about which God has warned His people (1 Cor. 2:5) and much “science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20). In fact, Jesus who is the Life of every true Christian and who is the source of the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, etc., Gal. 5:22-23) and who “has given unto us all things pertaining unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) is not even mentioned as a source of help for stress and trauma. Instead, a generic god is the only one found in this World Vision Handbook. One will not find the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Neither will one find Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, the One who is able “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound . . . to comfort all that mourn, to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61: 1-3). Instead, one will find a simulated, secular, psychological substitute for the true balm of Gilead.

      It grieves us to criticize an organization that has done such a tremendous amount of humanitarian work. We can commend them for their outstanding humanitarian efforts, but if this one book represents the best World Vision can recommend for dealing with stress and trauma, then they have failed the biblical test that demarcates the believer from the pretender.

(PAL V12N2 - March-April 2004)

PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries
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