How To Heal From Spiritual Abuse

By Jessica Bullock | Jul 1, 2022

Maybe you remember the times when Sunday morning service, Wednesday night bible studies, or church gatherings were the social norm. According to Pew research, even though church attendance by people of color has drastically decreased, the fact still remains that over 50% of Americans identify as being religious or spiritual. Some people have decided to stop attending church for many reasons, but there are a growing number of individuals that are talking about ‘church hurt’. Spiritual abuse and church hurt are terms that are used interchangeably and seem to happen commonly within black communities. 

A definition provided by researchers describes it as pain that has been inflicted by the spiritual leader or a spiritual community (Cashwell & Swindle, 2018). Signs that you have experienced spiritual abuse are: 


1) Manipulation/ Gossip against an individual 

2) If you are identifying problems in the system, then you are made to look like the problem. 

3) Any form of overt abuse. 

4) You feel a lack of genuine empathy for people from the leader.


What do you do when you feel your spiritual leader or spiritual community has abused you spiritually? Cashwell and Swindle provide several helpful recommendations: 


1) Attend therapy to discuss how your faith has been impacted. Many times in communities of color faith is a foundation for life. In order for your foundation to remain intact, you may benefit greatly from working through your spiritual abuse and redefining it. Therapy will also validate your feelings if you feel unheard. 

2) Whether by choice or force, you may need to consider leaving that particular spiritual community. Staying in a community or under leadership out of obligation is never healthy. Making a decision to leave may be better for you at the end. 

3) Look for a new group to join. Realize that there are so many other groups that would love for you to be a part of their community and will not deliberately hurt you. 


Please understand that spiritual issues can be very sensitive and complex. Many people work through their spiritual abuse for years before they are able to trust another community or leader. Remember it will take time, and it is ok to advocate for yourself. If you are looking for a therapist that will help you address your spiritual abuse, please consider checking out the clinicians of color directory for a licensed qualified therapist at


About The Author

Since 2010, Jessica is the CEO and Founder of BE WELL COUNSELING & CONSULTING (, where she and her team have served thousands of families and individuals. She is passionate about bringing education and research that highlight BIPOC communities. Jessica also enjoys working as a consultant for counseling centers and churches, serves as a board member on several nonprofit organizations, and teaches. She graduated with her second Master’s Degree at Seton Hall University and is currently working on her Ph. D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. 



Jessica Bullock

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