Is Theophostic counseling / Transformation Prayer Ministry biblical?
Theophostic counseling, or Theophostic Prayer Ministry, was created by Ed Smith in the 1990s. "Theophostic" comes from the Greek words meaning "God" and "light." The idea was that God's light was needed to reveal lies that people were believing and set them free.
Much of the impetus for Theophostic was based on those who had past traumatic events, specifically sexual abuse, in their lives from which they seemed unable to move past. Smith reports feeling frustrated as a counselor when counselees intellectually knew biblical truth and that abuse was no longer occurring, yet still did not experience freedom. Rather, counselees seemed to have adopted a fundamental lie from their past experience that still guided their current beliefs, and thus their current emotional and behavioral struggles. For example, they knew they were safe yet still practically believed they were unsafe, thus still experienced distress. Stuck in a counseling session one day, rather than affirm truth to a counselee in the midst of her traumatic memory, Smith prayed aloud and asked if Jesus wanted his client to know anything. The counselee reported Jesus telling her truth (the same biblical truth Smith would have told her) and feeling the shame and guilt lift.
Rather than focus on the standard personal efforts in many typical forms of counseling, Smith wanted to join in what God was doing. He received criticism for focusing too much on past traumas, not trusting in the sufficiency of Scripture, and for belittling self-effort. Theophostic also had some association with repressed memory therapy, which has many problems and is not recommended by the mental health community. However, Theophostic did seem to produce positive results and did purport to have solid biblical backing.
Theophostic materials were published through a for-profit company. In 2015, Smith felt led by God to make the ministry and training available to the entire body of Christ worldwide. He started a non-profit corporation called Transformation Prayer Ministry International, Inc. The name change from "theophostic" to "transformation" seems to be reflective of a slight change in vision as well. Smith says that the ministry has been and continues to be refined. He also writes, "Even the name Theophostic needed to be changed because it did not clearly define what this ministry was about. […] Without a doubt I believed that God was shining His light of truth into people's hearts, but it was the transformation that resulted because of this light that rightly and more fully defined this ministry."
Smith offers Transformation Prayer Ministry training materials to anyone. He emphasizes that Transformation Prayer Ministry is not only about the process that occurs during ministry sessions, but more importantly about the principles and purpose behind that process. Transformation Prayer Ministry is not meant as a means to manage emotional pain. Rather, emotional pain is seen as indicative of lies people believe. Transformation by the renewing of the mind and the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2) is the goal. Smith states that a result of being transformed is peace in Christ, so relief of emotional pain is a by-product.
Of Transformation Prayer Ministry, Smith writes, "TPM is not something new or something I created. Rather it is simply a means by which we can intentionally cooperate with God in doing what He has been doing all along. It is the difference between knowing the truth with the logical mind and knowing it experientially with the heart. When the Lord supplies His perspective it moves beyond the intellect and becomes experiential." Smith does provide biblical basis for the principles in Transformation Prayer Ministry and states that anything in a session should be compared with biblical truth.
Smith also points out that Transformation Prayer Ministry is a prayer ministry, and not a counseling method or biblical instruction. People not using the specific tools and processes in his training are doing something other than Transformation Prayer Ministry. He does not degrade other means of doing ministry, but is clear that a very specific thing is meant by Transformation Prayer Ministry.
As with any form of ministry, before engaging in Transformation Prayer Ministry it is wise to do research. The process of Transformation Prayer Ministry, while intended to be something specific, will vary based on the practitioner. A practitioner may well adhere to the truths of Scripture. However, Transformation Prayer Ministry may also have an unhealthy focus on experience, both past and present. The delineation between God's part and our part in transformation, and the role of sin, may also be a bit blurred.
If you are interested in Transformation Prayer Ministry, pray and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5), compare what you are told with the truth of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16–17), and trust God's guidance (Philippians 4:6–7).