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Healing the Wounds of Purity Culture: A Christian Integrative Therapist's Perspective

April 22nd, 2024

Disclaimer: As a Christian Integrative Therapist, my role is to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for individuals to process their experiences and work towards healing. This blog post is not intended to promote any specific political agenda or to challenge the biblical value of sexual purity before marriage. Rather, the purpose of this post is to shed light on a very real issue within Christian culture that has had a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of many individuals. It is important to understand that as a licensed



psychotherapist, my professional and ethical training requires me to maintain a neutral stance regarding personal beliefs. My role is not to impose my own values or opinions on clients, but rather to support them in their unique journey towards wholeness and healing. This means creating a space where individuals can freely explore their experiences, beliefs, and struggles without fear of judgment or condemnation. The aim of this blog post is to raise awareness about the long-term effects of purity culture on mental health, as this is a topic that is often overlooked or dismissed within Christian communities. Many individuals who have grown up in this culture struggle with anxiety, depression, shame, and other mental health challenges as a result of the fear-based and often rigid teachings they were exposed to. By bringing this issue to light, my hope is to validate the experiences of those who have been impacted by purity culture and to encourage them to seek the support and resources they need to heal. This may include working with a qualified Christian Integrative Therapist who can help them navigate the complex intersection of faith, sexuality, and mental health. Ultimately, my goal as a therapist is to empower individuals to develop a healthy, integrated approach to their sexuality and spirituality – one that is grounded in grace, self-compassion, and the transformative love of Christ. If you find yourself struggling with the aftermath of purity culture, please know that you are not alone and that there is hope for healing and wholeness.


As a solo practitioner at Through the Valley Therapy, I've noticed a significant increase in clients seeking support as they navigate the long-term effects of being raised in the "purity culture" movement of the 1990s and early 2000s. This conservative Christian subculture emphasized sexual abstinence before marriage, traditional gender roles, and the notion that a person's worth is intrinsically tied to their sexual "purity." Many of these individuals, now in their late 20s and 30s, were homeschooled or grew up in sheltered environments where fear-based tactics, such as abstinence-only education, purity pledges, and father-daughter "purity balls," were used to discourage sexual activity among young people.


So what is "Purity Culture"?


The modern purity culture movement gained momentum in the United States during the 1990s and early 2000s, although its roots can be traced back to earlier evangelical movements. Some key events and influences include:

  1. The publication of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris in 1997, which promoted courtship over dating and emphasized sexual purity.

  2. The rise of abstinence-only sex education in schools, funded by the federal government under the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

  3. The popularity of purity rings and pledges, often promoted by organizations like True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing.

  4. The growth of the homeschooling movement among conservative Christians, which allowed parents greater control over their children's education and socialization.

While purity culture aims to promote sexual integrity and healthy relationships, critics argue that it often leads to shame, sexual dysfunction, and difficulty forming intimate relationships later in life. Many who grew up in purity culture report feeling ill-equipped to navigate sexual desires, boundaries, and consent as adults.


In recent years, there has been a growing movement of "purity culture survivors" who are speaking out about the harmful effects of this ideology and working to promote a more holistic, grace-based approach to sexuality and relationships within the Christian community.


In my practice, I see clients wrestling with the aftermath of a culture that often prioritized obedience over critical thinking and shame over grace. While well-intentioned, the purity culture movement left many feeling ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of adult relationships, sexuality, and faith. Instead of being equipped with discernment and the tools to make healthy choices, they were sheltered from the world and taught to fear their own bodies and desires.


As a result, clients often struggle with a range of issues, including sexual dysfunction, porn addiction, difficulty with intimacy, distorted views of gender roles, and a deep sense of guilt and shame around their sexuality. Many are also wrestling with spiritual wounds, feeling betrayed by a religious system that promised them wholeness but left them feeling broken and confused. Some even leave their faith in Christ altogether and call themselves exvangelicals.


Drawing from my experiences with spiritual abuse, my studies in women and religion, and my deep connection with Jesus Christ, I approach therapy with a focus on helping clients disentangle rather than deconstruct.


Together, we create a safe, non-judgmental environment where clients can unpack their experiences and begin the healing journey. We delve into the roots of purity culture and its impact on their self-worth, helping them separate their value from their past. This process allows them to embrace a more integrated, grace-filled approach to relationships and spirituality.


Using Christian Integrative Therapy, we explore how to reclaim the liberating message of love and acceptance found in the Bible, free from fear-based interpretations. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of oneself and a more holistic view of faith and personal growth.


As someone who has personally navigated the complexities of faith and cultural expectations (read my past blog posts for more insight), I am passionate about supporting others on this journey. If you find yourself struggling with the aftermath of purity culture, know that you are not alone and that healing is possible. At Through the Valley Therapy, I am committed to walking alongside you, offering support, guidance, and a space to reimagine your relationship with yourself, others, and God. Together, we can work to replace shame with self-compassion, fear with faith, and rigidity with the freedom to become your most authentic self.


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)



This verse reminds us that through faith in Christ, we can experience a profound transformation. No matter what wounds or struggles we carry from our past, God's love has the power to heal, renew, and redefine us. We are not bound by the labels or limitations imposed by this culture or any culture but are free to embrace our identity as beloved children of God.


Heavenly Father,

We come to you today carrying the wounds and burdens of purity culture. We pray for all those who are navigating the aftermath of this movement, struggling to find wholeness and healing. Lord, we ask that you would pour out your grace and love upon them, reminding them of their inherent worth and beauty in your eyes. Thank you for your unfailing love and your ability to redeem even the deepest wounds. May all those impacted by purity culture come to know the fullness of life and joy that you desire for them.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.


In Service, Faith, Hope and Love,

Diana

P.S. If you haven't yet come listen to The Holistic Counselor Podcast


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