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My Thoughts on Demonic Possession
by Dr. Brian Campbell

Dear Students:

One of my former students asked my opinion on demonic influences in the role of Bipolar disorder.  I thought it would be useful for all of you to hear my answer.

In my experience of over 35 years working with individuals with mental health issues (of all kinds), I have only seen one case that I felt may be a result of demonic possession.  Now remember, I have worked with the most disturbed individuals on the planet.  I even worked with the clients that Castro threw out of Cuba (from the back wards of their horrible facilities for the mentally disturbed).  I have worked with self-injurious individuals who smashed their heads against the wall hundreds of times a day; with women who put glass up their vaginas; with people who bit off fingers and noses of other clients; with clients who drank their own urine; with people who ate bolts, paper clips, nails, etc. (the condition is called "pica"); with projectile vomitters--I think you get the point.

Now, you will be fascinated to hear that in the overwhelming majority of cases, we were extremely successful in treating these individuals.  Almost all of them were eventually able to integrate back into group homes located in the community.  We only "failed" in one or two cases.  One of the cases involved a young woman who was self-injurious (I specialized in the treatment of such individuals).  Her case was so serious she was featured in one of the tabloid papers where they showed her in physical restraints in the back ward of South Florida State Hospital.  If she were untied, she would hit her head hundreds of times per day on the floor, on the corners of tables, etc.   

We took her into our behavior-training unit and used all the techniques that we used with others, but she never really got better.  At one point, she was talking in voices that very much sounded demonic.  One of my friends said to me:  "You know, she sounds like she is possessed."  Given the fact that she did not respond to medication and she did not respond to the best behavior treatment available in the world, I must conclude that she may have been possessed.

Therefore, you will see, demonic possession is extremely rare in my experience (even in the back wards of a state mental hospital).  In fact, I have never seen this type of possession in any of my hundreds of other cases in my 25 years as a private practice Christian counselor--whether the clients were suffering from bipolar disorder, autistic disorders, psychotic disorders, etc.  One sure-fire way of judging the presence of demonic possession is to see whether such individuals respond to medication.  For example, all of the cases of Bipolar Disorder I have worked with responded to medication and/or appropriate cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Interestingly, I was asked at one point in my career to give a presentation at the local Calvary Assembly church.  This church had a counseling program that consisted almost exclusively of "casting out demons."  This was very disturbing to me, as the counselors were using this approach with individuals who were obviously suffering from schizophrenia.  When their "casting out demons" counseling did not work, they would eventually send them to me (I'm one of the most experienced PhD level Christian counselors in the area).  

In almost all cases, with appropriate targeted psychopharmacological intervention and CCBT, they all improved significantly.  Interestingly, the pastor of the church at the time stated that in his lengthy career (over 20 years) he had only seen one case of what he felt was demonic possession.  I was delighted when he announced to the people I was teaching:  "There is no demon of gluttony, it's just that people eat too much."  He went on to say, "I have only seen one case of true possession in my career.  If you are seeing demon possession in every client you see, you need to come and see me for help."

So, in a nut shell, here is the test:  If the client does not respond to appropriate medication, expert Christian counseling (CCBT), Behavior Modification, or traditional Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), then there may be reason to consider demonic possession.  Conversely, if the client responds significantly to appropriate medication, and appropriate expert therapy, then there is no reason to believe the person is possessed.

Personally, I do not believe that the evil one can possess us if we are spirit-filled Christians.  The evil one can attempt to influence us, but I do not believe he can possess us.  “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”

Blessings,

Dr. Campbell