In This Section: The Theotherapy Project, What We Believe, Prison Programs, Judiciary Impact, Aftercare Opportunities
The Theotherapy Project
The term “Theotherapy” comes from two Greek words meaning “God’s healing”. As an outreach of Zion Springs Ministries and as a non-profit partner of the Good Neighbor Foundation, LLC, the Theotherapy Project provides principles of healing, restoration and reconciliation to emotionally broken and devastated people – building integrity, responsibility and trust in order to reconcile families and communities impacted by crime, violence and incarceration. The Theotherapy Project works closely with inmates, former inmates and their families by offering quality rehabilitative programming designed to reduce recidivism (return to prison by former offenders).
Our faith-based conflict resolution programs conducted within the prison environment help incarcerated individuals face and resolve traumas and conflicts from the past, especially from childhood, that affect the actions, attitudes and belief systems influencing the choices leading to crime, addiction, abusive behaviors and incarceration.
The Theotherapy Project is an outreach of Zion Springs Ministries and a 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit partner of the Good Neighbor Foundation, LLC. All donations are tax-deductible.
The Theotherapy Founder
The model of ministry known as Theotherapy was developed in the early 1960’s by Dr. Mario Rivera Mendez of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Rivera received degrees in psychology, theology and physical therapy. He then utilized his knowledge in each of these areas to develop a ministry that positively affects the intellect, emotions and will of individuals. The Theotherapy model has an eclectic approach to ministry and utilizes biblical principles as well as many of the principles contained in counseling and psychology.
The ministry of Theotherapy was further developed in the United States by Luena Darr, Executive Director of Theotherapy Seminars, Incorporated, who established Theotherapy centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. Committed to raising up competent leaders in the Theotherapy model, Luena networks with the Theotherapy Project leadership by mentoring and training individuals interested in effective, practical ministry inside or outside of prison walls.
Mark West is founder and Director of the Theotherapy Project and is also a Family Mediator trained according to the standards of professional conduct under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 with additional training in special circumstance of domestic violence. He has a Masters Degree in Christian Education and serves as an instructor at prison seminars and inmate facilitator training classes. He is responsible for interfacing with individuals within the judiciary as well as within the corrections community regarding the Theotherapy Project program and its relevance to corrections. Mark is also an ordained minister with over thirty years of pastoral counseling experience in helping families and youth in crisis. He, along with his wife Dana and their two grown children live n the Nashville area.
Our Mission to Reduce Recidivism
The current national recidivism rate is a staggering 70%. Over the last eight years, those inmates who have completed the Theotherapy programs and have subsequently been released back into society have recidivated at a rate of only 15%, a marked contrast from the national average.
Reducing recidivism helps make families and communities safer and lessens the burden on tax-payers.
Prison overcrowding, the lack of comprehensive programs designed to affect lasting change, difficulty finding jobs because of felony convictions and the everyday problems facing former inmates as they try to re-enter society all contribute to the “revolving door” effect.
What We Do
The Theotherapy Project lends its support, expertise and effective faith-based conflict resolution programming to the work currently being done by the judiciary, law enforcement and the corrections community by working directly with inmates within the prison environment itself.
The broad nature of the project is to re-connect the prison and the community, specifically by providing well-organized, faith-based rehabilitative programs. The purpose of the program is to help strengthen the participant’s ability to live responsibly and to make appropriate choices by helping them to identify and diffuse their unresolved conflicts.
The Theotherapy Project faith-based initiative helps the participants to develop a more healthy approach to dealing with areas of stress and conflict inside or outside prison walls and to reflect core values as represented in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This program aims to strengthen inmates’ capacity to live responsibly in mutual support, trust and respect, whether incarcerated long term or preparing for life in the “free world”.
The Theotherapy Project seeks funding from donors and outside organizations to provide this program. Outside funding strengthens the infrastructure of the Theotherapy Project in order to provide the oversight and the essential elements required to establish and run the program effectively and also to expand the initiative by training volunteers. All donations to Zion Springs Ministries/The Theotherapy Project are tax-deductible.
Our Vision To Expand
We desire to expand our vision to include a Theotherapy-based program in every correctional facility within the United States with the goal of reducing recidivism across the nation. An effective decline in recidivism will in turn make communities and neighborhoods safer, will lessen the burden upon tax-payers and will reduce prison overcrowding.
Where We Work
The Theotherapy Project currently conducts comprehensive initiatives in Middle Tennessee at Tennessee Prison for Women, the Tennessee Prison for Women Annex, Turney Center Industrial Prison and recently completed a Theotherapy initiative at the Mark H. Luttrell Correctional Center for Women in Memphis. In addition, weekly aftercare support groups meet in the Nashville area.
What We Believe
As small children, we develop belief systems that come as a direct result of what we experience in our family of origin. Throughout our lives, these belief systems have deep impact on our choices, our relationships and the way we view God even as adults. Because of childhood trauma and pain, we begin to believe lies about ourselves, our relationship to God and our place in this world. Faulty belief systems very often result in dysfunction, depression and destructive behaviors.
Understanding God’s unconditional love for us along with the application of sound biblical principles of conflict resolution will bring about deep emotional healing. We can then move beyond the pain of the past and into a place of sustained emotional health.
Dr. Mario Rivera, the founder of the Theotherapy model believes that “Good theology is good psychology”…in other words, an accurate understanding of the unconditional love of God applied to the deep wounds of the soul produces sound mental health. The Theotherapy model is eclectic in its approach and soundly biblical in its application.
The program runs for a period of six months. Each six-month program typically involves approximately 100 inmate participants. Each inmate is provided a weekly large group teaching experience over the six-month period as well as weekly support groups led by trained Theotherapy facilitators and teachers. Teaching materials and textbooks are provided for each inmate participant. Some slight modifications are made to the class/seminar schedule depending on the logistics of the particular prison location.
Over the course of six months, the following topics are addressed: conflict resolution, anger, fear, rejection, guilt, grief resolution, family systems, forgiveness, transition planning and much more. Each initiative involves large group teachings, large group dynamics and small groups for more individualized ministry.
During the weekly support group meetings, inmates continue to “process” the information they have received and learned at the one-day seminars. In addition, they receive further teaching designed to augment their emotional and spiritual growth. Homework assignments are given at the support group meetings and are designed to further develop what they are learning in practical ways.
Inmate Facilitator/Intern Training
In addition to being able to participate in the basic program each time it is offered, inmate graduates are given the opportunity to give back into the corrections community by participating in the intensive facilitator training course we offer at each of our prison locations. These inmate interns receive the same facilitator training our outside volunteers receive, and many of them go on to become teachers and small group facilitators for new inmates enrolling in the program.
Our facilitator/internship program gives inmates the opportunity to utilize teaching and leadership skills they might not have otherwise tapped into in positive ways. Many of these inmate interns plan to utilize the principles they have learned in the Theotherapy Project program once they are released back into society to help their families heal and to give back into the community by helping others in crisis. It is multiplication in action!
In the photo above and on the left, former enemies Richard and Donald reconcile while attending the Theotherapy program together.
In Davidson County (Metropolitan Nashville, Tennessee), many criminal court judges, attorneys for the State, defense attorneys and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole are noticing the impact of Theotherapy in the lives of prison inmates. Because of the initiative’s success, completion of the Theotherapy program has become a prerequisite for suspended sentencing, parole and early release in many situations where inmates must choose and participate in a six month program as a release requirement. Recently, the Theotherapy initiative was introduced at the Federal court level.
The Program Works!
In the photo on the left, former program graduates Sheila and Beau discuss re-entry issues with Linda Leathers, Chief Executive Officer of The Next Door at a Nashville fundraiser.
Beau is now a successful artist in Georgia as well as the audio/video/screens operator at a large church. He continues to promote Theotherapy with his family and friends, integrates its concepts into much of his artwork and stays in contact with us on a regular basis to let us know he is doing great!
Sheila is now a successful businesswoman, an author and also serves on the Theotherapy Project advisory board in addition to serving on the board for The Next Door. Sheila is also a frequent guest speaker at various women’s conferences, fundraisers and community service events.
Sheila and Beau are just two of many former inmates who have participated in the Theotherapy Project prison initiatives and have given back to the community as truly productive members of society.
Faith-based prison programs work! You can see the transformations taking place as incarcerated men and women are given hope for the future and an opportunity to truly change. Your support helps make this a reality
The Theotherapy Project believes strongly in the concept of continuing support for those individuals who have participated in the program while incarcerated and have subsequently been released back into society. Every former inmate is offered weekly support group meetings, free seminars and facilitator training following their release from incarceration. Currently, the Theotherapy Project has weekly aftercare and training opportunities in Nashville.
In addition, we network with other community and faith-based organizations to help provide opportunities, tools and resources to assist former offenders as they transition safely and successfully back into society.
In an effort to help reinforce the former inmate’s marriage and/or family situation, we also provide the opportunity for the former inmate’s spouse or one adult family member to attend the Theotherapy events mentioned above free of charge. The inmate’s spouse or family member may attend the aftercare opportunities before the inmate’s release from incarceration if they so desire.
Aftercare is vitally important to the overall success of former inmates and their families. The challenges facing former offenders concerning job placement, overcoming societal stigmas and economic difficulties can be overwhelming and discouraging. Having an effective support system in place can offer significant help as a safe place to process through and resolve the difficulties these men and women face every day.