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I had to reconstruct my own reality

By Dr. Marlene Winell ~

Leaving my faith was a very slow process.

I was raised by missionary parents and was devoutly religious for my entire childhood. Journal entries from my college years reveal swings between anguished frustration and renewed faith. I heaped blame for the problems on myself, looked to God for help, and thanked him for any improvements in my life.

In my everyday life, I lived with enormous guilt and frustration over not being the person I thought I should be. Good things were always due to God, and failures were always mine.

Looking back, I can see that self-respect was a near impossibility.

Like a lost child, when I left I had to reconstruct reality. I had to examine and recreate so many assumptions: about the meaning of life, the world, myself, others, the past, present, and future.

I eventually became a therapist, and it has been my great joy to help others to recover from the harm they experienced as a result of religious upbringing.

After years of my own private therapy practice, I created the Religious Recovery Retreats to give others a more immediate way to experience healing and recovery, and to help you move through this often painful, difficult process.

The loss of an all-encompassing belief system has profound consequences, including ambiguity and responsibility. In my own recovery, I had to deal with all of the same the issues I address in my book, counseling sessions, and retreats. 

I’ve found the retreats in particular to be a truly incredible time of connection, discovery, and profound healing.

I talk more about what you can expect from the Retreat in this video.

Our next Retreat is June 8-11th in Cape Cod at a beautiful, ocean-front retreat center. I can’t wait to share this time with others seeking to unravel their experiences and reclaim their self-worth, self-respect, and connection to themselves and others. We only have a few spots left. I hope you’ll join us.

(This Retreat is an inclusive, welcoming and mindful space for people of ALL identities and backgrounds.)

As always, if you can’t make it this time, I encourage you to check out our additional resources, including 1:1 counseling + support group meetings.

If you’re looking for some free resources, here are a few recent interviews I did:

It’s been so exciting to see Religious Trauma Syndrome become more frequently discussed by psychologists! Check out this article at Psychology Today, and another one at for further reading on the subject.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! We’re here to support you.
Marlene & the Journey Free team
Journey Free:  Recovery from harmful religion