References from clients


I’ve been working with Dr. Winell for about 8 months now, and I’ve made more progress with her in 8 months than I’ve made in the past ten years. I was diagnosed with depression when I was fourteen, then bipolar disorder when I was nineteen, and later with borderline personality disorder. I took a lot of medications which didn’t help, and I got worse over the years. Finally at 26 I realized my religion was causing my mental trauma, and I got out. The anxiety and depression got better, but didn’t go away completely.

My brother found an article by Dr. Winell talking about religious trauma syndrome. It described what I’d been dealing with perfectly. I contacted her immediately.   Marlene has been able to understand what I’m dealing with better than anyone ever has. She’s also helped me understand myself, and how religion affected me. By following her steps to recovery I’m finally starting to feel I can live a life free of “bipolar disorder / depression.” I’m learning to trust myself again, and think for myself, instead of letting organized religion make all my decisions for me.

I was afraid of reaching out for help again, and trusting again. But I’m glad I found I can get proper help from Dr. Winell.


Getting help was extremely scary.  My heart was pounding the first night of the first retreat I went to as a group of others and I said a few words about why we had come to the retreat.  Was this the end for me?  Was I damning myself to eternity in an even hotter hell than I would have already probably have been headed for for just deciding I didn’t believe?  I mean, wasn’t this cinching the deal and quenching the Spirit? By coming and seeking out de-programming by a secular psychologist, wasn’t I basically just saying that I was OK with potentially becoming demon-possessed?  I was terrified almost beyond words. But I decided to push past my fear and go for broke.

It is really scary for people who’ve been brought up in a fundamentalist household to dare to have contact with a secular psychologist because they have been taught that psychology is potentially one of the avenues whereby Satan can pollute, or, worse, begin controlling our thoughts for his purposes.  I was even taught, as a child, that having contact with a psychologist or doing yoga or meditation could lead to demonic possession.

It was also a bit alienating to go to a secular therapist, because I questioned whether she could know anything about what I had been taught was capital-T true and/or whether she could understand the first thing about what it is like to be indoctrinated into a fundamentalist worldview in a Christian home.  I soon learned that Dr. Winell had been raised by fundamentalist Christian missionaries and I knew from the missions conference at my church that there are few more hard-core ideologues than the missionaries themselves.

Finally, it was liberating to go to a secular therapist–once I got underway in getting in tune with who she was and what she could do for us there at the retreat.  For the first time in my life, I was able to gather some insights about how a Christian upbringing could mess with your mind and some ways of deciding, when you were *ready*, *if* you felt ready, to, at your own pace, on your own terms, begin unhooking the IV line running from that worldview into your brain and how to think some different types of thoughts for yourself and how to nurture yourself and how to begin to grow past things that had so, so, so, so badly been hurting you.  It began to feel exciting to be there with Dr. Winell.  And there was much laughter and bonding with the other people who had come to her out of backgrounds like mine and who, like she did, understood me maybe more than I understood myself.


I found Dr. Winell to be incredibly helpful in my journey leaving evangelical Christianity. I had examined my beliefs years before meeting with Dr. Winell and made a conscious decision to leave the Church, but I found myself continually plagued by a lot of the unhealthy thought processes that had been ingrained in me through my fundamentalist upbringing. Dr. Winell had a life changing effect on me. She was compassionate and understanding, but also provided me with real, tangible tools to bring positive change into my life. I can’t recommend her enough if you find yourself going through a similar experience.


The most meaningful associations I’ve made, during my exodus from faith, have been through the numerous supports provided by Dr. Marlene Winell. Marlene is a compassionate and understanding professional with a warm and friendly approach to counseling. Marlene and I were able to establish rapport together quickly which allowed me to reveal and release my fears and inhibitions relating to my own dysfunctional faith practice and issues with my own personal development.

As a group facilitator for Release and Reclaim, both with her online forum and special retreats, Marlene is generous with her time and patient with our group progress. Her clinical skills are refined and impressive. By using a select set of activities and special guests, Marlene is able to carry our group through numerous stages of discovery as she subtly guides our discussions from superficial, light and easy, fun and stimulating, to more serious and sober matters of heart and health. I am truly grateful for my association with Dr. Winell. The group activities using movement, personal contact, and touch, were particularly helpful for me. Overall, with Marlene’s help, I’ve begun a wonderful journey to reclaim my life, free from so many religiously-inspired burdens and with few regrets weighing me down. Marlene helped me rediscover a rich inner world that I can tap into and with which I now find comfort and rest.


Marlene is passionate about emotional health, specifically recovery from harmful fundamentalist religions. Count on her to be non-judgmental and compassionate.


I read Marlene’s book Leaving the Fold because of recommendations I found online and because we share similar backgrounds, and I profited greatly from it. Then I arranged to speak with her by phone once a week. She had deep insight into my issues as an ex-fundamentalist, helped me through a difficult time, and provided me with effective tools and techniques that I’ve continued to use regularly post-therapy.


When I came to Marlene for counseling sessions via Skype, I was confused over how I felt about not believing the dogma I grew up with and how I would raise my children. In addition, even though I had come to some realizations as an adult that I didn’t believe everything I learned as a child, I still had a nagging feeling I was doing something wrong. To make matters more complicated, both of my parents had passed away and I felt as though I was rejecting them as parents. Through my counseling with Marlene, I began to make peace with it all. I confirmed that I am my own person and my parents (or God) are not looking down on me in disgust because I have rejected certain teachings I learned as a child.

I am open and free now. I have had the opportunity this summer since my counseling to meet so many people of different faiths (or no faith), people of different lifestyles and backgrounds with an open mind… not fearful of them or judgmental. My counseling has opened my heart and my mind. The blinders are gone and so is the guilt. My world (and the world of my children) is larger and happier because of it. I will be forever grateful.


Working with Marlene has been a wonderful experience in many ways. Her experience and background offer a huge wealth of information and resources for those coming out of religion. She is also someone with a huge amount of compassion and sensitivity.


Marlene has such a loving presence and approach. She is so wise, insightful, and fun.


Marlene is skilled, intuitive, and informed. She has a gentle but firm way of guiding a person through the healing steps and skill-building needed for coping with the negative aspects of religious upbringing.


I started meeting with Dr. Winell several years after I had made the decision to walk away from Christianity and the Church. From a rational perspective, I was content with my choice and knew that I had made the right decision for me. However, I found myself continually plagued with doubt and somehow still under the spell of the negative thought processes that had been ingrained in me through my evangelical upbringing. The ideas of original sin and my unworthiness were still anchored strongly and deeply inside me. I knew that ideas that I didn’t actually believe were having a detrimental impact on me, but I didn’t know how to stop the control they still seemed to wield over me. So, that’s when I got in contact with Dr. Winell.

Right off the bat, I found her incredibly easy to talk to. It was like speaking with a kindred spirit. She understood where I was coming from; she had had many of the same experiences, and was able to teach me helpful techniques to begin to loosen the control these negative ideas had on me. She helped me learn compassion for myself, but also helped me find the strength to hold myself accountable to be the strong, independent woman I am. While Dr. Winell is certainly a wonderful listener, she did more than just listen. She gave me tools to start the transformation toward freeing myself from the negative thought processes that had plagued me for so long. She helped me learn to see things differently. I learned to laugh at things that used to cause me severe anger and frustration.

And, most importantly, I learned to recognize the insidious ideas that run through my mind that aren’t actually my thoughts about myself, but rather are the negative themes I was taught from a very young age. That recognition has allowed me to separate and free myself from those ideas. Those kinds of ideas still run through my mind periodically, but I now have the tools to recognize them for what they are and no longer identify with them.

I can honestly say that after spending time meeting with Dr. Winell, I have significantly more peace and have much less guilt and heaviness in my life. If you are afraid of leaving your faith or find yourself unable to break free completely the way I was, please do yourself a favor and talk to Dr. Winell. You will find she will be the ally you’ve been hoping for. The great news is there’s a big exciting world outside of the Church and she’s someone who can help you start, or continue, on your journey towards exploring it and enjoying it. Having someone in your court who knows what you’re going through, who’s been there, and who has tools to help you find peace and freedom makes the journey much more approachable and even fun!


It has been almost a year since I first fell apart emotionally. It is staggering to see how much growth I’ve experienced in that amount of time. I went from feeling my life was over to feeling that my life has just begun. I went from trying to shut out the world to wanting to welcome it back in. I have learned how to accept and listen to my feelings, both positive and negative, and to express them. I have learned to grieve what I have lost and to start dreaming again for the future. I still struggle at times, and I feel like I will always be on a path towards recovery. The difference now is that I have tools to deal with such episodes, and I am able to respond in much more effective and mature ways.


Dr. Winell was helpful, full of insights and exercises that promoted growth for me. She knows how to sit in a physical and mental and emotional space with someone who is strung out and scared and hurting and be able to walk them closer to a position of strength to where they can begin to take care of themselves, going forward. I attribute a lot of the growth I have been able to do unhooking myself from my fundamentalist background to Marlene’s competence and helpfulness.

Unlike regular secular psychologists, Dr. Winell was not tone-deaf as per what a religiously socialized person will be like in terms of their fears, doubts, tendencies toward considering suicide, and so on.  She was supportive in being able to offer both understanding and respect. There is no way a regular secular psychologist could help anyone wishing to unhook from a fundamentalist upbringing the way she, a person of the same background, can. She provides this help with humor and inventiveness and it does work.

Dr. Winell was not anti-spirituality or anti-god. As I progressed under her tutelage and went through a phase of being super-angry (which I guess in some ways I still am) about having been duped by fundamentalist Christianity, I sometimes found myself wishing she *would* take anti-God stances and/or make fun of Christianity since that might have felt satisfying. I guess I can remember some activities that did use gentle humor to satirize religious proselytizing. But for me at least, this gently humorous treatment of proselytizing was one of the most healing activities at the retreats. And for me to say this–me, a person raised in a household that was all about **fear**–that is really saying something. Something very positive about Marlene and the retreats she designs.


I found the retreats enormously helpful, with a wonderful group of warm people who had been through much of what I had been through. Marlene is a uniquely gifted leader who understands like so few do what it’s like to be in the middle of the all-encompassing religious life many of us former “born agains” lived in. I HIGHLY recommend attending…you will not regret it.