Last week somebody asked me if I would perform an exorcism for them. It's not the first time that I've received one of these requests, so I guess I was as prepared as one is likely to be in that situation. Most of the stories that I've heard about people who conduct exorcisms unfortunately demonstrate insufficient discernment and arise from a pre-modern worldview that makes genuine dialogue difficult to engage in. However, I've done some wider reading myself on the subject and because I always feel that you should take people's requests seriously, I talked with this person in some detail about why he felt this was necessary.
In my (admittedly very brief) experience with those that have come to me with this kind of request, it doesn't take much to draw out in conversation some recognisable elements of non-demonic origin such as mental illness, drug abuse, guilt and shame related to past histories of abuse and sometimes just a bit too much TV/movies. I've come across some deeply damaged people, for whom the path to recovery is a very long one indeed, and am wary of quick solutions, as well as the constant reminder to do no more harm.
In this case, it was evident to me that an exorcism was not what was needed but it has made me think again about the need for creative ways to help people who feel spiritually trapped. Prayer is often helpful, but sometimes a meaningful ritual or symbol might be useful as well. Given some of the well-documented abuses in this area, we need to be very careful about how we proceed.