At the heart of Scientology are certain distinctive religious practices, a central one of which is termed auditing, or processing. This practice involves a one-to-one relationship between an officially designated auditor (a minister or minister-in-training in the Church of Scientology) and a person seeking the benefit of auditing. The aim of the auditor is to help the other person (termed a preclear) discover and erase the debilitating imprints (engrams) left from past experiences. In an auditing session, which typically lasts up to two and a half hours, the auditor asks a structured series of questions, acknowledging the answer given by the preclear to each question before the next question is asked. As part of this process, the auditor uses an electropsychometer (E-Meter) to help identify areas of spiritual distress or difficulty. There are various auditing processes, each designed to help preclears improve their ability to confront and handle part of their existence. When one particular area of a person's existence has been satisfactorily dealt with in this way, the auditing process moves on to another area. The ultimate objective, which requires many auditing sessions, is to achieve new states of being called Clear and Operating Thetan, about which more will be said under the heading of the experiential dimension.

Although auditing in Scientology has some resemblances to practices of confession and pastoral counselling in some other religions, it also has its own distinctive characteristics and procedures, as well as its own particular interpretation of the spiritual significance of those procedures. Scientologists claim that such auditing has an efficacy not found elsewhere. According to an official publication:

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