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Spirituality and Psychotherapy

The office assessment I complete with all new clients has a spiritual question about whether or not spirituality (often thought of as religion) affects the person now or as a child growing up. I find with this question there is hardly an in-between. A majority speak to growing up with some spiritual influence but have minimal affect now. While others in the community where I work seek me out for psychotherapy due to me advertising my therapeutic focus that includes spirituality.

Since the Latin root word for therapy is “Therapia” which means healing, I see the link between spirituality and psychotherapy. Our understanding of healing mostly comes from either religion or the medical arena. While it’s not only in these areas, we easily connect healing as the miraculous repair of the physical, and sometimes, emotional. The Bible is full of stories that validate these occurrences. The medical field is filled with the miraculous healing of individuals and many books have been written on this subject. In my office, I have seen the miracle of the emotional healing through as couples work through issues to stay together, and in others the reduction of anxiety or depression, and the amazing sight of a person walking out of my office feeling better than when they walked in. This miracle can be taken lightly for a therapist but happens all too often throughout the day, sometimes without our knowing.

Sometimes the connecting of spirituality and psychotherapy is by what we don’t say or do. I once worked in an addictions treatment facility where a counselor justified cussing like all the other clients as a way to equal the relationship. But I found this to be degrading for the counselor and in some cases she was disrespected by using language that wasn’t treatment appropriate and respectful of all individuals involved. Most clients never felt comfortable speaking about this due to the already client/counselor power differential (the power up that every counselor has, especially in court ordered treatment). But I would get comments from time to time about gentleness, patience, and kindness (all spiritual gifts) that comes from counselors and how aided in the miracle of healing for them.

With the new techniques like mindfulness and meditation (these have long been attributed to the spiritual realm) I see a future convergence of the spiritual and the therapeutic as more accepting and even sought after.

Ultimately, I believe God, as I understand from my Christian upbringing and as a continued follower of spirituality, he is the ultimate example of the healer and therapist but uses the likes of us. With our experiences, challenges, and education God uses us to bring healing to those brave enough to enter the process of counseling.

Wherever someone is in their journey of life and healing I would encourage more exploration in the following ways:

  1. Nature is an excellent place to begin realizing there is something bigger than us, that we are part of a grand design and included into the fabric of our surroundings.

  2. That nature is an amazing example of healing within itself. Just think of the spring season as a time of rejuvenation and healing from the decay of fall.

  3. Healing and miracles happen all the time, even outside of the therapist office. If we have an eye, ear, and sense to acknowledge this then there will be more and more perception of these realities.

  4. I believe spirituality is mainstream and relevant to psychotherapy, and provides hope in a life that offers many questions with so few answers to difficulties, pain, and hurt. This can be the beginning of healing for many.

  5. Explore spirituality with a therapist, pastor, priest, or other spiritual influence who can offer a non-judgmental space for you to explore your need and desire for healing.

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