Struggling with a problem and you have been praying about it, using your faith to cope? Somehow, you want to express this to maybe your doctor. But, you feel like you would be ignored? Spirituality and use of it in therapy have proven to be among the best coping strategy when facing crises and difficult circumstances.
Do You Have Doubts About This?
Ever wonder if your faith and your spiritual belief in God has any place outside of your religious institution or gathering?
Is your spirituality or religion allowed in the secular world?
Are You Uncertain?/Spirituality and Religion in Psychotherapy
Maybe you are in conflict about your faith and the use of it—especially in psychotherapy.
Maybe you have thoughts like, “If I believe and have faith in God, exactly why would I need a therapist?” Similarly, an approach, potentially misguided, such as, “I have faith in God, so I am not going to see my doctor or consult with the medical specialist.” To some these examples, might seem extreme or even silly.
However, with close attention, this way of thinking presents the idea that God and our mental health, emotional well-being, and physical health are separate. Or that, He (God) is clueless about how these parts of us are important and that they are weaved into our spiritual functioning.
Likewise, it could be that the therapist or mental health professional did not ask you about your spirituality and the place it has in your life. Either of these positions is harmful and is not supportive of our spiritual lives or development.
Why Not Include Your Spirituality and Your Religion?
Spiritual or religious? Is there a difference you might ask? The short answer is yes! Consequently, they both have a great degree of overlap. Therefore, I will focus on the similarities rather than the differences.
One of the commonalities of the two is that they both provide an opportunity for seeking the deeper meaning of life and life’s circumstances. Another similarity is the idea that life is bigger than oneself; therefore, guidance is needed to navigate difficulties and adversities.
This is to say, the need to find meaning in life, as well, as the need for guidance and direction is similar. They are tied to a person’s spiritual expression and religion. Since persons have a choice, or they should, about their preference for their spirituality and/or religion,
I also take a position. I am a Christian. My spiritual expression includes reading the Bible, praying, meditation, and singing spiritual songs.
My religious connection is indicated by attending church with my family and other church-related gatherings.
I, too, seek someone that is “bigger” than myself. I absolutely need infinite intelligence to navigate the work I am called to, and do every day, as well as my personal life.
What is Your Position?
It sounds like one’s spirituality or the development of one’s spiritual essence matters. This was clear in a 2003 research study. This study showed where people were with their faith or belief.
It was striking to me! To be brief, it shows that some people are spiritual but not religious. Others were religious and not spiritual. What does this mean? The two are defined as the following:
- There are people who identify as religious but not spiritual who attend church but do not necessarily feel a strong connection to God. Instead, their attendance is to feel a sense of connection or a sense of belonging.
- Others identify as spiritual but not religious. However, they desire to be part of a community which is significant as it represents being on a “journey” together in life with others. Some examples of this can be seen in yoga and meditation groups.
Another Look On Spiritual But not Religious/
Another way to understand this phenomenon brings me to share additional insights on them both. Again, their several variations but also some overlap; the focus will be on the sameness.
So, then, spirituality is focused on a connection, with a “bigger being,” and being with others, while religion is more about belonging to.
Belonging to an organization where there’s a communal expression of belief around a set of principles, doctrine, and beliefs. Essentially, a way for people of likeminded to belong and connect to something
Question: Belong and Connect about what?
Spirituality &Religion in Psychotherapy
On the other hand, while some are ok with belonging to an organization, given the need to belong and connect to a community.
Others attend with the view that this is spiritual as it is an expression of being in a community that can provide moral guidance.
Consequently, these moral imperatives and values can be passed on to their children. Again, to these persons, this is being spiritual. This provides support to them in how they govern their relationships.
Did You Know?/Spirituality &Religion in Psychotherapy
Moreover, psychotherapy, also known as, “talk therapy” seeks to view persons from a holistic perspective. Most importantly, a person is constructed with parts that make a whole.
These parts are, emotional, cognitive, physical, and cultural. The cultural includes “Spiritual.” To not include the spiritual aspect of a person’s life is to ignore the pathways of which the “infinite intelligence, God, heals and restores.
“When faith is blended with thought, the subconscious mind
Translates it into its spiritual equivalent and transmit it, as in the case of prayer.”
Sadly, recent research shows that most psychologists and therapists are much less religious or believe in God compared to the clients they serve.
In the face of research consistently proving that the integration of one’s faith or belief in God (religious and spiritual experiences) into psychotherapy has positive effects and outcomes—this inclusion is still shunned!
The Evidence Speaks
Clients report the elimination of fear and doubt in the face of grave illness by praying with their physician or singing songs with the therapist in the hospital ward prior to surgery.
Additionally, studies show that clients report wanting to include their spirituality and religion into the work they do with their therapists. Unfortunately, they are not even being asked about it!
To one is given in and through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another…. The working of miracles.
(1 Corinthians, 12:8-10)
Why You Should?
Spirituality &Religion in Psychotherapy
All of us across our life span, at one time, or another, will experience difficulties in one or all three of the following categories:
- Difficult Life Transitions & Traumatic Life Events (i.e., Divorce, death of a loved one or animal, retirement, terminal illness, etc.)
- Environmental Stressors (work relationships, demands of work, lack of access to resources, unresponsive environments.)
- Dysfunctional Communication (i.e., marriage relationship, parent-child relationships, etc.)
FIVE REASONS/Spirituality &Religion in Psychotherapy
Given the unpredictability of these issues and the enormity of them in our humanity, we need “something bigger” than ourselves to face them.
Here are 5 specific reasons to include your spirituality and/or religion into psychotherapy should you choose to use it as a support in your life:
- Spirituality/religion is among the most effective coping strategy for persons facing adversity
- Spirituality/religion helps persons to have a different and broader outlook on their experience
- Spirituality/religion allows persons to have a sense of strength (Mastery) and self-control (Confidence) in the face of different circumstances
- Spirituality/religion allows persons to tell their story of their own spirituality/faith. (i.e. In some churches, this is called a “testimony service”)
- Spirituality/religion allows for new growth person’s lives– developing resiliency
Final Thoughts/Spirituality & Religion in Psychotherapy
We are living in a time where spirituality, belief in God or religion for that matter is either scorned or canceled—“the cancel culture era.” As if there is no basis or use for it. Especially for those that wish to include this in their existence.
Resulting in inhibitions on the part of persons seeking services and support and those persons providing the service. Clearly, the benefits of practicing one’s faith and spirituality have astounding effects. Consequently, on the lives of individuals and ultimately those around them.
As a therapist, I have witnessed the reduction and elimination of anxiety, depression, and negative destructive emotions in men and women. This change is linked to the use of spirituality in the work we do together.
The practice of their faith/spirituality underscores the importance of the development of this part of each person’s existence.
Are you in the market for a therapist or presently seeing one? Consider asking them to include your spirituality story and experience. Are you part of a church or spiritual community? Maybe you have not yet had the chance or feel comfortable sharing your spiritual story? Talk to your pastor or leader.
In either case, spiritual inclusion and expression are essential for your stability and mental well-being. Neglect this area of your life no more!
K.Henry (Copyright 2021)