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, do you feel like you would be ignored? Spirituality and its 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 wondered if your faith has any place outside of your religious institution or group?
Is your spirituality or religion allowed in the secular world?
Are you uncertain of a place for spirituality/religion in psychotherapy?
Maybe you are in conflict about your faith and its use of it, especially in psychotherapy.
Maybe you have thoughts like, “If I believe and have faith in God, why would I need a therapist?” Or “If I have faith in God why do I need to see a doctor or consult with a medical specialist?” To some, these examples might seem extreme and even silly, yet these are real questions many are grappling with today.
This way of thinking presents the view that God and our emotional and physical well-being are exclusive. Or that God is unconcerned or clueless about these aspects of our development. If the ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ are separate issues and should not be integrated, a splitting of personality is to be expected and dysfunction should be the norm. It is not your fault that the therapist or mental health professional did not ask about your spirituality and the place it has in your life. On the other hand, not every therapist believes in the spiritual and is trained to make spiritual connections. In such cases, a referral should be considered.
Why Not Include Your Spirituality?
Spiritual or religious? Is there a difference, you might ask? The short answer is yes, although there is some degree of overlap. In this article, 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. Another similarity is the idea that life is bigger than oneself. Therefore, guidance from a higher power 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 notion of spirituality and religious beliefs, which may be toxic and disempowering or life-giving and empowering. Regardless of preference, these religious views should be examined to ascertain if they are sources of integration or disintegration. Religion may be part of the problem or part of the solution to presenting issues.
Therapists should be aware of their own biases and make their position known. I am a Christian and evaluate situations within that framework, without proselytizing. Unless invited to share my faith, I try not to be intrusive.
My spiritual expression includes reading the Bible, praying, meditating, 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 is apparent that one’s spirituality or the development of one’s spiritual essence matters. Most importantly, a person is constructed with parts that make a whole. These parts are, emotional, cognitive, physical, and cultural. The culture 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 transmits it, as in the case of prayer.” -Napoleon Hill
Sadly, recent research shows that most psychologists and therapists are not as religious compared to the clients they serve. Many do not even God exists. In the face of research consistently proving that the integration of one’s faith (religious and spiritual experiences) in psychotherapy has positive effects and outcomes, 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 in the work they do with their therapists. Unfortunately, they are not even being asked about it! (https://nbhi-llc.org/product/my-history-of-spirituality/)
Why You Should?
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 for 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 in 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 the story of their own spirituality/faith. (i.e. In some churches, this is called a “testimony service”)
- Spirituality/religion allows for new growth in a person’s life– developing resiliency
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.” Some believe there is no basis or use for it, as it imposes restrictions and enforces accountability.
This results in inhibitions on the part of persons seeking services and on service providers. Clearly, the benefits of practicing one’s faith are astounding. The effects are immeasurable 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 emotions in men and women. This change is linked to the use of spirituality in the work we do together.
The prevalence of religion and the practice of faith underscores the importance of the inclusion of spirituality in psychotherapy.
Are you in the market for a therapist or presently seeing one? Consider asking your therapist to include spirituality in the therapeutic process. Spiritual inclusion and expression are essential for your stability and mental wellbeing. Neglect this area no more!
K.Henry (Copyright 2021)