Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The growing inclusion of spirituality in therapeutic counseling

"Does religion belong in therapy? A growing number of counselors and patients think it does. Faith-based therapy is growing in popularity, reports Psychology Today, as more patients look for counselors who can discuss their problems and goals from a religious frame of reference."

"Nearly three-fourths of Americans say their whole approach to life is based on religion. But only 32 percent of psychiatrists, 33 percent of clinical psychologists and 46 percent of clinical social workers feel the same. The majority of traditional counselor training programs have no courses dealing with spiritual matters."
When God is part of Therapy, a NY Times article by Tara Parker-Hope
With God as my Shrink, Psychology Today

Our culture has come full circle in many ways, through the industrial and technology eras, to realize the value of spiritual principles, understanding, and core belief  systems to enhance our ability to thrive in the modern world.  Our spiritual (or religious) beliefs influence our physical and mental health, and are sometimes the brush of a feather that can roll us toward being a survivor during impossible odds or the person who is lost on the operating table without major risks or clear cause.   

Bruce Lipton describes in The Biology of Belief, how our cells are listening and responding to every thought and emotion.  Our DNA is informed by both the internal and external environments in which we live.  Spiritually-based principles such as gratitude and forgiveness have been studied and shown to take pressure off the heart, decrease depressive symptoms, and slow aging.  Faith in a "power greater than myself" creates trust in a world that supports me.  Altruistic, faith-based systems guide us to live better lives, to treat others and the world more kindly, to seek the good in the world and to feel safe in the world, regardless of the evidence of harm and drama super-sized by the media.

Spiritual and religious systems also ask us to be in relationship with a "Universal Wisdom, God, prophet, or other Divine Source of Life and Knowledge."  By practicing this relationship through meditation, contemplation, prayer and study we can each better listen to, hear and connect with the inner voice of this Higher Power, allowing it to guide us to our greater good instead of allowing the masses, the media, our family or friends to make our choices and lead the direction of our lives.

It is so easy to be driven off-track, to lose the inner voice, or forget what we knew as children;  to have our Guidance be drowned out by the voices around us;  to be overwhelmed by the negative voices within us.  Spiritual counseling and coaching listens to and speaks with the heart; it seeks to shore up values, self-esteem and integrity, and create Sacred Space where unneeded beliefs, suffering and heartache are restored to order according to the true (and holy) needs of the client.

Whole Health Educators always include Spirituality as one of the five critical aspects of health and wellness.   As a trans-denominational pastor, I provide spiritual coaching focused on universal spiritual principles grounded in New Thought teachings and the mindfulness and compassion teachings of Buddhism.

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