What does spirituality have to do with psychotherapy? This is a question that often gets asked. I include this section because my spirituality has a strong influence on how I am as a therapist and so what follows might be of interest to anyone who is considering attending counselling.
For many years my spiritual journey has involved a desire to strip away the various traditions and rituals that have grown up around Christian faith and to try to recover the spiritual experience of the original believers. What I have learned is that the Gospel was understood by the early Christians not to be a dry orthodox creed to be adhered to, but an invitation to connectedness with the God who is Amazing Love. This connectedness is initiated not when we have perfected ourselves enough to earn it, but when we simply surrender ourselves to this Love.
In a nutshell, I understand that the original message of the Gospel is that whatever inadequacy there is in us that would disqualify us from this connectedness has been entirely paid for through the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. This is amazing, all human failings and shortcomings are included in the well known phrase that describes Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When we accept this as an individual and surrender to this Love, God Himself initiates this connection by making us spiritually alive and instigates a relationship with Himself in which we come to experience Him personally, and which endures for all of our lives and for eternity.
By the grace of God this experience became a reality in my life some forty years ago, and has continued and grown up to the present day. I know that if this has been possible for me then there is surely not a person on the planet for whom this is not possible, if they want it. This has a profound impact on who I am as a therapist, and on how I see those whom I work with in counselling.
As a therapist I see each person I work with as somebody tremendously valuable, being created by God as a unique individual with a unique purpose. I feel tremendously privileged to work with them. Nobody, in my view, is an accident of time and chance, whose value consists of being just one human being among six billion others. Each is a purposeful creation, of great worth because each is the creation of the God who is Love.
When I sit as a therapist with an individual I do not have a religious agenda. In my work as a counsellor I am there to assist that individual find ways to change their experience of life as suits them. If they see their spirituality as part of that process I am happy to work with them in that area. If not, I am happy to work with them in whatever areas they feel they want to explore.
As you read this, if you find you are interested in the connection between spirituality and psychotherapy, there are a number of books I have found helpful, a few of which I have detailed below:
“The Beautiful Risk”, by James H. Olthuis.
“Surrender to Love”, by David Benner.
“Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance”, by Terry Cooper. (if you are a bit of a theologian!)
“Connecting”, by Larry Crabb.