What does my spirituality have to do with therapy?
Updated: Feb 8
Are we as therapists equipped to deal with spirituality and religion?
Although most licensed therapists and counselors are not spiritual leaders, there are many people that come to therapy with spiritual and religious concerns. And these concerns have a more emotional component that might be better tended to by a mental health provider, or by working together with the client’s faith support system.
My theoretical approach to counseling is both humanistic and feminist. A tenant of both theories is allowing the client’s voice, rather than an expert approach, to guide and support the therapy experience.
Research shows that clients prefer to work with a therapist that has a similar spiritual approach. I have found as a spiritual person that it is helpful for me to share with clients 1) that I am spiritual, and 2) that while I am not religious, I am someone that was raised within a conventional religion.
I share this not to give in-depth- disclosure, but rather to inform clients that they are working with someone that has a path of seeking a higher power. I typically ask in the first few sessions if a client is spiritual or religious. I also inform clients that their spiritual beliefs, whatever they may be and the language and words that they use, are welcome and will be supported as part of their growth and healing.
This often comes as a surprise to clients, although I hope it is a welcome one. Even if a person is conventionally religious, they might want to talk about not only the positive benefits of being a person of faith but also anything that might disrupt that connection, including questions they might have about their own or other faiths.
I have also found myself sitting across from many people who left their religion or are questioning doing so. This is not explored enough in therapy. I am comfortable discussing this as I know leaving a faith can mean leaving a community, can create conflict with family and can lead to feeling isolated if there are no other natural supports in place.
I think it is healthy to question your relationship to self, others, and your definition of God, including if you are not a person of faith or belief. I want you to know that I am comfortable using language and tools that are of service to your spiritual belief during your therapy work with me.
In addition, some people after having this question asked, might choose to seek a therapist that discloses a similar belief system as them. I think that is great, and I hope a client seeing me once and then deciding to do so feels confident knowing that I support them. Regardless of if my spiritual beliefs match yours, I will strive to meet you where you are at and support your spiritual point of view to promote our clinical relationship and assist in your growth.
My point of view is that we as providers should feel ready to support clients of any denomination or spiritual affiliation, including a client that is atheist. Topics about faith, losing faith, religious abuse, questioning one’s belief system, healing from leaving a faith tradition one was raised in, dealing with a couple that has two different beliefs, spiritual emergence and existential crisis are all topics that clients might do more than touch on if given the space in session to explore.
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Thank you for reading, and warm wishes to you and yours!