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Spirituality and Therapy

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A lot of people think that if you are a Christian, then you should steer clear of therapists, that we will push secular ideas and discourage people from using their faith. I wondered myself when I was a baby therapist still in graduate school about how I would make my faith and the science of psychology meld together. They seem so opposite. One is based on research, the scientific method, and sometimes lab rats. The other is hard to put your finger on exactly. It’s existential. However, I have learned that not only do they go together wonderfully, but I have not done my job if I don’t ask people about their faith.

I’m a licensed professional counselor at a community mental health center. I work with adults with problems ranging from marital issues to schizophrenia. My primary population to work with is women that have a history of sexual abuse. That passion to talk about such a taboo subject also brought me to New Hope Youth Ministries. I’ve been on the board now since 2017.

At New Hope, we hope to treat the whole person. That means when we assess a trafficking survivor, we look at all of their needs physically, mentally, and spiritually. Humans are a balancing act of all of these, and they are all connected. This is actually backed up by research. One study found that people who have regular spiritual practices tend to live longer. Studies have shown that spiritual people heal fast after surgery and may experience less pain. What is happening here?

Hope is a powerful force. I look for hope in people every day. It’s what keeps us going. If a client does not have hope, I get very worried. That is what spirituality gives us. That is why I encourage all of my clients to explore their faith. Knowing that there is a wonderful God that loves you, has plans for you, and knows every hair on your head is something beyond a therapy session. It is something to carry for a lifetime and beyond. 

I like to ask my clients, what do you think of God? Then I ask, what does God think of you? These two questions are my basic assessment of their spiritual health. If those two answers are not filled with love, hope, and peace, then I ask them to reconsider their thoughts and beliefs. If your spiritual practice at its core is not giving you love, hope, and peace, then you are doing it wrong. And, I tell them that. These questions also help me understand if the client feels that there is some sort of purpose for their life. We all need to feel like we have a purpose here on planet Earth. It drives us to move on in our lives and accomplish things.

I’m not pushing Jesus on clients. That is not my job. Although, I am more than happy to talk about Jesus with clients when they are willing to do so. I direct people to religious leaders all the time, because I am also not a biblical scholar. And yes, I even encourage people to explore other religions. Why? Because I want them to find Jesus for themselves. Isn’t that more powerful? Jesus is looking for them. I’m nudging them to consider the possibility that there is a powerful loving force. I let them put the pieces together.

What they don’t know is that Jesus is in every therapy session with me. I can’t do it without Him. Their problems and understanding their mind are so beyond my capabilities. If He is not there, I become overwhelmed with the mountains of hurt. When I ask Jesus for help, he is always there and he brings peace that fills the room and hearts of my clients.

So, yes counseling is a science. It’s an artform, and it’s a spiritual practice. As Christians it’s okay to both need Jesus and a therapist. There are even therapists that advertise themselves as Christians, so you know you are free to talk about Jesus. Separating these disciplines and ideas prevents us from seeing the whole picture and helping clients reach their full potential. I refuse to do it. Go get some therapy.

Puchalski C. M. (2001). The role of spirituality in health care. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 14(4), 352–357.

Laura BrinkerSpirituality and Therapy

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