Psychotherapy traditionally takes the psychological self as its object of interest. The manner in which a psychotherapist often addresses an individual’s need for emotional balancing and healing may centre on his or her particular and unique mentality, character, and emotional expressiveness. However, many people experience themselves as both intrinsically human (endowed with physical embodiment), as well as spiritual beings. For such people, psychotherapy that fails to integrate the needs of both body and soul would feel incomplete.
What Constitutes Spiritual Psychotherapy?
While all psychotherapy endeavours to address imbalances in mood, rebuild depleted self-esteem, and support clients in cultivating insight, psychotherapy that incorporates a psychospiritual dimension also emphasizes the journey of the soul, or spirit – which may include the wish to strengthen a connection with a higher power. Psychotherapy can be an explorative space for individuals seeking to deepen a lifelong faith, a change in spiritual affiliation, or even a break from a familiar denomination of belief. For some, the focus is not on a higher power or deity, but rather on accessing the wisdom of a higher self, the gifts of transpersonal awareness, or the power of intuition. Others seek to learn more about something that is currently sensed or felt but is as yet unworded or undefined.
Psychotherapy can be a safe and thoughtful space to address a spiritual crisis. Some individuals arrive in therapy with a sense of wounding or burden on the level of the spirit. They seek a supportive, open-minded therapist who can aid them in their efforts to feel more emotionally and spiritually whole. Some of these clients describe how they themselves have even sought to deny, or have felt compelled by others to deny, their sense of mystical experience or transpersonal awareness. For such individuals, meeting with a sensitive psychotherapist who honours their efforts to connect with the sacred and cultivate a sense of spirit is a profound experience. It may be a transformational opportunity to engage the needs of the soul, possibly for the first time.
Treatment: How Therapists Work with Spirituality, Spiritual Crises, or Spirituality-Related Concerns
Therapeutic treatment is likely to be highly individually tailored. It may include:
- Exploring the nature of your psychospiritual crisis and your particular response to it (e.g., a sense of inauthenticity, a broken connection, stalled spiritual growth)
- Helping you to further develop your personal system of meaning, belief, and sense of the Divine
- Sorting through any blocks, resistances, or disavowed aspects of your psyche (e.g., Carl Jung’s concept of Shadow Self) that might be contributing to your challenges
- Empowering you to deepen your access to your spark of inner divinity, your inner healer
- Encouraging your capacity for authenticity and expanded consciousness
- Inviting spirit into the psychotherapy space, e.g., through prayer, trance, meditation, focusing, or energy work, sound or mantra