The hatred between psychology and spirituality is long-standing. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, described religion as a “collective delusion.” Such attitudes have recently softened as scientific evidence of the health benefits of practices such as prayer and meditation has grown. But the mistrust persists.
“There is a condemnation gap between psychologists and the general population,” said clinical psychologist David Lokoff. While mental health professionals are often uncomfortable with the topic, in which they have little personal experience, more than half are cares about patients In integrated spiritual therapy.
It can be a challenge. Only a quarter of psychologists and psychiatrists are trained in how to meet clients’ spiritual needs, according to Lukoff, who recently helped develop a program to strengthen “Spiritual Efficiency“for therapists, which includes lessons on mindfulness, self-compassion, forgiveness, and the mystical experience. Spiritual techniques can be especially useful when individuals grapple with deep existential questions,” he says.
“When people groan and ask, ‘Oh my God, why are you doing this to me?’ Why is there suffering in the world? What is the meaning and purpose of life? – This is not a psychological problem. It’s a spiritual struggle, said Eric J. Hall, Presbyterian Minister and President of the Health Care Network. A non-profit religious service operating in hospitals and other health care settings.
Reverend Hall noted that our spiritual struggles can lead to tremendous personal growth. “But when the struggle deepens without the ability to treat it, people’s health often deteriorates.”
He noted that research shows that spiritual distress increases rates of heart disease and other diseases, as well as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Major healthcare organizations have noted. A new diagnostic category, “religious or spiritual problem,” was added to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association) in 1994. In 2016, the American Medical Association advised For physicians to provide a spiritual care plan as part of their treatment of patients.
Spiritual care does not mean solving someone’s problems for them, Russell Seiler Jones, director of residency at CareNet/Wake Forest Baptist Health in Psychotherapy, explained. “You don’t need to have the answers, just to be willing to accompany people in the struggle,” he said.
Jones, the Baptist pastor, often asks those who come to him for treatment—“Where do you draw your strength from? What gives you hope?” With devout clients, he might have them talk about their lives in prayer, or ask when they feel most connected to God.
He noted that for many, their spirituality may have little to do with organized religion.
Kenneth PargamentA professor of psychology emeritus at Bowling Green State University who is still active in researching the connection between spirituality and health, recalls working with a man who was not a religious believer. “I was so frustrated,” Pargament said. He was very depressed. I couldn’t find a way to generate any kind of spark or enthusiasm in his life.” Joe then asked if there was a time when he was simply glad to be alive.
“Joe lit. He told me he was a jet pilot. He said, “Man, when you cut through the sky with this thing, you can touch God’s face!” Pargament recalls. “We talked about the feeling of flying and the skills involved and how he could use those skills in his life to become more assertive, more From the man who bears the responsibility. The treatment involved getting him back — literally and figuratively — back to the cockpit of his life.”
Another client had advanced HIV/lozenges; Desperate, I considered not getting dialysis as a way to die. Pargament suggested another option. “You have lost a lot,” he said, “but you can still spend the sacred moments of your life with those you love and helping others.”
Eventually, she decided to undergo dialysis and became, in Pargament’s words, “a wonderful patient advocate for others in the rehab facility, laughing with them, helping them and feeding them.” She lived another three years with a renewed sense of spiritual purpose.
“We’re not just shaped by our genes or our larger environment,” Pargament explained. “We are also purpose-oriented creatures looking for deep meaning and purpose in our lives.”
“The term ‘spiritual’ is often associated with religion, but that’s not how I use it,” explained Steve Taylor, professor of psychology at Leeds Beckett University in the UK. “Spiritual awakening is simply a transition to a more extensive state of consciousness.” He said a lot of people are going through that transformation today, but added that it can be confusing to adjust to a radical new view of life.
Taylor says the first step in spiritual healing is for clients who are opening up to their greatest potential to know they’re undergoing a natural process and won’t go crazy. “I really don’t think therapists need to do much,” he said. “Once a person understands and accepts himself, his spirituality will take care of itself.”