What does Spirituality mean in Psychotherapy?
Kenneth Bitner, LICSW
Spirituality is a loaded word for many people. When engaging in therapy, spirituality often is the one topic individuals are hesitant to bring into that space. For those who are spiritual or religious, they may fear being judged or mocked or dismissed, afraid that someone will try to take away this important part of themselves. For those who are non-religious or non-spiritual, it can feel like an imposition, a judgement, or just silly nonsense they don’t need. So why even bring it up?
To me, spirituality is something inherent in humanness, though everyone experiences it differently. As individuals, we are often focused on our current situation or worrying about the future. At times, though, a sense of the beauty and mystery of the world in which we love will break through. We might feel it while walking in nature, while talking with loved ones, or while participating in time-honored religious traditions. Sometimes, it does not seem beautiful, but heartbreaking, when we find it in the sorrow of loss, or when we see the suffering of another and desire to soothe their pain. When these moments explode into our awareness, we gain perspective of our place in the universe and our connection with each other person. We find a center within ourselves, where our inherent value as an individual can be seen.
Spirituality Provides Tools for Personal Growth
That all sounds very nice, but how can we really use it in therapy? Spirituality provides a wealth of tools for our personal growth. Our concerns become more manageable when we see the true size of them, instead of how large they can seem from inside. We also can become more creative in how we address them, when we allow for a wider mindset. We also improve our relationships with others, when we can recognize both our own and their infinite value as a person. We can also draw on practices and rituals that spiritual traditions and people have found useful before, such as meditation, centering, and creating spaces in our home where we can reconnect to our spirituality. Exploring this aspect of ourselves can be intimidating at the beginning. Partnering with a caring therapist and being willing to take the risk, though, can make spirituality a source of strength, happiness, and creativity in our lives. Take the chance and perhaps new vistas will appear that you never knew were there.