Spirituality: A Holistic Approach to Therapy

What does it mean when a therapist says that they utilize a client’s spirituality as a tool to promote change and healing? When a client comes to see me and they ask if I am a ‘Christian Counselor’, I tell them that while my religion is Christian, I work with one’s spirituality. I see all kinds of clients of all religions and views of God. To me spirituality includes “wanting to belong, be loved, valued, affirmed and nurtured as human beings, and to be respected with dignity”.1 “How we see ourselves in the scheme of things, how we relate to other human beings and the wider world, and how we find meaning, purpose, and connection in life—all of this is the very stuff of spirituality”.2 Spirituality is about relating with oneself, with others, and with a greater power than oneself or with God and “serves as a unifying and healing force that centers on relationships, development, wholeness, integration, and individual empowerment”.3 I use a holistic approach to therapy because I believe that a person is a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual being who cannot be compartmentalized. When one aspect is hurt or sick, it affects all aspects of the individual. Therefore, in my sessions, I listen for how a client views God, a higher power, or where they seek their source of strength to help them find ways of getting them through their distress. Spirituality is about being in relationship with oneself and with others. As I affirm the uniqueness of each of my clients and their relationship(s), this enables them to meet their own spiritual needs and bring about inner healing as well as working through the individual, couple, and family dynamic issues they came to therapy for.Did you know that “in the United States, 92% of Americans report a belief in God or a higher power and more than 50% indicate that religion/spirituality is ‘very important’ in their lives”?4 Research showed that when a patient’s spiritual needs are addressed, the patient’s mental health tends to improve as well.There is a misconception, in my opinion, in the definition of healing. Sometimes healing can come from being cured. Other times, however, like in the case of a terminal illness, as described in The American Journal of Bioethics, healing can include discovering meaning, bringing hope and newness, reconciliation to one’s illness, to one’s past or present relationships, and peace with God.5 This is the beauty of spirituality. It comes through many shapes and sizes. Spirituality can appear in the subdued silence, the mystical and dancing sunrise, or through the laughter of a child. It can wrap a person in endless arms of love and delight and sing sweet melodies through spoken or unspoken words. It would only make sense that the one place a (hurting) person, already feeling incomplete, can walk into, is a (therapist’s) office, and be treated as a whole person. “We delude ourselves if we think we can keep our inner life separate from the outer”. 2References:(1) Edwards, A., Pang, N., Shiu, V., & Chan, C. (2010). The understanding of spirituality and the potential role of spiritual care in end-of-life and palliative care: A meta-study of qualitative research. Palliative Medicine, 24(8), 753-770. DOI: 10. 1777/0269216310375860.(2) Wright, S., & Neuberger, J. (2013). Spiritual expression. Nursing Standard, 27(41), 16-18.(3) Pelleg, G., & Leichtentritt, R. D. (2009). Spiritual beliefs among Israeli nurses and social workers: A comparison based on their involvement with the dying. Omega, 59(3), 239-252. DOI: 10.2190/OM.59.3.d.(4) Rosmarin, D. H., Wachholtz, A, & Ai, A. (2011). Beyond descriptive research: Advancing the study of spirituality. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 34, 409-413. DOI: 10. 1007/s10865-011-9370-4.(5) Long, T. L. (2010). Review of the rebirth of the clinic: An introduction to spirituality and a balm for gilead. The American Journal of Bioethics, 10(4), 87-89. DOI: 10. 1080/15265161003697339