I’ve always viewed my clients as teachers. And so it was an early client who pointed me toward the need for a bridge between spirituality and psychology.
In those days, we therapists were usually told to refer someone with a spiritual problem to a chaplain. Times have changed, thankfully. We now see chaplains with degrees in therapy. We see psychology books on topics such as forgiveness. Even the US Army identifies “spiritual resources” for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD. But many therapists still approach spiritual topics with trepidation and many religious professionals still view psychology as “secular” or even “New Age”.
This man I’m telling you about had attempted suicide but no one could figure out why he was depressed. Finally he told me. “It has to do with sex”, he said. I waited and finally he told me that he had sexual thoughts about women other than his wife. I waited, thinking there had to be more. But there wasn’t so I asked “So you believe you’re going to hell because of that?” He hung his head and nodded.
Here was a critical choice point. Did I call the session off and buzz for the chaplain? Obviously not. Instead I said “Well, I guess I’ll be down there frying with you.” He was astounded and so began a discussion of normal sexuality.
“Joe” showed me that, to help him, I had to be open to exploring spiritual themes as well as psychological themes. In his own way, he showed me the path I still follow.
Themes of guilt fill a therapist’s time. Some of this guilt has its roots in religious teachings. To effectively address it with others much less within ourselves, we must be open to building a bridge between psychology and spirituality. You may feel you have such a bridge and that it is made of steel. Mine is made more of wood slats and rope. It tends to sway in the breeze of challenges brought to me by others. For that I am grateful.