I just recently participated in a workshop facilitated by Dr. Ken Pargament, author of the book, “Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy: Understanding and Addressing the Sacred.” Ken was recently named one of the 50 most influential living psychologists in the world. He shared with us the story of one of his clients who had come to see him. She had been in counseling for her bi-polar condition for over thirty years, was at a low point and came to see if Ken could help her. During their first session, Ken asked her if there was a resource she used with herself when she found herself in this bottomed-out state.
She shared with Ken that at the age of 13 when she had her first episode, she felt this warm feeling in her chest and then God spoke to her saying: “I am with you. I will never leave you. Know that I am always with you.” These words were of great comfort to her and helped her get through that episode. From that time forward, any time she had an episode she would connect with God again in this way. She told Ken that this had become one of her most valuable coping resources. Even though she had been to numerous counselors over the last thirty years, this was her first time to share with anyone about this experience. When Ken asked why she had not shared it earlier, she said it was because all of the mental health professionals thought she was crazy.
This points to the phenomenon of how a good number of psychotherapists tend to shy away from addressing the spiritual dimension of life. Ken pointed to research he had done. When a sampling of the public asked people if they believed in God, 96% responded “yes.” When psychotherapists were asked the same question, 24% responded “yes.” Get the picture? 82% of the public reported that they prefer to talk about spirituality. But how many would actually feel safe enough, understood and supported in a counseling situation?
For a number of years now I have had what could be called a spiritually integrated psychotherapy practice in Longmont, Colorado. I want my clients to know that our counseling sessions are a safe place for them to share with me about their spiritual experiences if they want to. I have drawn on the valuable resources inherent in the spiritual dimensions of life since I was a child. For some, like Ken’s client, they are just too valuable a resource to leave out of the therapeutic process. When my clients express a desire to explore the spiritual, I encourage and support them to do just that. Of course, not all clients will want to delve into the spiritual, and that is also just fine. In that case, there is plenty we can do in exploring the many psychological approaches I have learned.
Just know that if you come see me and want to include your spiritual experience in your therapeutic process, then you will have my support in doing just that. And if you desire to stay with a more psychological approach then we can do just that. Both the psychological and the spiritual are rich in what they have to offer. Either way, you will have a great opportunity to heal, learn and grow.