Spirituality and Mental Health, Part IV of IV: Health-Centric Spirituality in Psychotherapy

Psychiatry_Psychology2.jpgConsider the spiritual elements that I pointed out from research on spirituality and health in the previous parts of this series. They were: meaning, gratitude, peace, confidence, sense of identity, and acceptance.

The somatic (body mind) approaches to psychotherapy, including EMDR, tend to “unlock” these experiences in ways that are very personal to the individual. Generally, people refer to this sensation of de-stressing and expanding awareness as a spiritual experience. They feel that their greater ease in expressing their higher values is a spiritual achievement. The subjective sense of energy work that can be used in creating the positive “state shift” that I mentioned in the last article can also feel very spiritual.

But, if faith and God are optional for these, then why call them spiritual? For many people, they are a part of religious experience and connection with God. Some non-believers call these experiences spiritual because, well, they feel really spiritual. Do I need a better explanation? So what if my spiritual experiences are because I had a temporal lobe, delta predominant micro-seizure. At least it was mine! But that’s a subject for another article.

You can’t expect me to be too serious when I’m thinking spiritually now, can you? If that won’t do, you may have to resort to philosophy. Philosophy is very serious, and sounds very smart, makes unaccountable generalizations, takes volumes to make its point, and gets outcomes that we are wired to desire, like tenure, sex, money, sex, grandiosity, and sex. You can find it all over the place. Come to think of it, I just did it (made a broad, unaccountable generalization). I wonder what my reward will be?

Okay, back to business. What about the less spiritual-sounding factors of internal locus of control (seeing oneself as able to influence one’s own fate), education/knowledge, social support, and self-expression? Healers can promote these elements by adding systems work, family therapy, and psychosocial education to their therapeutic approaches to boost these more behavioral factors.

Therapists who like to confine their thinking within the walls of their office or hospital may have trouble with this one. But they’re what we call cherry pickers, or complacent. I could tell you stories!

Take a few moments to review the factors:

Meaning, gratitude, peace, confidence, sense of identity, and acceptance.

And the more behavioral ones:

Internal locus of control (seeing oneself as able to influence one’s own fate), education/knowledge, social support, and self-expression.

Imagine yourself experiencing all of them at once! That could be pretty therapeutic. You might want to do that along with some deep relaxation sometime, visualization another time, brainstorming another, and journaling another time.

You may never be the same again!

The Arrow of Causality

These factors all influence each other. There is no single arrow of causality. Healers, whether primarily in physical or mental domains, must accumulate tools throughout their careers that make them more effective at enhancing all these aspects. And they must be adept at referring and motivating their patients to take advantage of resources that will help them in this regard. Part of this is the art of integration, that is, putting the tools together to achieve a synergy; an even higher level of effectiveness.

I know this series has only scratched the surface, but the point is to help readers new to this integrative thinking do some perspective-gathering, so I hope you feel it serves as a good launch pad.


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Robert A. Yourell, MA

Robert A. Yourell, MA, has extensive experience in the mental health and social services dating back to 1975. His training includes Ericksonian communication and hypnosis with John Grinder, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing with Francine Shapiro, PhD, Body Integrative Psychotherapy with Jack Rosenberg, PhD, and solution-focused psychotherapy. He provides free audio experiences on his site that include bilateral sound and Shimmering.
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