Today we have a guest post from one of our RightFit members, Austin Hunter! He answers really important questions about faith and counseling! Go check him out on the RightFit directory or at his website here.
Let’s be honest, psychology and faith have been two topics that have not, historically, gotten along very well. Many may claim that psychology, as a science, pertains to the physical world and faith, being religious, pertains to the spiritual world. So where do human beings fit in?
Research suggests that incorporating religious and spiritual development in counseling can be beneficial to psychotherapy success. Rose, Westfield, and Ansley (2001) even found that most clients have a desire to discuss their spiritual beliefs with their therapist. So how do we find ourselves in a place where talking faith in counseling feels so taboo?
Read on for a few frequently asked questions about incorporating faith into your counseling experience and ways you may not have known to bring spirituality into your therapeutic treatment.
Can I Talk about my Faith with my Therapist?
The short answer is “absolutely, yes!” The real question here may be, “Will I talk about my faith with my therapist?” You see, as your counselor, I am here to enable you to discuss whatever it is that is most important to you. As we discuss you, as a whole person, and your experiences, it is likely that faith will be a part of that discussion. Being impacted by religion is a part of being human, wherever you come from and whatever that religious background may be. Interacting with religious themes is unavoidable in life and we would not want to avoid discussing it. It is a part of who you are! The spiritual element of being alive, that which goes beyond just our physical experience, is a very powerful and shaping force for how we experience our life and the problems which trouble us.
The way spiritual issues impact your life might be very obvious to you and you may be able to bring these issues up with your therapist very easily. These issues might also be much more subtle, buried, or unknown to you, and figuring them out could be a part of your treatment and healing. What is important is that you know it is ok to discuss your faith, religion, or spiritual values with your therapist knowing that we won’t judge you, try to change them, or disparage you for them. What we will do is help you fit your beliefs into the process of healing and what it means to be you.
What if my Therapist has Different Religious Beliefs than Me?
The reality is that, even if you come from the exact same religious background, no two people share identical faith beliefs. It is also very likely that there will be differences between your beliefs and those of your therapist, even if there are many similarities. What is important to know is that my goal, as your counselor, is not to convince you to believe things the way that I do. My goal is to help you understand the beliefs that you have, where they come from, and how they are impacting your life right now. It is always your choice to decide what beliefs you want to maintain and what beliefs you might want to change. At the end of our time together, I do not want you to be more like me, I want you to enjoy and be more you.
What If I’m Not Sure What I Believe/I’m Exploring New Faith/Religion Has Been Painful for Me?
If any of the above are questions you are asking right now, you are in good company. Many people come to therapy for the first time because of these very questions, whether they are aware of it or not. You should never be shamed or judged in a counseling office for being unsure, exploring, or revealing hurt you’ve experienced through faith. In fact, I would be much more surprised to meet someone who had absolutely no questions, doubts, or pains from their spiritual experience. Growing is painful, and spiritual growth equally so. You can be confident in bringing up any topic of faith in counseling and trust that it will be met with the same listening ear, positive regard, and empathy brought to every topic you share.
This blog was originally posted on Avalon Psychotherapy and is shared here with permission. Austin Hunter, APC, holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Georgia. As a provisional counselor, he receives supervision from Marissa Mundy, LPC, CPCS. Austin has additional trainings in Mindfulness Meditation, DBT, and Motivational Interviewing that enable him to work with clients of multiple faiths, backgrounds, and experiences.