Spirituality and the Practice of Counseling Essay
Spirituality and religion tend be gaining a lot of significance in the profession of counseling. Some studies have admitted that the values of the spiritual beliefs set a moral framework of reference to counseling. Several studies have described issues of spiritual as extremely relevant in the entire process of counseling. Therefore, the acknowledgement of the relevance of spiritual beliefs and their subsequent incorporation into counseling practices can contribute to positive outcomes. Consequently, this paper sought to establish the role that spirituality plays in the practice of counseling
Keywords: Spirituality, religion, counseling, beliefs, morals
Spirituality and the Practice of Counseling
It is always necessary to recognize the fact that in the recent past, several counselors had marked out religion and spirituality from the realm of counseling. Many professional counselors intentionally ignored the two concepts in avoiding the possible counter accusations of combining matters of religion-spirituality concerns. These are issues that most of the people viewed as of the clergy and not for the counselors into their counseling profession. However, as the time progressed, the population with multicultural backgrounds grew, resulting into an increase in the demand for counseling practices. Consequently, counselors started incorporating religion-spirituality into their practices and gave it more attention as an attempt to comprehend the wider cultural backgrounds of their clients. Since then, there has been the growing urge in understanding the above, leading to the increased exploration of spiritual-religion concepts within the circles of counseling. Despite all these, there has been a universal agreement among scholars that religion and spirituality are extremely relevant in counseling of people with diverse spiritual and religious beliefs. It has ethical importance, and very critical in the counseling practices when considering the population of clients that originate from different cultural settings. Thus, the paper will exhaust the concept and the role of spirituality in the contemporary practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Succinctly, the paper reviews how spirituality could be manifested in individuals (Strobel, 2013).
The Concept of Spirituality
The term spirituality has very divergent meaning in the contemporary world depending on the context and discipline of its definition. Indeed, scholars have given much into the concept of spirituality but there has never been a universal agreement in its definition within the context of counseling. The definition of the term spirituality in relation to counseling should always point to the clients’ understanding of the concept of spirituality because that is the only way that they can benefit from counseling. The definition should fit in the context of counseling and psychotherapy by including the clients’ spiritual experiences (Hall, 1998). For this reason, one needs to draw a clear cut between spirituality and religion. For the purposes of this specific paper, the term religion would mean a strict adherence to the practices and beliefs of religious institution or church, which is well organized. However, the term spirituality that is the focus of the study would be exhaustively defined in the paper as under.
Spirituality is a term that could mean a subtle, having bodily feeling with vague connotation, which brings a clearer and new meaning that would involve a process of transcendent growth. From the definition, it is clear that the spirituality must involve a subtle feeling of the body that bears extremely opaque meaning. The clients have an obscure feeling that the counselors have the ability to attend to at that particular moment. It is a wider concept that entails the subtle feelings, which are not just the cognitive belief systems, but also the sense of the body. These feelings are elusive, subtle, difficult to describe and difficult for a person to accurately operationalize them into words. Spirituality involves greater feelings that are way beyond just the emotions, such as fear or happiness. According to Hall (1998), a person can easily locate such feelings in the body in places such as the chest, throat, and even the stomach. The meanings of such feelings are very vague and no one knows their precise meaning. These feelings are extremely complex to understand and they carry exclusive meanings that the individuals themselves are able to feel and comprehend (Scandrette, 2011).
Secondly, the obscure feeling brings a brand new meaning that is not very clear. By bringing, Crabb (2001) implied that the people would often perceive that they are not the cause of these new and explicit meaning of their feelings. At the onset, the client could sense some unclear bodily feelings, which bears exclusively the implicit meanings. However, as the person continues to be more attentive to these obscure and subtle feelings in a caring, gentle manner, the fresh meaning begins to reflect itself and becomes clearer. For instance, the client may be having the vague and bodily feeling of calmness and peace. However, upon concentration the client may be able to extract the new meaning of the understanding of acceptance of another person’s differences as the source of their peacefulness and calm (Strobel, 2013).
In addition, the definition also has some elements of the spiritual transcendent process of growth. The use of the term transcendent is well thought of and intentional in the definition of spirituality. The term transcendent could mean the movement beyond ones’ previous reference frame in a certain direction that is broader and has a higher scope in more inclusive perspective. The transcendent is very crucial in the human race. As Strobel (2013) puts it, transcendent process of growth is a common characteristic of the entire human race. It involves the movement above an individual’s unhealthy exclusivity, egocentricity, and duality towards the healthiest inclusivity, egocentricity, unity and the arising development of the capacity to love other people. The ability of individuals becoming clearer in their initial subtle feelings may inform such movements in the feeling of a person. Scandrette (2011) emphasizes that when the central core or inward self of an individual expounds, it develops and strengthen the ‘I’ in them with certainty making it become even stronger in the actual sense.
However, in this paper, spirituality will bear the meaning of unique and personal experience that has some meaning. It is of importance to note that spirituality may engulf some form of religion, but spirituality does not expressly involve religion. A precise definition of spirituality may assist the counselors in responding to the spiritual issues of their clients irrespective of the background of their spirituality (Hall, 1998).
Expression of Spirituality
People may express their spirituality in several ways. For one, it may involve the performance of some rituals in an individual’s traditions. Equally, it could be combining both the ritual and the traditions of a particular person. Similarly, it could also manifest in the traditions alone. Other people may also try to show their spirituality within the broader context of their religion. However, this would normally vary depending on the levels of involvement and commitment of that particular person in the faith of that religion. More frequently, such religious beliefs are handed down from one generation over years to the next. It means that most people inherit their religion and spiritual beliefs from the previous generations. In the same line, it is also good to note that some people shift from one religion to the other. In this case, the person makes a choice of their religion on their own volition after consideration of several factors. Spirituality may also include the attention to the well being of other or the well being of one’s self. Therefore, the people of a particular society may express in their beliefs, values, music, association of groups, dance, art, volunteer work, family among many others (Strobel, 2013).
The Major Roles of Spirituality in Counseling
The process of transcendent growth at one point may also involve a higher power or rather a deity. The perception of deity among clients varies depending on their religion and spirituality. Such perceptions may lead to giving the higher power different names such as God, Allah, Mother Earth, Universal Energy, Christ, and even Higher Power. On the contrary, some clients may not refer to a higher power and deity. Those clients are likely to report that their spiritualities are found in other services of other people. For example, the movement of the environment and more assertiveness could be a higher power for some people. The belief in the existence of higher power may espouse qualities that are associated with it such as love, faith, and even feeling of interconnectedness. A transcendent growth process may also allow the clients to live in the flow, allowing others control and not controlling one’s self and it should have no attachment. An experience of spirituality could also entail existential questions. Some of these questions could be regarding trying to establish the purpose and meaning life. These queries usually direct the attention of a person into the vector of broader or higher scope. For this reason, the counselors could evoke the use of higher power to explain and influence some important factors to the client (Scandrette, 2011).
When dealing with matters that relate to the spirit, the profession demands that counselors respond sensitively to their clients’ needs in order to produce a progressive growth in them. However, if the counselor has some perception of spirituality that precludes some pertinent contents in the definition of spirituality, there is a higher chance that he/she would be insensitive to the cultures of their clients. For instance, if they define spirituality only as beliefs that are connected to religion, extraordinary events, or even theism, the definition would not fit the present multicultural understanding of spirituality. Consequently, there is a higher chance that their counseling teachings may conflict with the perception of their clients. Thus, there is a need for the counselors to interrogate the spirituality of their clients before commencing the counseling exercise (Strobel, 2013).
Equally, there has been a very rapid growth in the treatment of a person as a whole; the mind, soul and body. This is because many people nowadays believe in the existence of higher power as discussed above. Irrespective of the religious belief of a person, the individuals who believe in the guidance and presence of the Supreme Being could benefit more in terms of the spiritual therapy. Spiritual counseling aims at taking the advantage of the core religious belief systems of a person in addressing their problems. For instance, a person undergoing depression may be taken through a spiritual therapy and discover that they have been experiencing a moral conflict in certain aspects of their life. Similar, if an individual who is suffering from enormous anxiety undergoes a spiritual therapy, they may find that they have been sabotaging their efforts of becoming the person that they had earlier intended to become. With the understanding of these concepts, the counselors can help their clients change for the better (Hall, 1998).
There are various methods at the disposal of the counselors and spiritual therapist that they may use in the process of helping out their clients with the counseling. Some of these methods include communication with nature, use of some particular music, and even meditation. There are also some traditions or rituals that the counselors may use at one point in the entire process to explore the deepest part of their clients’ self. In this case, the major role of religion would be to assist in connecting the mind and the body with a soul. Therefore, this would create a sense of unity between these three with the objective of making a person live peacefully and coexist with others. However, the counselors can only do this with the understanding of their clients’ spirituality (Strobel, 2013).
There is also a need for a clear difference between the entire process of counseling and the integration of spirituality in the whole process of counseling. The expert in spiritual counseling must know the difference between the two in order to follow systematically the process in therapy. An understanding of this difference would definitely assist the counselor in establishing whether responses of the interventions have helped their clients or not. That is, they would be able to determine with certainty whether the intervention that they have instituted on their clients have had some impact on them. If at all the counseling was good, the clients should have felt the impact on such remedies and not just a reflection of them on their mental difference. The use of some contextual words such as ‘God’ in relation to the spiritual beliefs of different people may have very varied connotations and meaning for the individuals. Thus, there is a glaring risk of the counselor becoming judgmental. This is normally the case if at all they decide to concentrate on the content of the spirituality while excluding the understanding of the process of counseling, particularly when diagnosing a person with dissimilar spiritual beliefs (Strobel, 2013).
Several studies have also shown that spirituality and religion have a very crucial therapeutic value. The studies suggest that a good corporation between the client and patient increases the chances that the counselor would assist the client in connecting and solving their problems. Similarly, the counselor may also support the clients in moving outside themselves and encourage them to contribute in various community activities for the common good of all. Perhaps this underscores the reason why religious people usually participate in the social relations that are always positive. Some of these activities are the community and social services activities within the society. In addition, there is a tendency for the spiritual people to involve themselves in not only activities that support their personal growth, but also those that are creative and knowledge building. Therefore, counselors who recognize these roles of religion in the lives of their clients can easily encourage the pursuits that are positive and ultimately contribute to the overall good of clients’ health (Scandrette, 2011)
In addition, researchers have found out that there is a strong positive correlation between religion and spirituality with the extent of coping with stress. The level of existence of religion and spirituality, spirituality or religion, or lack of the two affects how these people assess situations that are distressful in their life. This would enable them to provide a meaning to their life, or give them a greater sense of control over these distressful circumstances and through establishing self-esteem (Hall, 1998).
The institutions of religion are usually resourceful and clients can use them during the times of stress by enabling them to have a sense of identity and even belonging to the community. Apart from the institutions of religion, researchers have also identified other resources that serve to help a client deal with their stress. Some of these tools include solidarity activities, prayers, faith in the living God, and even guidance from their religious leaders. Therefore, counselors can also grasp this opportunity in their counseling (Crabb, 2001).
These resources represent the cognitive, spiritual, social, and behavioral aspects of faith, which is the foundation of religion. There are numerous accounts of evidence, which suggests that the above coping resources that religion and spirituality present assist clients in different groups. Indeed, there is even a link between religion and economic resources. For example, when examining the economic impacts of religion and spirituality, the study found religion to be a resource of health for the people earning income that is under the average national income. Other researchers also found out that clients having psychiatric diagnoses were utilizing religion and spiritual foundations as a source for their comfort and strength. In addition, such people also found religion as a resourceful centre in teaching them of how to cope with their stress, and increase their social support, and ultimately develop a feeling of completeness (Hall, 1998).
Studies also indicate that people who have very healthy spiritual identity and lives usually heal very fast and establish a healthier life than those people who are not religious. A person having a healthy spiritual identity involves having the feeling of connection to the love of God and developing a feeling of self worth. They should also have a sense of meaning and purpose in life. More so, the person should be in a better position to fulfill his greatest potential. Some researchers found out that the counseling of students who were spiritual and inculcated religion in their life had an overall great health than those who were only spiritual. Therefore, findings of the study indicated that institutionalized beliefs, values, morals, and even community at large had connection to health than the practice of spirituality in isolation. Indeed, many studies have established that the involvement of religion reduces the probability of adults living in the setting of a community becoming disabled in some circumstances. These findings clearly indicate that religion plays a very significant role in assisting people in coping with a physical disability (Scandrette, 2011)
Spirituality and Secular Counseling
However much religion and spirituality play a crucial role in counseling, there are still other clients who prefer the secular counseling. Consequently, it is very problematic to establish the reason behind such clients deciding to use secular counseling. The major reason that makes the determination difficult is the ability of religion and spirituality to blend in the secular counseling fully. In fact, some counselors have the ability to incorporate religion and spirituality when counseling. For this reason, researchers have found it a bit difficult to draw a line between religious or spiritual counseling and the secular counseling practices. It is documented that the majority of clients seem to be using their religious language in trying to describe their personal experiences. For example, some researcher narrowed down this study to the religion of Christianity. The study confirmed the fact that the majority of clients had indicated that their counselors were partly using religion during the process of counseling (Strobel, 2013).
Deducing from the above discussion, it is evident that the spirituality plays a very critical role in counseling. The findings of the paper support the statement that counseling that incorporates spirituality has enormous positive results. It usually reflects in the improvement of the general well being of their clients. However, some of the counselors are oblivious of their client’s beliefs. In addition, they are reluctant and not trained to appreciate their clients’ beliefs or the spiritual experiences. Consequently, the counselors find it extremely hard to incorporate the spiritual experiences into their counseling sessions. Hence, it is of importance if counselors could make a point of learning the spiritual beliefs of their clients, especially in those areas that they do render their services. This is likely to help them avoid the risk of being judgmental to their clients and at the same time produce desirable results after the counseling sessions.