Spirituality and Therapy: Five Benefits of Spiritually Integrated Therapy – Daniel Colver, M.A., LMFT

Spirituality-300x300The two preceding articles in this three-part series recognized the resurgence of spirituality in therapy, identified a need for psychotherapists trained in spiritual and religious competencies, provided tips on how to find a licensed clinician who is right for you, and explored three domains of spiritual wellness.  This third and final article will address five potential benefits of spiritually integrated therapy.

I recently listened to both a psychologist’s lecture on integrated healthcare, and a book on parenting written by a world renowned researcher/therapist who devoted her career to understanding guilt, shame, vulnerability and whole-hearted living.  Both scholars spoke of spirituality as being a resilience factor.  This got me thinking about how spiritually integrated therapy may serve some of my clients, so I came up with a list of five potential benefits of spiritually integrated therapy:

  1. Enhancing Protective Factors: A so-called “protective factor” is anything a person incorporates into their life which effectively decreases the likelihood of harm.  You can think of it as the opposite of a “risk factor.”  A growing body of research has shown that spiritual health and positive religious practices can in fact serve as a protective factor for a wide variety of issues across populations (i.e. hazardous substance use, suicidality, self-harm, eating disorders, etc.).  In therapy, exploring how spiritual practice can serve as a protective factor may be beneficial.
  2. Increasing Stress Resilience: Those who manage stress effectively have incorporated resilience practices into their regular lifestyle.  Spiritually integrated psychotherapy recognizes spiritual health as an essential component of whole and complete living.  Therapy may explicitly discuss spiritual or religious coping strategies the client uses to solve problems, elicit a sense of meaningfulness to stressful life events, and/or learn skills to “weather the storm” in a profoundly purposeful way.  A common element among various faith traditions is an active willingness to practice non-judgmental acceptance.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) suggests stress-resiliency is enhanced as we actively challenge our experiential avoidance of unpleasant emotions (i.e. anxiety, fear, pain) by engaging in value-based action while accepting that meaningful living does not begin when discomfort ends… it begins now.
  3. Using Culturally Relevant Language…(read the rest of the story)

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

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