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Life is a continuous journey, and along the way many people learn more about themselves and try to solidify their identity, find happiness, peace and purpose.
Spirituality can be a small or significant part of the journey. It only makes sense that if spirituality is part of life, then spirituality would also be connected to psychology and psychotherapy.
Psychotherapists attempt to help people with their mental health issues and give them tools to function and thrive, so spirituality could be a part of this process as well. Experts share their opinions on how spirituality can connect with psychotherapy practice, or if it even has a place in therapy.
To be clear, spirituality is not always associated with religion. In fact, Ohio State University’s Student Wellness Center website states that “spirituality is not religion.”
Spirituality can mean a lot of different things depending on the person, according to the website. For example, one theme of spirituality is “the idea of a process or journey of self-discovery and of learning not only who you are, but who you want to be.”
Other themes are “the challenge of reaching beyond your current limits,” “a connectedness to yourself and to others,” “meaning, purpose and direction,” and “a higher power, whether rooted in a religion, nature or some kind of unknown essence.”
The University of Maryland Medical Center website also suggests there are many definitions to spirituality, including that “it’s the way you find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in your life,” and it’s not always connected to religion.
Sara Rosenquist, a board certified clinical health psychologist, said in an email that being influenced by spirituality is unavoidable in a sense.
“We are all influenced by our values, beliefs, moods, family history, etc.,” Rosenquist said. “So whatever the therapist's spirituality is going to influence them to one degree of another.”
She said that there can be both positive and negative spiritualities present in psychotherapy practice depending on the situation. For example, if one’s spirituality focuses on punishment, guilt and fear, then the practice could be negatively impacted.