This chapter focuses on consideration of two kinds of abuse: abuse that takes place within a church and abuse that takes the place of a church. In the first, the pastor is usually unaware of the abuser, and in the second, the pastor often is the abuser. The spiritual ramifications when trusted religious leaders use people for sexual gratification are enormous. Gartner described how children abused by spiritual leaders can develop a crisis of faith, believing that somehow they have betrayed God. There is also a problem of the heterosexual abuse of children and adults by clergy of all denominations. Psychotherapists can perform preventative and even ameliorative work in churches by meeting with church leadership to help train them in identifying and dealing appropriately with sex abuse in the church. With regard to spirituality and religion, it’s important that the abused person is treated psychologically and also spiritually.
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The complex situation is filled with this kind of overflow of experience, and this situation has been called various things. Couples therapy often starts off with one person blaming or being blamed, which is a simplistic, one-person approach that does not take into consideration the complexity of the situation. “Situation” is a term referring to the complex set of factors related to a biopsychosocial system that is self-adapting in nature and comprising both ontic and phenomenal features. Although people would like to reduce complexity down to more simple chunks and organizational structures, the working alliance is a two-person field that is related through extra-therapeutic common factors to larger and overlapping fields in the lives of both therapist and client. A working relationship in psychotherapy is an ontic field with phenomenal features. The relational matrices in the church interact with the levels of spiritual maturity in the people and their giftedness.
Spiritism, spiritualism, and the occult often get mixed up. In fact, spiritism and spiritualism are often used interchangeably, with the most notable difference being that spiritists believe in reincarnation, while not all spiritualists do. Both spiritists and spiritualists believe that disembodied spirits can communicate and carry on relationships with incarnate human beings. Spiritists, though, are empowered to make their own connections with God apart from the work of priests or others invested with spiritual authority. From a Christian perspective, spiritists have made a science, with its own philosophy, out of wizardry and the occult. Occult practices, in general, are regarded by many to be a legitimate aspect of mystical spiritual experience; indeed, modern spiritism is regarded to have emerged from the ground of Swedenbor-gian practices. Psychotherapists do not operate primarily as theologians, evangelists, or apologists for any given spiritual or religious group.
There is the rub between religion and spirituality that brings many people to divide them into a polarity, with a structured religious institution at one end and a spontaneous and creative flowing in contacting between the whole person and something of greater meaning and/or organizing influence at the other. This chapter is an investigation of this polarity people create between religion and spirituality, as well as a look at spirituality and religion from a psychological stance, a philosophical stance, and a theological stance. Spirituality generally refers to meaning and purpose in one’s life, a search for wholeness, and a relationship with a transcendent being. The psychology of religion is a huge subject. It includes anything a person might think of in the field of psychology pointed toward an intersection with religion and spirituality. Religion and spirituality are simply socially constructed to serve human needs in social conditions.
Many of the people who come for psychotherapy do not mention God or spiritual issues. Some identify themselves as atheists, and for them spiritual issues would be not simply irrelevant but inappropriate. For others, though, they are dissatisfied with God. Their dissatisfaction with God is unhappiness, disaffection, and disapproval. It is often seen in spiritual dullness and malaise, because the dissatisfaction, like unaddressed doubt, is never dealt with and worked through to either a strengthening of faith or a complete disillusion and rejection of God. Show off the client’s dissatisfaction with God through experiments that put the client’s relationship with God on the line or that explore the value of the spiritual disciplines the client does or does not practice. For a client to conduct an authentic conversation with God in which he or she expresses the dissatisfaction that plagues him or her can be a healthy thing.
The theological study of endings is called eschatology, and it includes the end of times in the culmination of history when God brings it all to a head in the re-creation of the world and the personal end of times for each person when that person dies. Eschatology is a perfect reason for people to argue, because the arguments are about things that cannot be proven. Religious people have claimed to have received revelations and visions about what is to come in the world and also about what heaven is like. The most common theory among Christians about what happens at death is that the Christian who dies goes immediately into the conscious presence of God. Personal eschatology is not just about what kind of ending a person has, but what kind of transition a person experiences moving from this life to the life after death.
In Chinese philosophy, legalism is a term indicating a focus on laws, methods for employing them, and the legitimacy of the roles of law enforcers. Legalism in Christianity refers to the thinking that adherence to the law is sufficient to obtain salvation or spiritual benefit. Legalism is often experienced as rigidity regarding expectations that manifests in binary appraisals of people. While rigidity is not strictly a spiritual problem, rigidity and legalism are problems to spiritual people. When people set up extra rules, those that go beyond the ones obviously found in the Bible, and then hold rigidly to their applications, this is called legalism. Legalism in the form of public policy dictated a smaller birthrate, while on the other hand a cultural legalism in the form of social expectations called for a larger birthrate. No spiritual leader or psychotherapist can turn around an ingrained legalism by simply pointing it out.
There are many kinds of relationships, but there is a commonality that helps to define what a relationship is. A relationship is “contact” over time. A quality therapeutic relationship is critical to positive outcomes in psychotherapy. Two factors contribute to the quality and nature of such a relationship: impact that is the intensity or significance of any given point of contact and frequency that is the actual number of points of contact. Spirit is the medium, and faith is the means by which one establishes and develops a relationship with God. Spirituality as relationship includes meetings between self and other over time and with impact, where “other” is understood to be a transcendent other or focus of ultimate concern. Spiritual relationship is the feelings and attitudes that flow between a person and a transcendent other of consideration in which there is the potential for interpersonal knowledge and intimate contact.
The concept of enactment is not the term as understood in psychoanalysis the actualization of the transference, or the patient’s efforts to persuade or force the analyst into reciprocal action. Some therapeutic approaches, like gestalt therapy (GT), have made use of enactment for decades, while others have done so more recently. The movement to enactment is the transition from talking about something to the actual here-and-now occurrence of events that comprise one’s sense of being alive. Qualitative research data substantiate that people have a more comprehensive learning experience through enactment learning by experience that tends to be holistic as opposed to learning terms, theories, and/or principles alone. The process of engaging in actions that build up a person spiritually and for which that person does not condemn him- or herself is a struggle. The spirituality of the therapist is quite relevant.
Personal spirituality might seem like a redundancy. In order for spirituality to be personal, one’s religion must be existentially meaningful, characterized by personal authenticity, and it must exhibit ethical consistency. People who have existential content to their spirituality are able to see life as iconic. People who lack such meaning in their spiritual lives may collect beautiful works of art, and they may contribute to philanthropic endeavors. An existential depression can be thought of as a spiritual condition. Personal spirituality requires personal authenticity. Without the effort to be honest with oneself, to get “real” about what one believes and what one doesn’t, personal spirituality will not be very personal. For Hindu people, ethics is about conduct, and so spirituality is based on what people do with and toward one another in thought, word, and deed. Psychotherapy is part of a culturally competent approach to working with spiritual people.
Phenomenology is the logos of phenomena, or how things appear to a conscious subject. It is a matter of subjective interpretation what it is like to be a given person in a given situation at a particular moment and the implications of being that person having that experience at that particular moment. Psychotherapists work with the meaning-making processes of the client in various ways. Most therapists develop a working relationship with the client on their ways to the other methodologies in their approaches. The implications of subjective experience and meaning making for spirituality can be understood as the consequences of process and of relationship. A psychotherapist might be working with clients around spiritual issues, and it is helpful to realize that there are different styles in church-life process. People will experience themselves differently as they engage in embodied contact in the corporate activities of their respective faith communities.
Living with a spiritualizing attitude is like having positional truth permeate one’s clothing and absorbed through the pores of perception into one’s version of reality. Fantasy for some people becomes a way of life that is an overspiritualized perspective. The author believe it is important with spiritual people to demonstrate one’s awareness of spiritual matters and to show that they are meeting with a spiritual person who, even if he or she does not hold to their specific religious traditions, at least is sensitive to spiritual matters and respects the fact that they have spiritual commitments of faith. He points four elements to psychotherapy such as therapeutic relationship, complex situational dynamics, the interpretation of experience, and the move to behavioral enactment. The psychotherapist has to be able to be a real person about the issues that come up in therapy.
Historically, mental health clinicians were trained to refer clients’ spiritual issues to pastoral professionals. However, the current requirement for competence with diverse cultural concerns in counseling and psychotherapy may include those of a religious nature. This book helps therapists and counselors gain competence in working with clients who are dealing with spiritual issues in their lives. It offers counselors and psychotherapists who lack experience or comfort in dealing with spiritual issues ways of understanding the nature of spirituality. The book is divided into three parts. Part I orients clinicians to respectfully help clients who have spiritual and religious issues. It provides basic information about Western and Eastern spiritual worldviews and provides a basic framework for competently addressing spiritual issues for clients of any faith. Part II of the book discusses four ways in which spirituality can inform psychotherapy, spiritual work in the context of a therapeutic relationship, in the context of a complex situation, in the interpretation of experience, and in the movement to behavior enactment. In Part III, the book addresses specific issues therapists may encounter such as the issue of truth, clients’ uncertainties in faith, struggles with oppressively rigid faith communities, grief and loss, and abuse at the hands of religious community leaders. Specific recommendations for providing therapeutic help as well as case examples drawn from actual practice provide practical guidelines for enhancing spiritual competency in psychotherapy.
This chapter explores the potentiality of spirit. It starts with some definitions and then moves to explore how spirit is described by various spiritual and religious traditions. If people consider spirituality in psychotherapy, certainly the basic consideration is spirit itself. The spiritual person includes one’s internal state of consciousness, moral concerns, and religious aspirations. Sometimes the word spirit is used as a technical construct. The word spirit can indicate a quality of character or attitude in which a person or group acts to get things done or relates to others. The chapter presents a beginning place for understanding the concept of “spirit” in Abrahamic monotheism using the Old Testament. Spirit is a human capacity of emotion and thought that animates the physical body and provides conduit of communication and power between human beings and God. New age spirituality is an eclectic mix of spiritual constructs and beliefs about spirit.
Gant made an astounding assertion. He said that there resides at the core of any formulation of a normative psychotherapy a set of ideological assumptions that are taken as factual givens regarding what is to be understood as ultimate reality or “truth” in the world. The most common way of looking at truth is to say that it is what corresponds to the actual facts, to reality. For some, truth is that which fits best within a system of facts that cohere with one another; thus, truth is contextual. Related to the contextual idea is the one that claims that truth is constructed socially and so is relative to the social group that agrees to it. In psychotherapy, there are truths, matters of the ontic field that make a difference. Sometimes religious institutional dogma, church policy, or pastoral preference is presented as absolute truth.
It is important in understanding therapeutic process and for comprehending how spiritual issues come up in the context of therapeutic relationships, more specifically. In the therapeutic relationship, dialogue is a mutual interaction. In fact, dialogue can be thought of as consisting of commonality, mutuality, and reciprocity sharing interpersonal space in the process of discourse, being mutually available to the other, and proceeding with the tacit belief that one’s interest and efforts toward dialogue will be reciprocated. Scholarship in the field has established that spirituality is a legitimate concern in cultural issues that include religion and spirituality and that paying attention to spiritual dynamics in the therapeutic relationship can help the process of therapy. It is hard to separate the basic approach or method of a therapeutic orientation from the contacting between therapist and client. Mindfulness is a growing component of many therapeutic processes.
Faith is often caricatured by people who regard religion to be an unsupportable shot in the dark, a cry for help against all reason for simple-minded people terrorized by superstition or the demands of a punitive divine task master. Doubt does not have to indicate the failure of faith or losing one’s faith. Certainty in the face of untested faith is religious fantasy. A psychotherapist dealing with the anxiety of uncertainty with a person of faith does not have to search under rocks for some kind of unique spiritual intervention. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen, and faith is made complete in action. It is strengthening to faith to consider challenges to faith, to work through doubt in the face of uncertainty, and psychotherapists working with people of faith can serve them by working the edge between faith and uncertainty.
Communal belonging is not simply a matter of communal living, nor of communal gathering. A large number of the Portuguese community attend Roman Catholic churches. Like many aspects of spirituality and religion, the faith community can be studied as a social entity apart from the religious consideration. The sense of belonging in spiritual community affects a person’s ability to participate, contribute to others, and feel appreciated, valued, and accepted, which in turn affects one’s appraisal of religious experience and the truth of spiritual assertions. The research found that such recovery communities needed to be holistic in order to address numerous and complex needs that go beyond attempts to reduce psychiatric symptoms, substance abuse, or the effects of traumatic experience. A therapist can offer support for disengaging and choosing to reject that faith community as one’s own.
A process is something that is going on, something happening, something moving. Every religion comes with a process, that is, each recommends disciplines, practices, or exercises by which people might grow spiritually. The process of spiritual growth, however, is not simply the practice of disciplines. It is the maturing of one’s perspective over time through the consistent application of one’s faith to the challenges of life. The process of growth in spiritual maturity is lifelong, and it is comprehensive, including every aspect of life. The spiritual life is not a compartmentalized commodity. It is not something people do only on particular days or at particular times. The process of wave formation is an ongoing series of interactions between moving air and moving water. Spiritual development and maturation is a constantly moving interaction between the person and what transcends the person, yet touches the person and is experienced as immanently significant.