For many people, faith and spirituality play very vital roles in defining who they are. Religious faith and spirituality bring meaning and purpose to their lives and is often the lens through which they see the world. Religious faith and spirituality can provide a vital source of strength in times of turmoil and adversity, sparking hope, healing and resiliency.
So, if faith is such an important cornerstone in one’s life, why shouldn’t it be integrated into the counseling session? In short, it should. Research shows that a person’s faith and spiritual values promote physical and psychological well-being (Corey, n.d.). To engage in effective counseling, the counseling process and treatment should address the client as a whole, meaning, it should address the body, the mind, and the spirit. A person’s core beliefs and values are reflected in their behaviors. One’s faith and spirituality provides the framework for those beliefs and values. Inconsistencies in behaviors as it reflects on one’s faith, values and beliefs, can lead to mental health instabilities and concerns. Therefore, the counselor can use the framework of faith and spirituality to help one to explore and resolve their problems, making one’s faith and spirituality a valuable resource in therapy. The sensitivity and willingness of a client to include faith-based practices and spirituality in the counseling session can bring about trust with the counselor and can enhance the human experience and interaction between counselor and counselee (Kersting, 2003).
What might one expect in a counseling session which incorporates spirituality and faith? That would largely depend on the individual and how faith and spirituality are incorporated into their daily lives. For example, if a Christian client seeks faith based counseling, then prayer before, during or after a session might be implemented. Perhaps meditation on, and memorization of, various relevant passages of Scripture might be a part of the counseling session and treatment plan. At the same time, the counselor might choose to incorporate psychotherapy based practices, such as controlled breathing, listening to faith based music while relaxing, forgiveness protocols, spiritual journaling or other evidence based practices (Sher, 2020)(Kersting, 2003).
Faith-based counseling can help one cope with many challenges that one faces in life including anxiety, depression, grief, medical conditions, mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders. Alcoholics Anonymous is a substance abuse treatment program based on religious principles.
Faith-based counseling can bring many positives to the client. Incorporating spiritual practices within the counseling framework brings much needed hope. Hope is what allows one to hold fast to the belief that positive changes can take place, that all is not lost. Hope provides the incentive to work through the trials and difficulties one faces. Other spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, attending services, spending time in nature, can help to bring about positive changes in attitude and behaviors. And lastly, viewing ones problems through a spiritual, or faith-based lens, can help one to view their issues not as obstacles, or mountains to be climbed, but as opportunities to grow, learn, and better themselves (Markway, 2016).
The next time you are in a counseling session, or you are considering engaging in counseling, discuss with your counselor how your personal faith and spirituality influence your behaviors. Explore with your counselor how your faith and spirituality can be reflected in your treatment plan. Discover the many benefits of incorporating your faith and spirituality into your healing process.
Corey, G. (n.d.). Integrating spirituality in the counseling process. Vistas 25, 117-119.
Kersting, K. (2003). Religion and spirituality in the treatment room. Monitor 34(11), pg 40.