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Spirituality in the counselling room by Gill Wier

Posted 20 Mar '13 by Gill Wier

In my work as a counsellor I have been surprised to find that issues around faith, religion and spirituality often arise at some point during counselling, even for people who don’t follow a particular religion or spiritual way of life. I think this is partly because when people come for counselling they are often at a key turning point in their life which is causing them to reassess who they are, their fundamental beliefs and the way they view the world. 

Research by Chris Jenkins in 2006 showed that some clients received a negative reaction from their counsellor when they mentioned their faith in counselling.  The counsellors tended to see their beliefs as unhealthy and damaging.  This led to clients feeling they had to leave the spiritual part of themselves outside the counselling room, which had a negative impact on their well being and on the authenticity of the counselling relationship.

So if you are a person of faith looking for a counsellor, what should you consider?  Firstly, decide whether it is important to you to see a counsellor from your own faith background.  As a Christian myself, I am often contacted by Christians who are keen to see a counsellor who shares their faith.  They feel they can trust me because I will understand and value the role their faith plays in every aspect of their lives. 

Alternatively choose a counsellor who is open to discussing spiritual issues.  At your first meeting with the counsellor tell them about your faith and see how they respond.  If they seem open and willing to allow you the space to talk about your faith, they may be the right counsellor for you.  I had a very positive experience seeing a counsellor who did not share my faith but was accepting of it and open to understanding my perspective.  She gave me the opportunity to explore how my faith affected the issues I was bringing and enabled me to integrate this aspect of my life into the process of counselling. 

If you are committed to a particular religion or have strong spiritual beliefs this is likely to be a central part of who you are as a person and will inform the way you view life.  It is important that we feel able to speak freely about our spiritual beliefs in counselling so that every aspect of who we are is brought into the counselling process.