Thursday, June 10, 2010

Psychotherapy as a Form of Spiritual Practice

     Marcia Hill wrote in "Diary of a Country Therapist, "A very expensive profession, psychotherapy.  Emotionally it has cost me dearly: in echoed heartache, in secondhand images of cruelty and sufferig.  But if psychotherapy has cost me the innocence of not knowing, it has also given me the keys to transformation.  It has been for me a form of spiritual practice." 
   Wikipedia defines spiritual practice as, "intended to develop an individual's inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm."

   When comparing psychotherapy to spirituality in In Search of Common Ground,  Frances Vaughan observed, "...many of the processes that contribute to psychological health and well-being contribute to spiritual growth as well."  Vaughan points out that the following are integral to both both psychological and spiritual development: telling the truth, releasing negative emotions, effort and consistency, authenticity and trust, integrity and wholeness, insight, forgiveness, awareness, liberation and love. 

   On his website psychotherapist Jim Moyers writes, "The Greek word, psyche, translates as "breath, life, or soul" in English. "Therapy" is derived from therapeia, the attendant who served both gods and humanity in the temples of ancient Greece. “Psychotherapy” can thus be described as the sacred work of attending the soul, carefully nurturing the most essential aspects of who and what one is. The idea that the psyche has its own regulatory system that strives for integration and wholeness is at the heart of my work as a psychotherapist, an "attendant of the soul... Psychotherapy as practiced by Jung and those who follow in his footsteps is, at its best, a means for reconnecting with a mysterious Something deep within that gives life purpose and meaning."

   While I am still reflecting on the ways in which doing psychotherapy intersects with spiritual practice, I am clear that being a psychotherapist has both fostered and demanded significant spiritual growth of me.

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