Are you afraid to talk about spirituality in therapy? If so, you might want to give it a try.
Talking about spiritual beliefs, practices, and struggles can help your therapist understand your inner world and make them more effective at helping you. Once the topic comes up, your therapist can also help you identify spiritual resources or areas of concern, such as spiritual abuse or spiritual OCD.
According to a NY Times article, people are starting to open up about spirituality in therapy as different wellness trends gain popularity. That means that everything from traditional religions, astrology, the law of attraction, Human Design, psychedelics, the Akashic Records, energy healing, channeling, past lives, and shamanic journeying are open for discussion. Just to name a few.
In therapy, we talk about sex and money comfortably. Even politics has a seat at the table. So, what are we so afraid of when it comes to spirituality?
Five Reasons We’re Afraid to Talk About Spirituality in Therapy
1. Your Therapist Hasn’t Brought It Up
Therapists are supposed to take a comprehensive history during the initial meeting or two. In addition to asking questions about gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, they should ask whether you follow any spiritual or religious beliefs or practices. They should also assess whether this is a resource or an area of conflict for you. If they don’t bring it up, however, it doesn’t mean that it’s off limits. Therapists are trained in cultural competency, so they should be open to whatever spiritual topic you want to discuss.
2. You’re Worried That You Won’t Be Taken Seriously
Ok, so maybe you think that your beliefs and practices are a little less than mainstream. That’s ok. Maybe your therapist doesn’t seem like someone who knows their Human Design type or understands houses in astrology. You can explain it to them and let them know that it’s important to you. What was esoteric in the past is actually becoming more mainstream anyway. Even some businesses are incorporating these types of ideas into their company trainings or culture. In today’s world, you can pull oracle cards and have a Ph.D.
3. You’re Worried that Your Therapist Will Pathologize Your Beliefs or Practices
This is a fair concern, but it also needs to be addressed. For example, if you’re worried that your therapist will say that your spiritual belief in the law of attraction is unhealthy magical thinking, then perhaps that’s all the more reason to address it. If the belief helps you, you can let them know that it’s a good resource and it’s your spiritual belief. If the belief increases your anxiety or makes you obsess, it’s important to talk about how it’s affecting you. Either way, the therapist’s response shouldn’t be personal. It should be thoughtful and helpful.
4. You Don’t Want to Offend Your Therapist
Therapists are trained to not be easily offended. They might have a totally different religious or spiritual worldview, or none at all, and that’s fine. Unless they advertise themselves as a specific type of therapist, such as a Christian therapist, their own spiritual or religious background probably won’t come up. If a therapist does have a strong reaction to something in therapy, they process it in their own therapy, supervision, or peer consultation group.
5. You Don’t Believe that Spirituality and Mental Health are Related
Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies show that spirituality is relevant to mental health. For example, one study at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital looked at the relationship between anxiety and trust in the Divine. Participants were taught daily teachings and exercises that were designed to increase trust and decrease mistrust in the Divine. After two weeks, the participants had significantly higher levels of trust and lower levels of worry, stress, and intolerance of uncertainty.
The Therapy Hour is Your Time
If spirituality is important to you or a source of conflict, use your time in therapy to talk about it. After all, it’s your time. If you’re not sure how your therapist will react, talk to your therapist about that. Let them know that there’s something important that you want to bring up, but you’re worried about how they will respond. If your therapeutic relationship is healthy, the therapist will address the topic with cultural sensitivity.
If all else fails, find a therapist who specializes in spiritual issues and has made it clear that they’re trained in providing spiritually competent therapy. Either way, remember that therapy is your time and you can use it the way that you want and need to.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you think we should talk more openly about spirituality in therapy?