In addition to traditional psychiatric practices and pharmacotherapy, I can also provide spiritual counseling. I am not formally licensed as a spiritual counselor in a conventional manner with the endorsement of a specific religious church sect, but I enjoy discussing spiritual topics and offering advice in this regard, in both traditional, non-denominational Christian topics but also non-traditional spiritual studies and readings. If a patient would only like spiritual counseling, and I will not be functioning in the capacity of a Psychiatrist/Medical Doctor [ie, no prescribing, no formal psychiatric diagnostic interview/mental status exam, and no patient/doctor relationship], then I will be happy to move forward in the role of a spiritual advisor. We can also incorporate spiritual counseling as a component of formal psychiatric treatment as a psychiatrist as well; in this instance, the same M.D. rates/terms would apply based on length of session desired.
What do I mean by Spiritual Counseling?
I have had many patients ask me what the difference is between traditional formal psychotherapy and spiritual counseling. At times, they may seem similar in that they both look at the perspective and perception of each individual person and how they view the world, and how that person integrates how they see themselves fitting into this paradigm and how they actually live day to day, how their relationships fit into this paradigm, their goals, their beliefs about their future, etc., and ultimately their belief about their purpose and place in this world.
Spirituality, according to Webster’s dictionary, among other things, is defined as “things of a spiritual, ecclesiastical, or religious nature.” It can be related to attending church, but more so, it is a facet of human nature when someone looks beyond their five tangible senses to issues involving more philosophical, sometimes esoteric natures...i.e., why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Is there a God, or some force outside of myself guiding and directing me? How do I relate to others….what is the meaning of life in this world? What happens when we die? Do I have a soul, and how does that fit into the mind/body paradigm?
Often religiosity and spirituality go hand in hand, but not always. One can be spiritual and believe in a “higher power” outside oneself, but might not necessarily espouse to a belief in a traditional concept of God. For myself as a practitioner to say that I am a spiritual counselor, I think it is only fair to inform patients of my own personal beliefs as we go into and navigate this often murky and mysterious territory together. My family was Lutheran, as my mother is German and we are from the mid-west….but I did not grow up in a traditional church-driven manner, as my mother worked and most of the time we did not make it to church on Sundays. My family, however, was very strong in their belief in God, so I was always told to “talk” to God, keep Him in my heart, say my prayers and believe I was always being watched over. I did this, from a very young age on, growing up in a very spiritually free manner, i.e., be kind to others, treat others as you wish to be treated, forgive, love…..without any of the traditional sense of “sin,” or “damnation,” or “guilt.” I always saw God as being ever present and loving and available and protecting, never judgmental or harsh or punitive. Then, I attended a Catholic high-school and learned more formal means of prayer, and had a greater sense of how religion interpreted God and separated the concept of God at times, which I thought had to be confusing, especially to a 5 year old who then grows up with a sometimes loving but sometimes fearful sense of God. In the end, I realized it truly is the relationship between this entity that I call God [one can say, “Divine Love,” “Higher Power,” “Infinite Spirit,” “Supreme Intelligence,” whatever is most comfortable to each person] and our own hearts and minds that should be the core of how we experience Divinity. A church is wonderful if it is a sacred place that allows a person to feel closer to God, but I also believe one can reach this same inner space on their couch in their own home. There is no limit to how we can access God, no limit to the ways we can feel “spiritual,” or connected to others…..God is Love, and we can feel Love in a myriad of ways we still are discovering. I believe different religions are all buses traveling to the same place, even if they do not realize it. Most religions converge in their ideals across many arenas, but people can get trapped in the rituals of religious practice and lose a sense of the true meaning of the journey and the power of spirituality that we all possess to transform our lives in amazing ways.
My goal with my patients when I say spiritual counseling is not to act as a psychiatrist, but rather as a guide into the metaphysical world, where we can begin to understand spiritual laws and invisible principles that exist in this Universe and can truly and fundamentally change our lives and our relationships in miraculous ways. I often quote the Bible, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and many others who grasped these concepts and practiced them in a way that literally changed the world and continue to touch us thousands of years later. I will offer readings and authors that are inspirational and can interpret difficult spiritual literature and biblical passages in ways that become tangible to us, and this is how we begin to change facets of our lives in previously unimaginable ways, and truly live the life of our dreams and obtain the desires of our hearts, as we move closer to fully understanding ourselves and the Universe we live in.
“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind……” Romans 12:2.