Faith and Therapy: Why you should consider talking about your religious beliefs with your therapist
Why integrate your faith into therapy?
- Our society tends to label religion as one of those taboo topics to talk about in most situations, so it is not surprising that many people are hesitant to bring up their faith or religious beliefs in therapy. Often this stems from fear or uncertainty regarding how the therapist will respond and whether or not it is okay to talk about religion or spirituality in session. Sometimes this happens because the therapist never thinks to ask about religion and spirituality, so the conversation never comes up. Other times clients may bring up their faith or spirituality and perceive the therapist as uninterested in that aspect of their lives. For clients who place high importance on their faith, this can be a discouraging and disappointing experience. That is why it is so important for clients who would like the religious and spiritual part of their identity to be understood and/or incorporated into their therapy to find a therapist who is competent and shows openness and curiosity about this part of their life.
Why is it beneficial to integrate your spirituality and therapy?
- Values & Worldview (meaning making): Religion and spirituality often influence a person’s values, how they see themselves, and their worldview; all of which are important in understanding each person’s unique goals and experiences. As therapists, our goal is to understand your world and help you live a more fulfilling life in accordance with your values!
- Resources: There is a significant amount of research showing the benefits of religious coping resources such as prayer and meditation. Additionally, many religious communities are a great place to find social support when struggling. Therapist’s want to know about coping resources and encourage clients to utilize the resources available to them as appropriate.
- Exploration: Over the past 6 years I have had the privilege of working with clients from a variety of religious background who were interested in discussing their faith and spirituality as part of their therapy and personal growth process. Some of these clients wanted to integrate their faith in order to better understand and cope with their current struggles, while others were wanting to explore their spiritual doubts and uncertainties. Spiritually sensitive therapists provides a safe, non-judgmental place for you to express and explore doubts, questions, and uncertainties that you may not feel comfortable discussing in other contexts.
- Being Known: Many of the religious clients I have worked with feel that their spiritual identity is deeply personal and central to understanding and knowing them. In fact, one of the most beneficial aspects of the therapeutic relationship is the experience of being known, understood, and accepted by another person. Thus, seeing a therapist who welcomes every aspect of your identity, including your spirituality, can be a deeply empowering experience.
Incorporating your religion or spirituality is entirely up to you in terms of how much you would like to focus on it and what aspects you feel are important to discuss. For some people simply knowing that your therapist is aware of your religion or spirituality is sufficient, while others may want to discuss or incorporate aspects of their spirituality more regularly and explicitly. Either way, if your religion or spirituality is important to you, I would encourage you not to shy away from discussing this aspect of your life in therapy!