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Spirituality in Psychology

Tracie Timme

 

Spirituality in Psychology

An academic paper by

Tracie L. Timme – Online Counselor and Therapist

This paper is about exploring the use of spirituality in the practice of psychology and how it could potentially strengthen their bond with their patients.  There could be a better understanding of issues and treatment if spirituality were apart of therapeutic practices.

Psychology got its start in ancient times from philosophy.  Psychology remained part of philosophy until nineteenth century (Leahey, 2004).  Here we have the beginning of the mind-body problem.  To some the mind was our essence and the body a mere vessel.  When the physical body died, the soul moved on to an afterlife (Leahey, 2004).  The soul (mind) has the spiritual world knowledge, whereas the body has the physical world knowledge (Leahey, 2004).

spirituality-in-psychologyEverybody but atheists, have a faith that they follow.  It has been addressed that psychologist show gain education and knowledge as to the role that religion and spirituality plays on personal factors (Shafranske, 2010).  There was an introduction of value in different consciousness in therapeutic practices.  It is very important for the therapist to integrate the patients’ spirituality in the course of interventions (Shafranske, 2010).  It is also important to take into consideration the personal and professional influences of inspiration from the therapists’ point of view.  This can greatly impact how the therapist entices the patient to open up, and help the therapist to relate better to the patient (Shafranske, 2010).  “This leads to an associated point: Given the lack of attention given to the religious and spiritual dimension in most psychology training, how prepared are clinicians to be mindful of the potential impacts their religious and spiritual commitments have on their professional practice, to appropriately and ethically integrate spirituality in psychological treatment, or respond to emergent transcendent experiences” (Shafranske, 2010, pp. 125)?  This seems to mean that therapists should have the understanding to be able to mindfully talk about spirituality in their practice and treatment plans for their patients.

Spirituality is hard to define, but it has been explained a few ways.  One is that spirituality can be called one’s highest or ultimate values or reality, and the relationship one has with those realities or values (Braud, 2009).  A second way is the belonging or link to the transcendental ground of being.  Another is how people relate to God, other humans, or Earth.  Some refer to it as how committed one is to practicing a particular faith.  However, it is important to distinguish between healthy practices and beliefs and ones that are unhealthy to well-being (Braud, 2009).  Yet another general term by Lindholm and Astin is involving the process inside when you look for personal authenticity, wholeness, and genuineness; transcending one’s center, having a deeper sense of connecting to self and others from having relationships and community, having meaning, direction, and purpose in life, being open enough to the possibility of a relationship with a higher being that is above human existence and knowing, and having a value for the sacred (Braud, 2009).  There are other definitions of spirituality for femininity and other cultures.  But they were not included in the ones above.

There is a relatively new field of psychology called transpersonal psychology.  In addition to conventional ways, transpersonal psychologists use heuristic research, intuitive inquiry, organic inquiry, and integral inquiry.  These are depicted in these psychologists by a higher level of integration and inclusiveness in the whole person, more variety of benefits and functions in a session, sources of inspiration, more ways of knowing, topics and questions researched, different ways of gathering, using, and explaining information, including epistemology and ontology, and ethical thoughts and values that are relevant  (Braud, 2009).  This gives a broader perspective of all aspects of the issues at hand.

When we think in terms of helping people with their psychological issues, it just makes sense to include everything you possibly can to understand what the patient is going through and how they see thing possibly running their course.  Because a lot of people do follow some sort of faith, it is important for the therapist to know as much as possible about their patient’s spirituality, in order to help them the best way possible and include every aspect of that person as a whole.  Having this knowledge will provide the best treatment plan for that specific patient.

REFERENCES

Braud, W. (2009). Dragons, spheres, and flashlights: appropriate research approaches for studying workplace spirituality. Journal Of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 6(1), 59-75.

Leahey, T. H. (2004).  A history of psychology: Main currents in psychological thought (6th ed.).  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Shafranske, E. P. (2010). Advancing “the boldest model yet”: A commentary on psychology, religion, and spirituality. Psychology Of Religion And Spirituality, 2(2), 124-125.

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Tracie Timme is a Privileged ProvenTherapist. See her Profile for counseling support.

Pastoral Counselor Jamie Brown Joins the Team

Jamie BrownSister Jamie Brown, M.A., a Certified Pastoral Counselor specializing in Trans-personal Psychology and Holistic Wellness, is now online with ProvenTherapy.com.

Press Release: Aug. 10, 2013 – Jamie Brown is a Sister in the Community of Francis and Clare, a certified Holistic Wellness Counselor and Heart of Yoga teacher who has been counseling individuals and couples since 1988.  She has an M.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on the Jungian or Transpersonal approach and wrote her Master’s thesis on “The Psychology of Nonattachment in the Bhagavad Gita.”  While working on her B.A. in Philosophy, Jamie also studied comparative religions in addition to obtaining certification as a Kriya Yogi.  She has been a student of enlightened masters including the Dalai Lama, from whom she received the Empowerment of Padmasambhava in 1989.

Jamie draws upon the wisdom traditions of both East and West in her counseling practice.  She counsels from a holistic perspective:  body, mind and spirit – the client as a unique embodied soul seeking wholeness, integration and enlightenment in the context of their particular environment and relationships.  In working with clients Jamie avoids imposing the hierarchical “counselor therapizing the client” model.  Rather, just as with teaching her yoga students, she sees her role as that of a supportive friend who is there to walk alongside and encourage them on their own journey of self-discovery.  She seeks to create a safe space where the client can discuss and process their concerns, questions, hopes and fears and offers compassionate, honest feedback with warmth and humor.

Jamie is the Director of Lothlorien House, a non-profit spiritual retreat center in Panama City, Florida where she provides counseling and other pastoral services and teaches yoga, meditation and contemplative prayer.  She is very happy to have opened her online clinic at https://www.proventherapy.com/Jamie-584.html which will allow her to extend her counseling ministry to clients all over the world.

Read the full story here…

Brain Can be Trained in Compassion

Recent study shows that the brain can be trained in compassion!

compassionUntil now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion – the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.

A new study by researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that adults can be trained to be more compassionate. The report, published Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, investigates whether training adults in compassion can result in greater altruistic behavior and related changes in neural systems underlying compassion.

“Our fundamental question was, ‘Can compassion be trained and learned in adults? Can we become more caring if we practice that mindset?'” says Helen Weng, lead author of the study and a graduate student in clinical psychology. “Our evidence points to yes.”

In the study, the investigators trained young adults to engage in compassion meditation, an ancient Buddhist technique to increase caring feelings for people who are suffering. In the meditation, participants envisioned a time when someone has suffered and then practiced wishing that his or her suffering was relieved. They repeated phrases to help them focus on compassion such as, “May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and ease.”

Participants practiced with different categories of people, first starting with a loved one, someone whom they easily felt compassion for, like a friend or family member. Then, they practiced compassion for themselves and, then, a stranger. Finally, they practiced compassion for someone they actively had conflict with called the “difficult person,” such as a troublesome coworker or roommate.

“It’s kind of like weight training,” Weng says. “Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”

Compassion training was compared to a control group that learned cognitive reappraisal, a technique where people learn to reframe their thoughts to feel less negative. Both groups listened to guided audio instructions over the Internet for 30 minutes per day for two weeks. “We wanted to investigate whether people could begin to change their emotional habits in a relatively short period of time,” says Weng.

The real test of whether compassion could be trained was to see if people would be willing to be more altruistic – even helping people they had never met. The research tested this by asking the participants to play a game in which they were given the opportunity to spend their own money to respond to someone in need (called the “Redistribution Game”). They played the game over the Internet with two anonymous players, the “Dictator” and the “Victim.” They watched as the Dictator shared an unfair amount of money (only $1 out of $10) with the Victim. They then decided how much of their own money to spend (out of $5) in order to equalize the unfair split and redistribute funds from the Dictator to the Victim.

“We found that people trained in compassion were more likely to spend their own money altruistically to help someone who was treated unfairly than those who were trained in cognitive reappraisal,” Weng says.

Read the full story here…

Heaven Is Real: Neurosurgeon Who Once Doubted Out-of-Body Experiences Describes His Own

Is Heaven for real? This is really amazing!

This age-old question has been debated for centuries. Of late, the subject has been tacked in theological circles and has been extensively covered by mainstream media. Many who have had near-death experiences regularly describe the images they saw after purportedly crossing into the after-life. Who can forget Colton Burpo’s story? The young boy claims to have ascended into heaven during a near-death experience back in 2003. His story inevitably made its way into a popular book called, “Heaven Is for Real.” But Burpo isn’t alone.

Photo Credit: LifeBeyondDeath.net There have been similar experiences told in popular media. The latest tale comes from Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who, ironically, never really believed in near-death experiences before falling into a coma. In the October 15 issue of Newsweek, though, Alexander details his purported ascent to heaven and his subsequent change-of-heart.

With a firm understanding of the human brain, Alexander had previously dismissed purported journeys outside of the earthly realm as a byproduct of what happens to human beings in the throes of trauma. However, that changed once he found himself heaven-bound. The neurosurgeon explains:

In the fall of 2008…after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death. […]

Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia , a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.

Read the full article here