Several years ago working on one of my doctorates, I have had the good privilege of doing my dissertation with Dr. V. Bautista, a professor and chair of the Clinical Psychology department of the University of the Philippines (U.P.). In my “debating” and interaction with professor Dr. Bautista, I sensed myself “coming out” as a hybrid counselor taking seriously the integration of psychological and spiritual dimensions in psychotherapy and mental health.
Toward the very end of the 20th century, professional and scientific psychology have rediscovered psychotherapy-spirituality integration (e.g. Hartz, 2005; McMinn and Dominguez, 2005; Plante and Sherman, 2001; Richards and Bergin, 1997). The American Psychological Association (APA) now supports the connection between mental health and faith in its growing body of research and clinical practices. Even international magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report have all devoted cover stories on multiple occasions to this very topic.
Dr. John McDargh of Harvard University and Boston College is one of today’s leading authorities on the intersection of psychotherapy and spirituality. He explains that a great deal hinges on how you understand “spirituality” – encountering the sacred in psychotherapy. Dr. McDargh describes it as “staying focused on relationships between one’s self, others, and a Higher Power or God.” This, he says, implies a difference between spirituality and religion. According to him, it’s a case of so many people self-identifying themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
Spirituality in psychotherapy clinical practice was further validated, supported, and expounded by the American Psychological Association (APA) with its new journal entitled “Spirituality in Clinical Practice.” According to its editors, it aims to inform practitioners by publishing clinical research and standards of practice on spiritually oriented interventions, such as mindfulness, forgiveness and cognitive behavioral therapy tailored to clients’ spiritual and religious beliefs.
Psychotherapy and spirituality integration is here to stay. Despite the challenging waters, it has countless benefits to both professionals and the public in the healing of the “whole person.”