Psychotherapy and Spirituality: The Positive Spiritual Emotions

Positive Spiritual Emotions | Elizabeth Dickson, Psychotherapy Integration

The Importance of the Positive Spiritual Emotions in Influencing Therapists’ Behavior

Anything that we are passionate about will naturally influence how we practice. And one of the areas that sparks passion for many (though certainly not all) therapists are the positive spiritual emotions (such as awe, love, compassion, faith, joy, and gratitude).

Yet this is one territory that is not addressed directly in our professional settings. Because of the controversy surrounding the word “spiritual”, we end up failing to explicate an aspect of our work that is absolutely central for so many of us.


Psychotherapy and the Poetry of Spirituality

Hopefully we can bypass some of the controversy by thinking about spirituality not as a belief system but rather as a source of poetic language—the kind that inspires therapists in the same way that our favorite psychoanalytic writers can be inspiring. The repeated exposure to the poetry of spirituality helps to strengthen our spiritual muscles and our access to the positive spiritual emotions in our lives and in our work.


What is a Spiritually-Oriented Therapist?

Rather than thinking of therapists as trying to help their clients become more spiritual (which is not typically the goal of therapy), we might define a spiritually-oriented therapist as someone who taps into their passions to uncover and cultivate the uplifting spiritual emotions in the therapy process and use them as a source of healing. The point is not whether the client or the therapist considers themselves spiritual but rather whether the emotions of compassion, joy, gratitude, love, awe and faith come alive in the therapy process.


The Soul Journey

A big part of a spiritual orientation is not just about uplifting emotional states. It is also about the attitude we take when things are not going well. How do we deal with the dark side of life, when clients are experiencing hopelessness, loss, or failure?

We can always remember to face the moment directly and do something counter-intuitive: befriend ourselves and each other in times of suffering. We can recall the mythology of the heroes journey, that we are the heroes of our own journeys and that we still belong in our darker moments, maybe even more so, even though we may not always be in touch with that sense of belonging.


For more information view Eli Dickson’s separate website on Psychotherapy and Spirituality