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Comments on “Holism in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction: A Course Correction"

Sperry, Len and Erik Mansager, “Holism in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction: A Course Correction.” Counseling and Values 48, [January, 2004]. Holism in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction: A Course Correction (accessed November 19, 2008).

In “Holism in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction,” authors Len Sperry and Erik Mansager, who teach in counseling departments at their respective universities, address the counseling community saying that psychotherapy and spiritual direction are related. The authors explore the sources of spiritually oriented psychotherapy and conclude that an “interface” between spiritual direction and psychotherapy is “desirable and important” (155). They examine the word holistic as a better way to bringing the two disciplines together and say that a dualistic or monistic viewpoint is inadequate.

According to Sperry and Mansager, a holistic person is one who is unified and “self-consistent in his or her movement toward a goal …” (153). They say that once humanity left its quest for spirituality by listening to psychologists such as Freud, who overlooked religious desire, people eventually became mentally unhealthy and turned to psychotherapy (149 – 150). In this article, the authors recognize the need for spirituality and a purpose for life that exists in human beings. Christians would say that God put that desire in his/her creation, but I’m not sure from what angle Sperry and Mansager are speaking. They use illustrations from Buddhism, but then quote Catholic theologian Hans Kung heavily. The important thing is that they recognize that there is a need in psychotherapy to realize the spiritual dimension of life. It is good that they are exploring ways to bring the two disciplines together.

Consciousness is the link between the two disciplines because “both spirituality and psychotherapy provide methods for exploring, deepening, and expanding consciousness” (158). This consciousness rests in the desires that all humans have for absolute justice and the search for meaning, for example (157). Only God can provide absolute justice and meaning in a person’s life, so Kung relates these to religious yearnings. Kung said that belief in God cannot be proven, so “belief in the Divine Being … necessarily must rest on quite different grounds” (158). I believe that this “ground” is comprised of faith. Hebrews 11: 1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So in Kung’s mind and in the opinion of the writer of Hebrews, the fact that faith exists means that God exists. Faith is what links the unexplained aspects of spirituality, such as the existence of God and the truth of the Bible, with our consciousness so that we believe and experience God for ourselves.

Will a return to spirituality negate the need for psychotherapy? Yes and no. Yes, in instances where individuals are healthy spiritually. No, when things happen in life that create road blocks in a person’s spiritual development. By road blocks I mean the fall out from stressful and traumatic experiences that people suffer because of disaster, either personal or on a large scale. Because of our world’s fallen state, humanity will have to deal with brokenness in some respect until Jesus comes. When this happens psychotherapy teamed with spiritual direction, along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit can help people return to that sense of wholeness. WC: 506