Spirituality in psychotherapy : a hidden dimension : an exploratory study

Psaila, Claudia (2012). Spirituality in psychotherapy : a hidden dimension : an exploratory study. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d4f4


Many in the caring professions consider spirituality to be a fundamental dimension of human experience and identity. Consequently, some claim that this dimension cannot be ignored in disciplines such as psychotherapy that deals with the human being and with human experience. Moreover, the increase in secularisation and the emphasis on the subjective and the personal in people's experience of spirituality and religion, have led to an increased interest in psychotherapy, counselling and other forms of activities and professions that deal more closely with the personal and subjective. Other themes that connect spirituality and psychotherapy include: spirituality is related to a person's mental health; people make meaning which assumes that they are spiritual beings; and spirituality and psychotherapy both involve enlightenment and meaning-making. For some, spirituality is manifest in psychotherapy either because of spiritual concerns that are raised by clients in the psychotherapeutic process, as a resource, or as a form of pathology. For others, therapy is a spiritual encounter.

The research is a qualitative exploratory study of the experience and perception of the spiritual dimension of psychotherapy of Maltese practitioners. The study was held with two groups of Maltese psychotherapists and clinical and counselling psychologists. Each group attended a series of four focus/study group sessions. Key areas explored include the participants' conception of spirituality and religion and their understanding and experience of the spiritual dimension in counselling and psychotherapy. Broadly, the study focused on the ways in which spirituality may become manifest' and express itself in the psychotherapeutic process, the roles and experiences of the therapist and the client regarding spirituality in counselling and psychotherapy and the identification of the factors that may contribute to the spiritual dimension of counselling and psychotherapy.

The findings are presented as two main domains, that of 'understanding spirituality and religion in a postmodern context' and 'spirituality and psychotherapy'. The latter is divided into four themes that are facets of the domain 'spirituality and psychotherapy'. These are a) understanding spirituality and religion, b) the therapeutic relationship as sacred space, c) the being: it is who the therapist is that counts and d) applications in clinical practice. The findings are discussed in relation to the literature and to the Maltese context.

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