on 2 May 2013
Because I thought that my spiritual direction training course was deficient in the sphere of psychology, I read this book, whose author is both a psychiatrist and a spiritual director. It empowers the director with enough knowledge of basic psychology to know when to use it in direction and when to refer the directee to someone more skilled.
`Most traditional psychotherapy does not see itself as facilitating the growth of persons in their realization and expression of divine truth. In general, psychotherapy hopes to encourage more efficient living, and its values and intentions often reflect those that prevail in the culture at any given time. For example, psychotherapy often seeks to bolster an individual's capacity to gratify needs and desires and to achieve a sense of autonomous mastery over self and circumstance. Both of these orientations are quite prominent in modern society as a whole. In contrast, spiritual direction--at least in its more mature forms--seeks liberation from attachments and a self--giving surrender to the discerned power and will of God. This means that at some point spiritual direction will turn in opposition to many of the cultural standards and values that psychotherapy supports.
'A deeper divergence of intent can be seen in the different attitudes psychotherapy and spiritual guidance hold towards the manner in which growth, healing, and liberation actually take place. In the harshest medical model of psychiatry, the physician assumes the role of healer while the patient remains at best a compliant object whose deficiencies are corrected. In more humanistic psychotherapies, therapist and client form a healing team together. They see their mutual interactions as being responsible for any growth or healing that may take place. In spiritual direction however, the true healer, nurturer, sustainer, and liberator is the Lord, and the director and directee are seen as hopeful channels, beneficiaries, or expressions of grace for each other. This is a radical difference, and one that cannot be overemphasized.
There are, to be sure, psychotherapists and counsellors who see themselves humbly, hoping to be instruments of divine will rather than of personal ego, or who at least try to keep their personal will in accordance with their discernments of God's will. To date however, it must be acknowledged that in the actual practice of therapy, such orientations represent more the exception than the rule. The important consideration here is that while effective psychotherapy can occur with the intent of human achievement, any spiritual direction that loses its sense of human subservience is bound to be distorted. Such distortion occurs far more frequently than most of us would care to admit. The seeds of its potential are in every such thought as I have to help this person, or I must do something to make this person see things differently, or even in Together you and I will overcome this obstacle. In each of these thoughts the power of God, even that which works through us, is ignored.'
`They are willing to let problems go unsolved, questions unanswered, even pain uneased and longing unrequited, for the sake of a deeper communion. Of course it is often not quite so pure and perfect as this, but in authentic spiritual direction the desire and intention for such a willingness of presence is claimed by both director and directee.
This is not the case in most other kinds of relationships. In counseling, psychotherapy, physical or pastoral care, mentoring, teaching, parenting, and nearly all other helping relationships, agendas are very mixed and there is often a wide difference between the basic attitude of the helper and the one being helped. The helper may try to cultivate a prayerful, contemplative attitude but the recipient of care may be expecting something very different. In other words, even though the caregiver may desire a truly holistic and God-centered approach, the client often does not.
...To make the problem worse, virtually nothing in our health care systems and institutions honors prayerfulness or real spiritual attention. Discernment of spirit finds no place in treatment plans. Prayer is often considered a luxury--sometimes even a distraction. A contemplative attitude would not only be misunderstood by peer review boards, but could very well violate standards of practice. Third-party payments do not cover helping people become more loving. These problems are not limited to health care; they exist in all our societal institutions. Even pastors of churches and chaplains in hospitals are expected to be efficient religious leaders, not true spiritual companions. We live in a broken world, and we are broken with it....How do we put into practice the difference between healing in the largest sense, and curing specific disorders?