Alongside our physical, mental and emotional wellness, spiritual health is an important part of our holistic wellbeing. And while conflating spirituality with the more traditional practices of counselling hasn’t always been welcomed, spiritual counselling is increasingly considered a useful tool for re-establishing a connection with the deepest depths of our souls. But what is spiritual counselling and who is it right for? Read on for your full introduction.
What is spiritual counselling?
“Spiritual counselling is a mode of healing that looks at an individual’s beliefs and values, and in which there is typically a longing for meaning larger than the individual self,” explains Karin Bleecker, Program Director here at New Life Portugal. Where traditional counselling might concentrate on tending to an individual’s mind, spiritual counselling hones in on the soul, integrating the individual’s macro worldview into the therapy itself.
“Spiritual counselling does not require a ‘religious’ belief system, although it is typically grounded in the perennial wisdom that comes from many spiritual traditions,” Karin continues. That being said, for those who believe in a higher power or guide, spiritual therapy can help deepen their connection with this power, or the connection may act as an aid to their personal healing process.
“I have heard spiritual counseling called ‘midwifery of the soul’ and really like that phrase,” Karin adds. “It gives the image of someone skilled in walking alongside the process of creating new life, cheering and supporting.”
“Trained spiritual counselors understand that there is a developmental process to spiritual growth and can assess and support individuals in the process of growing through these stages,” Karins explains. As experts in their field, spiritual counsellors can help clients reconnect the soul with the body and mind, helping them to explore the deeper facets of emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
The difference between spirituality and religion
“I think the biggest misconception of spiritual counselling is that one must be involved in some sort of religion to benefit from it,” explains Chris Luard, a former meditation teacher at New Life. Even if the terms are often used interchangeably. spirituality and religion are not the same thing, nor are they polar opposites either. Recognising their core differences is key to understanding the role and benefits of spiritual counselling.
Furthermore, religion is often the term given to a personal or institutionalised system of attitudes, beliefs and practices rooted in worship of a God or higher power, while spirituality simply denotes connection to something greater than yourself.
“I have come to understand spirituality as a deep sense of curiosity about the human condition and what it means to be alive,” Chris continues. “Religion attempts to give answers to these types of questions which someone can choose to believe in, whereas spirituality values the open question more than the answer.”
The benefits of spiritual counselling
“Spiritual counselling can be helpful to anyone who wishes to find relief from suffering, as long as they have an open mind and they are willing to learn, heal, and/or grow,” Chris explains. Similar to other forms of counselling, spiritual counselling has a multitude of benefits. “These may include stress relief, a sense of self-compassion, loving kindness, joy, equanimity, insight, an ability to find calm rest even in turbulent times and an ability to find meaning and purpose.”
As the Counselling Directory warns, “the spiritual journey can be blissful and awakening, but also it can be arduous, frightening and lonely. Anyone can have a spiritual experience or peak experience, but holistic self-realisation is a different matter.”
It’s also important to note that ethical spiritual counsellors won’t make any attempt to push their set of beliefs on to their clients – it isn’t about trying to change someone’s view of the world, but rather, using spirituality to benefit and improve their view of (and relationship with) themselves and the world around them.
Spiritual counselling at New Life Portugal wellness retreat
“In the end, I see spiritual counselling as an integral part of the retreats at New Life Portugal,” flags Chris. “The people who come here will have access to this mode of healing, which may provide greater ease, restfulness, depth, clarity, compassion, and insight for a lifetime.”
“This phrase is often overused but what we mean by it is that we recognise each person’s path to a fuller and richer life is unique.
Temperament, experience and cultural factors influence both the meaning we give to our situation, as well as the path or means we are most receptive to in moving forward.”
Not only have we built programs tailored to the differing situations, requirements and desires of our guests, but the individual support received by our guests is tailored to them at every opportunity.
“Our program staff are well versed in looking through multiple lenses to support our guests,” adds Karin.