In this issue
How can wellbeing be measured, wonders John Eatock
What is spirituality... and how does it relate to therapy?
In this extract from his latest book, Exploring Therapy, Spirituality and Healing, William West shares his thoughts on the relationship between spirituality and therapy
In the beginning (free article)
As APSCC begins to mark its 40th anniversary, John Foskett tells the story of the uncertain beginnings of APSCC, from 1968-73
APSCC resource pack: spirituality and mental health
A handy pull-out-and-keep guide to organisations and resources, of use to all practitioners
Priest? Therapist? Both?
A recent conversation with a counsellor who asked, ‘How can you be a priest and a therapist?’ reminded Chris Jenkins of one of the most personally challenging parts of his research on clients’ experiences
A return to being
A guru has the same job as a therapist, explains Graeme Waterfield
Tim Bond and Barbara Mitchels, authors of Essential Law for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, give a flavour of what it’s about
Tony Wright wonders why it can be so hard to practise what we encourage in others
Welcome from the editor
‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.’ (CS Lewis, The Four Loves)
Lewis’ challenging words came to me via the work of Brené Brown, whose research on shame, vulnerability and wholeheartedness has recently become a surprise internet hit (almost half a million views and counting). Her blog, Ordinary Courage, is also hugely popular. A point of connection for me is her profound sense of spirituality and how vital vulnerability is to living spiritually. As she has said, religion – any religion – without vulnerability = extremism.
Proclaiming absolute certainty where we are actually dealing with reality beyond words is just one way we numb ourselves to the pain but also the potential of being vulnerable. Another way is to try harder, always seeking to have every possible threat covered, every mistake excluded. In counselling such ‘defensive practice’ not only gets in the way of what clients need but also stops us being who we can be. Elsewhere in this issue I share a small section from my research which relates to being – as I am – both a priest and a therapist. Filling those two roles immediately throws up all sorts of possible conflicts and dangers, before we even think about transference! But to not be who I am, to pretend or to fail to integrate myself (always a work in process!), would be far more dangerous. Integrity is the bedrock of doing this dangerous work in our dangerous, vulnerable and beautiful world.
This awareness was only heightened for me the other day when I was preaching on the Sermon on the Mount, the summary of Jesus’ ethical teaching. I realised with renewed force that I actually don’t want to be ‘poor in spirit’, don’t want to ‘mourn’, don’t want to ‘hunger and thirst for justice’. I want to be rich in spirit, well thought of and successful. I don’t want to lose those I love. I want justice now. In other words I don’t want to be vulnerable. But the only way to avoid such pain is not to love, not to care passionately and, as a direct consequence, to become hard hearted and of no use. Living and working responsibly and in an appropriately professional way is very important. We need, as individual practitioners and as a profession, to always be aware of going too far, being too cautious and thus stifling creativity, healthy risk and the wonderful moments of surprise that, in work and life, we sometimes have gifted to us.
Forty years ago a group of brave pioneers took a step into uncertainty. Indeed as John Foskett makes clear in his illuminating piece, many were unsure about the wisdom of founding what went on to become APSCC. Along the way there have been other courageous steps: helping to found BACP and taking the risk of opening the Association to those who defined themselves as spiritual but not religious, to name just two. There have also been times of drought, when the cash nearly ran out or the membership slumped and only faith kept things going. I do hope that those of our members who have been with APCC/APSCC on that journey will share with us their memories, reflections and photographs for our next issue. I bet those pioneers would be delighted to see our membership reach 900 individuals and 46 organisations, as is likely before you read this.
On the APSCC website we now have a fuller set of guidelines for potential authors. Please do look at them before submitting articles for publication as they can save everyone involved time and effort and, hopefully, continue to improve the quality of the journal. Please note this does not mean only send us safe articles on safe topics! I look forward to hearing from you.
Finally, this issue contains the first publicity for our conference this September. It is very exciting to be involved in planning a conference focused on spirituality in practice. Especially because significant elements will be ‘live’ and cannot be planned for – at least not fully. Don’t miss it!
Chair, APSCC; Editor, Thresholds