Can you remember what first made you decide to train as a counsellor or psychotherapist? I suspect that there are as many answers to this as there are therapists. For me, it was a feeling rather than a thought – a feeling that had something to do with beauty.
Prior to training, I volunteered as a bereavement worker with Cruse. I was also a client in long-term therapy (I still am). In both, I experienced moments that I could not describe or explain. If I had to put a label on them, I suppose I would call them spiritual. Not in a defined, religious sense, but because they were rooted in connectedness, and love. Perhaps mystical would be a better fit.
These moments felt like poetry, which Seamus Heaney speaks of as '…having a special ability to redress spiritual balance and to function as a counterweight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world'.1
This was the feeling that led to my core training, to being on placement, then qualifying, then setting up in private practice. I remember one of the trainers telling us that, in time, we might uncover new motivations, or reasons for wanting to go into this work. True though that might have been, I never forgot that that was how it started.
I know that the process of training inevitably involves engaging the left brain: absorbing theories, weighing up ethics, learning how to formulate and understanding the field. In going through that, I seemed to take extended leave from the magical realms of the right brain. I lost that feeling a little and it took a long time to get it back.
The July issue of Thresholds explores some of this. José Luis Leal writes about what our brains do with spirituality in Spiritually ambivalent therapist: a contentious collaboration. And Dharmachari Vidyadhara interviews Sebastian Beaumont about his fictional account of a therapist who gets concussion and loses his sense of self in Uncharted territory.
We also feature three researchers talking about why it’s important to capture the spiritual dimension of counselling in research in Why research matters. Among these is BACP Spirituality Executive member, Jane Hunt, who introduces her latest research. The results will provide a national picture about how religion and spirituality are taught in counselling trainings. This is exciting because I hear time and again that there are gaps in this area. If you are a student, or recently qualified (in the past five years), and would like to take part in the research, please see our research noticeboard.
1 Astley N. Staying alive. Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books; 2002.
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BACP Spirituality division
BACP Spirituality is for counsellors, psychotherapists, pastoral carers, chaplains and related professionals whose work is informed by a spiritual perspective.
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