Note: This is a guest post by Katie Kapro.
Some of my closest – and most spiritually badass – friends are independent counselors. It’s a career that attracts sensitive, resilient, and altruistic souls. It asks a lot of them. And it gives them the opportunity to give back to their communities.
The connection between spirituality and work is fascinating, and this counseling phenomenon can go unnamed no longer. Why are so many spiritually-inclined people drawn to counseling?
If we better understand the connection between esoteric studies and counseling careers, then perhaps more would-be counselors will find their calling.
Joshua in Cambridge, whom I met at a meditation retreat, sees his clients in a Persian rug laden office in his home behind Harvard Square. He’s been practicing for 40 years, helping one client at a time integrate mindful breathing, gratitude, and interconnectedness into their daily lives.
He sees everyone from recovering drug addicts to stressed-out graduate students. Instead of offering them a list of medications, he offers them meditation practices.
It’s pretty cool, and his work benefits countless people with all sorts of spiritual beliefs.
Why are spiritually-inclined people so drawn to independent counseling?
Spiritual people expend so much inner and outer energy practicing oneness and self-effacement, it only makes sense that they’d want to spend the majority of the day doing something beneficial for the world.
Let’s face it, we live in a world of egos. The ego serves a purpose. To live fully in the world is to recognize and accept the ego for what it is rather than shun it or attach dogmatic meaning to it. Counselors are required to deal with the ego on a daily basis; they are realists if nothing else.
When I consider how many of my deeply spiritual friends work in psychology, I think it must have something to do with self-awareness. When you accept the reality of your own ego, personality, and humanity, it’s only natural to want to help people navigate their own.
Perhaps this sounds like you?
What are the benefits of a spiritually sensitive counselor?
First, let’s hone-in on what spirituality means in the context of therapy.
It’s broader than religion, and it’s generally accepted to account for all “cognitive and philosophic areas of thought as well as aspects of emotions and behavior.” Meaning, in regular-speak, that spirituality is the way a person understands their nature, existence, and internal experience.
For some people this means church. For others it means nature. It’s simply the act of awareness.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to spirituality in counseling. Many therapists are supportive of integrating spirituality into their work, while others feel it’s a slippery slope.
Psychotherapy in particular has had a historically rocky relationship with religious spirituality, starting with Freud himself who called religion “comparable to childhood neuroses.” But in more modern times, therapists have drawn a clear distinction between religion and spirituality, reframing Freud’s old biases against any particular tradition.
This reframing allows modern counselors to reach out to their patients from a unified yet impersonal place, and grow the kinds of trust bonds that benefit the therapist-client relationship. They can adopt a “psychospiritual approach” that utilizes common ground and universal themes shared by all people, instead of trying to make the personal relationship do all the heavy lifting.
If a counselor leads a client in an exercise about minding one’s breath, say, they both feel the shared sensation of meditating, which can be a pretty powerful feeling.
Of course, finding the words to describe this sensation can be tricky. Many therapists fear that if they’re too open about their own values, they may unwittingly impose them on their clients. It’s important to choose one’s words carefully. The ability to navigate a client relationship with this level of sensitivity is vital to a healthy practice.
Perhaps another reason why so many spiritual people are good therapists is because they have a tendency to be highly sensitive people (HSP’s). They understand the importance of sensitivity in human relationship.
Can anyone be a counselor?
Yes and no. Not everyone should be a counselor. Use your imagination. Who would want to go to a counseling session led by Donald Trump? Not me.
It takes a very specific skillset to flourish in this particular job 1) without burning out and 2) to actually help people. But if a person feels the impulse toward counseling, it’s always worth exploring. Work in therapy allows a unique amount of independence from the mainstream work model – many counselors set up their own LLCs – but candidates must first demonstrate their ability to navigate the ins-and-outs of academia by obtaining the proper education and getting licensed – a process which varies from state to state – and then complete an internship or practicum. Becoming a licensed therapist is not a quick and dirty process, for obvious reasons. Again, Trump. It takes time and commitment.
That being said, the path is easy when the work is something that fits your character. Counseling can be a deeply rewarding career for someone who is naturally self-aware, patient, compassionate, and nonjudgmental.
It’s a way to bring one’s spiritual practice off the mat and into the wider world.
About the Author
Katie Kapro is a Sufi and writer in the Intermountain West. When not writing, she can usually be found burying her face in sage in the foothills behind her house. Follow her on Twitter @kapro101
Stevie P’s Postscript
This article is incredibly relevant for both myself and everyone reading this, as I just launched the Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great Mystery School. It’s essentially a modern, online version of the ancient mystery schools that will help you integrate spiritual concepts into your daily life. The general “curriculum” (I use that term loosely) is based upon recurring themes I’ve had with individuals which they’ve found great value in, so I’m sure you’ll find value as well.
– Stevie P