Faith and spirituality

Whilst it is not true for everyone, for many people their faith or spiritual practices are a source of strength and comfort in difficult times. However, sometimes we can find ourselves going through times of confusion or doubt. We may realise that what we once believed or found useful is no longer helping us. Talking about these issues can help to make sense of what is going on and provide a non-judgmental space where you are free to express any thoughts and emotions connected with your spiritual beliefs. This process can help to you to move forward with your faith and spirituality in a way that aligns with your values and understanding of life.

As a therapist, I understand how important faith and spirituality can be and I am experienced in exploring this area of life with clients. I aim to avoid making assumptions about religion or spirituality, preferring to listen to the beliefs and experiences of each individual and deepen my understanding of what their faith means to them.

 

Spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse can be difficult to define. It is a term covering a wide range of traumatic experiences, from ritual abuse to emotional exploitation within a religious setting. Sometimes it is obvious, at other times a person doesn't realise they are being spiritually abused until after they have left the situation.

 

Jeff VanVonderen defines spiritual abuse in this way:-


Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to 'come underneath' and serve, build, equip and make God's people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God's people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.

Writing about Christianity, Ronald Enroth asserts:-

Do the abusers intend to inflict hurt? In most cases, probably not. They usually are unaware of what they are doing to people in the name of God. They may, in fact, be convinced that their behavior is what the Lord has mandated. What others interpret as control they may view as caring for the flock. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don't notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers.

Whether the damage inflicted upon victims of spiritual abuse was intentional or not, the pain is very real. Trust has been shattered and recovery can take time. Some people may question or even lose their faith, whilst others are able to rebuild their spiritual beliefs and practices, often with some changes and greater caution than before. 

Finding a safe place to work through the trauma of spiritual abuse can be vital for recovery. Therapy can help by providing you with a completely non-judgmental place for you to express all of your thoughts and emotions without having to worry about what someone else might be thinking. An ethical counsellor will not be attempting to persuade you to either return to your faith or leave your faith. Instead they will empathise with your experience and accept your unique journey as you work towards healing and recovery from spiritual abuse.