Article: What Is Spiritual Counseling?
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
“There can be no true healing without the participation of spirit.”
I am often asked what spiritual counseling is. The answers to that question are many and there are many types of spiritual counseling. For some people, it is about exploring their faith and focusing on the values of that faith as a way to understand themselves and the world around them. For others, it is a way of exploring the world beyond the everyday in order to give context to their experience.
Spiritual Counseling at the Sacred Stream embraces both of these definitions and also offers further opportunities for exploration. When we talk about spiritual counseling, we are talking about the inclusion of spirit in our inquiry into our clients’ presenting issues. This includes helping people define their relationship to spirit as well as learning how the consideration of the spiritual element of any imbalance impacts their understanding of their situation and their ability to transform it.
We make an effort to help people understand what their relationship to spirit is, and indeed, what spirit is for them. These questions have unique answers for every person, and there are methods for discovering the answer to these questions in both Depth Hypnosis and Applied Shamanic Counseling that are tailored for each person. Depth Hypnosis and Applied Shamanic Counseling are the two primary forms of spiritual counseling at the Sacred Stream. Different forms of spiritual inquiry and exploration of different forms of spiritual experience are also offered through the Applied Buddhist Psychology classes, the Plant Medicine classes, the Spiritual Direction class, and the Integrated Energy Medicine classes.
But Depth Hypnosis and Applied Shamanic Counseling offer a structured form of counseling that can be applied to presenting issues in a straightforward way that generally leads to resolution or transformation of presenting issues. In these spiritual counseling environments, the definition of spirit centers in an understanding of the experience of the transcendent that is wise and/or benevolent. And the experience of spirit is something that is defined as lying beyond the confines of the everyday personality or conscious mind.
For some people, the encounter with spirit arises within. For others, the encounter with spirit occurs through establishing a connection with a transcendental power outside the self. And for some, both types of encounters are valid. As practitioners, we seek to help each person understand their experience of spirit through the altered state. By entering into the larger experience of awareness the altered state provides, people can explore their relationship to spirit and establish the type of connection that is best for them.
In Depth Hypnosis, there is a guided hypnotherapeutic process that is designed to help the client encounter ‘the part of themselves that has only their highest good as its sole intent.’ This part is understood to be wise, protective, and connected to transcendent power in an unbroken way. This places the experience of spirit within a person’s psyche.
In Applied Shamanic Counseling, the encounter with spirit is more generally defined as connecting with a form of power drawn from the natural world, such as a wise bear or other animal. This places the relationship with spirit outside the self. This encounter occurs through the shamanic journey, which is a form of altered state awareness produced by a repetitive sound rather than through hypnotic suggestion and guided meditation.
Once the connection with a transcendent form of wisdom or understanding is established experientially, the work to understand the presenting issue through the participation of spirit as defined by the client can begin. Practitioners in both modalities understand that any imbalance has a spiritual element to it in that there is a disturbance to the spirit that is related to the presenting issue. This is true whether the person is attuned to spiritual experience or not. And it is also true whether a presenting symptom manifests mentally such as a problem with attention or emotionally such as depression or physically such as a substance addiction. For these practitioners, all four of these levels of experience are interrelated and the issue must be addressed on each of these levels. This integrative approach allows for a broader understanding of the presenting issues and opens multiple pathways to their resolution.
For instance, in the resolution of a substance addiction, there is the work to understand the nature of the addiction on a physical level. How does the addiction affect your body? What kind of triggers to its use exist in everyday life? Then, there is the experience of the addiction from a mental point of view. How often do you think about using? On an emotional level, questions about the emotional state arise: Are you trying to produce a particular emotional experience by using? Are you trying to get away from an emotional state by using?
These are questions that might be addressed in any form of counseling whether there is a recognition of the interrelationship between these levels of being or not. With spiritual counseling, a further inquiry can be made: How does your addiction affect your relationship with yourself? How does your addiction affect your ability to connect with the transcendent or spiritual guidance? If your addiction affects your ability to connect with inner guidance, what effect does this have on you?
These are all questions that can be asked of the client. And this last set of questions can also be addressed to that ‘part of the self that has only the highest good as its sole intent’ through guided meditation in Depth Hypnosis or to the guide in a form from nature through the shamanic journey in Applied Shamanic Counseling. Taking this step opens up another level of understanding while accessing tools for resolution beyond conceptual knowing at the same time.
For most people, having a counseling model that offers pathways for understanding the nature and experience of spirit deepens their understanding of the presenting issues. As they are guided to work with the tools of inner guidance in whatever form is best for them, they discover new possibilities to the resolution of their issues. They come to know the different levels of their being and begin to perceive how spiritual experience is informing all of them. This leads to an expanded sense of self with access to resources that can help them make the changes they seek to make in their lives.