Why is spirituality important in counselling?

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Hello readers,

These past few weeks we have been posting about spiritual wellness and how it is important to you.

For me, spiritual wellness has been something that I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around for a very long time. Even now, I cannot guarantee that my definition is 100% accurate because spirituality is something very intangible and hard to measure.

What I can share though, is what I know about spiritual wellness and what it means to me.

I started being interested in the notion of spirituality in 2017, this was when I went on a hiking retreat that included silent hiking, dhamma talks by monks, chanting, and following the 8 precepts. It was a really interesting experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a magical time without having a phone, being away from everyone and just spending time with a group of like-minded people who just wanted to connect with themselves and nature.

That was the first time that I recognised how much the Buddhist teachings and psychological teachings that I have learned were so similar. Calm the monkey mind, focus on the present, have no judgment, slow down, manage our thinking, and be kind and compassionate. I was thoroughly intrigued because I felt like the monk could be a psychology professor minus the qualifications haha.

Then my next encounter with spirituality was when my cousin introduced me to the Indian version of spirituality. I went on this 4-day course with Sadhguru and learned so much about his teachings. A few things that I brought home with me was knowing that we as humans have a response-ability, meaning we have the ability to control our behaviours and actions towards others and things. We can make the choice of what we want to do and why we want to do it. For example, if we see someone throw litter on the ground, we can judge “urgh, how irresponsible”, however, we can also act, we can pick up the litter and throw it away. He also taught about being kind to the planet and respecting the environment, and about how food takes different amounts of time to digest.

With both teachings, they included meditations, chantings, and teachings. All with the same purpose, bring yourself back to the present moment, detach yourself from your sense of self (aka ego), detach yourself from your thoughts, do good to others and the planet, be kind and compassionate, connect with nature, and take care of your physical wellbeing through movement and food.

I took on both practices for a while, then again, moved on. Then, I chanced upon mindful self-compassion, and mindfulness-based stress reduction, followed by Ajahn Brahm’s retreat, and now I’m learning to be a yoga instructor. Admittedly, I have not had many dwellings with other religions other than learning about Christianity from my father’s teachings, so I’ve been exposed mostly to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.

Spirituality is something that can help guide the counselling process and is important to be addressed as well. When we think about our lives, we might think about what is the purpose of life. What meaning is there to life? Why do things happen in our lives? What drives us? What are our values?

All these questions can be related to spirituality. Some people derive meaning through religion; religion provides hope, and it provides a purpose and an explanation for things that happen without a logical explanation. Others derive meaning through faith, faith that everything happens for a reason and that the universe knows.

OK, so with all these, what does spirituality mean to a psychologist?

Spirituality means a sense of connection with a higher power that is greater than ourselves, bringing us hope, purpose, and meaning in life.

so… what does spiritual wellness mean in counselling?

Spiritual wellness means understanding our place in this world, meaning finding a connection to a greater purpose to serve the planet, god, the universe, etc, for the greater good (not just focusing on ourselves). Where we learn to be compassionate, kind, and grateful to all those around us. It’s when you feel a sense of meaning, that you are living life in accordance with your values and what is important to you.

Is spiritual wellness important in counselling in Singapore?

Ever felt that feeling of being lost and not knowing what you are doing in your life or what you are living life for? If you answered yes, then spiritual wellness might be what you’re needing right now. Why I went to all those retreats, courses, classes etc, was to find my own sense of purpose, and to find out what life meant to me.

Personally, I believe in the universe, possibly a god, and that everything in life happens for a reason. What do you believe in? Some might tell you there’s only 1 path to reaching heaven or enlightenment, or whatever it is that people believe.

However, I believe that spirituality is an all-encompassing word. It isn’t just religion, it’s about connecting to a greater self. A self that you might not have known yet, but you can get the opportunity to know.

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Why is spirituality important in counselling?

Spirituality is important because it provides us with hope, a sense of purpose, and meaning, something that we can believe in and put our faith in. Whether you believe in god, the universe, a greater being, a specific deity, or even mother earth. It allows you to have trust and faith that there’s more to life and that you have been put onto this planet for a reason, and you are part of something greater than yourself.

We might enter and leave this planet alone, however, our journey here doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Many people in Singapore live very isolated lives, they live a life that lacks meaning, lacks purpose, and zombie through life. Many people just work and work and work. Every day is just rinsed and repeated – does that provide you with fulfillment or are you just avoiding looking deeper?

Are you just surviving or are you thriving?

Developing your own sense of what spirituality means to you and how you develop it can give you a greater sense of meaning and move you towards a sense of a value-driven life instead of just surviving and zombie-ing through life!

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OK, awesome, how can I achieve spiritual wellness in Singapore?

Here are some basic guidelines on how to achieve spiritual wellness (none of which are religious):

Connect to mother nature

  • We live on this planet for all the years of our lives. This planet has provided us with everything that we need and has never complained or asked us for anything in return. We can do our part to take care of her, to embrace her. Find some time, go out into nature, and just sit with nature. If you live in a concrete jungle like me, find a patch of grass, go to a park, find a tree, and just allow yourself to feel nature on your body. Bath in it.
  • I went on an amazing 3 hours forest bathing experience with Jovena, owner of gentle walks. You can check them out on Instagram or sign up for their walks here: Forest Bathing by Gentle Walks

Meditate or pray

  • We are all lost in our thoughts and caught up with the busyness of our day-to-day lives. Our minds are here, then they are a million miles away. If we are everywhere else at all points in time, how can we connect to the deeper part of us? Take some time, sit down, even if it’s for 5 mins, just close your eyes, and see what you can notice happening around you, inside of you, see if you can be present and still for just 5 mins. If meditation is against your religion, it’s OK! Pray instead. Just have a conversation with god and be fully present with god.

Practice yoga/tai chi/qi gong/any mindfulness exercise

  • We can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by improving both our physical and spiritual wellness at the same time. Sometimes it’s hard to just sit and meditate, well, you can always be present and listen to your body through exercise. The main key here is to be present!

Reflect on your values

  • Knowing what is important to you and evaluating whether you are moving towards those things that are important to you or away from those things that are important to you. This can be as simple as drawing a pie chart of your life now, and your ideal life, and comparing them.

Practice self-compassion and compassion for others

  • If you learn to be compassionate to yourself and others, you might have a better relationship with yourself and others. This allows you more space to get to know yourself better and not run away from who you really are

How is spirituality addressed in counselling?

In counselling, spirituality can be discussed between therapist and client, this process has to be delicate and the therapist cannot impose their views on their clients. Spirituality can also come in the form of a discussion of religion. Some people have a religion that brings them hope and meaning, which brings them a sense of community and purpose, which is important too.

For example, for myself, I am spiritual but not very religious. When my clients come to me, I teach them certain mindfulness and meditation techniques, however, none are faith-based or might get confused with other religions. I ask them what their religious beliefs are and teach them how to use mindfulness while practicing their own religion. It can be through prayer, connecting with the community, or connecting with god. All are acceptable and encouraged.

When we learn to let go of ourselves, and our ego, learn to be more in touch with nature, and the universe, and be part of a community, we can live a better, more fulfilling life.

The mind, body, and soul are all important parts of well-being. By looking at our emotions and thoughts alone, we can make progress, but we might still feel incomplete. Nourishing our soul, that’s the next step forward.

Our mental health professionals all practice secular teaching and are open to all beliefs, religions, and cultures. If you are looking for a safe space to explore your spirituality further, feel free to drop us an email at team@akindplace.co or WhatsApp us here.

Our team specialises in various fields such as depression counselling and also tailored counselling for those with special needs and for men.

We also offer corporate wellness programs for companies interested in boosting employees’ morale.

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