Spiritual but not religious

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Waterlily

Mindfulness and meditation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What exactly does “Spiritual but not religious” mean?

A very large number of people here in America are describing themselves as “Spiritual, not religious.” There is a growing disconnect between religion and people’s day-to-day life.

As a result of this disconnect we are gaining some things, I hope, such as a wider appreciation of our differences, but we are also losing some things.

In secular programs, those run by government agencies, we try to accommodate people of all faiths and those with no faith. Sometimes this is a challenge. We have to ask people what their religious or spiritual belief is without implying that they need to have one or that the belief they have is not acceptable to the agency.

An example of accommodating faiths and other spiritual beliefs

There are a whole lot of people who are vegetarians, do not eat meat variety vegetarians, not because of religious or health reasons but because they view the killing animals for human food as morally wrong.

Our society seems to be doing a better job of accommodating this particular moral belief. More events are offering vegetarian meals.

It gets harder when we take into account that some faiths do not eat pork, some decline beef and some require particular diets as in kosher.

Beyond dietary restrictions, it gets progressively more difficult to accommodate other spiritual beliefs within our increasingly multicultural society.

During intake processes, we are supposed to ask about the client’s race or ethnicity. An increasing number of clients are finding it difficult to answer that question. Some people are reporting 5 or more different ethnicities in their background.

When talking with clients I try to make it a practice to ask about their spiritual or religious beliefs.

Say the client reports that they are African-American. This tells me nothing about their spiritual beliefs. We need to try to stay open to all manner of possibilities.

More and more people are finding it impossible to answer questions about their faith. We have to tread lightly here. I do not want to imply that they need to have a faith or that any particular faith is preferred, but I do not want to completely disregard their spiritual practices in designing their treatment.

Those few who do answer are resorting to one of two responses. I am a Christian or Spiritual But Not Religious. Most who say Christian do not self-identify with any particular denomination. They are not Catholic; they are not Protestant and so on. Some few report attending Non-denominational churches.

Most who self-describe as Christians are reporting, at least in my experience that they do not attend any particular church.

A very large number are reporting as Spiritual but not religious.

So why does all this matter? From a practical standpoint those who self-identify as believing something do better in treatment than those who have no faith. This benefit includes those who self-identify as Atheists if they also report some particular higher law or principle, say right and wrong, that helps them guide their life and is reassuring in times of stress.

One of the gains from this spirituality moment has been sets of values that people take with them day by day in all areas of their lives. I am suspicious of any faith that requires you to be a believer for a couple of hours each week, while in a particular building, but you are free to spend the rest of the week on raping, pillaging, and burning.

One of the things we are losing as a result of this increased emphasis on spirituality and the disconnect from religion is the loss of meaningful shared rituals.

Rituals give meaning to things that would otherwise be everyday actions.

Rituals are not solely the providence of the religious world. Court proceedings, with that robe, the bailiff, and the ritualized language, make the whole process seem more meaningful and as a result, are intended to increase respect for the law and the workings of the court. The ritual gives the process meaning. Occasionally the system debases the meaning when they do not follow the principles of justice these rituals imply.

Graduation ceremonies are a ritual we can all share to make the transition to another life stage. Marriages used to be a way to make the transition from being two separate dating people; to one committed couple. We still have the ritual despite the loss of meaning that a wedding has after having the parties have several children.

Funerals are also a ritual we all share that helps us negotiate the loss of a person who had some meaning in our life.

In places where there is one dominant faith, rituals are shared by virtue of people’s participation in that faith. With the decline of active participation in a particular religion and an increase in self-identified Spiritual But Not Religious, what has been missing are the rituals that used to accompany life events.

Creating new rituals.

People in recovery have resorted to creating new rituals that may help them to share the emotions and resolve the changes in status without invoking a particular religion.

Addicts may write a “Goodbye Letter” to their drug of choice. There are traditions of sponsorship that may replace the “rite” of confession in certain religions. People celebrate the anniversary of their embarking on the road of recovery.

One remaining challenge has been how to create meaningful shared rituals that do not impinge on people’s particular religious faith and allow full participation in the ritual.

Whatever your spiritual or religious tradition, here is wishing you the best possible life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Higher Power Listening Skills

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Waterlily

Mindfulness and meditation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

So you pray, but do you listen for an answer?

We read lots of things about the power and value of prayer. As far as I know, every religion out there has a practice that looks like that thing we would call prayer. While these various styles of praying have their differences, most have at their core a person making a request of their higher power.

What I do not see much written about is – how exactly is this Higher Power supposed to get back to you with an answer?

Seems to me, that a lot of people are placing their prayer requests the same way they place their online merchandise orders. Give me one of those in blue and ship by Friday. Here is my credit card number, or a reminder of the good deeds I have done that entitle me to priority shipping on my request.

What I do not hear people talking about is how they leave their email addresses so that this Higher Power guy or gal can get back to them.

Meditation?

A few people have mentioned the values of a practice called meditation. This is supposed to allow that higher power of yours, to get back to you on those requests and also allows responses to those rare times when you leave an online 5-star rating of the Higher Powers fabulous success in filling your order speedily and with just the right size.

Mention mediation to most western religions and you get a negative response, something to the effect that meditation is some Pinko-hippy-freak-subversive practice. Now while I am not convinced that being a “Pinko-hippy-freak-subversive” is a bad thing, still I know that calling meditation by some derisive term turns a lot of the faithful away from that practice.

So the question remains, you ask for things in prayer, how does God or your Higher Power get a chance to say anything back?

Back a while, religious people, and that includes some of these “old-time Christians” had a practice they called “listening for that still small voice.” Not sure that Higher power always uses his small indoor voice, but I think we would all be benefited by spending some time listening for “Knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.”

Frankly, if you do all the talking and God never gets a chance to say anything that is not much of a conversation is it?

However you do it, sometimes it just might pay to turn off the entertainment center, put the Angry Birds to bed and sit a spell and listen to see what that Higher Power of yours is trying to tell you.

If the term mediation bothers you, try “thinking on it” a spell and see what God may be trying to tell you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Spiritual recovery tools- The religion, spirituality divorce

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Praying.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Spiritual recovery tools need to be a part of your toolkit.

In a recent post, we looked at how we all need the right tools for our recoveries, recoveries from whatever things you define as your particular issue. In that post, I left out spiritual recovery tools, partly because of space and partly because this area is so important we needed to look at it separately.

There are two reasons to talk specifically about spiritual recovery tools. Some people need spiritual tools to recover and some people are in recovery from spiritual issues.

If you hang out around recovery tables, or in therapist’s offices, as I do these days, you will hear a lot of troubling things.

There are a lot of people these days who describe themselves as “Recovering Catholics”, “Recovering Baptists” and so on. Over time I have found that you could fill in that Recovering —- blank — with most any religion or denomination.

You will also hear a lot about how people in recovery give credit to their “Higher Power.”

A key reason why some people are able to use their belief system to aid their recovery and others are in recovery has been the long-term separation between Religion and Spirituality. In this millennium it would appear that those two entities – religion and spirituality have finally gotten their divorce decree.

There are also more and more people who report being believers in “God” or spirituality but do not self-describe as being a member of any particular religion.

Here in America, there are a whole lot of people who describe themselves as “Christians” but are emphatic about not being a member of any particular denomination.

While all across the globe various religious sects are at war killing each other, there continues to exist this search for a spiritual connection to something beyond ourselves. In a previous post, I described this as a Spiritual Famine.

What is the difference between Religion and Spirituality?

For me, there is a significant difference

Religion is about culture, the forms of worship that we as a group practice. Do we worship in a small chapel or a mega-church?  At what point in the proceedings do we stand up, sit down or wave our arms in the air?

Does the church serve Wine, Grape Juice, or Water for their Communion, Sacrament, etc. service?

Often Religion has spent way too much time in bed with Politicians and governments and as a result, has become more of an instrument of social or political control rather than any expression of belief or spiritual connection.

Religious leaders have often used their power and control in a highly abusive manner. They are prone to say something to the effect that if you were really a —– (fill in name of religious denomination here) you would do or say this or that. Mostly this involves giving them money and obedience.

All the while they are demanding that everyone agree with them or else, they are free to take the liberty to steal from the elderly and molest the young. This is not a new phenomenon, for an early example of this see the Book of Jude in the Christian Bible.

Spirituality is another case. It asks only that the person has some form of relationship with a higher power. Most people chose to call this power God. Since this is a close personal relationship there is no need to insist that others form precisely the same relationship as you may have.

That choice is of course between them and their higher power.

This is scaring some of you, I can tell. What is to stop any person from deciding on their own standard of right and wrong? What if their beliefs are mistaken? Some of you are even thinking that if that person does not change their beliefs and think the right way (the way you do) then that other person is going straight to hell and you are duty-bound to force them the go the right way thereby saving their soul.

I am unconvinced that any Higher Power will chalk up any righteous behavior to anyone’s credit when it is coerced at the point of a gun, bomb, sword or another lethal weapon. We may be able to make laws prohibiting murder, even though those laws have not worked all that well so far. We still seem unable to pass laws that require people to love each other.

One suggestion made in recovery groups is that in the process of trying to grow your connection with this higher power, you check out your thoughts or beliefs and see what others in the recovery group or your spiritual adviser have to say.

While this getting a second spiritual opinion does not rule out the possibility of the other people’s biases and it does not absolve you of the responsibility to work on that relationship with your higher power it may keep you from jumping to some wrong beliefs.

As we saw elsewhere, sometimes the voices in your head are not God speaking, sometimes the voices lie. Also, you should not believe everything you think. More is likely to be revealed.

So what are these spiritual tools you might want to add to your recovery toolkit?

Prayer, meditation, and conscious contact with your higher power would be good tools to start with. Also, throw in some action. Not works. That is just doing the motions. Action is the things you do because of your beliefs and values. Not things you do to pay off your fines for past bad behavior.

So there you have it. I have explained the difference between Religion and Spirituality and tried to sell you on a set of shiny new spiritual tools. But I didn’t include any instruction manual for those spiritual tools.

In future posts, maybe on some Sundays to come, I will try to get back to a discussion on the safe and proper use of spiritual tools.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

The Yoga of pain

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

I did not realize that yoga could be so painful.

Yoga postures Parshvakonasana

Yoga postures Parshvakonasana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people are able to do all the postures with little or no discomfort. I, on the other hand, have perfected the art of suffering through Yoga.

Absolutely I am not an expert on Yoga. Not unless three sessions over a two month period make one an expert. I have however learned a large amount about what not to do while practicing Yoga. If any of you out there know more than I do about this subject, feel free to leave a comment and help us, newbies, out.

First a little about how I came to be attending a Yoga class in the first place. I am not too much interested in the religious aspects. I value my hair too much. Once long ago I was tempted for several days to join the Krishnas, cute girls, and all. But the robes and the shaving the head, that cured me of that thought.

So why Yoga? First off my doctor has been urging me to get more exercise. I briefly tried an aerobics, calisthenics, and weightlifting program.  The instructor was of the no pain – no gain school. He was home on leave for the summer and was making a little extra change before resuming his primary job, something about waterboarding on a remote Caribbean island. This was a painful experience.

A second reason to consider Yoga was when I dropped my pen on the floor and had to lay down to get it. My old body no longer bends all the way to the floor.

The first session of Yoga went great, well maybe acceptable would be a better description. By the third session, I was in pain, again. Thereupon I set about trying to ascertain what Yoga and pain might have in common. Was pain really needed for gain in the Yoga arena?

Yoga is defined as “a system or set of breathing exercises and postures derived from or based on Hindu yoga.” I do not think there is anything predictive of pain in that description.

The only common feature that my practice of yoga and I have in common, is  – well – ME!

Clearly, there were things that I was doing incorrectly. I will not give you the full list of the things I do incorrectly, that would require the assistance of a family member. But here are a few of the errors I made in doing my Yoga.

You must continue to breathe while doing yoga postures.

Who knew that breathing was all that important? Turns out that the muscles need oxygen to function properly. If you have the tendency, as I do, to hold your breath while exerting yourself you will stop breathing while in those long poses and the result will be, muscles deprived of oxygen can become painful.

It is not necessary to strain to benefit from the exercise.

Forcing yourself to twist the way the person next to you does is not a good idea. Especially if they have been practicing Yoga for 20+ years. Go as far as you can, using the resistance of your own muscles to help you strengthen. If you are feeling pain this is BAD.

The little booklet we got when I signed up for class said, once I read it, the newcomer benefits from going partway until they can become flexible enough to bend farther. The more experienced person needs to bend a lot farther to get the same benefit.

This is the first time I can remember that being unable to do something was a plus.

Work around your injuries.

Do not force a part of the body that won’t bend, go as far as the part that does bend will go and then stop. The objective is to improve your breathing and ability to move, not to develop a full inventory of past injuries.

Doing a little each day is better than a marathon session once a month.

Between the last two group sessions, I have been doing a few stretching exercises each night before bed.

Guess what I discovered? If I gently stretch while breathing each night, by the end of the week I was able to reach my toes. OK, I was lying down at the time, but look, just being able to reach them, that is like a good thing, right?

Have any of you out there started on a fitness program as part of your recovery? Anybody do Yoga or a related exercise. Could you help an old guy out with any suggested ways to get the benefits without the pain?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Why Sunday scares me, believing nothing does not increase tolerance

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Faith.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sunday is becoming more confusing than ever.

I am feeling a little scared each and every Sunday largely because of the way my neighborhood chooses to celebrate this day.

Actually, to be truthful, the whole weekend thing is scaring me. Weekends used to make sense but not anymore.

This uneasiness is not solely because of the number of religious observances that occur over most weekends but also because I see a shift in the dominant religion and I am not sure I can fully embrace this new faith.

Most of my neighbors have abandoned the small local church, synagogue, or other religious establishments in favor of monstrous temples dedicated to crass commercial consumption. The place of worship that seated one or two hundred has been replaced by the hundred thousand square foot place dedicated to the worship of a god known only by the name “More.”

All my neighbors seem to need to make weekly or more frequent pilgrimages to these palaces and they return with their vehicles laden with sacred venerable articles of the new faith in mass consumption. Buy more and the country and you will prosper.

The custom used to be to make donations to the work of the Lord, whatever particular lord or lady you chose to venerate, and then expect some form of blessing in the future.

Not anymore.

Now you load up your car with big screens, fashionable semi-clothing, and other shiny trinkets, and then having received your blessings in advance you make a legally binding promise to continue to pay your alms on the monthly installment plan.

The banks and credit card companies are only too willing to do the work of the Great God of Manufacturing.

I try to be understanding of this new faith. I am accustomed to the concept that the entire weekend may include religious ceremonies on Friday evening Saturday or Sunday. Some faiths have worshiped by day and some by night. Some even worship outside. Some get dressed up and some were nothing or next to nothing. A smaller few even pray.

But this newfangled faith in the God of Things has taken to conducting their sacraments, called doing business, at all hours of the day and night. Some temples to consumerism are now open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Can any heavenly God without a distribution warehouse match those hours?

I had fully expected that the rapidly expanding multiculturalism of this world would lead to more tolerance (religious not chemical tolerance.) It has not.

My neighbors who consider shopping a religious duty are beginning to look askance at my reluctant consumerism.

I have the anti-religious approach of driving my car until the parts can no longer be found for her in the wrecking yard. In deference to Mother Earth and my local political guru, I do get her smog checked on a regular basis.

My neighbors are beginning to indicate that my older car is both a detriment to the neighborhood and some form of religious sacrilege.

There are in fact an entire constellation of religious artifacts that are beyond my comprehension. I cannot invoke any I-prayers on my I-tablet nor am I familiar with blue rays or any other colored rays for that matter.

I would like to find the freedom to practice my own religion in my own way but the nightly broadcast media tells me that I am not doing either my religious or civic duty because I have not made any major purchases this month.

I am willing to greet the usual assortment of religious proselytizers that occasionally reach my doorstep. Recently, however, there has been a radical influx of missionaries devoted to more opulent consumption who tell me I am shirking my duty by not buying a host of products from vacuum cleaners for the hardwood floor to weekly specials on USDA rejected beef.

I had expected more religious tolerance, but somehow my efforts at frugality are seen as undermining the common morals.

Clearly with church attendance continuing to decline and a host of new religions vying for our membership there is less, not more, tolerance on matters of personal belief and practice.

For those of you have not yet done so – go buy something before Sunday is over. I am occupied for the moment watching a little bird outside my window as he scratches through the lawn looking for free seeds and bugs. He has not yet gotten the message that the duty to spend is awaiting.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

How can you tell if a therapist is Christian or non-/Christian?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Religious cemetery.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Christian or Non-Christian?

When this question turned up in the search terms for my blog I had to think about this subject for a while.

It seems like a simple question, but it is not. After a lot of mulling this over, I concluded there might be four reasons the person was typing this into a search engine. If I knew what country it came from that might help, but then maybe not. Here are my thoughts for what they are worth.

Today in America a large number, possibly the majority of people, describe themselves as “Spiritual, not Religious.” When asked for religious preference, my experience has been that the majority of people here in my area will say “Christian” despite having no particular denomination in mind and not having attended services in a long time.

So what might this searcher have in mind by asking this particular question? I thought of four possibilities and they are below.

Remember in the course of this discussion, that counselors are professionals and they want to earn a living. They may prefer to work with a particular population, but most can and do work with people of all faiths. It would be considered unethical to engage a client in counseling and then move from helping them with their problems to trying to convert them to your particular faith. But sometimes that does happen.

So why would you ask about the counselor’s religion?

1. You want a counselor that shared your religious values.

If this is the case I think the question might need to be more specific. Many counselors include in their advertising that they are or practice “Christian Counseling.” Some additionally will advertise that they specialize in working with a particular denomination.

I have seen therapists include in their ads that they work with those of a particular faith, say Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, or from a Fundamentalist Christian perspective.

If this is your concern, I suggest that you begin your first contact with the therapist by telling them you are a member of the “X” denomination and that you would like to find a counselor who has the same beliefs as you.

Most are likely to tell you that they work with clients of all faiths and that they see nothing in their approach that should conflict with your spiritual values. If you still feel the need for a counselor of a particular faith, say so and they should be willing to make a referral.

2. You are  “Spiritual” and do not want a counselor who needs to convert you.

In this case, avoid counselors who list in their ads a particular faith and tell them upfront that being pressured in a religious way makes you uncomfortable. Can they deal with that? If they say that they believe that your problems would all be solved if you just attended their church, mosque, temple, or whatever, move on.

3. You are of a non-Christian faith and are concerned about discrimination.

Counselors have a duty to maintain confidentiality. It is not just an ethical duty but a legal one also. You would think that they would all rigorously avoid talking about clients outside the session. I wish I could tell you that no counselor ever does this. Unfortunately, some do reveal the client’s secrets.

Every semester when I teach some student comes up after class to ask me about confidentiality. Way too often they have a story to tell about how they or someone they know went to see a counselor and then what they said got out.

So if you are a member of a non-Christian faith, ask other members of your faith who they have seen and see if there is someone who is open to working with you rather than focusing on changing your religious views. This also applies if you consider yourself Christian but your particular denomination has some different beliefs or practices that others might label “a cult.”

There was a time when counselors, especially those of particular religions tried to convert every Gay person to become a heterosexual. That has largely passed, there are openly Gay therapists and there are plenty of straight counselors who work with Gay clients without trying to change them.

I think there are lots of counselors who are willing to work with clients of any and all religions.

4. You are looking to find non-Christian counselors to warn others not to see them.

This reason for me is the most dangerous. I remember a time when there was a belief that no one would vote for or do business with a Catholic because they were “Popest’s.” I think we are largely past this issue since the election of President Kennedy. I do not think we are yet past this when it comes to some other religions.

The ability to find people of another religion and then discriminate against them because of their faith is one long-enduring feature of humans.

I think this last reason to want to know, the desire to punish those of another faith, was what prompted this particular search term use. The original form of the search was how can you tell when a therapist is non-Christian.

But then maybe I am just extra suspicious having been raised in a Sunday School where we were taught that our version of Baptist was the only true Christians and that those Southern Baptists had been led astray by the devil into false beliefs. But then what do I know?

The relationship between your religion, the counselor’s religion, and the needs of both of you to talk about religion or not talk, as a part of therapy, is just one more factor that influences the relationship between you and your therapist. And counseling is all about the relationship.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

m.

Are we in the middle of a spiritual famine?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Religion

Religious cemetery.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Is there a Higher Power shortage?

Recently I have been struck by the number of people who sit down with me to talk about their mental and emotional problems who say they are spiritual but can’t describe themselves as a member of any particular religion.

These clients know that they need some spiritual help, they often have some sort of general idea of a God or higher power that they feel could be particularly helpful to them, but they find no way to connect that belief in a higher power with any particular religious practice.

We know that for recovering people having a strong support system a key ingredient in their recovery. I suspect that having that resource is helpful in keeping other people mentally healthy also. But repeatedly I hear that despite multiple tries these folk are not getting their spiritual needs met at any particular religious organization.

As a professional, I try to not take sides in any religious controversies. It is not my place to tell you what you should believe. I find that having that spiritual belief, so long as it is helpful to you and does not encourage you to harm yourself or others, can be of great benefit to most everyone.

One question on the assessment form we use asks about the client having a particular religious or spiritual connection. Most clients can’t answer this one.

One common saying in recovery is that if you hang out in a barbershop you will get a haircut. We know this also applies to bars and crack houses, not getting a haircut there, but drinking and using drugs. So it makes sense that attending some sort of religious institution should help connect you with other supportive people who are working on their relationship with their higher power.

In trying to help clients find that support system, I often ask what religious or spiritual group they might choose to affiliate with. The suggestion here is that attending a particular church, temple, mosque, coven or what have you, might connect them with other people with similar spiritual beliefs. I make these suggestions despite my sometimes having personal misgivings about the particular religious group they have been affiliated with in the past.

A very large percentage of these folks report that they have tried and are unable to find a religious group that meets their spiritual needs.

It is not just my clients that have this problem. This situation is not unique to those who are in recovery from mental or emotional problems. It is not a special issue for just those who use or abuse drugs and alcohol. Nationwide surveys indicate that the number of people who report being spiritual rather than religious has been rising and in some surveys, those who describe themselves as spiritual rather than religious exceed those who have a particular religious affiliation.

It has been suggested that this move away from God and organized religion is the result of secular materialism and our modern culture. I find that hard to believe. Most of my clients have tried that culture of things and drugs, found it wanting, and are searching for some spiritual values.

There is a spiritual hunger that is not getting fed. This hunger is approaching famine stage.

One reason for this spiritual hunger is that the food being offered in so many religious institutions has spoiled.

We do not need to pick on any particular religion to see the effects of this spiritual spoilage.

Christian groups splitter and hate each other. Wars occur because of doctrinal differences. The Protestants fight the Catholics and then they fight each other. The Muslims divide up into Sunni and Shiite and they then bomb and kill each other.

Clearly these religions Gods are grumpy cantankerous, constipated old men who hate anyone who does not wear the right clothing and join the correct political party.

Too many of my clients have been harmed by someone under the guise of being the servant of some particular God. When I suggest taking the family to church the client may confide in me about being sexually or physically abused by a religious leader. They are afraid to leave their child alone with a religious leader.

They may have been told repeatedly that they are worthless and will never be of any value if they do not do the work prescribed by their religious leader. Once convinced you will never be satisfactory in your god’s eyes, you eventually give up trying. We call this learned helplessness.

When someone says they are an alcoholic I give thanks, I know where to send them. They will find a spiritual tradition and people who will accept them at an A.A. meeting. Drug addicts have N. A. I feel sorry for those who are merely depressed or anxious. I am not sure where to send them.

I find it hard to make religious referrals. Most places of worship do not want my clients. They dress funny, they have used drugs and some of them are mentally ill. Not many religions want those people around.

Where am I to send Mary Ann or Mary Sue? Churches do not want prostitutes or psychotic people coming to services. I am not sure I could make a referral for Mary Magdalena or even Jesus these days.

I am even worried about Mohammed if he were to return. If I send him to the wrong mosque will he die again, this time in a bombing?

Despite a church, mosque, or other religious institution on almost every corner, the spiritual famine continues. My only hope is that God is not restricted to doing business in a particular building and that spirituality can work anywhere.

So if your higher power has let you down consider a new search for a spiritual power and a spiritual home that can help you find that happy life you deserve.

For more on this topic take a look at a previous post here on counselorssoapbox.com about how to hire a God that is up to the task you need him for.

Wishing you the best on your road to a happy life

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel