Does one need therapy if one has real religious faith or does faith do everything and more that therapy can do? Can it heal the psyche by taking one's attention away from preoccupation with it and onto the great reality that is beyond it, otherwise known as God? And isn't Christian psychotherapy rather a contradiction in terms as one is to do with healing a damaged ego while the other is concerned with going beyond the ego?
These questions are prompted by a comment on an earlier post (see here). The commenter was talking about a discussion with a therapist about its aims. He (or she, I don't know) said as follows:
"I argued that therapy was based in the material and that most of its practitioners were atheists, and had bought into the materialist concept of the universe. My friend argued that this was not the case, that, in fact, humanistic/integrative therapists were open to the spiritual, and helped their clients to explore the spiritual. She said that she was impressed by John Rowan. Apparently, he is famous amongst therapists, and they look to him as someone to be respected for his insights into the spiritual."
The commentator then asked if I thought this man "really tapped into the spiritual in any way, or was he really talking about some touchy-feely emotions that he thinks are of the spirit, but which are firmly based in the material?"
I don't know the person referred to so I can't speak specifically but a quick look at his Wikipedia entry (not conclusive, I know) reminds me of people I have come across. In a way, they all go back to Jung and his attempt to marry the psychological with the spiritual but with the latter seen in the light of the former because that is the level the person is operating from and comfortable with. So he sees the spiritual from below rather than trying to lift himself up to its level and that means God is seen in terms of man as opposed to the other way around as should be the case.
Anyway this was my reply.
"I’ve not heard of him but I would tend to go along with your assessment that therapy, of any description, is a materialistic thing, not useless but not that useful either compared to a proper religious understanding which would basically comprise anything good that therapy has to offer and a lot more.
Many people nowadays call themselves spiritual and say that their work is grounded in spiritual principles, but I would see a litmus test of authentic spirituality, especially for Westerners, in the attitude to God. Does the individual believe in him and, if so, is he primary? Therapy is more about man’s relationship with himself than man’s relationship with God. Get the second right and you really don’t need the first at all. And the first can never lead to the second.
The word humanistic puts me off unless it is coupled with Christian and that comes first."
So what I am saying here is that therapy only operates on the level of the earthly self, which is to say, the human being as he is and as he appears to be in this world. On that level, it may be beneficial and help to heal splits in the psyche, but it has no proper spiritual value at all. Real spirituality is about putting oneself right with God. Therapy may help to heal an out of balance mind but it cannot go beyond the mind to the soul which is the only place true spirituality is to be found.
The world will often try to co-opt spirituality and adorn itself with its colours. But I'm a purist in these matters as both Jesus and the Buddha, in their rather different ways, were, so there is good precedent for this attitude. You cannot compromise with the world. If you try to associate the spiritual with anything that is not the spiritual then that thing will assume priority In effect, it means that your grasp of the spiritual is weak, and that you are using it to support the other thing.
That said, I expect some therapy can help to prepare the ground for a proper spirituality later on. But you mustn't confuse it, in any form, with a genuine spiritual approach. If you really want healing, you must turn to God, and fully not half-heartedly or in association with anything else. There is no true healing except in God.