WORKING WITH A SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR
Many of us know how beneficial it can be to work with a mental health professional—especially when you’re trying to navigate your way through a life crisis like the loss of a loved one, a health issue, or simply not finding the value and meaning in life that you once did. Psychotherapists can be very useful during these times, and so can another resource you may not have considered before: a spiritual counselor.
Rev. Fr. Justin Hurtado-Palomo, Ph.D., STL, MDiv, Spiritual Director at EI Center for Spiritual Renewal, explains what spiritual counselors do and how these experts can be a great help and comfort:
Q: WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR?
A: There are many different types of counseling. A spiritual counselor is someone whose primary point of view is to direct people to their relationship with spirit; all problems are related to that lack of connection. We live in a very independent culture where we think we have to do everything by ourselves.
Part of what a spiritual counselor offers is the relief that you don’t have to do it alone—that there’s someone to talk to you, someone who cares, someone who has your best interests at heart. Sometimes we do things the hard way when just getting some help would be better.
Q: WHAT DOES A SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR DO, EXACTLY?
A: We all have blind spots that prevent us from seeing ourselves and our situation accurately. A spiritual counselor listens to that small, still, voice inside you and facilitates leading it.
What is this voice? It’s the authentic voice of the heart that knows who you are and what you truly need. If the spiritual counselor cannot hear it, they will continue persisting until they do, and then they help their client listen to it as well.
Q: WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO SEE A SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR?
A: Many people find it most beneficial to see a spiritual counselor during times of grief or loss, or when they want to move past an event and come into more acceptance around it, perhaps finding forgiveness. Of course, spiritual guidance can be helpful at any time.
If you feel like you don’t have someone that listens in a non-judgmental way; if you want to bring more spirituality into your family or your relationship and you don’t know how to do that; if you’re longing for work that has more meaning and purpose—all of these are situations in which a spiritual counselor could help. There is an element of cheerleader or coach in a spiritual counselor; these are people who believe in you. Working with one can help you connect with what is truly inspiring for you.
I believe that, more often than not, it’s appropriate to see a spiritual counselor, no matter what the reason. It’s good to seek one out when we’re in times of challenge or difficulty, but one can certainly benefit from seeing a spiritual counselor during times of ease as well. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t felt they could expand the peace and joy they think; we all have room for more.
Q: WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM WORKING WITH A SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR?
A: As I mentioned before, everyone has blind spots. A spiritual coach gives you a sort of “second opinion” to help you find the most authentic parts of yourself. This is where the counselor will point you if they’re able to.
Ideally, the person you work with will be able to mirror back to you the best in yourself and also give you some questions to help you to dig a little bit deeper or inspire a new way of looking at things. At Ekklesia Iwiga Center for Spiritual Renewal, we’re always pointing people in the direction of connecting with something larger than themselves and connecting with their hearts.
Q: CAN YOU SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW YOU MIGHT WORK WITH SOMEONE, BEING A SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR YOURSELF?
A: One example is that if someone is going through a loss of some kind, they may be in a phase of questioning, asking, “How could God have taken this person?” People will use all sorts of situations to separate themselves and think that there cannot be a loving spiritual force because bad things happen.
In that case, I would first be very compassionate and listen very profoundly, but I would also encourage them to take that question to spirit or God directly. It is ubiquitous for people to start a line of inquiry like this that is very deep but stop somewhere along the way and not take the question to a point where it can also be powerfully answered—answered in a way that brings a more profound sense of participation in the life, not a separation.
Sometimes, all it takes is for a counselor to hear where you have stopped along the way—specifically, what thoughts and feelings are keeping you from a heartfelt answer to your most profound questions. A spiritual counselor may then have insight into how and where to encourage you to take a step forward gently.
Q: I AM CURIOUS ABOUT SPIRITUALITY, BUT I DON’T SEE HOW IT’S RELEVANT TO THE PROBLEMS I’M FACING.
A: Counseling can help you understand how your core beliefs are reflected in your daily life—from significant decisions down to the little ones. There may come a time when you discover that those values need to be reexamined, or your behavior needs to be refined to be more congruent with those values.
Exploring spirituality involves more than just worshiping or praying; it can help you better understand the meaning of life, cope with loss or death, and help you become tolerant and understand those who believe differently. In short, spirituality can be more relevant to your daily life and the challenges you face than you may realize.
Learn More About Spiritual Counseling
If you are ready to try working with a spiritual counselor, we offer a free 45-minute phone consultation. You can reach us at 415-754-9442 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our counselors are bilingual in Spanish and English.