SG versus Therapy

I’ve said this briefly before, but I have seen this line crossed so many times now that I decided it needs an entire post. Just to forewarn you, this may turn into a bit of a rant because this is a subject near and dear to me.

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Spiritual guidance (SG) and therapy are NOT the same thing. They are also NOT interchangeable.

Speaking as a guide, I would never attempt to diagnose or treat a mental health issue. Even with my background in counseling, I am not licensed, so this is not within my scope of active practice. If I feel that therapy would benefit the client, I will readily and gladly recommend it. Having opportunities to engage in both SG and therapy can be extremely beneficial; it allows for both mental and spiritual healing with professionals working within their proper boundaries and areas of expertise.

Speaking from the experience of working as a therapist, I get alarmed when I see guides start to act more like therapists. Guides have a unique duty and focus, which is the spiritual well-being of the client. This is not the same as the mental well-being. There are many aspects of spiritual practice that, in a mental health setting, may appear to be signs of pathology. Visions could equal hallucinations. A bond with nature may be seen as delusions of grandeur. I like to use the “harm question” to distinguish the two: is this person’s beliefs or experiences causing harm (of any kind) to themselves or others? If not, SG can continue. If so, I will get other professionals involved promptly.

The other issue with blurring this line is the flip side of the coin: guides who are unable to recognize mental health issues at all. I have seen a self-proclaimed guide completely miss what to me were obvious signs of depression in a client, and instead they chastised the client almost relentlessly for being “unmotivated.” The client was called lazy, insubordinate, childish, etc. The “guide” threatened to abandon the client and stop communicating with them if they didn’t do as they were advised.

This is not good therapy or spiritual guidance. Honestly, this isn’t even respectful. This is bullying. Rather than punishing a client for not following instructions (which, by the way, you shouldn’t be spending your time as a guide doing, anyway), a guide would seek to understand the roadblocks that the client is putting up. A good therapist does this as well. There is always a reason for blockages, and they are rarely there just because the client is “lazy.” Punishing the client by fussing at them or threatening to basically abandon them is not going to get you to the reason. It only alienates the client or leads to dependency with the client constantly trying to please the guide. The client in this example should have been referred to a therapist to address the depression symptoms.

I could probably go on forever with this post, but those are some of the bigger issues I’ve seen when two different practices/approaches collide in ways that they shouldn’t.

Can you think of other ways that these lines could be blurred, and/or how to prevent this from happening?

Be Still

This was inspired by a conversation I had with my grandfather and a video I posted on my Instagram (@sparcguidance) about the same subject.

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I am definitely one of those people who feels like they must always be doing something. If I’m not working, I feel like I’m wasting time and energy. I hate if I oversleep, even if I was up late the night before. Not seeing daily progress makes me antsy. Even if I try to have a PJ Day (you know, staying in your pajamas for the entire day), I feel guilty and stagnant.

As I vented all of these things to my grandfather, he calmly replied, “To me, it sounds like you need to just slow down for a moment. Everyone is always in a hurry to do something. When you get to my age, you’ll wish you sat still more often.”

At first, this made no sense to me. Are you kidding? This is the time to do all of the running, because I certainly don’t want to be trying to “hustle” in my 80’s. Then I thought about it. When we speed ahead, we tend to miss the signs. We miss the signals that the universe is trying to give us. I realized that I had missed a lot of previous signs to slow down. Now, I was in a place where I had no choice but to slow down because nothing was working out the way I wanted it to. Possibly more important, I was so busy trying to race ahead that I was missing a lot of beautiful things along the way. That was what I think my grandfather was really getting at. I wasn’t enjoying the scenery.

So, as we embark on the summer kick-off, take time out to enjoy the season. Literally stop and smell the roses (unless you have allergies like me…then please don’t). Go by the beach to catch the sunrise or sunset. Eat some summer fruit during your break. Above all, take time to be still. We are always running, coming, and going. Surely we can afford a few minutes (or even seconds) to take a breath and be still, can’t we?