Sunday 15 November 2015

Integrating Spiritual Experiences into Psychology

The majority of people in western cultures indicate they have had at least one "spiritual experience" in their lifetime.  These can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from near death-like experiences, or out-of-body experiences where the person feels their consciousness as separate from their body.  This may be achieved through meditation, use of narcotics or a variety of other ways.

“One of the issues people often face is integrating the experience into their life”, says Dr Karen Frewin, a registered psychologist and senior lecturer in counselling and guidance at Massey’s Institute of Education in New Zealand. “Because of the unusual nature of spiritual experiences, some people may find them difficult to differentiate from some mental illnesses, which leaves them wondering whether they are ‘crazy’ after having such an unusual experience.”

Dr Frewin states despite the difficulty some people have with understanding the experience, the beneficial changes that can occur for many indicate they could serve a positive psychological function, and have implications for psychotherapy and understandings of anomalous phenomena.

Even with the long reported positive effect spiritual experiences may have on lives, many health practioners and psycologists lack the competence and training to respond to clients reporting concerns of a spiritual nature.  This is expected to be a focus of researchers in the field of Positive Psychology, as they seek to capitalize on the positive results spiritual experiences appear to promote.