ch14 - Chapter 14 Helping Relationships: Counseling and...

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J.M. Nelson, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-87573-6_14, @ Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 475 Chapter 14 Helping Relationships: Counseling and Spiritual Growth The path of religious and spiritual growth is in many ways a positive one filled with exciting possibilities. However, it is neither a smooth path, nor is it something that can easily be done outside of a relational or communal context. Because of this, it is not surprising that most or perhaps all people at some point in their lives seek others for help and support with their spiritual journey. In response to these needs, various religious traditions have developed relational strategies for guidance and help. These helping relationships play a key role, as modern research suggests that there is a strong relationship between involvement of others and success in achiev- ing personal transformation (Baumeister, 1998). In the Christian tradition, this kind of assistance is sometimes referred to as spiritual direction , while in some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism the focus is on a relationship with a special teacher or guru. Catholic and Protestant Christians have referred to aspects of these helping practices as the cura animarum or care of souls and viewed them as providing heal- ing for spiritual problems. This soul care model of helping lies at the basis of two modern practices of helping— pastoral counseling and psychotherapy. As interest in spirituality and religion has been rising, spiritual directors have seen a substantial increase in requests for their services, and counselors have become more aware of the need to address religious and spiritual issues in the course of their work (Ruffing, 2000; Mursell, 2001b, p. 470; Miller, 1999). 14.1 Religious Approaches to Guidance and Helping 14.1.1 Spiritual Direction In the Christian tradition, spiritual direction is an ancient practice where an experi- enced spiritual master forms a relationship with a disciple who wants to profit from their knowledge (Hausherr, 1990, pp. 1–2). The Jewish and Christian scriptures contain many stories of people giving and receiving spiritual guidance. The custom became even more important in the early church with the beginnings of the monastic movement. Starting in the 3rd century, individuals began moving into the deserts of Egypt and Syria, seeking solitude and a place to devote themselves to spiritual
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476 14 Helping Relationships growth. Some of these men and women—known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers— developed reputations for achieving two special qualities: (1) an exceptional level of holiness, piety, care, and love (e.g., Veilleux, 1980, pp. 28, 331) and (2) a gift of dis- cernment , the ability to sense the needs and capabilities of their students and provide the appropriate kind of guidance and encouragement. They become spiritual elders and were sometimes referred to as doctors or healers of spiritual sickness. Some had official church positions while others remained simple spiritual seekers (Ware, 1990;
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ch14 - Chapter 14 Helping Relationships: Counseling and...

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