Spiritual Struggles Have Emotional Impact

Is “pastoral” counseling necessary?

New research from PC&CC counselor Gabriel Dy-Liacco’s offers some insight into this question, investigating the connections between spiritual struggles and psychological flourishing. Beginning with the idea that when God seems present, we often feel there are endless possibilities in life and love, Dy-Liacco and his colleagues have examined what happens in a person’s life when God seems absent. Such separation can create feelings of abandonment and punishment that are undeniably psychological. In fact, a perceived disruption in God’s presence may carry even more weight than that of the comfort found in one’s original, connected relationship with the divine. Exploring the ways that spiritual struggles impact such things as positivity and general satisfaction with life, Dy-Liacco’s research team asked the question, what happens when “bad” life events are seen as spiritual in nature?

Dy-Liacco’s research revealed that one’s sense of abandonment by God has unique connections to a sense of altruism, purpose, and positivity – topics often addressed in therapy. Specifically, those experiencing stronger struggles with their spirituality may demonstrate less altruistic behavior and have less of a sense of purpose in life. The implications for counseling work are clear, as therapists unwilling or unable to address spiritual struggles may miss a valuable opportunity to help their clients achieve a balanced sense of well-being. Counselors open to integrating such spiritual discussion may be able to introduce a deeper level of reflection for their clients that is more lasting and significant in the long term.

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