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My Therapist Doesn’t Believe in God – Does it Matter?

My psychiatrist and therapist are nonbelievers!  God is not covered by their insurances. Does their atheism matter?  

Not according to the great philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965), who said, “I don’t need to be a triangle to teach geometry.” But isn’t the geometry professor expected to demonstrate solid expertise on shapes and angles?  If so, as spirituality is an integral part of who we are, isn’t my therapist supposed to know why I eat kosher or you praise Allah?  

Last year, I focused my research on academic studies exploring the correlations between spirituality and mental health. For instance, the research overwhelmingly shows a connection between praying and lowering depression. This study is one of the hundreds with similar findings by top academic institutions: 

A 2020 California study led conducted with over 2000 individuals revealed that 80% strongly agreed that spirituality is essential for their mental health. 70% singled out prayer as significant in their recovery.  

Should Spirituality be a Part of Mental Health Treatment? 

Ignoring spirituality in treatment is a recipe for a mental health breakdown.  It entails lobotomizing one of the most vital motivational forces in the life of millions. Not because the claims of religion are correct, but because they are central to a multitude sustained by faith in their struggle to overcome formidable obstacles.  

I spent two wonderful years in social work graduate school. The faculty firmly asserted the centrality of culture, race, minorities, and gender.  Religion and spirituality, instead, remained ignored. Regrettably, that taboo over the spiritual carries into the field. Religion is irrelevant during training and is usually absent in practice.  

Not that therapists should become religious counselors, but they ought to know how religious belief systems operate in their client’s wellbeing. That expertise requires a comprehensive knowledge of religion and an approach that surpasses the psychological, considering the client as a totality and unifying:  

  • Biological wellbeing 
  • Social position 
  • Spirituality 

My psychiatrist does not believe that there is a mind. “It is all brain, Alfredo,” he says. For him, there is only room for the scientific. But you should hear us engage in profound existential discussions. My therapist is not a triangle but knows his geometry. 

My spirituality is highly intellectual, and those encounters uplift my soul. The key is to find a therapist that fits your spirit.  

Can You Talk About Religion During Therapy? 

Here comes the problem: Knowing of the areligious tendency of the therapeutic field, many clients have imposed religious censorship upon themselves. They feel inadequate and fearful raising the subject of prayer or God.  

There is an immediate remedy to this problem.  

The intake process must, in detail, include the client’s spiritual background and preferences. Many offices and mental health practices administer a survey to new clients to gauge their habits, interests, health, and perceptions. The inclusion of spiritual inquiries at the beginning of the therapeutic alliance will signal a green light for its discussion, and help both client and therapist approach the new relationship with a mutual understanding of the role spirituality plays in your identity. 

Should you ask your therapist, “are you religious?” Probably not. Religious devotion is not a certificate for patient, open, and mature therapy.  But you have the right to inquire if the therapist is inclined and comfortable addressing your spiritual life as part of your wellbeing.   

How to Choose a Therapist 

Does it matter if your therapist does not believe in God or practice a religion? Ultimately, the answer is no, not really. But if your spiritual life is central to you, do not check it out at the office’s entrance. Your therapist must not only be respectful and professional about your beliefs, but should demonstrate a real sensitivity, interest, and appreciation for them. This acceptance should extend beyond the purely psychological into ascertaining that the spiritual is an integral and healthy part of your persona. It is the responsibility of the professional – not you – to be spiritually proficient. Your obligation is to be sincere and, from the very beginning, disclose your wish to include spirituality in treatment.    

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