Book Review: Spiritual Issues in Therapy: Relating Experience to Practice

William West

Palgrave Macmillan 2004 ISBN 0-333-99041-2

This is a delightful book, ideal for anyone who wants to think about spirituality as it relates to counselling or psychotherapy.  On the whole it is an easy read, but there are also some hard-hitting words about the way in which many trainings avoid any mention of spirituality and many supervisors refuse to deal with spiritual issues as they arise in the work with clients.  The author is frank about his own experience, and gives many examples of how spirituality can arise in the therapeutic relationship.  “Therapeutically I work within a broadly humanistic-integrated framework within a spiritual context.”

Chapter 2 is entitled ‘Psychotherapists as Shaman’, and raises some interesting issues around shamanism.  Chapter 3 is ‘The personal encounter with spirituality’, and in it the author says:

I have elsewhere argued that the regular practice of being a therapist in itself constitutes a form of spiritual practice.  For example, being attentive to one’s clients whist being aware of oneself, one’s inner processes and doing this for hours at a time, week in week out, over a number of years is unwitting doing or rather being something akin to what Buddhists call mindfulness.  (p.44)

This is a good thought, and well worth the consideration of many therapists who have not thought in that way before.  There is a good chapter on clients and their wants and needs, which covers a lot of ground in an attractive way, and another good chapter on research.

The final chapter is called ‘Soul attending’ which West believes to be the original definition of a psychotherapist.

For anyone who wants to explore the transpersonal (including the ideas of Ken Wilber) this is an excellent introduction, encouraging rather than intimidating.

John Rowan is an international figure in the world of humanistic and integrative psychotherapy. His Publications are widely acclaimed. He continues to work in  private practice.