Integration of religion and spirituality in Psychology has long been an interesting issue. But although there were several studies and dialogues conducted to link spiritual direction and psychotherapy, still very little has been done to associate spiritual direction with specific
psychotherapy models. At the time spiritual therapy has been introduced, narrative therapy came out as the foremost technique for family therapy (Aponte, 2002). Blanton (2005) cited that the concept behind narrative therapy resonates with that of spirituality; a reason why authors have been interested in inquiring into the benefits of narrative family therapy with spiritual issues. The article provided a comprehensive exploration of how narrative family therapy and spiritual direction can fit together and how they can enrich and strengthen each other’s approach to psychotherapy.
Narrative family therapy quickly became the primary approach to family therapy because it bravely challenged conventional psychological concepts. As postmodern psychology emphasizes knowledge that surfaces from relationships and the idea of self as developed through language and converted through conversation, it became the foundation for narrative therapy (Blanton, 2005). Spiritual direction, on the other hand, has been an integral part of human living. It has been protected and observed in the liturgical churches where religious orders have been preserved.
To compare the two disciples, the article discussed five categories in which to compare narrative therapy and spiritual direction – the problem, therapy goals, focus of therapy, therapeutic tools, and therapeutic relationships (Blanton, 2005). For spiritual direction, issues are mostly related to hindered spiritual growth because of cultural beliefs. For narrative therapy, people tend to adapt problem-saturated stories that lead them to seeing themselves as the source of the problem, although the therapy itself follows the concept of externalization wherein the problems are considered separate and external from the person. The goal of spiritual direction is that of finding the true self while that of narrative therapy is identifying the preferred self. Both disciplines focus on experience and meaning of living and they are somehow alike in the therapeutic tools that they follow. Spiritual direction and narrative theory both use dialogues, questions, and listening as therapeutic approaches. Narrative therapy is much more collaborative and concerned with relationships; it involves processing of the information the client provides but without the therapist posing questions to confirm and verify. Spiritual direction, on the other hand, works the same way only that it is more contemplative; this collaborative-contemplative approach entails helping the clients find their way toward God (Evans, 2005).
Apparently, the similarities make the two disciplines somehow complementary. The narrative therapy can incorporate spiritual direction in the therapeutic process by opening to the clients the idea of God as a participant in their lives. Spirituality could be an important element to narrative family therapy as it opens and enables clients to hear or see God and use the messages to resolve the issues.
Narrative family therapy and spiritual direction seem to have more similarities than differences. Both disciplines share the same belief in conducting therapy and the desired outcome. Spiritual direction and narrative therapy both sees dialogue as an instrument of change; that through the elicited and shared stories and experiences, one is able to understand self and life. Both therapist and director do not see themselves as the primary agent of change and as they both adhere to establishing a collaborative relationship.
The two disciplines may not be a perfect fit but the parallel ideas make them mutually beneficial when applied together.
Aponte, H.J. (2002). Spirituality: The heart of therapy. Spirituality and family therapy. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc
Gregg, P.G. (2005). Narrative Family Therapy and Spiritual Direction: Do They Fit? Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 24, 68-79.