At the Talking Therapies closing event on 23rd October it was fascinating to hear the final script of the narratives from the project. Two quotations from playscript and the Final Report sum up for me the needs for the future:
Final Report page 4: “Overall, there was a sense that more opportunities were needed both during and after training for counsellors to talk openly about religion and spirituality in a safe and supportive environment.”
From the Readers Theatre Script, p.16: “And only when religions become less dry and narrow and take on all the wisdom and ideas and theories of human development; only when the two combine and greet each other and work together can we have a working system of understanding how we can go forward in this 21st century.”
I agree strongly with these conclusions. As a member of the Episcopal Church I see some areas of the church where there is a well-informed understanding of psychological insights e.g in Ignatian spirituality and Christian meditation. Yet there are aspects of traditional church teaching which need to be discussed in a modern context e.g. the guilt inducing notions of ‘Original Sin’ and the Atonement; attitudes to the ‘flesh’ and the use of masculine imagery to describe God. At the same time there is much in Christianity which is so relevant to counselling – God present with us, sharing our most extreme suffering, love transcending evil.
I should like to see a forum where theological, spiritual and therapeutic ideas of the self, personal growth and relationships can be freely discussed. As a counsellor I should like the opportunity to share and be nourished by a whole range of spiritual traditions. As I see it, these research projects have opened the door to further rich and engaging dialogues.
— Jacqueline Marsh