Beyond the Self: The Transformative Power of a Higher Power in Psychotherapy

Written by Barry Herbach, LCSW

Americans are searching for a sense of purpose and belonging that they are lacking, which creates a void that is never truly filled. People may try to alleviate this feeling by purchasing new items or finding love, but these solutions are often temporary and can lead to financial difficulties, as evidenced by the current credit card crisis. Furthermore, the high rate of divorce suggests that these actions do not ultimately solve the underlying issue.

One solution to this problem is to develop a personal relationship with a higher power, referred to as G-d in this context. This relationship can help fill the void and provide a sense of belonging and homecoming. It is important to note that G-d can be understood in many ways, and the nature of this relationship will vary from person to person.

Overall, Americans are experiencing a deep need for purpose and belonging. While material possessions and relationships may provide temporary relief, a personal relationship with a higher power can offer a more lasting solution.

 “As Western medicine begins to incorporate a more holistic approach, we in mental health must recognize the necessity of identifying and honoring our patients’ strengths. Spirituality is what many people call upon when first encountering health concerns. Wanting to understand this relationship, major healthcare institutions–including those at Johns Hopkins and Harvard, as well as Sheppard Pratt–have begun to sponsor conferences on Spirituality and health”.

Martin, Marilyn. “Bridging the mental health/spirituality divide: appropriate spiritual interventions can aid therapists.” Behavioral Health Management, November 1, 2003

Psychotherapists should collaborate with their clients’ beliefs rather than compete with them. While I have a strong spiritual foundation due to experiences in my youth, it is not appropriate for therapists to impose religion or beliefs about G-d. Instead, it is essential to acknowledge and respect any pre-existing spiritual relationships that a client may have.

Spiritual faith is a significant aspect of the human experience and can enhance one’s life. It is the personal relationship with G-d that matters, not the specific religion or language used to communicate with G-d. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other religions are all valid means of conversing with G-d. However, it is crucial to distinguish between the language and the relationship, as Jesus taught.

Therapists should collaborate with clients’ spiritual beliefs and not try to push any specific religion or belief system. Recognizing and respecting the personal relationship that clients may have with a higher power is essential, regardless of the specific language or religion used to communicate.

 “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Matthew 6:6-8

I believe that one’s relationship with G-d is akin to the relationships we have with other people in our lives. Just like human relationships, our relationship with G-d can be threatened when we have unmet expectations or feel abandoned in our time of need.

However, if you can address the obstacles that interfere with your faith and heal this relationship, you can allow G-d’s love to touch and heal you. This, in turn, can make it easier for you to like and love yourself. As a psychotherapist, I consider myself a relationship specialist, not a religious figure. My strong faith in G-d allows me to help others reconcile their differences with G-d using my skills and beliefs.

It’s important to note that I am not affiliated with any religion, and I view religion as merely the language one chooses to speak when communicating with G-d. My role is solely to assist in reconciling the relationship if that is what the client desires. Once the relationship is restored, it is up to the client and G-d, as they understand Him, to take it from there.

In summary, I do not intend to push any religious beliefs or practices onto my clients. Instead, I aim to nurture and facilitate the relationship they may already have with G-d, just like any other human relationship.

“Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian political, spiritual leader. Non-Violence in Peace and War, vol. 2, ch. 77 (1948).