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Integrating spirituality within the workplace: tips for practitioners

Integrating spirituality within the workplace: tips for practitioners

Sukhi Sian

Sukhi Sian

Sukhi Sian is Place2Be’s Clinical Lead for the Midlands and Wales. She is a psychodynamic counsellor, trained in holistic, energy-based therapies, and has developed a spiritually integrated approach to therapeutic practice and clinical supervision. Sukhi is also the Co-Deputy Chair of BACP’s Spirituality division.

In a recent article for Thresholds, Place2Be’s Regional Clinical Lead for Midlands and Wales, Sukhi Sian, discussed the importance of integrating spirituality into the workplace. The article highlighted how spirituality can positively impact mental health and wellbeing. Here, Sukhi shares advice on how practitioners can help clients explore their faith and beliefs during therapy.

As a network facilitator for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Spirituality division, I have spoken to many practitioners about their beliefs over the past four years. Some have been in the profession for 20 years and are only now speaking openly about spirituality. This has been quite an eye-opener, leading me to the realisation that some therapists have potentially been practicing in isolation when it comes to their spirituality.

In a previous article I wrote for Thresholds in 2020, titled Coming out of the spiritual closet, I share my belief that counselling and spirituality go hand in hand. We must consider the mind, body, and soul in a holistic approach that includes the ‘whole’ person.

There seems to be an underlying sense of oppression and fear around spirituality. And yet, if we think about what the term ‘spirituality’ means to us as practitioners, what might it mean to clients? If employers do not create time and space for spirituality, what message does its absence give?

We could be missing opportunities within our therapeutic and clinical work that could be really beneficial to support our clients with healing and growth. How then can we build confidence and competence as practitioners? Place2Be Clinical Lead for the Midlands and Wales, Sukhi Sian

Generating safe and open conversations can be a starting point, allowing clients to bring spirituality into the room and therapists to respond.

How to support clients to talk about spirituality, religion and faith

Sukhi has shared the advice below to help encourage counsellors and therapists to reflect on how they can integrate spirituality into their practice.

  • Recognise that due to stigma, fear or shame, clients may not openly bring spirituality into the room, so it is important for therapists to be able to encourage this exploration and give permission
  • Think about how you, as a therapist, make it known that you welcome these discussions. Do you include it in your biography, counsellor profile, and website?
  • Increase awareness and knowledge around spirituality, including faith developmental models, and be aware that people’s religious/spiritual beliefs can change over time
  • Commit to continued professional development at both an individual and organisational level
  • Reflect on how to best inform and develop the workforce. What resources and training are available for staff?
  • Recognise how spirituality and religion or faith resources may support a client’s wellbeing and recovery
  • Use assessments to gather information on spiritual/religious beliefs so that protective factors can be identified
  • Help clients, supervisees and colleagues to tap into their existing spiritual resources in the service of their mental health
  • Adopt a strength-based approach that integrates spirituality as part of the therapeutic work
  • Approach every conversation with curiosity and openness, and be aware of not imposing our own beliefs on others
  • Be able to identify when spiritual/ religious beliefs, experiences or practices hold the potential for harm to self or others, and be informed about child protection and safeguarding
  • Be aware that, in the instance of spiritual abuse, it may present through emotional, physical and sexual abuse and, therefore, be difficult to identify. Organisations may wish to consider including this in safeguarding training.

Some of the content in this Place2Be blog post first appeared in an article called The Soul at Work, which appeared in the April 2024 issue of Thresholds, a journal published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

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