How Could Psychiatry and Psychology Forget About Faith?
Here’s an interesting fact: During my four years of medical school and four years of psychiatry residency training, the total number of hours devoted to spirituality and faith were . . . zero. That’s right, not a single hour was devoted to exploring the place of faith in overcoming medical illness or psychological suffering.
That’s stunning, given that a myriad of data support the healing potential of prayer and of belief in a higher power—regardless of one’s particular religion.
The house of medicine seems so hostile to anything that cannot be weighed and measured that it has locked the door to the house of God. Yet, great power lies in acknowledging that human beings can find comfort and confidence and even a cure for their anxiety and problems of mood by being reminded that they are unconditionally loved and have a sacred purpose in life.
It’s one thing to suffer terrible emotional pain. It’s another to know, at a very deep level, that a determined journey through that pain will lead, inevitably, to some of the most important parts of their existences. And that happens to be true—for everyone, every single time.
Only once I completed my training in pastoral counseling did I understand the full healing power of human empathy from a counselor, coupled with faith in an all-powerful source of sustaining love. Helping people identify the self-defeating patterns in their lives (often fueled by emotional trauma early in life) turns out to be only half the equation. The other half is helping people recognize that immeasurable forces of healing can be unleashed when we allow ourselves to believe that they will—when we have faith.
Many clients have told me that understanding the roots of their suffering doesn’t give them a clear roadmap on how to change their lives to prevent it, in the future. But once human beings have real faith, they don’t need a map. They can move in the directions dictated by their hearts (once freed from the past) and feel confident they will never be truly lost.
My practice of blending life coaching, pastoral counseling and motivational mentoring is designed to finally join together the two halves of healing: fully understanding one’s life story and having complete faith that it can and will include wonderful new chapters.
Dr. Keith Ablow