While there is no “typical” psychotherapy client or lifestyle that automatically suggests a need for psychotherapy, there are certainly some fields of work and walks of life which, being subject to especially high or enduring levels of stress, commonly benefit from a positive counselor relationship. One such profession is that of the clergy. While often seen as a stigma, the ability of clergy members to approach and seek growth from psychotherapists is an emerging trend that highlights a growing global appreciation for the potential and power of psychotherapy.
Many ministers and leaders of faith-based communities experience large amounts of stress due to their administrative duties, as well as the pressures of serving as a very public and scrutinizable figure. Long hours and a sense of great responsibility combined with a tendency to work around a fair amount of human suffering—whether as part of a hospital visitation program or simply accepting prayer requests or visits from troubled congregants—add to the psychological load endured by such people.
Adding to the basic “stresses of the cloth,” many clergy members from religious traditions of all backgrounds experience difficulties with ego. Struggling to reconcile their work with their own self-image, many religious figures may develop narcissism, or come to find that negative comments or situations prevent them from functioning normally. Whatever the specific trigger, however, it is clear that religious professionals are faced with everyday challenges and tests of the spirit and self that can easily benefit from therapy.
As more and more clergy members open their minds to the potential benefits of psychotherapy, the tendency for the spiritual community at large to embrace the mental health profession and its ability to heal and empower is experiencing an exciting—and much needed—leap of faith.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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