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In Spiritual Awareness Psychotherapy, Dr. Lisa J. Miller illustrates her spiritual approach to working with clients. Using her spiritually informed Rogerian approach, Dr. Miller listens to a client to help discern his or her life journey and growth along an individual spiritual path.
In this session, Dr. Miller works with a woman named Bev who is struggling with a choice between a highly rewarding job and her last opportunity to spend time with her youngest daughter before she grows up. The session shows Bev working from painful indecision toward resolution.
Spiritual awareness psychotherapy is a process of providing clients with an environment in which they may become more attuned to their own individual path in life. This approach involves not so much creating a dialogue between the client and the therapist but helping the client start a "dialogue with the universe," in which the client may see clearly the spiritual journey he or she is taking.
This therapeutic model is informed by both Jung and Rogers, and it may be described as a "spiritual Rogerian approach." The goal of the therapy is to help the client listen to what is emerging in the material coming out in the therapy. The therapist's attitude should be that of a colleague in the client's spiritual journey. It is assumed that the client already has a spiritual trajectory before entering therapy, and the therapist's job is to create a safe place in which to journey. The therapist may do this through Rogerian techniques of active reflective listening and creating a welcoming, safe context.
The spiritual aspects of the approach may depend entirely on where the client is spiritually. If the client feels comfortable discussing his or her spiritual life, the therapist should be accepting, open to the client's experiences as they are revealed. Simply paying attention to the spiritual side of life often yields results. If the client does not feel ready to share this aspect of his or her personality or does not think it is important, the therapist should not force it but should work with the client in whatever way the client feels most comfortable.
Dr. Miller's approach is predicated on a certain view of reality—that the universe is alive, that it has intentions and love for each individual and for humanity as a whole. The approach tries to tune into a dialogue with the universe to help clients discern the intentions of the universe for each client and evolve along their individual spiritual paths.
About the Therapist
Lisa J. Miller, PhD, is a tenured associate professor of psychology and education in the clinical psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she is director of the child and adolescent track. She earned her BA from Yale College and her doctorate from University of Pennsylvania where she studied under Professor Martin Seligman, founder of the positive psychology movement. Her clinical approach holds as fundamental the spiritual reality. The focus of treatment is to facilitate and support the client's spiritual path through increased awareness of the living, guiding, and loving universe.
Miller, L. J. (2004). A spiritual formulation of interpersonal psychotherapy for depression in pregnant girls. In P. S. Richards & A. E. Bergin (Eds.), Casebook for a spiritual strategy in counseling and psychotherapy (pp. 75–86). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Miller, L. J. (2005). Interpersonal psychotherapy from a spiritual perspective. In L. Sperry & E. P. Shafranske (Eds.), Spiritually oriented psychotherapy (pp. 153–176). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.