Psychotherapy And The Spiritual Path

By:  Anne Skinner

There often comes a time in your life when you realize you are not happy.  This could be because your world has come crashing down or, a sneaking suspicion about your own unhappiness could emerge no matter how much you fend it off or you could simply be bored with what you have attained finding it ‘not enough’.  Whatever the reason, you feel this despite knowing, in your mind, that you have all that our culture tells us we need to be happy.  When this happens you begin to look about you and wonder what to do about it.  Therapy is often one of the tools you see that brings you hope for a change in your state.  The trick is to decipher what therapy can give you and what it can’t.

Traditional psychotherapy can help you engage better with this world.  It can provide tools to help you change your thoughts, feelings or actions.  But as you engage in this kind of change you might begin to recognize that there are some things you cannot change.  Death of another is something we all recognize as unchangeable, but there are other things too – chronic illness, impending divorce, there are many examples.  In these situations, therapy must change its focus.

Therapy must move from helping you be the agent of change – doing things in your life that alter your life circumstances, to finding a new way of being in the world.  The question is how?  How do you become subtly different within yourself to “accept the things I cannot change; [find the] courage to change the things I can; and [find the] wisdom to know the difference.[1]

I wish I had the answer.  I wish there was one answer.  The challenging and glorious truth, however, is that each person must engage in the work that creates their own answer by becoming an artist in their own lives.  It doesn’t matter what you call this kind of work – inner work, existential therapy, a spiritual path etc, the work aims to help us find within ourselves, the place that is calm and centred no matter what life throws at us.  There is such a place; many traditions have named it – the great emptiness, Beingness, God/Goddess, and Spirit etc.  There are many names but they describe the same ultimately indescribable place.

The trick to making this transition within your work on yourself lies in two things, the philosophy of your therapist and in your ability to tolerate uncertainty.  If your therapist’s eclectic style of doing therapy includes a belief in this place of being within each person, a practice to find it and some knowledge from their own experience of the depths and heights of this path then this will be a possibility in your therapy.  If you are ready to work to; tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing how the process will unfold, trust in your moment to moment experience to teach you and train your mind to remain still, then your therapy can move in this direction. 

In this work, your therapist must change too from the traditional role of the healer to the role of a guide – a person who has walked this path.  The time schedule of your therapy changes – a weekly schedule until you’re ‘finished’ changes into a life path with visits to your therapist when it feels you need the support.  You will also probably want to look for a community of like-minded people to support you in your growth because there are mountainous regions along the way when you will want help and your therapist will not be able to be available. 

There is no doubt that this is challenging work.  Carl Gustav Jung is one therapist who has documented the path.[2]  There are no ‘answers’ in the way you might want them only choices, trial and error experimenting and an emerging intuition of which directions to move in.  Much of our society does not value or even recognize this kind of work towards Being.  Yet you are engaging in an ancient journey described on the temple of Apollo at Delphi – ‘Know Thyself’.  This knowing encompasses the knowing and working with your personality that traditional psychotherapy helps you with and the more mystical knowing of the ‘I Am’- that place of peace and well-being within each of us that yields what we ultimately seek – abiding happiness.

About the Author:

Katherine-Anne Skinner, BFA, BA (psychology), M.Ed. (counselling) (Anne) has a private practice which combines the understandings of psychotherapy with those of energy anatomy and spiritual development.

First inspired by Roberto Assagioli’s psycho-spiritual theory Psychosynthesis, Anne has studied meditation intensively for the past 16 years with the Blue Mountain Centre for Meditation and Siddha Yoga Meditation. She has integrated into these studies teachings about the evolution of consciousness understanding that we are evolving towards greater levels of love and compassion for others and for all life.

While the end of this journey is enticing, Anne knows that the journey towards it is not always easy! “We have to encounter our physical, psychological and emotional tendencies that are less than this wide-open awareness and heal them.”  Anne’s studies and her spiritual practice have given her the words to help elucidate the struggles along the path and the compassion to sit with them in equanimity.

Anne has integrated two energy-work methodologies into her practice – Heart Resonance Therapy and Reiki. These modalities create a peaceful place from which a person may more easily access his/her Witness consciousness in order to walk through life.  These therapies can be received on their own or combined with spiritual psychotherapy. For more information or to book a session, contact Anne at