Why going to therapy is a spiritual practice

We live in a society that pretends things are binary and distinct. Subtleties and connections are often missed, and this includes when it comes to our selves. We regularly talk about the mind, the body and (more rarely) the soul or spirit, but rarely at the same time. We exercise our bodies in the gym, our minds at work and our spirits, well, often, not at all.

And when I started going to therapy, I was absolutely looking for a cure for my mind. I was grappling with anxiety, low self-esteem and a need to feel needed by others in order to feel worthy of love. Once a fortnight for a year, I went to my therapist’s very beautiful house in south east London, sat in her consultation room and made the fee back in boxes of tissues alone.

setting boundaries

It was a fascinating and, at times, painful process. Thoughts, motivations, fears, patterns, I had built up and reinforced over almost thirty years, slowly revealed themselves. Talking therapy forced me to confront pains and behaviours that I had keep tightly controlled or explained away. The process felt slow at the time but looking back, it happened quickly, a cascade of revelations that took place over a year of radical healing.

Therapy taught me that there were and are mysteries and depths to my sense of self that even I didn’t know were there. It was thrilling to witness, over several months, layers getting peeled away and starting to understand that matters of the heart and spirit take their own time and don’t operate according to anyone else’s schedule – even one’s own.

I emerged from this intense period of therapy a happier, more centred and less anxious person. More in touch with what felt like my authentic self. And the work I did in that room continues to support my healing to this day.

I still have therapy, just not as frequently. Yet I am still often surprised at what emerges through those conversations. The work is never truly over – and I wouldn’t want it to be, as it would mean I’m not learning and growing.

Healing the mind to reveal the soul

But it wasn’t a process that only touched my mind or psychological health. By healing my inability to cry, it helped me get the communication lines back open between mind and body – a relationship my anxiety had scrambled. By helping me gradually cultivate self-love, it allowed me to show up more authentically in my life and relationships. By helping me access a feeling of mental and emotional freedom, it deepened my commitment to achieving freedom of all kinds for all people, including spiritual freedom.

I believe self-care, growth and good mental health are essential elements of our spiritual lives. They are spiritual practices in their own right. They are acts of worship towards the spark of divinity that has been put into your hands for safekeeping

By helping me befriend my mind, therapy helped knit my spirit back together from past hurts
holly chetan-welsh sitting with a cup of tea monday morning

That’s why I believe self-care, growth and good mental health are essential elements of our spiritual lives. They are spiritual practices in their own right. They are acts of worship towards the spark of divinity that has been put into your hands for safekeeping. They are paths to greater self-knowledge and self-love, and when we deeply know and love ourselves at a deeper level, when we truly understand our worth, we realise that we are a spark of the divine. Going inwards leads us to Source. And when we can touch Source, we are better able to recognise it in others.

What would it mean for you to consider your mental wellbeing a path to greater spiritual connection? What, if anything, would change for you?

Can’t afford therapy? Explore these resources

Therapy is not accessible for everyone (yet – and it really should be!), but you can still explore practices, tools and activities that help us understand ourselves better. If talking therapies aren’t possible for you at the moment, or now isn’t the right time for you to taking on really intense therapy, you might explore:

  • Daily/regular journaling – a simple yet powerful element of therapy is simply having some hold space for you to talk – not to them, but to yourself. Journaling can also create a space to listen more closely to yourself. It’s amazing what reveals itself when you allow your mind to regularly wander across a page. Try journaling first thing in the morning, or just before you go to sleep
  • Reading self-help books and resources – if you’re ready to dive in, try exploring the Enneagram – a personal insight tool I have found helpful on my journey.
  • Following mental health experts on Instagram – little sips of self-help and care which can provide small nudges. Even tiny changes can make a difference to our mental wellbeing. I love Nedra Glover-Tawwab (@nedratawwab), Nicole LePera (@the.holistic.psychologist) and Janine Kreft (@kreftscouch).
  • Explore lower-cost, subsidised and free therapy options – while talking therapies are available on the NHS, services are extremely over-subscribed, which can mean waiting months to be seen. This can mean private therapy is the only available option, but this makes it inaccessible for people on lower incomes. In addition, people of colour experience several barriers to accessing therapy, many of them systemic, and even when therapies are offered, they aren’t always safe spaces for POC. The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network’s mission is to increase access of therapies to people of colour. They provide information on some of the lower-cost options on their website.

A small donation was made to the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network in honour of this post.

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