Bio-psycho-social-spiritual: the four components of human functioning.
After all, psychology is still a young field, just a little over a hundred years old. And the study of spirituality is even younger, after having been largely neglected by psychologists for many years. My hope is that this work contributes in some way to a more integrated approach to understanding and addressing the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy.
Kenneth I. Pargament PhD. Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy: Understanding and Addressing the Sacred (Kindle Locations 55-57). Kindle Edition.
Most psychotherapists since the 1970s have been trained in the bio-psyco-social model of human behavior. In the last twenty years “spiritual” has been added so now we have the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model.
All four components of the model explaining human functioning are important. Kenneth Pargament is one of the early pioneering psychologists exploring the spiritual in addition to the other three models.
There is an important distinction to be made between “religious” and “spiritual.” Religious refers to membership in an institution and an ethnocentric identity which involves membership, adherence to creedal beliefs, certain practices and traditions, and respect for expert leaders of the religion as well as for sacred texts.
Spiritual is one’s relationship with one’s Higher Power whatever the person considers their Higher Power to be.
Some people are religious but not spiritual. Some people are spiritual but not religious, and some people are both religious and spiritual.
Being spiritual does not require a belief in a god. In fact many atheists consider themselves spiritual in the sense that they believe in a transcendent reality greater than their own egos if only a belief in the rightness of atheism itself.
One of the important aspects of a psychotherapist’s activity is to try to understand the client’s view of the world. The three major spiritual questions are: why was I born, what is the purpose of my life, what happens when I die? Unless the psychotherapist understands how the client would answer or does answer these three major existential questions, the psychotherapist may not be able to be of much help to the person.
These three questions are not often explicitly stated and discussed, but as the psychotherapist comes to know the client’s story and the client’s situation, an empathic psychotherapist will have a good sense of how the client views themself and the world.
Opening up these questions for exploration and examination may be an important part of any helpful episode of psychotherapy.