There are some amazing similarities between some modern psychotherapeutic interventions, and coping strategies taught through religious philosophies. For example, Rogerian- style empathic listening reminds me of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. We all want to be understood and accepted non-judgmentally, right? A CBT counseling intervention for low self -worth is practicing positive affirmations at the beginning of each day, such as “I love and respect myself”. This reminds me of the Quranic blessing that is said at the beginning of important actions “I begin in the name of God, the most merciful and kind”. In order to feel whole we must be kind and compassionate to ourselves, which reflects the attributes of God as ultimately the most merciful and kind. Loving kindness meditation, used to dissolve anger and hostility, is akin to the Biblical injunction “Love thy Neighbor”. By deliberately sending out feelings of love to those we are angry at, we are “turning the other cheek”, another Christian way. Mindfulness keeps us focused with deliberate concentration, as does the act of prayer.
When I explain the rationale of Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Christian, Muslim and Jewish clients, they often say it resonates with them because it reminds them of their spiritual teachings. Identify a negative thought, challenge and dispute it, and come up with alternative balanced ways of thinking. This is the same process of reasoning that people of faith go through when practicing acceptance of what God has destined for them. Socratically questioning difficult thoughts results in helping to manage frustration. In others words this is the practice of patience, which is a virtue repeatedly mentioned in Divine scriptures. Journaling about what’s good about you, your world and your future is an expression of gratitude – another commendable virtue emphasized in the Holy books. Behavioral activation, or forcing oneself to act in certain positive ways, is similar to adhering to the routine of structured prayers and fasting – both serving a similar purpose of staying active and engaged in something purposeful and meaningful.
Freud would probably disagree with me, but I see God in psychology and psychology in religion. For my clients who appreciate this, therapy is deeper, longer lasting, and life-enhancing.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA