Religious Counseling: what makes it different?
by Judy Harrow
Research done with both self-identified feminists and self-identified Fundamentalist
Christians who are seeking counseling indicates that members of both groups
would rather work with a counselor who shares that self-identification.
Secular counseling believes itself to be value-free, but this is not
so. There are definite values about process (i.e. openness, power-sharing,
autonomy), although the typical secular counselor will be neutral as to
outcomes. One could understand the "critical counseling dimensions" to
be professional values.
Fortunately, the process values associated with secular counseling
are completely compatible with Wiccan religious values, so at least that
presents no problem. e.g. "respect" = find what you seek within.
When working with a counselor who shares our religious values or
lifestyle orientation, we can also assume some common beliefs about outcomes.
This can make the decision making phase of the counseling process more
efficient. Consider this: a man comes to you with the complaint that
his wife is refusing to accept his natural role as head of the household,
and undermining his authority. Could you and he effectively work together?
Also, specifically for Witches, there are two other issues:
a) Some secular therapists still believe that "magical thinking" is
by definition crazy or that anybody who "thinks they are a Witch" belongs
in a nice, safe place. Conversely, we need to know that not everybody who
hears voices is hearing the voices of the Gods.
b) Sometimes the problems being worked on involve initiatory material,
which cannot be discussed even with an unprejudiced cowan therapist.
consider the quartered Circle as a diagnostic system:
Much of what will be discussed involves feelings rather than objective
data. These are very subjective, subtle, hard to define. But in many
cases, the client will not need you to help them analyze the objective
aspects of their situation nearly as much as to help them consciously understand
just how they feel about it. Few of our people are dumb or disadvantaged.
Within the Craft, we share several sets of metaphors (e.g. myths,
tarot trumps, elemental attributions) that allow clients to describe the
vague and mushy, but very important, stuff by analogy.
Also, we have two "large" symbol complexes that provide extremely
useful models for understanding life, the universe and all that in the
light of Wiccan/Pagan values:
a) The Wheel
of the Year, or the three phase Lunar cycle both are models for
the cycles and changes of life. Helpful for understanding phases and processes
within relationships, projects, careers or adjusting to life passages.
b) The quartered
Circle is a model of balance and integration of different modes
of human psychological function. [cf. the Jungian quaternity: intellect,
passion, intuition + sensation.] In the information gathering phase, a
reminder to include data from all four aspects.
East: irrational beliefs or expectations (cf. Beck, Ellis)
South: bottled up or displaced feelings (cf. Freud)
West: archetypal problems and/or problems accessing intuitive wisdom
North: behavioral difficulties (cf. Skinner); issues encoded in
body (Lowen, Gendlin)
Center: problems related to the family or group context (cf. Adler)
When we do counseling within our own community, we can draw on our own
useful in the information gathering and decision making phases of
the counseling process.
purpose (in a counseling context) is to access the client's own
intuition and wisdom (which includes subliminal observations and unconscious
integrations, as well as anything psychic). Also a Wiccan querent is likely
to be familiar with the traditional meanings of the cards, hexagrams, whatever.
So, when divination is used for the purpose of counseling, encourage the
querent to do as much of the talking as is possible.
When divination is in service of empowerment, as the values of both
Wicca and secular counseling mandate, it is to increase choices and enable
better choices, never to take away choice. Therefore, any statements to
clients that indicate a fixed future are inappropriate.
Also consider other receptive magic (tuning in) techniques, such
as dream incubation and interpretation, meditation, trance art and play
The very familiarity of these techniques will in itself
invoke the placebo effect,
"Magic is the art of changing consciousness / causing change in
accordance with will." Whichever definition you prefer, magic will work
well to enable an individual to make desired changes in him or her self.
For the action/implementation phase, consider rituals to help
program the unconscious mind to make the desired changes. E.g. visualizations,
affirmations, candle magic, making & charging talismans in short, the
entire gamut of active/projective magical workings.
and amplify their natural effectiveness.