The Taunton Association for Psychotherapy annual conference was held on Saturday 18th March, with the title “Cutting Edge Connections Between Spirituality and Psychotherapy.’ Both these disciplines involve an investigation into what gives individuals meaning and purpose. In recent years the overlaps between the two have attracted more interest than was the case even thirty years ago.
In 1999 the Royal College of Psychiatry -a scientific body-formed a Special Interest Group (SIG) on spirituality and today it is the largest SIG. Mental health and spirituality used to separate and now there is more recognition of their connections. One of our speakers, Larry Culliford, who is both a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, played a part in setting it up.
Other developments in the wider world have caused some re-assessment of that split. Near Death Experiences, of which we now have thousands of accounts, point to the possibility of consciousness existing apart from the brain.
Secondly, consciousness is thought by some scientists to be a factor in quantum physics in ways which are not yet fully understood.
The conference speakers addressed the relevance of the subject to practitioners.
The first speaker was Melody Cranbourne-Rosser, recent Chair of the Spirituality division of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and a Senior Lecturer at the University of South Wales. Her presentation was called ‘Spirituality; Necessity or Nonsense.’ She explored the difficulties of defining the term, which involves the relationship to one’s inner self and reaches beyond the self and others in the transcendent realms of experience. She drew attention to the recent research; particularly the benefits of spirituality to mental health. There is, however, also a down side, such as the effects of ‘spiritual abuse’ experienced by some people in cults for example.
Spiritual expression can take many forms ranging from acts of compassion and yoga to meditation or faith based activities. It can take an important role at the end of life and it is important that psychiatric and medical staff are sensitive to the religious, cultural and spiritual needs of a diverse population. It is important to engage with the whole person but there is still a way to go before it becomes generally accepted.
Larry Culliford gave a rich presentation and tackled several forms which we can only indicate here. One was the role of suffering and the process of healing and growth. Secondly, he explained the research of James Fowler’s stages of faith and how it can change from simple responses to spiritual maturity and the problems of transition between the stages. Some of the fruits of spiritual maturity include living spontaneously and compassionately, putting values about material gain, an acceptance of people on the same path but from a different tradition. a sense of harmony and other things. It is a journey, not a destination.
The speaker presentations are available to download from our Annual Conference page HERE.
Our thanks to all the participants and those behind the scenes who helped make the day run smoothly. The subject for next year's conference is already under discussion, and if you have any thoughts please do get in touch.
We were interested to read in the press today that those supposedly 'inspirational' quotes that suggest you should cut people in a negative mood out of your life to support your own well-being are, mercifully, wrong.
Researchers at the universities of Manchester and Warwick studied 2,000 teenagers and found that having happy friends improved the mood of those experiencing a period of depression, but depressed friends did not have an impact on the mood of those they were with,
The researchers used social media trends to monitor mood across social networks over the period of one year.
The Daily Telegraph commented:
"The results show that being friends with someone who is depressed does not put a person at risk of becoming depressed themselves, but it will be beneficial to a glum mate."
The report says:
"Having sufficient friends with healthy mood can halve the probability of developing, or double the probability of recovering from, depression over a 6–12-month period on an adolescent social network."
Dr Thomas House, senior lecturer in applied mathematics from the University of Manchester said:
“We know social factors, for example living alone or having experienced abuse in childhood, influences whether someone becomes depressed.... We also know that social support is important for recovery from depression, for example having people to talk to. Our study is slightly different as it looks at the effect of being friends with people on whether you are likely to develop or recover from being depressed."
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society and the link to the full report can be found HERE.