Kalamazoo Counseling for Spiritual/Cultural Issues
During my Undergraduate education, I double-majored in Religion and Philosophy and minored in Asian Studies. This education and my time in India has taught me the beauty of different cultures and religions. In our largely-Christian and sometime cynical society, it is often difficult for those of different faiths/cultures to find someone with whom to work and who will understand and respect their traditions. As I have mentioned in the “About Me” section of my website (that you can find here), I greatly value diversity. So, a specialty of mine is to be able to counsel others from Kalamazoo, Portage, Mattawan, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Michigan on exploring their own spirituality and cultural values, whether their tradition is Christianity or something less common.
Counseling on “The Big Issues” of Culture and Spirituality
Counseling for spiritual/cultural issues may take the shape of dealing with some of the “big” issues like marrying someone outside of your religion, abortion, exploring sexual orientation, having a different religion/value system than your family, premarital sex, issues of dying, breaking expectations of gender roles, or embracing a religion that society doesn’t accept. It is essential to have support for such issues given the extreme importance they have on a person’s development and identity.
If you come to me for counseling on spiritual/cultural issues, I will not pretend that I know everything about your spiritual/cultural traditions (although, because of my passion for all things spiritual, I will likely know a bit from the beginning). But, I will not require you to be my only source of information, either. I find great joy in expanding my knowledge of how various people see the world. So, I will work collaboratively with you to find out what your priorities are.
These priorities are often even at the center of crises related to spiritual/cultural issues. Does one follow their own heart and marry based on love or do they follow their family’s tradition of only marrying others of their same religion? Does one blindly trust their spiritual leaders even though they believe their Higher Power is leading them in another direction? What does one do if they no longer want to identify with their family’s cultural traditions after immigration? What if one sees God as a woman or as manifesting am their own divine femininity? It would be my honor to accompany you on your journey to discover the answers that are important to you.
Counseling on Anger with God
For those who believe in a Higher Power and are exploring such priorities in their life, another common experience is anger with God. For those who have experienced a major loss or crisis, often people will ask “Why would God do this to me!?” This is particularly the case for those who come from religious traditions where God is believed to be a “loving God”. In this situation, the anger sounds more like “If God really is loving and loves me, why would God allow this to happen!?” These are valid questions. And, while I may also encourage you to consult those who you trust within your spiritual/cultural communities for guidance, I think it is also important to explore the power of these questions within the context of therapy.
Many times people feel badly about questioning their Higher Power. When examining this critical commentary of ourselves, I reflect on a story I once heard, as told by a Rabbi. During the Holocaust many of the Jews in a concentration camp were devoting their time to praying and staying faithful despite the horrors of what they experienced. However, even with obvious external demonstrations of faithfulness by many of the Jews, the Rabbi overheard one Jewish prisoner yelling to the sky, “I can’t believe you, God, would do this to us! How can you let this happen to Your people!? If this is how You work, I don’t want anything to do with You!” Instead of scolding the man, as everyone expected, the Rabbi reflected out loud on how this message of genuine anger and shock was “the most sincere prayer offered to God that day”. I hope that, when exploring such difficult topics of spirituality and culture, we can allow you to express your genuine prayers.
What Makes Counseling on Matters of Spirituality/Culture Important
The field of counseling has long had a tradition of rejecting matters of spirituality and religion within the context of working with clients. I have the complete opposite approach. Even if you are, for example, an atheist, it is important to incorporate such traditions and beliefs into the steps you are taking to improve yourself. We are not simply bodies with souls. We are souls who happen to have bodies. So, one of the things I have found is important to explore with clients is their spiritual life. How can we be well, mind, body, and soul, if we don’t attend to all three?
This does not mean that I force dialogue about spiritual issues upon you. If you want to talk about The Bible, great! If you want to explore how your traditions as a Syrian Muslim have shifted since immigrating to this country after being a refugee, wonderful! If you don’t, that’s important for me to know, too. I am happy to explore whatever is important to you. I am proud to be a counselor that is perfectly comfortable discussing issues of spirituality and culture. I do not shy away from such dialogue, as it has been the tradition for my field to do. In fact, it is probably where I feel most at home.