If there is one thing that my experiences working in the “conventional” system of counselling has taught me, it is that something is missing.  Despite the abundance of research available on the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectic Behaviour Therapy, and other ever-evolving therapies, my experience has found that the gains made in current therapy trends are often short lived or, simply, “falling short”. Period.

So often during my encounters with clients, I have longed to direct them to examine their spiritual self, you know, the part that provides us with a sense of purpose, meaning and direction. But I felt constricted by the prevailing societal attitude that there is no room for spirituality in mental health.

My own personal experience says “not so!” As a practitioner of all these vogue therapies, I have applied the touted techniques and strategies to my own difficulties.  On their own, they are not enough. They can never be enough.

Let’s look at two current conventional therapies and enhance them with  wisdom that has been long established in Christian teaching and tradition. 

     Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Core Components:

  1. The therapy is based on the cognitive model of mental illness developed by Aaron Beck in 1964, which posits that emotions and behaviours are influenced by our interpretations of events.
  2.  It is also based on 3 levels of cognition: core beliefs,  dysfunctional assumptions and automatic thoughts.
  3. The focus of the therapy is problem oriented, working in the “here and now”, offering relief through problem solving of current struggles.
  4. It seeks to help the individual to better understand current difficulties through self-analysis of reactions, behaviours and moods.

     Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius                                 Loyola

The CBT approach outlined above is considered one of the best therapies to help individuals deal with mood difficulties and many of the relationship problems that accompany them.  It also has science to back these claims.

My approach is to enhance the conventional wisdom of  CBT with the wisdom found in some well known Christian teachings that have been helping people for centuries.  One of these approaches is the well known “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius Loyola.

St. Ignatius created his exercises based on using the mind, will and imagination. Working through the spiritual exercises, an individual not only experiences a deeper understanding of God and His will for them, but also discovers a road map  “ for becoming aware and understanding to some extent the different movements which are caused in the soul; the good to receive them, and the bad to reject them” (St. Ignatius).

Three basic terminologies found in  St. Ignatius’ “rules”, BE AWARE, UNDERSTAND, TAKE ACTION, parallel the guiding principles of CBT. 


Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Core Components aim to develop 4 skills:

1) Mindfulness

2) Distress Tolerance

3) Interpersonal Effectiveness

4) Emotion Regulation