Spirituality and Healing.
Spirituality is addressed under the Occupational Therapy Practice, Domains and Practices as a legitimate area of concern to address with clients for occupational Therapy practitioners. Yet it is one that we often deflect or completely ignore, because it is such a touchy subject for so many. My personal culture was one of "don't talk about religion or politics." i still agree with that, it is not at all helpful in my sesssions to converse on subjects the patient might get worked up about.
However, Occupational therapy is by its nature a wholistic profession. We OT's should never really consider any functional problem as the only issue, suspended in space, not affecting anything else. The functional problems we humans have are suspended directly in the middle of our entire lives, and can swing around and wreck many, and do affect all of the domains of our lives. This includes spirituality, which I have neatly dissected out of religion for the purposes of therapy. I have studied enough religions, and enough denominations of my cultural base religion, to know there are many more similarities among the lot than discrepancies. Furthermore, when we are in pain, so much so that the pain is removing us from our lives, the spiritual aspects of our religion become the only ones that matter to us. So it is game on for this subject in my treatment room.
Healing involves faith. Whether your faith is in a doctor, a medicine, a therapy, or your Higher Power... or all of the above, your healing involves faith. When a person has been in debilitating pain for a long time, her/his belief system will shift. It will be strained. It will be questioned on every level. And if that person loses faith, gives up hope, then it is game, set and match. Therefore, as an OT, a large part of my job is often addressing the issues of spirituality: Is there something more, is my higher power angry at me, did i do something wrong, is it ok to be angry at my higher power, is this body my enemy, is there somebody to blame, what is the difference between pain and suffering, does my Higher Power even see me?
I know that it was taboo to ask these questions in the faith in which I was raised. I mean, you are supposed to be ok, great even, right? Otherwise, what might it mean? Who might judge you? Can you listen to even one more platitude? But the questions are real, and so valid, and so vital to healing! so who is answering them? Well, ultimately we each have to answer them for ourselves, but it surely helps to have another voice, another mind that is not quite so steeped in pain, to bounce them off of. And it would help if that person is not in my family, or my synagogue, or church, or temple... So enters the occupational therapist. As it turns out, spirituality is a very important "activity of daily living" for most people, and absolutely for the people in the proverbial fox hole. I am not scared to talk about it. I am not scared to be confused about it. I am not scared of the fears and tears and anger. I am ok sitting with the fears. Those things are locked in your fascia with the pain. If we release the pain, all that other stuff is coming out with it, so we therapists (especially OT's) cannot be scared of it. We must be ready for it, or we wil inadvertantly lock it back in. Spirituality involves our emotions, our brains, our minds, our bodies, and so it must be involved in our healing! So lets go into that deep water together!