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How does a religious counselor balance religion and psych advice?

by Christina Indon

Recently updated on April 11, 2023 05:00 pm

In a religious country like the Philippines, can one mix faith and psychology without putting science and religion at loggerheads in front of a patient seeking help?

It seems unorthodox but professional counselor Marjorie Brioso Gomez of Amara Counseling and Training Center said spirituality and psychology play an equally important role in her therapy sessions.

With both tools, Gomez said, the ability to help is “interconnected” as these allow one to connect with their emotions, physical being, and the spiritual and mental aspect of life.

Amara Counseling and Training Center is a service that offers counseling services for all ages in seminars, schools, churches, companies, and communities on mental health.

Gomez, who holds a master’s degree in counseling, is a graduate of Asian Theological Seminary. Her passion for incorporating spirituality in mental health therapy was developed after joining the center in 2015. 

“I have really been wanting to profoundly understand and help people understand why they behave, respond, think, express themselves the way they do. That includes myself,” Gomez told republicasia.

“And being a Christian, I thought it would do a great deal integrating my knowledge and personal relationship with God with my learnings about human behavior and psychological pathologies in the counseling work [to help] alleviate daily human sufferings,” she added.

For Gomez, spiritual health is not limited to a religion or religious activities. It is about learning how to trust God and trusting yourself. While both are independent from one another, Gomez said their coexistence is possible.

But with or without religion, Gomez said it is imperative that you trust yourself when all else fails.

Mixing religion and science is an artful dance because not all clients are warm to the idea. 

In 2019, Alain Dizon, a resident counselor of Amara, told The 700 Club Asia that Philippines’ position is quite an “advantage because you can work around the religiosity of the people.” 

“I always say ‘oh, since you believe in God, why don’t we make the most out of it?’” he said in the interview shared by Amara on their Facebook page.

But nothing could replace empathic listening when aiming to understand someone’s plight. 

Dizon added that counselors should never underestimate the power of silence during sessions when people are at their most vulnerable point

“[Listening] plays an important role, especially if you’re an empathetic listener,” he said. 

Dizon added: “Silence is also important during therapy. Sometimes, we’re not comfortable with silence.”

According to Dizon, silence is a “golden time” because it helps the client process their current situation.

And you as a helper, kung di counselor, nagkakaroon ka ng time to reflect and to pray kung kailan kasi sometimes I really don’t know what to do.”

DISCLAIMER: THIS STORY IS PART OF REPUBLIC ASIA’S HOLY WEEK SPECIAL AND IS NOT, IN ANY WAY, INTENDED TO PROMOTE OR IMPOSE A CERTAIN FAITH, RELIGIOUS BELIEF, AND METHOD OF COUNSELING.

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