The Varieties of Religious Therapy (VRT) blog series features representatives from twelve belief systems discussing how they integrate faith with their approach to psychotherapy. This installment is an interview with a Hindu scholar. See the Introduction for a full description of VRT and the table of contents.
Hinduism is the world's third largest religion with nearly one billion people following numerous related traditions that share common elements but do not have a unified set of beliefs or practices. Most Hindus worship one or more deities, practice meditation and believe in reincarnation. Yoga and karma are just two of the many Hindu concepts woven into Western culture.
Sharing with us his approach to psychotherapy and Hindu spirituality is V. George Mathew, Ph.D., former Psychology Department Head at the University of Kerala (India) and a pioneer in the field of Holigrative Psychology, a modality that combines modern psychology with parapsychology and studies of consciousness. He writes and speaks on a variety of topics relating to spirituality, yoga, parapsychology and the integration of psychological theories.
Dr. Mathew graciously shares his succinct responses with us below.
What is the role of religion or spirituality in your clinical practice?
People who come to me are those with existential conflicts, paranormal experiences or religious doubts as I am known to be a specialist in these areas. Therefore I have to discuss philosophical or spiritualistic matters with clients.
How does your technique or theory differ from mainstream psychotherapy?
I use direct philosophical discussions. I do not use behavioristic (conditioning) methods.
A new client comes to therapy reporting his main problem is feeling detached from God. How would you proceed?
I tell him that God is a anthropomorphic or personalised symbol for pure consciousness. For egoistic people God becomes a projection of their ego. They can know real God only when they drop the ego or narrow self-centeredness.
What is the relationship between sin and psychopathology?
Sin is going against our ancestral experience or norms of conduct derived from collective ancestral experience. Guilt can be overcome by doing compensatory good deeds.
Who or what is the primary agent of change in therapy?
Self (Real self which is pure consciousness).
What is the most difficult part of practicing psychotherapy while maintaining your beliefs?
My beliefs are not narrow religious beliefs but pan-religious or spiritualistic beliefs. I have to point out this difference to clients.
What is the most rewarding part?
The satisfaction that I find my clients get when their fear vanishes and their existential conflicts and doubts are resolved and they are at peace with themselves and the world.