Spirituality in practice : an exploration into narrative practitioners’ approaches to addressing spirituality in counselling practices

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McVeigh, Anna K.
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Social Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Connor, Helene
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
narrative therapy
social work
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
McVeigh, A.K. (2016). Spirituality in practice: An exploration into narrative practitioners’ approaches to addressing spirituality in counselling practices. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Social Practice Unitec Institute of Technology.
This research represents the views of four experienced therapists, with a background in narrative therapy, on spirituality in their respective practices. By means of semi- structured interviews, I explored how the therapists’ narrative training, experiences, personal views and other modalities enable them to deal with spiritual issues that arise in practice. In addition to this, we reflected on how narrative therapy could improve in terms of promoting ways of addressing spirituality in practice. Semi-structured interviews offered me an experiential and qualitative process to engage with the topic, by using a popular and flexible approach to research. The research outcomes were predominantly based on interviewee’s answers to my questions and their responses to comments and reflections I made as the interviewer. My role was to ask questions in order to elicit responses from the participants, holding my views tentatively in the enquiry. As the interviewer, and as an active participant due to my training in narrative therapy and avid interest in spirituality, my responses also occasionally shed light on my own views and these reflections also invited further discussion. This study is important because an inquiry into spirituality in practice demonstrates the importance of spirituality in practice and also a need to reflect on how narrative therapy training and practice can be improved, in order to gain insights into working with spiritual concepts and the spiritual beliefs of both therapists and clients. I was touched, moved and inspired by the participants’ views and stories. Their responses and reflections shed light on how their own spiritual beliefs and histories define them as individuals and as part of the world we live in. Also, more importantly, their responses shed light on how they incorporate these beliefs and experiences into their practice. The interviews revealed, above all, that spirituality is largely connected to how we relate to ourselves, other people and the world around us. The research suggests that if therapists are to engage in practices that address spirituality effectively from all angles, then the work can be all the more empowering and transformative for predominantly clients, but also the therapists themselves. The results of this research demonstrate how the process of inquiry into spirituality and addressing people’s spiritual needs in narrative-based practice calls for above all else: an ongoing commitment to addressing power in the therapeutic relationship; a commitment on the part of the therapist to reflect on their practice, both in terms of the process and in terms of their own experiences and vulnerabilities; the need for narrative therapy to incorporate more ways to address and ask questions about people’s spirituality; mindfulness meditation in practice; more incorporation of Māori worldview and spirituality; and the potential for narrative therapy to become narrative therapies and thus creating a space for innovation such as Johnella Bird’s relational narrative orientation.
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