Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Return to the Loving Hearth:
Integrating Universal Spirituality into a Healing Psychotherapy
2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
My premise: A deepening, love-imbued relationship with our ultimate Source, Our beloved God, is the quintessential ground and center of all real healing within ourselves and others. Accordingly, all dis-ease, dis-order and dis-harmony are viewed as separation from our true selves, others and God (at root origin). Lasting life transformation is surely built upon a spiritual foundation. How does the healer attuned to true, universal spirituality integrate this God-centered commitment into a healing psychotherapy? A universal spirituality is tapped in offering a baker's dozen conduits in reaching our fellow human creatures. When committing to the successful realization of healing, it is essential to keep our intentions, motivations and vision at all times clear and true. Spiritual balance in therapy is portrayed as "a steel handshake with a warm touch", that is, the setting of "tough love," reality-based structures interwoven with emotional tenderness, resonance and loving understanding. The widely heralded decline of the field of psychology is re-contextualized as the 'blessing in disguise.' This calls for a spiritualized, true "psyche-logy"-that is, the art, study and science of the human soul-to crystallize. Medical hypnoanalysis is well designed to provide an integration of effective therapeutic structures with authentic universal spirituality.
What is the single overarching issue at the very heart of self-defeating challenges addressed in psychotherapy? Although the issues of love, sex, guilt/shame, money, power, and control are ever-present threads running through most therapy courses, the answer that rings truest for this author is separation from our inner purpose, ourselves and God. Supporting this view is the accompanying awareness that all relationships appear to be but pale reflections of a deeper and more fundamental one with the Divine. Thus, a deepening communion and loving relationship with our Ultimate Source, Love Himself, is the quintessential ground, core and center of all real healing.
Increasingly, it is apparent that our real, relevant, and resonant spiritual connection is the missing piece of the puzzle to living the well-lived, meaningful life. Isn't this what is being desperately searched for through repeated existential crises in the midst of numbing indifference, unquestioned priorities, busy purposelessness, and rampant addictions?
It seems that both therapists and clients, along with our society at large, are seriously looking for ways to find the authentic feelings and experience that true spiritual linkage naturally evokes. This linkage demands of us to stretch beyond mere semi-functional living, and to transcend our own inculcated limitations on all levels of "existing". Subsequently, we can open up and risk "living" the fulfilling experience of being, growing, serving and being fruitful in contributing to our world.
Thus, this paper aims to ask and initiate answers to a singular question: "How does the therapist attuned to true, universal spirituality integrate this God-centered commitment into a healing psychotherapy?" Throughout this paper God is understood as the Creator and supreme law of the universe. The universality of God, interpreted in myriad ways, is amply envisioned in world religions throughout all human history. Historically, references to God abound under various names, such as Brahman (Hinduism), Allah (Islam), Ahura Mazda (Zorastrianism), the True Name or Hari (Sikhism), Quetzal Coatl (Aztecs), the Great Spirit (Native American Indians), Yahweh (Judaism), and Holy Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Christianity). To be God-centered is understood as an active attunement with the one true, holy, and loving light of God. What follows is a dozen "action plans" for such God-centered healing therapists. Each of these approaches have been effectively life-changing in making psychotherapy sacred in my experience:
1. Before each therapy session, sit for at least two minutes or longer in inner, relaxed meditation and heartfelt prayer to our beloved God. Herein, affirm that the highest good will occur for that client, and all others concerned, in your meeting. Ask, "What will best serve all", listen, and act with trust and judgment.
2. Invoke God's presence at the beginning of each therapy session and the induction phase of hypnotherapy / hypnoanalysis (whether aloud or silently), so that your client be given the greatest benefit and most appropriate healing from your time together. Ask, affirm and demand God's inspiration, motivation, intelligence, humor and loving direction in all that occurs. Affirm that you are God's willing, cooperating and loving agent or instrument for this pure purpose. Moreover, actively pray throughout your therapyas well as outside of therapythat God directly provide His all-loving, all-protective, and all-healing energy to your client(s) and yourself.
3. Together, as appropriate with receptive clients, you can create a sacred space of holy communion by praying jointly, listening to the Holy feedback from within, the proverbial "gentle whisper" (NIV Pictorial Bible, 1978) or "still, small voice" (The Holy Bible From Ancient Eastern Manuscripts, 1957) that spoke to Elijah in the Old Testament (1Kings 19:12). Even more profoundly, the therapist or client can have God speak out-loud through him or her, and once again listen respectfully.
4. Continually invite God into every aspect and every moment of your life, relationships, and therapy. Affirm the Divine's guidance in everything-all you feel, think, say, communicate, do, and are-for the greatest benefit and therapeutic healing good of everyone. Then, be quiet and listen wholeheartedly to the Divine's direct counsel. Silently, with desire and sincerity, ask God for insight, assistance and direction, especially when you feel blocked, don't know in what direction to head, or are less than sure of what help to offer.
5. Stretch your ability to like and love this individual client as a fellow human being and recognize the immanent God, at least in kernel form, flowing and expressing through him or her. When I am unable to find this inside myself, I seriously consider referring this individual to someone else who can bring this capability. How supportive can I be otherwise? The spiritual aim is to respectfully greet the other person with the full reverence of "Shalom", in the Hebrew-Christian tradition, that encompasses "welcome", "hello", "good-bye", "whole", "entire", and most importantly "peace". The spirit of this message is equally well expressed by the Hindu expression "Namaste", loosely translated, "the God within me deeply salutes, validates, loves, and honors the God within you".
6. Remember that neither you nor anyone is actually at the true center of this real universe. Instead of a "secular" epistemology, or way of coming to know knowledge, keep recalling that God is the authentic center of this real universe in a "sacred" epistemology. So, as long as you keep God ever-present in the forefront and center of your every word, thought, and action, only what is spiritually fitting and truly healing can transpire.
7. Remember that whatever isn't working in this individual client's life or in your therapy is symptomatic of a separation between his true self and the High Voice inside him. Your privilege is to aid that person (and possibly yourself), who is wandering in self- and God- alienation, to connect in faithful relationship to their True Source. For the therapist, the ultimate mutual honoring can be found in midwifing the birth and growth of their clients' true selves in intimate connection and loving communion with God.
8. Translate all disturbing, doubting, harmful, and suicidal verbal / behavioral messages as "cries of the wounded". The underlying need might be for attention, acceptance, agreement, or approval. It may be for acknowledgment, help, understanding, or being listened to. Ultimately it is the call for nurturing, honest love and God's presence. Your commitment is to persist in sending the unconditional message "I love you, your essential being and soul, and I am able to meet your legitimate needs in liking and caring about you". The only proviso is that I honestly can.
Thus, no matter how that individual client acts, aim to perceive him or her as a creation of God, fully entitled to all the respect and love you can muster. Mother Theresa is an exemplary model for her greeting the diseased, estranged, neglected, and homeless in Calcutta, India and worldwide, and seeing only God in them. How fully can you be there for God?
9. Remember the title of the book God in Search of Man (1955) by the preeminent 20th century Jewish philosopher of religion, Abraham Joshua Heschel. This title message articulates how God is always in search of and actively pursuing each one of us, while it is we (i.e., your client, yourself, and nearly everyone) who are running away from Him. Daily, affirm, catch and keep hold of God's lifeline for you in order to realize your purpose.
You might say that each human creature here on earth has already been "chosen" very personally and tenderly by God. Given this perspective, all of us have been so "chosen," and the ones that take Him up on the invitation have accepted the gift of being so chosen. The window of opportunity provided us in realizing ourselves as the loving healers we aspire to be is to empower every one we are privileged to meet in responding to the offer, thereby to live in accord with our Creator, His laws and commandments. I remember hearing once that this life is God's gift to us, and what we do with this life is our gift to God. How simple and true!
10. After any client encounter, should anything feel sticky or smolder inside of you (i.e., counter-transference, being reactive, or getting hooked), remember that this now belongs to you and is yours to work through and release with God's benediction. Take a long, slow, deep breath and find within yourself the will to reconnect to the likeable and loveable in that hurting soul. Also investigate what triggered your unfinished business, and address this as promptly and completely as you are able to. Above and beyond all else, scrupulously keep the first law of all health, wholeness, and healing, the hallmark of The Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. Given the times we are living through, the modern update is: Do no more harm!
11. Teach the invoking or calling upon God for safety and protection on all levels. When seemingly nothing can reach a client, our True Source is ever available and up to the task when we call upon Him. This may include the invoking of scripture (e.g., "Put on the whole armor of God. . . ")(NIV Pictorial Bible, 1978, Ephesians 6:11,13-17). You may utilize visualization (e.g., seeing God's holy, healing, loving Light all around the individual, like an immaculately protective cocoon of golden white, glowing Light). Spiritual and bodily protection can be petitioned and declared through profoundly holy affirmations and invocations such as the following:
The power of God is within me,
12. To bring God's Light and Love into our life transformative work includes being able to confront illusions, harm, self-deceptions, self-defeating patterns, self-destructive behavior, dishonesty, untrustworthiness, lies and outright evil for just what it is, while offering healthier, more constructive pathways, structures and skills for living. To many of us, such "tough love" solutions, confrontations and interventions appear exceedingly difficult and trying on numerous levels. To successfully accomplish this purpose, the healer's motives and intentions must truly be professionally warranted, clean without counter-transference, and fraternally loving. Additionally, such difficult personal interactions demand a tremendous sense of integrity for staying firmly centered on our therapeutic purpose while at the same time giving personal, warm, loving empathy.
King Charles V (1500-1558) once said, according to Carlyle, that the way to govern was to have an "iron hand in a velvet glove". I would update this for the approaching 21st century by suggesting that for real life transformation for both the client and the healer, it takes a "steel handshake with a warm touch". Each of us needs to cultivate a firm handshake, that is, to rigorously name reality for just what it is, hence achieving the mastery of ourselves and bring a warming tenderness to reach another's heart with understanding and reassurance.
In summary, the spiritual balance of therapy can be portrayed as a setting of "tough love", reality-based structures interwoven with emotional resonance and loving understanding. Can we find it within ourselves, drawing from God's forthright firmness and inspired love, to bring the very same to our clients? Such a balance is neither easy nor common to achieve, yet it certainly can be created. Maturity typically develops as a result of a determined process cultivated over time and by personal pain, effort and loss, the cross-fertilization of social exchange, culminating in redemption and the rising of a new understanding.
13. I would be sorely remiss if I overlooked sharing that when steeping oneself in the previous twelve approaches or other authentic spiritual avenues, a shift in consciousness and attitude can take place. The therapist and client can be so in rhythm, pulse, and flow with the Divine, that each one may feel compelled to begin to take back their true heritage. The individual can become a willing benefactor and fulfill his true calling by becoming the "creator" he or she was always meant to be, in total alignment with God. As co-creators we can demonstrate, through committed actions that function for all, our respectful honoring of God and His universe. These peak moments of extraordinary consciousness, where the evolving universe is experienced as cascading through us, may well be uncommon, yet are utterly available for everyone.
This inspired communion and holy dialogue with the Divine, as hinted at by saints, mystics, and holy people, awaits anyone who brings guts and gumption, stamina and daily actions nourished by a burning desire to know and love Him. The person only needs to passionately knock on God's door by persistently asking "Reveal Thyself", devotedly listening to Our Ineffable Presence, and acting in accord with God's guidance. Thereafter, the person can gratefully accept everything placed on his or her path, while fiercely committing to always be part of this Divine communion. A continuously cherishing relationship with God, that is, realizing the true "Human" in being human creators with the Divine, is our quintessential learning and teaching.
Even in bringing closure to these thirteen pathways of universal spirituality as integrated in a healing psychotherapy, I know that the healer's sincerity, warmth and loving commitment to his or her fellow brother and sister in fraternal love are what clients actually receive emotionally. To keep our intentions, motives and vision clean, true and ever-present is seen as essential for the realization of a healing psychotherapy and the empowerment of individuals in authentic life transformation. Thus, simply show up to be of service to your fellow man, a son or daughter of God in seed form, on their path of true development.
Countless cultures have utilized dance, song, art, story telling, poetry, and silence as entryways into God's "inner circle." Sharing from the scriptures of numerous spiritual traditions, mystical and religious literatures, and especially tapping parables and wise aphorisms, brings God's presence into therapy, and life. Everything from inspired handouts to recommending exemplary books, music, and events can contribute to lovingly invite God into the therapeutic space. Physical activities such as sports, hiking, walking and working out at gyms can all be opportunities to honor our bodies as supports of our developing souls while testing our physical limits, appreciating beauty, connecting socially and having healthy fun. I know that the opportunities for a sacred and mutual "gifting" in psychotherapy and out in life are boundless, limited only by the quality of our participation, resourcefulness and creativity.
On a personal and heartfelt note, after having been 'invited' on at least five occasions back into the field of clinical psychology before I actually heard this "calling", it is saddening to witness the decline of the field of psychology at the hands of free-market forces, particularly managed care insurance companies. This widely-heralded perception and reality by clinicians can be realistically broadened to include the deteriorating viability of all fields, as we've known them, since the rules and structures for reimbursement appear to be dramatically changing across the board.
Like the mythical Phoenix who dies to rise reborn out of its ashes, these paradigmatic changes can be re-contextualized as the 'blessing in disguise.' The present events and times call for a metamorphosis of our whole field. For "psyche-logy"that is, the art, study and science of the human soulto crystallize means we must give of ourselves from the deepest emotional and highest spiritual levels across the spectrum of life. Of all the approaches available within the health care field, medical hypnoanalysis is particularly well designed to provide an integration of effective therapeutic structures with authentic universal spirituality.
May this writing serve as a pragmatic jumping off point in taking a very necessary leap of faith to unite with God in the process of psychotherapy and in our own lives. What stops us from celebrating His eternal presence not only daily, but also hourly, and even moment-by-moment?
As we "return to the loving hearth" of God's ever-present love and to His call to "Grow and be fruitful", there remains the essential question: How can we give ourselves fully to God's embrace, knowing how eagerly God awaits our awakening in order to give Himself wholeheartedly to us? Our response to God's invitation, transporting us from the hoax of meaninglessness, separation and death to vitality, exuberance and exultation, can be forged as we develop into the whole souls we were always meant to become. Our answer at every moment can be our return, our healing and our fulfillment.
Dass, R. & Levine, S., Grist for the Mill. Santa Cruz, CA: Unity Press, 1977.
Heschel, A. J., God in Search of Man. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1955.
G. M. (translator), The Holy Bible From Ancient Eastern Manuscripts. Nashville,
NIV Pictorial Bible:
New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Bible Publishers,
Dr. Will Joel Friedman received his Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate School and is presently a licensed psychologist in private clinical practice in Loma Linda, California. He is a clinical member of AAMH, a Diplomate of both the American Board of Medical Psychotherapists and the American Society of Pain Management, an "Approved Consultant" of ASCH, and current president of the Los Angeles Academy of Clinical Hypnosis. Even more significantly, he is a husband to his lifetime 'bride' Dominique, a father to his deeply bonded son Gregory and a "mensch-in-training," aspiring to commune with God in everything.
© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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