Psychological Approach or Spiritual Approach?


Resting in the blend of  spirit, mind, emotions, and body that I dwell in, I come into contact with the edges of this question all the time.  It is easy to lean more fully on one or the other.  Most of us have a comfortable automatic bend toward finding solutions in spirit or material ways.  Robert Mulholland, a respected spiritual formation writer and trusted Christian theologian, expands an answer to this wondering that satisfies my soul.  I hope it illuminates for you as well:

"We need to realize that not only is psychology not a substitute for spirituality, but spirituality is not a substitute for psychology. While most Christians would not tend to make the first assertion, many would and do tend to make the second. As we have already noted, spiritual formation is often seen as the answer to all problems. 

Often, profound, deep-seated psychological problems are met with demands for deeper faith, more rigorous obedience, more vital spirituality. Psychological brokenness needs treatment in the same way that a broken bone needs to be set and healed. 

While physical therapy is an integral and essential aspect of healing for a broken leg, the therapy alone, without setting the bone, will never enable the bone to heal properly.  Likewise, spiritual formation is an integral and essential part of recovery of human wholeness from psychological brokenness, but spiritual formation alone will never bring full and complete wholeness of being.

There are some points in our spiritual pilgrimage when the Spirit of God awakens us to some area of deep psychological imbalance or brokenness within.  At those points, sound psychological therapy becomes an essential component of our spiritual journey.  Psychological therapy, carried out within a Christian understanding of human nature, can richly enhance spiritual formation, just as holistic spiritual formation always enhances sound psychological treatment

Neither of these is a substitute for each other, but they work together as a means of grace through which God forms us in the image of Christ for the sake of others."


Mulholland, M.R. 2016. Invitation to a Journey, a road map for spiritual formation. InterVarsity       Press. Downers Grove, IL. 

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