What is Pagan Therapy?

It’s not well-defined yet. Yet it’s very much needed. Several threads are coming together in the creation of this blog as I grapple with what Pagan Therapy is. The two common themes seem to be educating the mental health profession at large, and the creation of Pagan pastoral/spiritual counseling systems.

Education of the Mental Health Profession

Respectful Ordinary Treatment: The first thing Pagan Therapy might be is simply respectful treatment by ordinary counselors and psychiatrists. I had one client who claimed her antipsychotic medication was increased, with no conversation, simply upon her mentioning that she “talked with the Goddess”. I have another client who is very happy with his psychiatrist, yet on his psychiatric evaluation under Family and Social History the doctor has written “he gave up church, is involved in a Wicken [sic.] ‘coven’”. I have to wonder how lack of respect and knowledge effects the treatment of countless Pagan clients in little ways that we may never even know about.

Informed Ordinary Treatment: Beyond simple respect is the idea of informed treatment. Informed treatment implies that a change for the better in treatment occurs as the mental health professional knows more about the client’s beliefs and background. For example, I wonder how many trauma experts know just how wonderful the guided meditation, astral journeying, shielding, and other techniques taught in Pagan training programs can be for trauma survivors? I wonder how many therapists treating anxiety know just how similar a Wiccan “ground and center” meditation is to standard relaxation exercises for anxiety reduction? Even if ordinary mental health professionals don’t believe in the principles of Pagan religions and spirituality, they certainly can be made to see the therapeutic value of the techniques involved.

Creation of Pagan Pastoral/Spiritual Counseling Systems

Pagan Pastoral/Spiritual Counseling: There is a large and well-developed literature on Christian pastoral counseling. It is quite diverse – ranging from biblical counseling all the way to licensed psychological counseling that is sensitive to Christian norms. This is the exciting new frontier for me. How shall the counseling profession develop Pagan spiritual counseling techniques? How will they be different than normal therapeutic techniques? I can see Pagan techniques being very similar to the norm, such as in prescribing “ground and center” regimes as for relaxation. But what happens when Pagan beliefs conflict with professional beliefs? What if a Pagan psychotherapist has religious beliefs in possession for example? Divination? Perhaps there will be Pagan spiritual counseling techniques for professional licensed counselors and other techniques reserved to unlicensed clergy with some counseling training.


  1. Wolfers said,

    December 8, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

    This was wonderful to find!!!!! I am in a mental health counseling graduate program and I study celtic shamanism. I have always wondered how being a pagan can affect my future as a mental health counselor and how I can include some of my beliefs in helping people (especially as you said, in grounding/centering, meditating, labyrinth walking, and so many!)

  2. moriah conquering wind said,

    August 21, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

    it finds your blog fascinating and highly intriguing. will be spending some time reading here for a few days so you may hear more from it during that time.

    one point it wishes to raise. you wrote: “yet on his psychiatric evaluation under Family and Social History the doctor has written ‘he gave up church, is involved in a […] coven'” and obviously you writes that thinking it bes negative commentary and therefore inappropriate. but might not so abrupt an alteration in spiritual path be worthy of note and investigation anyway? it could be purely a seeker-driven response to finding more to relate to in wicca than in his church BUT it could also have abreactive components or other factors of psychopathology that either (a) may make wicca an unsuitable transition for him or (b) may interfere with a successful and happy transition into wicca if in fact that should prove to be his path — antithetical elements from his past may need resolution.

    just food for thought.

  3. Michael_Reeder said,

    September 11, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

    Moriah — I suppose making a note that a client has joined a Wiccan coven is not necessarily negative or prejudice. Yes, a religious conversion could have an effect on mental health. I just see doctors make notations on religion so rarely that I have to wonder.

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