While working on my doctorate, I focused on spiritual guidance as a semi-specialty. (Shamanic work can hardly be called clinical psychology, after all!)
I soon learned that one could call oneself a “spiritual guide,” “spiritual counselor,” “chaplain,” or “minister.” The word healer was never used, and juxtaposition of the words spiritual and medicine rarely occured, except in the context of hospital chaplaincy.
Yet in many indigenous cultures, medicine is the word used for whatever healing energy one can recognize. (The expression “laughter is good medicine” illustrates a Western adaptation of this belief.) Indigenous people acknowledge that Spirit is the real healer, not the man or woman doing the smudging, sand painting, chanting, dancing, or journeying. Indeed, each of these practices is a message to Spirit asking for help for the person in need. In my own practice, I have noticed that the only thing a “healer” can do to help her patient is facilitate that person’s reconnection with their own spiritual source.
Dr. Larry Dossey, MD, is one of the few medical physicians I know who openly acknowledges the truth of this indigenous belief and who, based upon his own clinical experience, has written several books on the power of prayer and the effect of a doctor’s intervention, not as a surgeon or other specialist, but as a spiritual guide and intercessor with Spirit on the patient’s behalf.
It’s fascinating to recall that not so long ago, the process of healing was composed of and dependent upon the interrelationship of what we currently call science, medicine, psychology, art, philosophy, and prayer. These were all part of the same holistic package, which Western culture chose to separate into discrete disciplines.
Therefore, this interesting article on spiritual care in medicine, shared by Cherry Hill Seminary’s Executive Director Holli Emore, came as a pleasant surprise. It may be that Western culture, having exhausted the talents of “pure science,” is ready for a sea change– a return to the past in order to step more compassionately into a future that will benefit not merely humans but all beings on this planet. One can only hope!