"When I went out, I often had patients talk about – most of the indigenous patients – talk about calling on the spirits of their forefathers to help. Once in the past, a patient I was treating, a young man, hung himself, and what I saw was the family and the extended family talking to the spirit of their forefathers to help them bear this". - Russell d'Souza, psychiatrist.
D'Souza is based in Melbourne and is one of two pioneers in the field of psychology and its relationship to spirituality. He's done lashings of research to show that a person's spiritual life may in fact be an extremely useful resource to draw on when supporting them to heal. And here's his colleague, another psychiatrist, George Halasz:
"That is in the setting that I really understood that there is a soul – much like there is a ventricle in the heart, there’s a liver in the abdominal cavity or there’s a brain in the cranium, somewhere there’s a reality to the soul. And I thought “ah ha, that’s what has been neglected”.
Personally, I'm relieved to be given the go-ahead to explore this with clients. I have done so only in the past where the client has made explicit reference to it. I shall be more confident in bringing up the subject now, having previously been scared of perhaps imposing my own beliefs (and therefore being unprofessional).
The same ethical principle still applies of course, the green light of which I speak allows the therapist to encourage the client's own opening of pathways to spirit, not necessarily their own.