Dawn Gabriel on Engaging Your Spiritual Journey as a Therapist | FP 98

A photo of Dawn Gabriel is captured. Dawn Gabriel is the owner of Authentic Connections Counseling Center, private practice consultant, and host of Faith Fringes podcast. Dawn Gabriel is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast

Can you bring the Holy Spirit into the session? How can therapists find their spiritual healing? Can you remove the therapist and let someone you trust guide you in spiritual conversation?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Dawn Gabriel about Engaging Your Spiritual Journey as a Therapist.

Meet Dawn Gabriel

A photo of Dawn Gabriel is captured. Dawn Gabriel is the owner of Authentic Connections Counseling Center, private practice consultant, and host of Faith Fringes podcast. Dawn Gabriel is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast

Dawn Gabriel is the owner of Authentic Connections Counseling Center, private practice consultant, and host of Faith Fringes podcast.

She is passionate about helping people achieve freedom from what’s keeping them stuck and specializes in creating space to look deeper into our spirituality and faith free from judgment and shame.

Dawn is a wife and mom of 2 boys who all love living and adventuring in Colorado.

Visit her counseling website, connect on Instagram and Facebook.

Visit her podcast website and connect on Instagram and Facebook. Sign up for Dawn’s free 9-week email course.

In This Podcast

  • Allow yourself to explore
  • Find a circle of people
  • Do not be afraid to let the Holy Spirit into session

Allow yourself to explore

Let yourself some space open up to explore your spirituality. Take some time to evaluate which parts of your spirituality resonate most with you, and which parts are things that you carry simply because you were taught to.

Have you really looked at your faith or your religion and kind of separated out your relationship with God from maybe the religion you’ve been brought up in? … really knowing your own faith and really owning it as your own, if you’ve never done that, I would say to start there. (Dawn Gabriel)

You can dive into your relationship with God in your own way because it is a personal connection. What other people say or think about your relationship with God does not concern them.

It is possible for you to create the relationship that you want to have with God outside of what the religion tells you about what that relationship should look like. What does God mean to you? What does He mean to you?

Find a circle of people

Surround yourself with one or two friends who can challenge you to go deeper into your relationship with God.

Sometimes it can be easy to pretend to be deep, but if you are with someone who you are close to and they can really listen to you and talk you deeper into your faith, that can be beneficial for you.

Therapists can sometimes take the back seat to be vulnerable because it is their day-to-day, however, for your sake, it is important to be the one to talk for once.

I was drained and I was like “I need equal relationships”, so I think you have to be intentional and ask for it … you have to be intentional and ask for what you need. (Dawn Gabriel)

Do not be afraid to let the Holy Spirit into session

This means to experience God in your life in a more embodied sense. Let the Holy Spirit enter the session as a feeling and a presence.

You do not have to do anything specific or say something, but to be aware and to feel His presence. It does mean that you do the work first beforehand.

Have your relationship with God be as wholesome and strong as it may be, for it can always change and develop over time, before you let the Holy Spirit into session and speak with your client about spiritual direction.

What better way to show love … by creating this sacred space for our clients to be safe, non-judgmental, and compassionate, and we’re sitting there offering this love. That is still showing them God … even if we never say anything about God, they are still experiencing who we are in the spirit. (Dawn Gabriel)

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Photo of Christian therapist Whitney Owens. Whitney helps other christian counselors grow faith based private practices!Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY] Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host Whitney Owens recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your practice from a faith-based perspective. I will show you how to have an awesome faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.

Hello, and thank you again for taking the time to listen to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m so glad you’re here. If you haven’t already, please take a minute to rate and review the podcast. This allows us to tell more Christian counselors, more faith-based practitioners about the podcast. They’re out there and they want to grow their business. So please go and share the podcast with people that and go rate and review the show.

I want to talk for a minute before we get into this episode about the importance of prayer in your practice, and specifically asking God for exactly what you want. I mean, we can use this in our business and in our life in general, but I think too often we kind of throw prayers up there or maybe we kind of assume, well, if God wants something to happen, it’ll happen. We don’t necessarily ask for the exact things that we’re wanting. No God’s not some genie that’s just going to grant you whatever you want. But I do think there’s something to be said for asking your father for what it is that you want and trusting him with whatever he does give you. So I’m using this example because I’ve been thinking about this for myself, which is usually the things that I share on the show.

I started to mastermind groups and actually the second one is starting today. I’m recording this weeks in advance of the show coming out, but these two mastermind groups, now in the past, I have never launched two at the same time. I’ve always thought that would be really challenging and you have to really hustle to fill a mastermind group. Even though I think it’s one of the most beneficial consulting things that you can do for your practice, it still tends to be a lot of work to fill a group. So anyway, months ago, when I was considering doing it, it felt like the right thing to do. Like I was excited about it. I wanted to do it and I had a few people requesting an additional mastermind group. So it’s like, okay, well, there’s a need for both of these groups to meet the needs of certain types of clinicians so I’m going to do this.

I’m going to ask God for 16 people to join. And I actually was hoping for eight in one group and eight in another. That was what I was praying for. So I was very specific and I prayed for that. And I always do. I pray for people. I consult with, their practices, their mastermind groups, just like you’re praying for your own practice and for your clients. So I’ve been asking for that and let’s see just a few weeks before, I mean, just a few days actually, before the last group was supposed to start, I was sitting with 14 people and just really wanted those extra two. And I really knew that the group would benefit people. And the idea that there are clinicians out there that would benefit from the group, I wanted them to find it.

I’ve always found that to be the case that I’ll pray for different things and maybe God will put someone on my mind, join the group and they’ll reach out at the right moment. So, yes, within the past few days, two more people signed up, one signed up just hours before the group and had reached out to me right before and wasn’t even sure if there was a spot left and I said, “Yes, there’s a spot left. God saved it for you because I’ve been praying for one more.” And I hope that you don’t hear me doing this to toot my own horn or anything like that. But what I’m telling you is I want you to ask God for very specific things in your practice. What are your dreams and goals? Write them down and ask for them. And don’t settle.

The idea of me filling two groups at once was pretty big for me. I didn’t necessarily think it would happen, but I was hoping that it would and believing, I guess I was believing that it would, but didn’t really know that it would, I guess, and it did. And I’m excited about the opportunity to be involved in the lives of these practitioners. So there are people out there that need you, you’ve got great ideas, ways to serve. So I want you be open to that and be thinking about that and really praying about it.

And I think that this intro is appropriate for the interview today because I interview Dawn Gabriel. She is amazing. We’re going to talk about her podcast and the work she’s doing. So please listen for that. I’ve been really impressed with the work she’s doing on her podcast. In fact, the first episode I found myself tearing up while I was driving in the car because she is so in her element, in the work that she’s doing and helping with spirituality and having difficult conversations, and really specifically, she has this ability to understand spiritual life of a therapist. So she’ll talk about that on the podcast today. And it was helpful for me, even when I was interviewing her, coming up with ideas and things that I need personally, as a clinician.

I also just love Dawn because I’ve known her for very long time. We met at the psychiatric hospital. That’s right. We worked there, we weren’t patients there, many years ago. She also was a clinical supervisor for me while I was working on my hours when I lived out in Colorado and over time, we’ve kept in touch and we’ve both grown practices and both have had God put passions and dreams on our hearts that we’re pursuing. So I really enjoy her. She will also be hanging out at Killin’It Camp. So if you haven’t gone, please go check out the website for Practice of the Practice, look at Killin’It Camp, or just Google Killin’It Camp. That’s going to be an Estes Park in October. You can read more about it there, but yes, Dawn will be there. I’ll be there speaking. So it’ll be great. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to listen. I look forward to hearing about things that you’re praying for and things God’s doing in your practice. So shoot me an email. Would love to hear about it. And let’s go ahead and jump into the episode. We’re talking with Dawn Gabriel on engaging your spiritual journey as a therapist.
[WHITNEY] On the Faith in Practice podcast today, I have got my good friend, Dawn Gabriel. She is a repeat coming on the show, but she’s got some new things to share with us. So I’m super excited to have her. Dawn is the owner of Authentic Connections Counseling. It’s a private practice in Castle Rock, Colorado. She is a private practice consultant and the host of the Faith Fringes podcast. She is a licensed professional counselor, over 15 years experience, has worked in a variety of settings, such as college campuses and community mental health and private practice. She’s passionate about helping people achieve freedom from what’s keeping them stuck and specializes in creating space to look deeper into your spirituality and faith free from judgment and shame. Dawn loves having deep conversations over Chawan. She’s a hiking trail enthusiast, mom of two boys who love living in Colorado. Welcome to the show Dawn.
[DAWN GABRIEL] Thanks Whitney. I’m so excited to be here.
[WHITNEY] Glad to be talking with you. That’s always a pleasure of mine. So let’s kind of just dive in here because I’ve had you on the show before. So if people want to get more of your backstory. They can go back and watch that or listen to that. Watch it? I don’t know what I’m talking about. That was, I don’t know, in the first maybe episode 10 or something like that. So if y’all want to hear more from Dawn you can go back and hear about our practice journey. And we talked about making faith an important part of your practice in that episode and that was great. So now she’s kind of doing some other things around spirituality with counselors. So we’re going to talk today about how do you bring in the spiritual journey in the work that you do as a therapist personally, and in the way you run your business? So I’d love to just kind of start a conversation about that.
[DAWN] Yes. I think it’s so important. I feel like, especially now where we’re at in this world and our nation spirituality has really become important to people more than ever. People are really excited about talking about it because I think they’ve realized we can’t count on things we used to think we can count on and we really just need to have something deeper to ground ourselves on. So even people who didn’t believe in spirituality before I feel like are seeking it, but especially therapists, if that’s been part of their faith journey, I think are really seeking that out too.
[WHITNEY] Yes. And that’s been so evident through your podcast that you launched, what, about a month ago? When did the podcast launch?
[DAWN] A month ago and a few days, but nobody’s counting.
[WHITNEY] That’s right. And you had what, a hundred downloads pretty quickly, right?
[DAWN] Yes. I was shocked and humbled, but yes, it was awesome.
[WHITNEY] Yes. So I think that just speaks to what you’re talking about, such a need to have these conversations. People want to connect over faith, over their journey, over their pain. So actually, can you share a little bit about the podcast real quick so people understand what Faith Fringes is all about?
[DAWN] Sure. Thank you. That’s kind of you to say that yes. Faith Fringes, we really just focus on a place for people to explore more of their spirituality and their faith journey. We kind of want to leave out the judgment and the shame, which a lot of people associate more with religion. So I’m asking people to kind of step out of maybe past hurts and kind of look at how can I connect to God and maybe on a deeper level or a different level and let go of maybe past preconceived notions? So there’s been a lot of, unfortunately I’ve been hearing a lot of stories of religious trauma and spiritual abuse and just people realizing, but I still want to connect with God. So a lot of times we look at yes, people exploring that spirituality. We definitely go into stories. It’s a big part of the show, exploring how pain, hurt and doubt can actually lead us closer to God and then just authentic community, like having important conversations around things that really matter. And then the last I have to bring in how hiking trails are transformational and really spiritual to me. And I love hearing stories about that too.
[WHITNEY] Yes, definitely. And see, I was on one of your episodes in the first 10, I think. So for those of you that are listening, if you’re thinking about spirituality, which if you’re listening to this podcast, you should be, so you should head on over to Faith Fringes and listened to it. And then she did an interview with me about some pain that I’ve experienced in some of my life journey. So I think y’all would probably enjoy listening to that. She’s just got some other guests and great stuff, so really encourage people to listen to her podcasts. But I want to get started on how do we as therapists kind of explore our own spirituality and how does that impact our work?
[DAWN] This is one of my favorite topics. My team, I have nine therapists and a couple admin. So a lot of times in our team meetings, they have indicated they want to explore this. So it’s kind of been a growing thing the last two years, I would say of our six years. So we have been diving in as a team, but what I’ve noticed is, so depending on where you went to grad school, if you went to a Christian grad school or secular, that kind of changes when you’re in private practice, because the messages as well with any grad school, a lot of times is you can’t bring spirituality into a session. So it kind of makes you, I remember my journey when we worked at, or when I worked at a psych hospital, we had to be very careful bringing God up.

So it kind of dampened some of my exploration of my own stuff, because it was like, you can’t talk about this in session. You can’t bring this up. This is not okay. So I think, but I would disagree because I have worked with clients for 15 years now and I think people want to talk about it and it gets to the essence. Like, even if you go through all the coping skills, I know I’m talking about clients, I’ll get to the therapist in a minute, but when you go through all the coping skills and all the stuff, I still feel like there’s a piece of clients who they still need to go to a deeper level, and to me, that spirituality and more soul level stuff. So I had a mentor who used to say that sometimes psychology is more tending to the flesh, like just managing symptoms of the flesh and not really getting to the soul and not that and I kind of agree with that, but I think as believers who do have a connection with God, really integrating into how we view that as well and how we can dive in, as much as we dive into our own, I feel like we can bring that to clients too, but we have to do, it’s just like anything. You have to do your own work before you can take clients there. So that’s my intro to why we need to be working on it as therapists who have a faith.
[WHITNEY] Yes. I love how you said that about the psychology and the symptoms. I’ll be sitting with that a little bit. You know, I really love Irvin Yalom and have read some of his books, especially about existentialism. He would say that every client is coming in and talking about fear of death, like fear of death is a part of every session. So I also think that with that spirituality, I mean our ideas of death and where we go and what happens, relates to our soul work that we’re doing.
[DAWN] Absolutely. I totally agree. In fact I just went through a training last year, a spiritual direction training, and one of the main themes of that, and this was by Larry Crabb, who’s a famous author and spiritual director himself and a psychologist, e’s a clinical psychologist or was, I’m sorry. He just passed away like a couple months ago. But anyway, his teaching was that actually, we all are afraid of yes, the physical death, but we view life as little deaths and what we’re afraid of. But it’s not real death. Like we, for example, when you go through a huge wound or trauma, or just in life, we make a note to ourselves like this means death to me and I will never put myself in that situation again. We build walls and defense mechanisms. So he looks at it as like false stack kind of versus what is real death to us.

And as believers actually, real death would be separation from God, like eternity away from God. That’s real death. So when we’re on earth, we get mixed up with the temporal versus eternal. So realizing what has spoken death into your life that maybe you need to bring back to life really? So that’s actually where I went with my therapist. We did a team retreat last year too and we just sat around. We had a whole day retreat at my house and we sat around and I kind of was teaching this, like let’s go back and look what has spoken death to us that we need to work on and how can we connect more spiritually to God to feel that life, true life? So it was beautiful. Like everybody was crying.

I did not expect this Whitney. Like everybody was crying. Everybody wanted to talk. And I realized we need a place for therapists to engage in their own spiritual journey, connect on a deeper level because they’re sitting with people all day long. Like we are, we’re sitting with people all day long hearing stories of death or traumas, and it’s so hard. And how can we, sometimes we get overtaken by that as therapists. And if we’re not doing deep soul care work, we can get depression. We can get depressed and just feel so down and heavy if we’re not clearing some of this work.
[WHITNEY] Yes, you’re making me think of times where sitting with clients where you leave that heaviness is so hard to manage and figuring out how do you let go of that heaviness.
[DAWN] Yes, absolutely.
[WHITNEY] Well, good. Well, I’d love to hear how can therapists do this on their own? Like how do you find your spirituality? How do you find your healing? What kind of recommendations would you have for people listening?
[DAWN] Yes, I think first of all, like just allowing yourself some space to explore it. I know part of my podcasts, we talk a lot about, have you really looked at your faith or your religion and kind of separating out your relationship with God from maybe the religion you’ve been brought up in or the, for me it was conservative, evangelical Christian, and there was a lot of to-do lists that maybe didn’t match the Bible. So I think really knowing your own faith and really owning it as your own. If you’ve never done that, I would say I would start there and really connecting with God and asking him, like, how do you view me? How do you view the world and like, where are we, not, what does this community think of me? And what does this community say I should be doing? Just really getting personal on your own relationship to God and who he means to you.
[WHITNEY] Yes. I mean, those that have been listening to the podcast know that I’m a therapist, but also I am a pastor’s wife? So I totally fill that dilemma. Like I’ve done some of my own work, but I so easily step back into that place of, oh, I have to be this type of person or I can’t share with people my struggles, my doubts, because I’m supposed to be a leader. And just, I have to be really intentional all the time. Like, no, be authentic, be authentic because I can so easily go right back to that place of walls up, not being vulnerable. So sometimes I just force myself to be vulnerable as awful as it feels because if I don’t, I’m going to go right back to my place with walls.
[DAWN] Yes. And I feel like you have a double whammy because I feel like as therapists, you have to have this level of, oh, I’m supposed to have it all together with my emotions and then a pastor’s wife on top of it, Whitney, I don’t know how you do it.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Somebody told me one time, I’m going to have some messed up kids.
[DAWN] I feel like that’s how I feel about mine too.
[WHITNEY] They seem to be doing okay. So I’m okay.
[DAWN] Yes, but it’s true. I think we all, I think with therapists, especially, I think we get so tired. Sometimes we just know how to sound like we’re vulnerable in deep, but it’s still a fake level, if that makes sense. And we still have to go, sometimes we need to have people in our lives who can go to an even deeper level with us. So that would be my second thing is after you’re exploring your own spirituality and your faith journey really, and is having friends at least one or two who can get even deeper in, in that authentic, vulnerable, because you can’t be vulnerable with everyone on a certain level. So yes, if you can have one or two friends who will ask the harder questions, like, what do you think God’s saying to you in this, even though it’s hard? And not as like a, I hate when people throw a Bible verse out because they don’t know what to say, just to make you feel better. I’m not talking about that, but really saying like, I know you value your relationship with God and where do you think He’s showing up in this or where is He not showing up in this and people to just really ask those questions for you.
[WHITNEY] Yes. That’s so good. And I don’t know if you hear this from therapists, but boy, it is so hard to find people to be vulnerable with. Like as soon as I start sharing anything, they immediately share their problems because you’re the counselor. They want to tell you things and you have to listen. I mean, I literally have had to call people and before the conversation starts I have to just blurt out, “Don’t talk. I have to talk. I have to tell you something before you start talking.”
[DAWN] Yes. It’s so true. Like, I need you to let me do this.
[WHITNEY] Because then we just go back to that place and then we let go. We are like, now what I had to say wasn’t important when really it was so important. And if I don’t become intentional about it, I’ll just go right back there and not be vulnerable. And as I’m kind of hearing you say that I’m thinking about my own spiritual journey and I’m like, “Okay, this is good. Who do I need to open up with?” And honestly, my therapist is a big part of that. Like our therapy doesn’t, we all know this is therapy. You don’t have to have some crazy wild thing happen in your life to have a therapist. But I love it because my therapist provides me spiritual direction and can really ask me those questions and be intentional when I don’t have another hour of time where I do that with somebody.
[DAWN] It’s so true. You’re like, I will smack down money so you will just listen to me for an hour. I need this so bad.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Most definitely. So that’s such good advice. Do you have any recommendations for people? Like how do you find those people to be vulnerable with? And like, for them to be at a deep level where we are, because we’ve done so much work as therapists, it’s so hard to find people that are that insightful. You get it?
[DAWN] Yes. Whitney, this has been my life the last 10 years here in Colorado, especially because, well, I’d find myself, I’m drawn to other therapists. Because you can get deep and you don’t have to counsel them. That’s the other thing. If you’re at, sometimes you’re in groups, you do go into, “Oh, that must be so sad. How does that make you feel? What do you think that means?” And you just don’t want to play that role. So honestly, this, my friends make fun of me. I have this small group of five women and it took, I like prayed about it for like over a year, but I literally put out like a manifesto saying, I’m looking for a group of women. I want to go deeper spiritually. I don’t want it to be fake. I want it to be vulnerable. I don’t want drama and I don’t want to be the therapist. So I want people who can challenge me as well. Are you up for it?

They totally make fun of me now, but they appreciated it. And I was like, I am so sick of getting into groups. Like I’d be leading groups at my church or something and I would have all these women join but then I realized, oh my gosh, it’s because I’m a therapist they joined. And I was exhausted and I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I feel bad in case they’re listening, but really I was drained and I’m like, I need equal relationships. So I think you have to be intentional and ask for it. And yes, so that’s what I’ve done and to the point where it, last year was hard because the COVID, we didn’t meet, but just recently a couple of us went out to dinner and I’m like, we were like, it’s time to start up again, meeting. And I said, I want to do this new spiritual direction stuff. I don’t want to do a book study. I think we should do spiritual direction. One of them said, but will you feel like you have to lead it because we haven’t studied spiritual direction and we know that’s really important to you? Which I really appreciated [crosstalk]. And they like pulled up the email. So that, I don’t know. I hope that you just have to be super intentional and ask for what you need.
[WHITNEY] And the importance of prayer, I mean, you prayed and prayed that God would direct you to these people. And there’s something to be said for that.
[DAWN] Yes. And you know what, Whitney, I was thinking about this yesterday, maybe in preparation for our talk, but I realized I’m like, why didn’t I have that before? And I had went through a time of grief because my mom had passed away. It actually was the same year you moved to Tennessee, a couple of my other good friends moved away, and not Tennessee, sorry. One of my friends moved to Tennessee, you moved to Georgia, another one moved to North Carolina and then another one moved to Oregon. Like I had four close friends move and my mom died and I went into like a hole for a year, at least, or two. And I realized I went back to my old ways of just lead, just lead a Bible study. but I still remained fake. Like I had to be this person and I wasn’t able to grieve and just be, and probably be taken care of in that year.

And I just led all these stuff, which is totally Enneagram three, by the way, shout out to Enneagram number three. But then I realized I felt some more depression lingering past grief, and I’m like, I need a community where I can be real. So that’s when I was like, I have to change. So I went through a period of desert, I would say first and then like, I can’t live like this and I believe in authentic community. So I had to go after it and be real with myself. Like you’re keeping these walls up. There’s part of you that needs to deal with this.
[WHITNEY] Yes, and when we look back on our lives like that, we see that so much of the pain, the difficulty we go through, God uses that to birth something great. Like I think about your podcast and the work you’re doing with therapists. If you hadn’t done that, work yourself, you wouldn’t be doing this great calling and really making a huge difference in people’s lives. So yes.
[DAWN] Thank you. Yes.
[WHITNEY] What other recommendations do you have for therapists?
[DAWN] I think one of the things is, I think we’re afraid sometimes, especially in our clinical training, is we’re afraid to have the holy spirit enter into the session. And I feel like we need, and for me, I don’t know about you Whitney, but growing up and even in grad school, we didn’t talk a lot about the holy spirit. It was a lot of, at least I didn’t, it was a lot of cerebral. Like, I have a theology degree. I had a lot of cerebral, like intellectual awareness of God and Jesus and the Trinity, but I don’t remember sitting and experiencing the Holy Spirit a lot. And I’m not talking, I mean, it depends on where you’re at, religion and denomination. I’m not talking about just speaking in tongues or something like that. I’m talking about like, just really sitting and experiencing God in your life, like with the five senses, which is what I call more spiritual direction or more. Yes, there’s a bunch of ways you can do that. So I think what the Holy Spirit, like really being aware of how you can experience God in different ways. Whether you believe in the Trinity or not there, I think there’s an experiential way to connect with God that I wasn’t taught growing up. And I feel like as a therapist, you can do that and then you can also bring it into session, but you have to do the work first.
[WHITNEY] Yes. You know, this was a big part of my program.
[DAWN] Was it, really?
[WHITNEY] Yes. Or maybe I was just ready to talk about it. I don’t know, but yes, I went to a program, Richmont shout out. It was an integrated program where we took all the clinical courses, but we also took some theological courses alongside those. So that was really cool. Like we took a class on theodicy, like why bad things happen to good people. Love it. Of course, we never figured out the answer.
[DAWN] There’s a few books on it and I don’t know if they figured out the answer either.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Actually are you familiar with David Benner?
[DAWN] Yes, I forget —
[WHITNEY] Yes. So he, you were talking about Larry Crabb earlier, he was a professor at my graduate school. I never took his class. It only popped up every other year and just the way it went, I never got to take it, which was really unfortunate, but some of my friends, wonderful. But David Benner also did some adjunct at my school and gosh, one of his classes was about spiritual direction and we read all, he has like a three-part book series, like the gift of being yourself. I can’t remember all of them right now. You’re familiar. We read those books and we went on a retreat and that was the class.
[DAWN] Oh, I love it.
[WHITNEY] Oh and his wife came and she does art therapy and so she actually put up the picture of Rembrandt’s the prodigal son and we all looked at it for an hour. I just sat there and looked at it and then we wrote about it and he would give us some things to go sit. I remember sitting by a river and just focusing on a Bible passage and it was just beautiful. And I remember going back to hiking, I could have talked about this on your podcast. We were hiking, I sat beside a river and we were walking in a line as a class, so humorous and I just was like, oh, I don’t have to work for my faith. I can just walk. I can just be me. And it was whew. It was really powerful. So when I started grad school, my idea was, oh, I’m going to save everybody for Jesus. I’m going to get everybody, they’re going to come in and we’ll tell them about Christ. They’re going to say the salvation prayer and counseling. And then, yes, I got my act together while I was in grad school and really changed the way I was thinking about things.

But I also, David Benner, one of the things he said to me was he had had a client come in and the client was not faith-based. And the client said to him, “I do not want you praying for me. Don’t you do any of that stuff. Even when we’re not in session, I don’t want you praying for me.” And he was like, “Well, I do whatever I wanted outside of session.” So that really inspired me the idea of like, we pray for our clients, even when, like we bring the Holy Spirit to their lives, regardless if they want it or not. And then it’s amazing and you can probably tell so many stories too, where we sit with clients, something comes to our head. We’ve been praying for them and some passage or some song or whatever it is and then you feel really embarrassed and awkward and you’re like, “I was thinking about you the other day and this came to mind,” and they’re like crying? “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what the gods said to me the other day where I’m…” And it’s just beautiful. So when we just make that space for the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t have to be all intense. It can just be, you sit down and invite the Holy Spirit. He lives inside of us. So you really don’t even have to invite Him. He’s already there.
[DAWN] Yes. I mean, I love that. I’ve talked with my team about that saying like we are made in God’s image. So we do, we have the Holy Spirit, whether we are in touch with it or not. And I mean, what better way to show love? And like, that’s one of the callings. They will know we are believers by our love. And what ways to show love by creating this sacred space for our clients to be safe, non-judgmental, compassionate. And we’re sitting there offering this love that is still showing them God, that’s still showing them that huge, sacred. I don’t know. I just love it because even if we never say anything about God, they’re still experiencing who we are in the spirit.
[WHITNEY] Yes. So when I was in my last semester of graduate school, or my last year, I took a psychodynamic course and my whole senior paper was about how just the relational component with God and how we were created as relational beings and He’s always in communication and always in relationship. And it’s when we’re authentic that we show Him to people and when we experience His love and how like that acceptance is part of the psychodynamic therapy we do with our clients. And it was the best paper I ever wrote. My teacher actually, I’m just going to brag, he saved it so they could show other people. He was the president of the school, Enneagram type one out there. But that is totally the way I think of therapy. It’s just being Christ to our clients, accepting them, loving them, whatever it is, being with them in their junk and how healing that can be for them.
[DAWN] Yes. And if you’re not comfortable with that yourself, if you haven’t really figured out for yourself, it’s going to be hard to do with your clients. So I think just allowing space for you to be comfortable with God and how He interacts every day that I think that’s important.
[WHITNEY] Yes. And I was talking to someone the other day about triggers. I wish I could remember who I was talking to. But anyway, the person had said, when we have triggers, that’s when we’re reminded of the things God wants to work on in our lives.
[DAWN] Oh my gosh. Huge.
[WHITNEY] Yes. And I think about people I know, or clients I’m working with where I get triggered in session and you have to hold it together and care for them. But then later I’m like, I’m going to talk to my therapist about this. You know, I’m going to have to do some journaling about this and the importance of God’s kindness.
[DAWN] Yes, yes. Showing up of, hey, I still want to work on this and set you free.
[WHITNEY] Yes, definitely. Well, Dawn let’s say somebody’s listening to this podcast right now and they’re like, this is my jam. I really want to work on my soul, my spiritual growth. How can they get in touch with you? What kind of things can they do with you as far as getting their faith and all that good soul care stuff
[DAWN] So you can listen to my podcast, Faith Fringes. It’s on just about anything right now, but Apple. If you want to listen to Apple Podcasts and review it, that’d be great. Rate and review. But I actually offer an email course through my website and podcast. So you could just go to faithfringes.com. My email course, it sounds intense, but it’s really just one email, one short email a week for eight weeks, and then you have a journaling workbook that is fillable online, or you can print it out and journal on it, but it’s kind of an experiential like spiritual journey. It helps you examine your past faith journey, your current, and it also does some experiential spiritual experiences. I would just recommend that because that kind of jumpstarts you into what a lot of stuff we’ve been talking about.
[WHITNEY] That’s so great. I’ve been sitting here thinking about just the stuff you’re sharing. You’ve got a good book on your hands.
[DAWN] What do you mean? Oh, you mean from my podcasting? Wow.
[WHITNEY] No, just in general, like the idea of eventually writing a book about the sole care of the therapist, I think it would be a beautiful thing and it’s something that’s, you’re like writing it down. It’s so needed. And I mean, I will just say to you, and I’ve said this, but, and I’m going to say it on the podcast, when I hear your podcast, you are just in your element. Like I’ve known you for a long time, but when I hear you on the podcast, I’m like, that is her life right there. Like, that is it. You know what I mean? Like, you’re good at lots of things, but I just, you come alive in a different kind of way and I contribute that to God and the calling on your life.
[DAWN] Wow. Whitney, thank you. That means a lot to me. I think, I didn’t know that it showed, I didn’t know how much the podcast was going to make me come alive until I did it. And it was terrifying. Those first five episodes were terrifying because it really is my life and my ideas about life and the five pillars are kind of like how I do life. So anyway, it was, but I love it. And my goal, not my goal, but my desire, my dream, I hope is to actually run spiritual retreats. I feel like I come alive around groups of people talking about this stuff. So not just the podcast. I’d love to offer retreats and offer space for therapists to just kind of walk through this together.
[WHITNEY] Yes. So good. Well, you’ll get there, I definitely think. And I’m excited to share you with so many people listening to the show today and so they can follow you and get to know you. So I appreciate you coming on the show today.
[DAWN] Thank you so much. I appreciate being on it.
[WHITNEY] Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also there, you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and in group consulting, or just shoot me an email, [email protected] Would love to hear from you.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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