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Dealing with spiritual struggles in Vail Valley

Rev. Randy J. Simmonds
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Although some mental health professionals have viewed spirituality more as a cause of problems than as a source of solutions, the reality is that many people in Colorado’s Vail Valley look to their own spirituality for support and guidance during times of stress and crisis.

There are numerous studies documenting that many people turn to religious and spiritual sources for coping, not only in times of extreme stress, but also for strength and support in daily life experiences.

As a therapist, I know it is important to explore all elements of a client’s history that affect his or her life’s perspectives and experiences. For example, I would not even consider ignoring a substance abuse problem in a client’s life. I would never dismiss experiences of trauma or grief or loss in a client’s life when working with that client in making choices for health and wholeness.



Just so, as a therapist, why would I possibly ignore spiritual issues as an important element in a client’s life that might be providing positive or negative influences?

In almost 30 years as a therapist, I can report that I have dealt with all kinds of religious and spiritual issues with clients. It’s important to note here that I’m not talking about just the traditional issues of going to church or not, or committing to a particular denomination or not. I’m talking about folks who initially report they are not religious or spiritual at all, and perhaps have never even darkened the door of a church.

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I’m talking about folks who have experienced deep hurt or loss in life and are asking questions about why this hurt or loss happened or about how to make meaning out of the experience.

I believe when people ask questions about surviving the deepest places of human hurt are struggling to make sense of the tragedies they’ve experienced, or are attempting to decide how they are going to keep on living in the face of almost unbearable pain.

I believe that part of that journey involves exploring the spiritual dimensions of life as that particular client understands it.



Kenneth Pargament, in his book “Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy,” writes that many therapists remain uncomfortable about the topic of spirituality. They’re “unsure about how to deal with spiritual issues, or fearful of intruding in areas too private even for psychotherapy. As a result, they do their best to avoid the spiritual domain. Of course, this may be about as easy as avoiding a conversation about the 3,000-pound elephant in the therapy room. Even if it goes without mentioning, the proverbial elephant has a way of making its presence known.” (Pargament, p. 14)

Let me get practical about what I’m suggesting. Think about the following list of questions. Do you find any spiritual implications or wonder in these questions?

– From what sources do you draw the strength and courage to go on?

– Where do you find peace?

– Who truly understands your situation?

– When you are afraid or in pain, how do you find comfort and solace?

– For what are you deeply grateful?

– What sustains you in the midst of your troubles?

– Who is your true self?

– When in your life have you experienced forgiveness?

The pursuit of the spiritual in life can certainly take very a traditional path, using the familiar experiences of church and religious traditions as a way of exploring the deepest meanings of life. But it can also take a path of searching and seeking for answers to life’s experiences, even for folks who have never been a part of a traditional religious community. It is none the less a spiritual journey.

I have found it to be a great honor and privilege to be invited into these kinds of sacred places with my clients. It is indeed “holy ground” to walk these places of darkness and light with another human being. These are not usually easy journeys, but often involve a great deal of uncertainty and difficulty. I know that many have deep spiritual questions, and find themselves alone and isolated in their struggles.

The Samaritan Counseling Center is offering a six-week workshop to provide a place and opportunity to explore these kinds of questions. The workshop, “Dealing with Spiritual Struggles,” will be held at The Samaritan Counseling Center in Edwards starting in February.

If you’d like more information about this workshop, contact Dr. Randy Simmonds or Elizabeth Myers at the Samaritan Counseling Center at 970-926-8558, or emyers@samaritan-vail.org.

Rev. Randy J. Simmonds, Ph.D., L.P.C. is an ordained minister, clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and has been a therapist for 29 years. He serves as the clinical director of the Samaritan Counseling Center in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-8558.

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