This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007



Furthering integration between Eastern spirituality and Western psychotherapy

Niti Dhingra


There exists a huge gap between spirituality and psychotherapy, in academic psychology. Though some authors recently have tried to bridge the gap, yet the two fields are still far from mutually benefiting or even co-existing with each other. It is ironical, especially because the beginning of conceptualization of therapy began from the priest who neutrally heard the confessions of people and the healing process would begin. If the genesis of therapy was intertwined with spirituality then why today, the two fields exist separately?

Mutual hatred and skepticism have kept scientists and spiritualists far away and many of us, must struggle and live the split created between ‘science’ and ‘spirituality’ within dominant academic discourse leading to inner chaos caused by collision of perspectives. Various theoretical problems, practical considerations, personal unconscious largely ignorant about each other’s work. Endeavours aimed at a total annihilation of the other perspective do more harm than good and therefore ought to be curbed. Hence, the resistance put up by fanatical proponents on both sides should be minimized. Only a discipline that is guided by curiosity, and openness and that is liberated from hierarchy, pejorative vocabulary, animosity can have a space for all-- brain, mind and higher consciousness and help us bridge the existing split between science and spirituality.

Spirituality cannot replace psychotherapy and vice versa and hence the paper contests the notion of one reality or one coherent theory to understand human complexities. However, an effort can be made to look at the underlying similarities and differences in the processes through which psychotherapy and meditation lead to healing and personal growth and how they can begin to have a dialogue. However, the attempt is not to replace one by another or compare the two.

Spiritualists and therapists have been caught up in a never-ending war against each other for asserting the supremacy of their perspectives. Some psychoanalytic thinkers in recent times though have been empathic and more receptive to spirituality (Kakar, 1991; Sarin, 2002; Vahali, 2002; Sharma, 2004 etc.), though there still continues to be a large gap outside and a void inside.

Email the author, Ms. Niti Dhingra, at