Breakout Session: Katrina Burgos
A Presentation of Research Findings on the Experience of Spiritual Resistance and Considerations for Clinical Application
As human service professionals drawn to work with individuals on the path of spiritual emergence, we are entrusted with the responsibility of establishing a standard of care that is respectful of the delicate nature of the Divine process while responsive to the unique human needs that arise in conjunction with the shifts taking place. Given the unique variables and qualities of each person’s process and the broad range of spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) with which our clients present, it is invaluable that we seek to contextualize and validate such experiences while maintaining sufficient space for the individual processes to unfold. Though we often focus on the dramatic transformations that occur when discussing STEs, the processes by which people come through such transformative events may be in nonlinear, even seemingly stunted ways.
Based on interviews with 18 participants in my dissertation research, I would like to draw attention to the experience of spiritual resistance and its apparent role in the process of spiritual development. Defined as the result of a convergence of individual and cultural factors that contribute to conscious and unconscious withdrawal from or avoidance of the process of spiritual emergence, findings indicate that spiritual resistance can take various forms. Reported examples of spiritual resistance range from challenges around maintaining a spiritual practice, to busying oneself with distracting activities and relationships, to suppressing one’s own spiritual agency and personal power. The resistance to the process of spiritual emergence, motivated primarily by culture and fear, according to my findings, appears to be part of the process itself.
In this talk I will share some moving excerpts from my interviewees to help illustrate the emotionally nuanced personal experiences of spiritual resistance. Through a presentation of the research findings and considerations for clinical applications, I hope to stimulate exploratory dialogue as to how we as helping professionals might ethically serve our clients by bringing to light the protective functions of spiritual resistance, while gently holding space for the clients’ natural process of spiritual emergence.
Katrina Burgos, LCSW, ACMHP is a PhD candidate at Sofia University and a licensed clinical social worker with a private psychotherapy practice in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area. Her own ineffable experiences have informed her desire to research the phenomenon and support those in the integration process as we collectively catalyze development our highest potential.
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