By The Rev. N. Graham Standish, PhD, MSW, MDiv, MA
A lot of counseling centers talk about caring for people spirit, mind, and body. What does that mean, and how do they do this? It is something that’s deeply part of Samaritan’s vision.
There’s a reason I became executive director of Samaritan. For over 25 years I recognized Samaritan as a leader in offering counseling that includes the spirit—that isn’t just about psychological health, but also about spiritual health.
As executive director part of my drive is constantly asking how we can do better in the integration of spirit, mind, and body. As a counseling center it’s hard to address the body part fully, but it’s still part of what we do. We make sure that our clients seek psychiatric care (a psychiatrist is a medical doctor trained in the connection between brain chemistry, hormones, physicality and mental health), as well as medical care from their primary care physician, when it’s clear something physical is impacting their mental health. We also make sure that we don’t just psychologize problems, but take into account how diet, sleep, exercise, and more impact it.
Where we excel is in integrating the spiritual into our practice. Our therapists are trained in understanding spiritual issues that arise in therapy. But we don’t just apply a bland form of spirituality. We take into account our clients’ backgrounds and faith traditions. We don’t treat all the same. We treat them as they are, with whatever religious or even non-religious background they bring.
Over the past number of years we’ve endeavored to do even better integrating the spiritual and psychological. I’m a trained spiritual director, so I am part of this effort. Over past year we’ve taken even more steps.
In 2022, we hired a new life coach, Rachel Fagan, to help people who may not need therapy, but who do need guidance on how to cultivate a healthier life and develop skills that help them to flourish. Rachel has been a tremendous addition to our work, working with clients throughout Western Pennsylvania, while also serving as a resource for our therapists. What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? Therapy helps clients function better. Coaching helps them to flourish. As a master certified life coach, Rachel empowers people to uncover their strengths and use them to grow to live happier, more meaningful, and fuller lives.
In 2023 we’ve also added a new spiritual director, Dr. Amy Armanious. Amy was trained in a two-year spiritual direction program at the Pneuma Institute. Through her training, professional, and personal life she’s developed extensive experience working with Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches. Amy has Doctor in Nursing Practice and served as a registered nurse for 35 years in a variety of hospital specialties, home health nursing, hospice care, and parish nursing in a church. She became a spiritual director to help people grow in areas often neglected.
So what is spiritual direction? It’s a discipline that helps people become more aware spiritually of how God, the Holy, the Divine is acting in our lives to bring healing and health, and how we can become more spiritually open in ways that leads us to become healthier.
The key in all of this is that while many places talk about being spirit, mind, and body focused, we’re actively working to be a counseling center that deeply integrates all of these areas so that we can bring healing, mentally, spiritually, and physically.
The Rev. N. Graham Standish, PhD, MSW, MDiv, MA