The Spirit of Psychotherapy: A Hidden Dimension

Author(s) : Jeremy Holmes

The Spirit of Psychotherapy: A Hidden Dimension

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : July 2024
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 174
  • Category :
    Individual Psychotherapy
  • Catalogue No : 97035
  • ISBN 13 : 9781913494803
  • ISBN 10 : 9781913494
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In this highly personal yet empirically informed work, psychiatrist and psychotherapist Jeremy Holmes examines the parallels, contrasts, and overlaps between the secular world of psychotherapy and the realm of spirituality. Invoking the inescapability of radical uncertainty, and drawing on contemporary neuroscience, attachment theory, and psychoanalysis, The Spirit of Psychotherapy argues that psychotherapy occupies a cultural space either vacated by or adjacent to the spectrum of religions.

While the prime focus of psychotherapeutic theory and practice is intra- and interpersonal, these are nested in an often unexamined supra-personal sociological, ecological, and spiritual context. Based on in-depth interviews with people from a wide range of faith backgrounds, Jeremy Holmes highlights the role belief and spirituality play in everyday lives. He identifies core common themes of attachment and hope; frameworks of meaning; and the everyday praxis of rhythm and ritual. He also draws on classic literature, using Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The book concludes with a moving account of Holmes’ own practice as a psychotherapist.

The Spirit of Psychotherapy is a must-read for psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, and mental health professionals to understand the importance of faith within the largely secular world of psychotherapy.

Reviews and Endorsements

This is a brilliant and wide-ranging meditation on psychotherapy and spiritual practice. Leading us on a journey from neuroscience to Winnicott to Jane Eyre to the Buddha, Jeremy Holmes outlines the profound ways both psychotherapy and religion allow us to create spaces full of safety, meaning, and connection, and combat the radical uncertainty that is part of everyday life.
Arietta Slade, PhD, Yale Child Study Center

In his new book, The Spirit of Psychotherapy, Professor Jeremy Holmes asks whether the spirit of psychoanalytic psychotherapy can flourish in the twenty-first century. He has no doubt that the answer is yes, and he brings to bear evidence from neuroscience as well as different forms of evidence-based therapies to make his case. But the most powerful and beautiful aspect of this book is his argument that the psychotherapeutic space can also be seen as a spiritual, even sacred space, where human issues can be explored in a relationship of trust in the midst of uncertainty. Holmes argues that the relational and transitional space of the therapeutic encounter is essential as a counter to the industrialised approach to mental suffering that is currently on offer in the NHS. There is much to admire about this book: the quality of the writing, the careful balance of the argument, and the richness of the clinical vignettes. This book is an essential read for anyone who wants to practise therapy, or who plans to be in therapy, or is just seriously interested in what makes the human life meaningful and connected.
Gwen Adshead, consultant forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist, NHS

Jeremy Holmes has provided a masterful account of psychotherapy for a disenchanted age in which people suffer from a loss of meaning and a hunger for spirituality. Writing as an “agnostic atheist” he avoids the potential pitfalls of theological language but neither does he alienate the religious reader. He shows how psychotherapy can provide a transitional space within which people’s spiritual needs can be addressed in a compassionate, relational, and meaningful way. This deeply reflective book is a must-read for psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and all who are concerned to address the spiritual malaise of Western society.
Chris Cook, past chair, Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group, Royal College of Psychiatrists; emeritus professor of spirituality, theology and health, Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University

Jeremy Holmes’ new book is a work of immense maturity and great depth melded with his wide-ranging fascination with not only attachment and brain science, but also the really important issues in life. Eminently pragmatic and scientifically informed, he also has a huge heart and a deep spiritual sense and this all comes together beautifully in a book which suggests what is needed to do good psychotherapy, and why we so need this at the moment. Many will breathe a deep sigh of relief on reading this book.
Dr Graham Music, author and consultant psychotherapist, Tavistock Centre

Drawing on the findings of both neuroscience and psychoanalysis, in The Spirit of Psychotherapy: A Hidden Dimension Jeremy Holmes addresses the relevance of the stance of good psychoanalytic therapy both to our understanding of religions and to the major threats we currently face of ecological catastrophe and authoritarian populism. For Holmes, relationality and interconnectedness are bedrock, and community is intrinsic to “spirituality”. From a personal position of agnostic atheism, he recognises that religions have hitherto been the main custodians of this crucial truth; much of humanity’s current predicament springs from the loss of it. This is a wide-ranging, urgent, and very thoughtful book. It deserves to be widely read.
David M. Black, fellow, British Psychoanalytical Society, author of Religion and Ethics: The Necessity of Perspective

Agnostically atheistic, Jeremy Holmes envisions secular spirituality not as adjunctive to psychotherapy but rather intrinsic to therapeutic relationships. He welcomes religious experience without being limited to it. The radical uncertainty inherent in life frames Holmes’ view of spirituality: We use the security of our human connections creatively to embrace and temper uncertainty by developing purpose, meaning, and hope. Holmes’ compassion, wisdom, and spirit serves not only his patients but also the readers of this fine book – a gift to us all.
Jon G. Allen, PhD, clinical professor, voluntary faculty, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; author of Trusting in Psychotherapy

Table of Contents

About the author

1. Questions, questions
2. Starting points: summary of the book’s main arguments
3. The difficulty of definitions
4. Psychotherapy’s location in contemporary culture
5. Spirituality as psychotherapy
6. Jane Eyre as psychotherapist: torn between principle and desire
7. Mentalizing and spirituality
8. Tolstoy and secular spirituality
9. Spiritualised psychotherapy
10. Coda and credo


About the Author(s)

Professor Jeremy Holmes, MD FRCPsych, was for twenty-five years an NHS Consultant Psychiatrist in London and North Devon. Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter, he co-founded the Exeter masters, now doctoral, programme in psychoanalytic studies, and the psychodynamic professional qualification course. Author or co-author of over twenty books and 250 papers, he lectures nationally and internationally. Now largely retired, he maintains a part-time private psychotherapy practice alongside grandparenting, allotment gardening, and Green politics.

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