116: Spirituality and Psychotherapy: Contradictory or Complementary?

Fabrice and David interview Mike Christensen, a prominent Canadian TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer, on the overlap, or conflict, between psychotherapy and religious beliefs.

Hi everybody!

Many listeners have sent us emails with questions about the connections between TEAM-CBT and their religious beliefs. Is there an inherent conflict? Or a synergistic compatibility?

I couldn’t think of a more eminently qualified colleague to help address those questions than my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Mike Christensen. Mike is a prominent Canadian TEAM-CBT therapist and trainer. Mike served as a Christian minister before his discovery of TEAM-CBT, which affected him in a profound way, on a personal, spiritual and professional level as well.

This dynamic interview covers the integration of TEAM-CBT with Christianity as well as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, the Muslim faith, and more. Mike, Fabrice and I describe many areas of overlap, as well as some potential conflicts, between the teachings and methods of TEAM-CBT and religious beliefs. Mike and I suggest that religion and TEAM-CBT are, in fact, attempting to do the exact same things using slightly different language and symbolism. We strongly agree that at the moment of recovery, a person’s religious beliefs are nearly always strengthened and deepened, and never challenged or belittled.

Mike, Fabrice and I also discuss topics like religious scrupulosity, religious obsessions, cognitive distortions (John 8:32: “The truth will set you free”), and the so-called “dark night of the soul” described by Christian and Buddhist mystics. We also talk about the spiritual and psychological aspects of enlightenment (e.g. salvation), Should Statements, the Disarming Technique, forgiveness, repentance, the death of the ego, pride vs. humility, and more.

If you have an interest in religious or philosophical topics, you will love this podcast! You might also enjoy the podcasts with Marilyn on what to do when you’ve lost your belief in God and find yourself in darkness and intense suffering!

Mike Christensen treats individuals throughout Canada via teletherapy and also offers online training for mental health professionals throughout the world. If you have a question for Mike, or wish to contact him, you can find him at www.FeelingGoodInstitute.com. Here’s his link for treatment, and here’s his link for online training.

Additional Resources

CBT and Christianity: Strategies and Resources for Reconciling Faith in Therapy.
by Michael L. Free

Dr. Fabrice Nye currently practices in Redwood City, California and treats individuals throughout the world via teletherapy. You can reach him at fabrice@life.net.

You can reach Dr. Burns at David@feelinggood.com.



Dr. Fabrice Nye currently practices in Redwood City, California and works with individuals throughout the world via teletherapy (although not across U.S. state lines). You can reach him at fabrice@life.net. You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.

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Upcoming Workshop Schedule

The following schedule will evolve as I add new workshops or update details. Check back here at times to stay informed.


Powerful, Fast-Acting, Drug-Free Techniques 
to Defeat Anxiety & Worry

a 2-day workshop by David D. Burns, MD

November 29 and 30, 2018: San Francisco, CA
(in person only)


December 3 and 4, 2018: Portland, Oregon
(in person and live streaming)

PESI is proud to offer an exciting workshop by David Burns, M.D., a pioneer in the development of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Achieve rapid and lasting recovery with all your anxious clients, just as Dr. Burns has done in over 35,000 therapy sessions with severely troubled clients. Become skilled at treating every type of anxiety without drugs.

In this unique 2-day certificate course you’ll master more than 20 treatment techniques to help your clients eliminate the symptoms of anxiety quickly – even your most challenging, resistant clients.

Dr. Burns will illustrate concrete strategies that provide rapid, complete recovery and lasting change for your patients. You’ll learn…

  • How to integrate four powerful treatment models to eliminate symptoms.
  • How to enhance your client’s engagement in therapy.
  • How to develop a treatment plan that specifically targets each client’s unique problems and needs.
  • …and so much more!

David will provide you with guided instruction and share powerful video sessions that capture the actual moment of recovery. You will take away practical strategies to use immediately with any anxious client. Leave this certificate course armed with tools you can use in your very next session!

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of America’s most highly acclaimed teachers!

Sponsored by PESI

To register, or for more information, call: 800-844-8260

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Brief Therapy Conference, December 6 – 9, Burlingame, California

Sponsored by the Milton Erikson Foundation

I will be giving a Keynote Address on

Overcoming Therapeutic Resistance

on Sunday, December 9, 2018, from  2:30 – 3:30 PM

plus a two-hour workshop on Friday, December 7, 2018 from 10:45 AM – 12:45, with Dr. Jill Levitt on

Healing Yourself: A Live Demonstration of TEAM-CBT

plus two other presentations at this fantastic event.

I’ll also be doing a “Great Conversations” dialogue with Dr. Jeffrey Zeig on the treatment of addictions and the incredibly important concept of non-linear recovery.


8 thoughts on “116: Spirituality and Psychotherapy: Contradictory or Complementary?

  1. Thanks so much for this podcast! I was very encouraged by it! I’ve been thinking for some time that much of what you’ve taught in Feeling Good is very applicable to faith, spirituality, and religion.

    As I was listening to the podcast, I was struck by the question concerning the “should” of honoring one’s father and mother when there is anger toward one or both of the parents. From my vantage point, I believe one can be angry with another person and still honor that person. We honor people by treating them with respect and care. If someone has harmed me in some way, I can still respect or honor that person in various ways. One would be to talk through my feelings with that person without bringing condemnation upon them. Another way to show honor and respect would be to recognize from that person’s point of view, what he or she did may not be unfair or unjust. He or she simply acted in a way consistent with what was (in his or her way of thinking) right and good at the time. Another possibility for how to respect another person is to think about whether the expectations I am placing on that person are realistic or not. I would honor a person greatly if I did not place unrealistic expectations upon him or her.

    All of that to say, I don’t think being angry with a parent is necessarily a violation of “honor your father and mother.“ we can learn how to deal with our anger respectfully, and that, in and of itself, is a way to honor those we feel slighted by.

    Hope that’s helpful to someone.

    • Hi Stuart. Beautifully stated and I totally agree. In fact, if you hide your anger, as so many do, it is really hostile in my opinion, and not at all respectful. But as you point out, you can share your anger or attack with your anger. Sadly, many humans beings, perhaps most, seem to prefer “attack.” David

    • Ditto Stuart. Feelings are not actions and thus not something we are directly responsible for. They just are.

      I loved Fabrice take on should statements. Somethings, like laws of the universe, just are, and if you violate them there are natural results/consequences. My personal belief is morality is in that same category. That’s why your (Dr. Burns) 5 Secrets of Communication are so powerful because they incorporate certain “laws” “principles” “nature” of relationships. I see science everywhere! LOL.

  2. Hi David, I was about to say something similar to what Stuart wrote, but I see he beat me to it. As such, I’ll try to add on to his comment.

    I’m a Christian and TEAM Therapist, and I also don’t think that being angry at one’s parents necessarily dishonors them. To suggest otherwise implies that anger is an inherently bad emotion. As you’ve pointed out, all emotions have a healthy and unhealthy side to them.

    The Bible says that God made us in His image. That includes making us emotional beings that can feel a wide range of emotions along with anger. One of the classic biblical examples of healthy anger is when Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, with a whip made of cords no less!

    That said, the average person usually handles anger in unhealthy ways whether it is towards their parents or anyone else. However, in my view, that says more about the person – and perhaps the state of society these days – than anger itself.

    I see anger as a lot like fire – when fire is not contained it can cause tremendous damage. In contrast, a lot of great things can be done with fire when it is contained and used constructively.

    Of course, there are many ways to be angry at one’s parents and dishonor them. However, expressing healthy anger via the Five Secrets can make our relationship with our parents better.

    That sounds like honoring to me!

  3. I loved what Fabrice said about ‘shoulds’ – I’ve always had a problem with the different categories of shoulds and the extent to which any of them are really vaild, but I’ve never managed to articulate it very well. He nailed it, though. Perfectly described how I feel!

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