Law and Grace in Saint Augustine. A fresh perspective on mindfulness and spirituality in behavior therapy.

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APA Citation: 

Vandenberghe, L., & Costa Prado, F. (2009). Law and grace in Saint Augustine: a fresh perspective on mindfulness and spirituality in behaviour therapy. Mental health, religion & culture, 12, 587-600.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Conceptual
Other Third-Wave Therapies: Conceptual
Publication Type: 

The secular, acceptance-based philosophy of third wave behavior therapy has easily absorbed the notion of mindfulness that originated in Eastern spirituality, entailing a secularised approach to transcendence. The present article seeks to connect mindfulness with existing efforts to integrate the Western client's spirituality into psychotherapy. For that purpose, we show how Christian grace theology and mindfulness theory overlap in the way they construe transcendence and self. Both approaches also promote openness to experience and are weary of verbal control. It is argued that awareness of this overlap can make it easier for the therapist to understand and appreciate the client's religious perspective. It can also help turn a client's sprirituality into a relevant personal strength and a therapeutic aid. Finally, explaining the overlap can enhance the credibility of mindfulness interventions with traditional Christian clients and make these interventions relevant to their spiritual concerns.

This article compares some aspects of Saint Augustine's philosophy with the ideas that underlay mindfulness work in modern behavioral treatments. It suggests that some ideas current in ACT, DBT and FAP can be recognised in Saint Augustine's treatment of Law and Grace.