In psychotherapy, issues of religion and spirituality may be neglected by the psychotherapists with the view that clients in need of spiritual guidance seek out faith-centered counseling instead of their service. However, there is the need for psychologists to acknowledge that every person has some form of spiritual belief and that it is essential for them to be conversant with these religious issues. In this essay, the propositions on the implementation of religion into therapy in consideration to ethical issues as in the APA Ethics Code are addressed.
Firstly, there is need to distinguish between religion and spirituality with regard to what is relevant in psychotherapy. Religion has been termed as systemized logics of beliefs and practices which are focused on the revered things (Dew, Daniel, Armstrong, Goldston, Triplett, & Koenig, 2008). Spirituality, on the other hand, has been defined as a quest in seeking the hallowed and the activities that people undertake in order to reach out to and cling to those things they consider revered (Hill & Pargament, 2008). Now, when incorporating therapy, the distinction is that spirituality is a private encounter that should just be part of an individual but not organization while, religion focuses on formal institutions with the beliefs, practices, and tradition clearly outlined and understood.
William Hathaway of the Regent University says that using religion as an instrument in therapy is still debated upon as an emerging issue. Moreover, strategies can be implemented during therapeutic sessions, in harmonizing religion and therapy; such techniques include the use of words of prayer before a session begins, quoting Bible texts and forgiveness protocols. In support of this, Carrie Doehring who is a psychologist of the Iliff School of Theology suggests that such strategies can highlight the delightful aspect of the human encounter into the site of therapy. Furthermore, Carrie insists that use of treatment guided by religion needs to be carefully put into consideration especially with freshly certified therapists.
Research is and will always be an important aspect in the effort to understand the connection between spirituality and religion in psychotherapy; this is according to Professor Shafranske Edward of the Pepperdine University. He further insists that psychologists ought to develop both research and theoretical models in pursuit of understanding the incorporation into therapy (Shafranske, 1996). Currently, in the field, there is a significant amount of literature on the link between psycho-health and spirituality. Professor Shafranske concludes that without ample research, it may be hasty to encourage widespread use of religion in therapy sessions.
Psychologist Pargament Kenneth of the Bowling Green State University says that evaluation of the success of specific strategies used in therapy such as forgiveness mediation is in progress. Moreover, the evidence has it that clients gain a lot of hope and spiritual support from discussing matters religion, helping them to manage their situation in a better way (Hill & Pargament, 2008). Research done by Patricia and Andrew of the University of Minnesota shows that patients undergoing kidney transplants who turn to God for support had greater satisfaction in life after surgery despite their general secular ways of coping with other issues.
Section 2 of the APA ethical codes outlines the standards in competence in psychotherapy practice where proficient knowledge in the field of psychology inaugurates that knowledge of several factors including religion is essential for the effective execution of their services (Fisher, 2013). In this context, psychotherapists are obliged to coach themselves concerning religious and spiritual values that may pertain to their clients. Further in section 2.01b, psychologists get the training for the experience required, consultation or supervision necessary to enhance aptitude of their practice; psychotherapists should also establish the boundaries of their proficiency, seeking consultation from adept associates and clergy members continuously.
Currently, some psychologists are developing means of teaching religious and spiritual practice to fellow practitioners. Professor Shafranske says that it is unclear whether therapists utilize religion or spirituality at all in their practice. However, while most of them considering the use; they had little or no training on how to go about it. Statistically, only 10% of new Ph.D. psychologists report having between fair and high levels of coverage to religion in their training let alone guided or supervised practices. Moreover, in training, there should be the presentation of the diversity of religion as a key issue in training curriculums. Through this harmonization, the practitioners can be able to add more value and depth to the treatment of the patients.
Guaranteed supervision for the therapists who are still in the process of acquiring this particular art of therapy is essential. With this emerging issue, they ought to undergo training as early as while still in their postdoctoral training; these specific trainings on the use of religious gears to help clients to deal with their religious matters should be made available for the therapists who want to tap this practice.
Section 3.05 under the standards on human relations, multiple relationships is defined as when the psychologist in a professional role and has or promises to have another role with the client or someone related to the client. If the multiple relationships could weaken the psychologist's objectivity, competence or efficacy, the practitioner refrains from entering into it (APA, 2010-2016). When it comes to addressing religious and matters spirituality in relation to the clients, the psychotherapist should be sensible in knowing when to move from a psychologist to a clerical role while integrating religious and spiritual practices into therapy. To maintain their boundaries, psychologists ought to be careful not to impose their individual values on patients or to approach the remedial process rather strictly.
Doehring of the Iliff School of Theology insists that in the process of using religion as a tool, the psychologists should be careful not to instill their beliefs into the therapy to curb the possibility of countertransference problems. Furthermore, she says that there is the need for therapists to guide their clients to a favorable interpretation of their religion and practices so that they do not divert from the psychological improvement process. In conclusion, Doehring suggests the importance of evidence-based practice other than just circumstantial strategies of treatment.
From the amended APA Ethical Principles of 2016, section 3.10 of the standards pertaining to informed consent, psychologists conducting research, running evaluation, therapy or consultation personally or electronically, ought to obtain the informed consent of the patient or client in an easily comprehensive language. Section 10 on Informed Consent in Therapy, mandates the practitioners to enlighten patients promptly about the description and expected the direction of therapy. In the religion-therapy context, psychologists should make their clients aware of the emergent religious and spiritual nature of the remedy and offer alternative treatment options for the individual.
At the beginning of therapy, a psychologist assesses the situation of the patient to determine the kind of treatment required for the particular individual. With this in mind, a therapist with ethics will not endorse or even attempt to plug in personal beliefs on a patient during psychoanalysis or in any way try to convert the client's way of devout view or spiritual context of the client. However, in instances when the individual is expressing difficulty in harmonizing the contradictions between personal values and religious or spiritual restrictions, the psychologist may decide to bring some religious aspects to the individual's attention. The therapist, in this case, puts every effort to help the patient in the process of clarifying the essential factors to enhance the individual's well-being.
Finally, religious and spiritual approaches in psychotherapy is an emerging issue with many new and upcoming psychologist doctors getting more training and insight as a solution to many psychological problems whose answers are yet to be known.
Dew, R. E., Daniel, S., Armstrong, T. D., Goldston, D. B., Triplett, M. F., & Koenig, G. (2008). Religion/spirituality and adolescent psychiatric symptoms. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 39(4), 381-398.
Fisher, C. B. (2013). Decoding the ethics code: a practical guide for psychologists. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Hill, P. C., & Pargament, K. I. (2008). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, S(1), 3-17.
Shafranske, E. (. (1996). Religion and the Clinical Practice of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assosiation.
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