Free Essay: Ethical Implications of Implementing Spirituality into Therapy

Published: 2023-01-18
Free Essay: Ethical Implications of Implementing Spirituality into Therapy
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Religion Ethics Mental health Human services Social issue
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1516 words
13 min read

Mental health professionals have distinct beliefs on relationships, the world in general and themselves. Different people have different views which they draw from their religion or spiritual perspective. Religious and spiritual beliefs affect the process of therapeutic relationships. Licensed practitioners are required by the State to uphold the codes of ethics and ethical standards set, which is difficult at times since different clients deal with various issues, some of which could be religious or spiritual. Due to the diversity of clients, there are instances when counselling professionals do not hold the same beliefs as their clients, creating discomforts and a moral dilemma (Moreira-Almeida, Koenig & Lucchetti, 2014). To address the needs of clients from various spiritual backgrounds and cultural backgrounds, guidelines and treatment approaches need to be addressed appropriately. It is essential to provide personal awareness, openness and education to each. The spiritual realm of therapy is ignored many times because of a lack of treatment resources that surround the topic, and various pitfalls may arise when professionals try to seek integration of psychology into religion. Several ethical issues are relevant and can be used to thoughtfully address religious and spiritual topics, practices in psychotherapy and distinct beliefs. These ethical issues include; clinical competence, informed consent and boundaries and multiple relationships. Understanding these issues will enable psychotherapists to properly integrate faith and spirituality into psychotherapy and ethical decision-making.

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Ethical Pitfalls

Issues of Integrity

Some licensed mental professionals are also members of the clergy. These professionals provide professional psychological services besides their pastoral job. It is of good service for clergy associates to offer extra mental help, but it also leads to the development of complicated and problematic relationships. The lawful and ethical issues such as boundaries to secrecy are distinct for both the clergy and mental health professionals, confusing some clients (Moreira-Almeida, Koenig & Lucchetti, 2014). Active participation in a religious group does not make one qualified mental health professional. Boundaries need to be set on knowing when to consult who.

Spiritual Issues

Spiritual issues, in this case, include religious and spiritual bias. Most professionals who have interest in integrating religion and therapy come from an active religious tradition and feel comfortable about impacting people with their own culture, without needing to learn about the issues related to other faith traditions (Moreira-Almeida, Koenig & Lucchetti, 2014). A Christian psychology and Muslim psychology are different, since each of them might know a great deal from their religious perspective but know very little about other traditions.

Competence Issues

A mental health professional is not made competent in their jobs, just because they belong to a particular faith culture and because they can integrate religion and spirituality into their psychological and professional work. Religious members are different based on their expertise and comfort level. Professionals need to be careful with their clients in the manner in which they appear experts in their religion tradition (Moreira-Almeida, Koenig & Lucchetti, 2014). Professionals have to be sure that the role of the clergy does not supersede their psychotherapeutic work, by avoiding falling into theological consultation and pastoral care when they lack competence in doing so.

Concern Issues

Some religious ideologies lead individuals to take part in tragic and destructive behaviours. Some examples of these beliefs are suicide bombing and terrorism in the name of religion. Some parents, in other faith, refuse therapy treatments for their sick children, believing that physical punishment is acceptable. Others also believe that it is right to deny females some educational and medical services. The ethical code requires psychotherapy professionals to be respectful of faith, but do not require individuals to accept destructive feelings, thoughts, and behaviours especially when their outcome is mental and physical damage (Moreira-Almeida, Koenig & Lucchetti, 2014). Psychotherapists are concerned with the social welfare of others and their legitimate and ethical mandates and work towards protecting others from harm by acting when the religious and spiritual beliefs of their clients are at risk. Ethical issues enable psychotherapists to address their practices, distinct beliefs and psychological problems.

Ethical Issues


Psychotherapists need to educate themselves on significant religious beliefs and practices so that they can offer provision of competent psychotherapy to their clients. Education includes; the psychotherapist knowing their limits and clinical expertise, knowing when to seek further guidance from the clergy and other experts especially when they are not sure of the knowledge they should possess on the issue, and when the subject is outside their clinical competence (Vieten et al., 2013). When faced with dilemmas and challenges, it is at times necessary to join forces with associates of the clergy in a client's treatment. This should be done with the permission and collaboration of the client. Maximum clinical supervision knowledge and comprehensive training is an essential aspect in psychotherapy just before an attempt to combine spiritual and religious customs into psychotherapy.

Multiple Relationships

When incorporating religious and spiritual practices into therapy, psychotherapists need to recognize the potential that they might move from their role in being psychotherapists to being the clergy. They have to be cautious in administering these values into their clients and on the prescriptive actions they need to take in the treatment.

Informed consent

Clients undergoing therapy deserve to be given all information that is required to affect their decision to take part in psychotherapy. Informed consent addresses all risks and beliefs and various treatment options (Vieten et al., 2013). It is vital that therapists and those getting therapy mention their spiritual and religious beliefs and how relevant they might apply to the session.

Imposing Spirituality and Religion into Ethical Decision making and Psychotherapy

Incorporating religious and spiritual involvements into therapy include activities such as interpreting some selected scriptures to the client during the discussion and praying with the client in the course. The psychotherapist administers treatment by asking questions about the values, beliefs and practices of the client, by making recommendations on the relevance of being active in certain religious activities like prayer and meditation. When there is clinical competence, and informed consent is exercised appropriately, the psychotherapist will have a wide range of interventions during the session (Vieten et al., 2013). Psychotherapists have accessibility to many models of making decisions which help make contemplative, informed decisions on when and how to communicate spiritual and religious issues with their patients (Hull, Suarez & Hartman, 2016). One of the comprehensive decision-making models that psychotherapists can use in regard is:

  1. The psychotherapist should assess the preferences, spiritual and religious beliefs of the client
  2. The psychotherapist should carefully assess any links between the problem represented and the connection of the problem to the client's commitments, religion and spiritual beliefs.
  3. The clinician weaving results should follow the assessment of the client's needs into the process of informed consent.
  4. The psychotherapist should consider their transference regarding the religiousness of the client.
  5. The clinician should be honest about their nature of competence to the case presented by evaluating themselves first.
  6. In the case when the clinician does not have enough knowledge in the area of religion, they should consult with other psychotherapists and experts. This is after consent by the client.
  7. The psychotherapist then decides on whether they will treat the client or refer them to someone else, assess various outcomes and make adjustment plans.


Spiritual integration and psychology keeps evolving in forms that will impact psychotherapy clients. Most people in the world are spiritual and religious. Those people who are involved in religion and are spiritual have higher chances of finding their way into mental health professionals and psychologists. Knowledge in religious diversity and ethical issues will present more opportunities for therapy professionals and students training to become psychotherapists. Spiritual integration and therapy are here to stay and have many benefits to the public and clinicians. Monitoring ethical issues firmly by a psychotherapist is critical. Being mindful of other ethical principles such as; competence, honesty and obligation for others, as well as the likely ethical dilemmas by acquiring proper education will help professionals in navigating through the challenges of applying religion and spirituality into therapy.


It is essential for psychotherapists to seek education on spirituality and religion on; how they can impact the mental health of individuals, how they can maintain and be relevant to their client's psychotherapy and how the issues related to ethics and religion can be addressed, and integrated. They can do this by collaborating with other professionals, being more knowledgeable and informed about religious and spiritual issues, keeping appropriate boundaries and practicing within their clinical competence. The can also make use of thoughtful decision making about these issues.


Hull, C. E., Suarez, E. C., & Hartman, D. (2016). Developing spiritual competencies in counselling: A guide for supervisors. Counselling and Values, 61(1), 111-126. Retrieved from

Moreira-Almeida, A., Koenig, H. G., & Lucchetti, G. (2014). Clinical implications of spirituality to mental health: a review of evidence and practical guidelines. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 36(2), 176-182. Retrieved from

Vieten, C., Scammell, S., Pilato, R., Ammondson, I., Pargament, K. I., & Lukoff, D. (2013). Spiritual and religious competencies for psychologists. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5(3), 129. Retrieved from

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