TitleTherapists who address client religious beliefs in therapy
NameMaichuk, Zachary (author), Gantwerk, Lewis (chair), Kelly, Shalonda (co-chair), Rutgers University, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology,
Counselor and client
DescriptionResearch has reported that the majority of Americans view religion as being important in their lives, and can have a beneficial influence on a client’s mental health. However, fewer than half of therapists assess a client’s religious beliefs, and rarely is religion discussed in the treatment setting. This study attempted to address this rift between the importance of religious and spiritual beliefs of clients and the hesitance of therapists to discuss these beliefs by looking at psychologists who do address religion in their practice. In this qualitative study, the focus was to determine how these therapists work with a client’s religious beliefs. Twelve clinical psychologists, who identified themselves as addressing a client’s religious and spiritual beliefs in therapy, were interviewed about how they work with the client’s beliefs. These psychologists, between the ages of 44 and 64, whose clinical experience ranged between 9 and 34 years, were recruited from New Jersey and Pennsylvania through professional contacts. The interviews where semi-structured, with open questions designed to look at how the psychologists conceptualized religion and psychology, how they conceptualized bringing religion into therapy, how they worked with a client’s beliefs in therapy, and the ethical considerations surrounding addressing religion in therapy. Grounded theory was used to analyze the interviews and examine the major themes that emerged. From these themes, specific guidance was found from the various answers to the individual questions of the interviews. In addition, a more in depth qualitative analysis supported a theory in which therapists address a client’s beliefs by creating a collaborative dialogue between religion and psychology, similar to that discussed by Stanton Jones (1996). This emergent theory suggests that religion can be brought into therapy via the client’s world view that includes the client’s individual spiritual beliefs. The therapist acts as a representative of psychology, namely the therapist monitors boundaries carefully to maintain this specific role as the psychologist. Once these two roles are established, the collaborative dialogue occurs when discussing those areas of the client’s life where the domains of religion and psychology overlap. Finally, the psychologists interviewed also offered guidelines for addressing religion in therapy.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Zachary Maichuk
CollectionGraduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.