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This section of the Journal attempts to keep readers informed of current resources of an integrative nature or those related to the general field of the psychology of religion appearing in other professional journals. A wide range of psychological and theological journals are surveyed regularly in search of such resources. The editor of the Journal File welcomes correspondence from readers concerning relevant theoretical or research articles in domestic or foreign journals which contribute directly or indirectly to the task and process of integration and to an understanding of the psychology of religion.


Weld, C. & Eriksen, K. (2007).

The ethics of prayer in counseling

Vol. 51, 125-138

Weld and Eriksen review a variety of research and polls, concluding that both the general population and many mental health practitioners place a high value on spirituality and prayer. In fact, prayer is often used as therapy intervention in a number of ways, including as a type of homework assigned to clients, audible prayers in-session by either the therapist or the client, and silent prayers by the therapist for the client either in or out of session. Consequently, Weld and Eriksen emphasize the importance of exploring the ethical implications of prayer in therapy.

Weld and Eriksen conceptualize spirituality and prayer as an important area of multicultural sensitivity. As such, it is essential for practitioners to explore their own values and countertransference in order to avoid imposing their values on their clients. In addition, they must seek education about spirituality and prayer in order to fully understand their clients. Where a thorough understanding is not achieved, ethical practitioners will refer their clients to someone who is competent to work in this area when it is important for the client.

In order to understand if it is important to the client, Weld and Eriksen advocate a thorough assessment of spirituality and prayer in each client's life. They emphasize that a thorough assessment will include not only the importance of these areas to clients, it will also seek to understand the normative and harmful aspects of each client's spirituality. Once this is achieved, an ethical practitioner can determine whether prayer will be a helpful intervention for each individual client.

Overall, Weld and Eriksen caution against going to either extreme of utilizing prayer for every client or never utilizing prayer. They emphasize that either position is likely informed more by one's own values than the client's and encourage further self-awareness, education, and client assessment in order to most effectively and ethically utilize prayer in therapy.


Hansen, D. & Drovdahl, R. (2006).

The holding power of love: John Wesley and D. W. Winnicott in conversation

Vol. 25(1), 54-62

In an attempt to engage psychology and theology, Hansen and Drovdahl discuss the ideas and convergence of Wesley and Winnicott. They begin by discussing the lives of both men, noting that they both experienced significant difficulties and yet still came to emphasize the power of loving relationships. Of course, for Winnicott this was in the context of the parent-child relationship, whereas for Wesley it was in the context of God's relationship with humans.

Hansen and Drovdahl go on to further explore this emphasis in both Wesley's and Winnicott's ideas. For Wesley, the central concept and holding environment was the grace of God. This grace was conceptualized as sufficient to contain all of humanity's emotions and responses towards God, while at the same time requesting their participation--thus respecting their agency and personhood. Wesley believed this environment led people to move toward maturity, which he conceptualized as the love of God and neighbor ruling one's emotions and behavior.

Similarly, Winnicott emphasized the role of the mother as an essential "holding environment" that could contain all of the baby's emotions and responses. Winnicott believed this occurred through attunement, mirroring, and respecting the infant as an individual person. Like Wesley, Winnicott believed that such an environment would lead one toward maturity, which Winnicott conceptualized as moving from dependence to independence.

Having explored the similarities in Wesley's and Winnicott's ideas, Hansen and Drovdahl go on to explore the implications. They suggest that Winnicott's ideas could be used in ministry to provide an analogy for theological doctrines, help illuminate the dynamics of transformation, and understand the ideal design of ministry (e.g. creating relational environments that respect people and can help contain emotional experiences). They also suggest that Wesley's theology may give therapists a new way of processing their own religious experience, thus allowing them to have more space for their clients' religious experience. Perhaps the most important implication, however, is simply to heighten the importance of the holding power of love in both ministry and therapy.


Tsai, J. L., Miao, F. F., & Seppala, E. (2007).

Good feelings in Christianity and Buddhism: Religious differences in ideal affect

Vol. 33 (3), 409-421

Most existing models of emotion focus on what people actually feel, or their actual affect. Tsai, Miao, and Seppala attempt to expand these theories by also examining what people want to feel, or their ideal affect. They note that although most people want to feel "good," the definition of this can vary. Previous research has, in fact, indicated that while actual affect is significantly tied to individual temperament, ideal affect is significantly tied to culture. For example, previous research has found that Americans value high arousal positive states (HAP) more, such as excitement, while Chinese value low arousal positive states (LAP) more, such as calm.

In the current article, Tsai, Miao, and Seppala expand this research to examine different religious groups, specifically Christianity and Buddhism. They conducted three studies, investigating the endorsement of different types of ideal affect in religious members, classical religious texts, and contemporary religious self-help books. The researchers took steps to control for both national differences and individual differences in temperament.

Results indicated that Christians valued HAP more and LAP less than Buddhists. These differences were mostly consistent across the studies of classic religious texts and contemporary self-help books. The one difference in these latter studies was that while classic Christian texts endorsed HAP significantly more than classic Buddhist texts, the texts did not differ in their endorsement of LAP. Overall, these findings imply that Christianity and Buddhism do differ in their conceptualizations of ideal affect--differences which have only widened over time. Tsai, Miao, and Seppala conclude by noting that these results may be quite helpful for clinicians in understanding how their clients define happiness and well-being when assessing and treating people of different religious affiliations.


Bartoli, E. (2007).

Religious and spiritual issues in psychotherapy practice: Training the trainer

Vol. 44 (1), 54-65

Psychology's interest in religious and spiritual issues has grown substantially over the past few decades. However, Bartoli comments that this interest has not necessarily translated to more thorough training or competent practice. Bartoli attempts to explain and bridge this gap.

Bartoli first reviews the historical and ideological framework of psychology's intersection with religion and spirituality. She discusses a number of shifts in the 20th century--from an atheistic, positivistic perspective which pathologized religion; to a humanistic-existential perspective which advocated the enhancing functions of religion; to a post-modern perspective with has embraced the complexity of religion and spirituality, even recognizing the importance of one's subjective experience and cultural background. From this review, Bartoli concludes that in spite of the recent intellectual shift in psychology's views on religious and spiritual issues, many practitioners may still feel a disinterest, skepticism, or even hostile attitude toward these issues because of their training in psychology's historical milieu.

Because of these underlying beliefs in many practitioners, Bartoli questions the thoroughness and effectiveness of current practice, wondering if clients' religious and spiritual issues are being overlooked or ignored. To address this issue, Bartoli suggests that psychotherapists expand their own self-awareness even before acquiring more knowledge or skills in this area. She suggests that peer supervision groups would be an ideal place for current practitioners to fulfill such a task.

Bartoli also suggests three specific exercises for these groups to engage in. These tasks involve exploring the messages one received about religion and spirituality in their professional training and experience, considering how these messages might have interacted with one's own spiritual or religious history, and investigating how one's ideas of mental health coincide or are in conflict with different aspects of religion and spirituality. Bartoli encourages practitioners to be mindful of both their shortcomings and strengths in this process. She argues that such an investigation of one's own implicit beliefs will allow practitioners to more fully, openly, and competently engage their clients in the areas of religion and spirituality.


Krause, N. (2007).

Stressors arising in highly valued roles and change in feeling close to God over time

Vol. 17(1), 17-36

For decades, stress has been viewed as negative and undesirable. However, more recent theories and research have begun to point to stress as a potential source of personal growth. For example, stress may lead one to develop a more intimate relationship with God. Krause investigated this possibility using data on older adults from a longitudinal study. The study surveyed individuals' relationships with God, stressful life events that occurred between two sets of interviews, and ethnicity.

Krause found that stress can indeed motivate older adults to develop a closer personal relationship with God. This is specifically true of unusual stressful events rather than more mundane stress. The effect is mediated by two important factors. First, stressful events which arise in roles that are highly valued to the individual are likely to have a more substantial impact. This is especially true of African-American older adults; it does not appear to be significant for Caucasian older adults. Krause ties this difference to other research which indicates that African-Americans appear to value closeness to God more than Caucasians; in fact, such closeness appears to be a more significant and central element of African-American faith. Hence, it appears that both ethnicity and the role salience of the stressor mediate the impact of stress of one's relationship with God.


Helmeke, K. B., & Bischof, G. H. (2002). Recognizing and raising spiritual and religious issues in therapy: Guidelines for the timid. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 13, 195-214.

Krause, N. (2004). Stressors arising in highly valued roles, meaning in life, and the physical health status of older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 59B, S287-S297.

Maddox, R. L. (2004). Psychology and Wesleyan theology: Precedents and prospects for a renewed engagement. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 23, 101-109.

Magaletta, P. R., & Brawer, P. A. (1998). Prayer in psychotherapy: A model for its use, ethical considerations, and guidelines for practice. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 26, 322-330.

McMillen, J. C., & Fisher, R. H. (1998). The perceived benefits scales: Measuring perceived positive life changes after negative events. Social Work Research, 22, 173-187.

Schulte, D. L, Skinner, T. A., & Claiborn, C. D. (2002). Religious and spiritual issues in counseling psychology training. Counseling Psychologist, 30, 118-134.

Strawn, B. D., & Leffel, G. M. (2001). John Wesley's orthokardia and Henry Guntrip's "Heart of the personal: Convergent aims and complementary practices in psychotherapy and spiritual formation." Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 20, 351-359.

Tsai, J, L., Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006). Cultural variation in affect valuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 288-307.

Watts, F. N. (1996). Psychological and religious perspectives on emotion. International Journal of the Psychology of Religion, 6, 61-87.

Yarhouse, M. A. (1999). When psychologists work with religious clients: Applications of the general principles of ethical conduct. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30, 557-562.
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Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2007
Previous Article:Christian clients' preferences regarding prayer as a counseling intervention.
Next Article:The Life and Thought of Harry S. Guntrip.

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