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Journal of Psychology and Christianity. (Journal File).

Eck, B. E. (2002)

An exploration of the therapeutic use of spiritual disciplines in clinical practice

Vol. 21(3), 266-280

The author notes a shift in research from theoretical to practical integration. He attributes this shift to observations by the psychological community that incorporation of clients' religious orientations results in improved clinical outcomes. Given this current emphasis on practical integration, the author discusses ethical, cultural, and clinical contexts for the use of spiritual disciplines in psychotherapy and suggests ways to better integrate the disciplines into treatment of religious clients.

The American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct requires that psychologists be aware of and respect clients' religious beliefs and values, and to obtain any training and supervision necessary to competently work with clients of different religious systems than their own. Recent Gallup (1994) poll statistics suggest that about eight out of ten clients assert that religion is personally important. Further, 78% of American clients indicate that they prefer therapy to incorporate their belief systems (Privette & Klentz, 1985). Despite ethical requirements and cultural data supporting the incorporation of religious practices into therapy, the author suggests that psychology's historical bias against religion hinders development of clinical models and training that would equip therapists to engage clients' religiosity to the same degree as other ethnocultural areas.

The therapeutic appropriateness of the disciplines is determined by assessing various factors involving the client, therapist, and clinical setting. To ensure congruence of spiritual interventions with clients' beliefs and practices, assessment would likely include familial religious history and the current nature of the clients' religious involvement. Spiritual interventions must also be consistent with clients' goals and diagnoses and the therapists' modalities and scope of training. If not explicitly used in session, therapists can implement spiritual interventions outside of sessions (prayer for clients) or implicitly (challenging misconceptions of God). Spiritual interventions may not be appropriate in publicly funded agencies or fall within the parameters of third party reimbursement contracts.

Selection of spiritual disciplines for therapeutic use is based on the presenting problem and client needs. The author categorizes the disciplines into those that address cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal problems. Cognitively oriented disciplines address disordered thoughts. Behaviorally oriented disciplines address both excessive and inadequate activities. Interpersonal disciplines help repair and create relationships.

The author cites research revealing an inverse relationship between education level and association to professional organizations with use of spiritual disciplines. The author advocates for increased education on the effectiveness of spiritual interventions with religious clients and the development of treatment models that incorporate the disciplines into the major modalities. The author also emphasizes the need for research to determine the disciplines that are the most effective in treating specific disorders.


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Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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