The majority of Americans believe in a higher power or God. Eighty percent of people living in the United States are affiliated with a structured form of religion, and the majority of those people consider their faith a significant aspect of their lives. “Thus, religion is likely to impact the lives of many counseling and therapy clients in the United States and may even play an integral part in their therapy,” said Marilyn A. Cornish of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University. “A number of studies have found the large majority of mental health professionals to believe that religion and spirituality are relevant to the therapeutic process.” And yet, Cornish noted, not many therapists initiate the topic of religion or spirituality in their sessions. Therefore, Cornish led a study to determine why, even though therapists believe the use of spiritual or religious interventions are appropriate, they are underutilized. “The current online-questionnaire study was designed to describe how group counselors view and approach religion and spirituality in group counseling,” she said.
The participants, 242 group therapists, responded to an online survey and revealed that although the they believed that spirituality was appropriate in therapy, it was most fitting only in ambiguous and inactive forms. “Almost all found it appropriate to facilitate discussions of both spirituality and religion when a group member ﬁrst brings up the topic,” said Cornish. “Most participants, however, did not regularly engage in more basic interventions, such as bringing up religion and spirituality or asking group members about their spiritual beliefs, despite the majority rating these as appropriate interventions.” Cornish believes that many clients who are resistant to bringing up personal topics may benefit from the therapist’s initiation of spirituality and religion and suggests that hesitant therapists overcome the hurdles that prevent them from doing so. She added, “Training and continuing education programs can help counselors learn to (a) navigate potential pitfalls that can occur when religion or spirituality are brought up in session; (b) use the interactions that emerge to highlight typical relationship patterns; and (c) steer conversations in a therapeutic direction.”
Cornish, M. A., Wade, N. G., & Post, B. C. (2011, December 26). Attending to Religion and Spirituality in Group Counseling: Counselors’ Perceptions and Practices. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026663
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.