Religious & Spiritual Issues In Psychotherapy

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.



Spirituality and religion are deeply important aspects of American culture, discussed well beyond the psychotherapy office. Many individuals are searching for spiritual meaning in their lives. Others seek to deepen and strengthen their current religious or spiritual foundation. Increasingly, clients turn to their therapists for help and guidance, yet many therapists lack the training and experience to deal with these issues.


Introduction to Religious and Spiritual Issues in Therapy:

  • Research has consistently demonstrated a small, but significantly positive, relationship between being religious or spiritual and better psychological health.
  • Some spiritual or religious paths promote better psychological health, while others can create barriers to mental health.
  • Skilled therapists can help clients identify the positive and negative factors associated with their religious beliefs.
  • There are many different ways to integrate religious and spiritual issues into psychotherapy. Different interventions necessitate varying levels of training and supervision.
  • Integrating religious and spiritual issues into therapy can create ethical dilemmas that do not typically arise in therapy.
  • Religious and spiritual clients often enter therapy for reasons that are different than those of other clients. Some enter therapy to deepen their relationship with God, to become more compassionate, or to better cope with suffering caused by religion.
  • Religion and spirituality often interact with cultural diversity. For example, many Eastern religions are practiced very differently in the West, as compared to their Eastern origins. Views of the self, the nature of the good life, and morality may be drastically different across different religious and cultural groups.



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