The Psychologies in Religion: Working with the Religious Client

By E. Thomas Dowd; Stevan Lars Nielsen | Go to book overview

Foreword

Psychologists often claim to take great pride in their neutrality or indifference about the religious faith of their patients. While espousing neutrality, psychologists have been far from neutral at times. Indeed, for many years, psychologists have often taken the lead in ridiculing or dismissing religious beliefs—as if religion is to be equated with some kind of shared paranoid ideation or repressive personality disorder. Contrary to these secular prejudices held by some psychologists, there is now growing evidence that individuals who participate in their faith are less likely to be depressed, more likely to report higher psychological well-being, and more likely to experience their marriages as rewarding and happy.

As a practicing clinician in New York City, I have provided psychotherapy for Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists. Having been raised Roman Catholic, I have come to understand that each individual—even those claiming to be “secular humanists”—often bring to their experience in therapy a set of assumptions, values, life-narratives, and cultural perspectives that may differ from my own. It is because of this cultural value-context of my patients that I have sought out more reading in Judaism, Protestantism (of various denominations), Buddhism, Islam, and Sufiism. I have made it a point to re-read sections of the Bible on a regular basis and to learn from patients from different faiths how meaning is made in their religion. I have gotten more out of understanding the human dilemma from reading Abraham Joshua Heschel than from reading almost any book in psychoanalysis. As a result, I have found the current edited volume, The Psychologies in Religion, to be a valuable source of information.

E. Thomas Dowd and Stevan Lars Nielsen have brought together experts from a wide range of religious faiths to provide the reader with an overview of what we, as psychologists, need to know about the individual faith and cultural context of our patients. Psychotherapy has often

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