Christian Faith and the New Ethics of Addressing Spirituality in Counseling

By Sisemore, Timothy A. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview
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Christian Faith and the New Ethics of Addressing Spirituality in Counseling


Sisemore, Timothy A., Journal of Psychology and Theology


Burke, M.T., Chauvin, J.C., & Miranti, J.G. (2005).

Religious and Spiritual Issues in Counseling: Applications Across Diverse Populations. New York, NY: Routledge. Paper. 402 pp. $39.95. ISBN: 1-58391-372-6.

Mary Thomas Burke, Ph.D., was Professor and Coordinator of Counselor Education at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Jane C. Chauvin, Ph.D., is Professor of Education and Counseling at Loyola University New Orleans. Judith G. Miranti, Ed.D., is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Counselor Education at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Louisiana. All three have held high administrative offices with the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Christians have largely welcomed the movement in mental health practice that affirms human spirituality and advocates for its incorporation in counseling. Once shunned by the leaders in the field such as Freud and Ellis, religious faith and spirituality are now accepted and even encouraged in the counseling session and viewed as a form of diversity to be honored by clinicians. Burke, Chauvin, and Miranti have written a wide-ranging text on how spirituality comes into play across the diversity of persons who present for counseling, with the goal or providing a practical guide on the issue for practitioners. In doing so, they raise issues that Christians need to consider that may compromise our excitement about the secular blessing on including spirituality in counseling.

The plan of the book is relatively simple. Chapters cover the gamut of groups, ranging from age groups (children and adolescents and the elderly), to male and female, gay and lesbian, the bereaved and persons with disabilities, ethnic groups, and diverse religious populations. For each, topics related to spirituality in the target group are presented after an introduction to the group. The authors present clinical implications for incorporating said group's spirituality in practice. A case example follows that is examined based on Ingersoll's (1994) seven factors for integrating spirituality into one's life. Another case study is offered with discussion questions for the reader(s). The format is not used consistently in all chapters, however. The book conveniently includes as appendices the ethics codes of the major professional mental health associations, though the American Counseling Association Code was revised just about the time the book was published.

The quality of the chapters varies greatly, with some being more testimonials while others are better researched and offer more practical information for the clinician. Susan Furr's article on counseling for grief is exceptional, giving excellent practical ideas for integrating spirituality into constructivist or cognitive therapies with this population. The chapter on counseling African Americans is strong as illustrated by its including a section on counseling Africans who have recently moved to the U.S. Latino populations are covered thoroughly, offering insight into the family lives of this group and how they impact counseling. Possibly the best case study comes from the chapter on the Judaic population as is shows a healthy engagement with the questions a young man is having about his faith that shows great respect for his faith tradition,. One major theme that comes from Burke et al.'s book is how much more important family and community are to many groups outside the predominant Anglo culture in America.

Regrettably, the weakest chapter seems to be the one on counseling those in the Christian tradition, especially since the authors describe themselves as "three white, Christian women" (p. xix). It is appropriately longer than the other chapters given that most Americans identify themselves with the Christian tradition. To honor the diversity within the tradition, the chapter looks at different threads of Christianity. The authors make a series of errors in so doing, possibly because the research for this section was quickly surveying a few web sites.

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