Spiritual Practices in Child/adolescent Therapy

By Sturdy, Whitney N. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Spiritual Practices in Child/adolescent Therapy


Sturdy, Whitney N., Journal of Psychology and Theology


Walker, Donald F. & Hathaway, William L. (2013).

Spiritual interventions in child and adolescent psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Hardcover, xi + 282 pp. $59.95. ISBN. 978-1-4338-1218-7.

Donald F. Walker, Ph.D., directs the Child Trauma Institute, an interdisciplinary research center devoted to understanding the role of religious faith in recovery from childhood abuse, treating survivors of abuse, and training professionals in addressing spiritual issues in treatment. Dr. Walker also teaches in the Psy.D. program in clinical psychology at Regent University.

William L. Hathaway, Ph.D., currently serves as a dean and professor in the School of Psychology & Counseling at Regent University. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in clinical child psychology with Russell Barkley at University of Massachusetts Medical Center and has worked with both military and civilian child specialty clinics.

Spiritual Interventions in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy is an edited volume published by the American Psychological Association with the intent to provide clinicians with guidelines for integrating spiritual interventions in psychotherapy with children and their families. While research regarding religion and spirituality continues to be explored and applied within psychotherapy, research on psychotherapy with children and adolescents is flourishing in evidence-based practices. The editors, Donald F. Walker and William L. Hathaway, successfully provide a review of the theoretical foundations of spirituality in psychotherapy, as this is related to children and interventions. The objective--to blend these two fields of research--resulted in a well written, helpful, and valuable resource for clinicians working with children and their families. Case studies throughout the volume allow for readers to think through spiritual interventions and ethical issues. Interventions from a variety of modalities speak to the applicability of spirituality across diverse settings, presenting problems, and cultural contexts. Though spirituality generally can include a variety of religious beliefs and constructs, Walker and Hathaway's book is from an Evangelical Christian perspective, with brief references to other major theological religions.

In order to provide the reader with a foundation and context for the use of spiritually oriented interventions with children and adolescents, the book reviews ethical issues with religion and spirituality, assessment of religious issues in child psychology, parental spirituality (as both a hindrance and an aid to therapeutic goals), and developmental contexts of spirituality. Ethically, the APA ethics code indicates that psychologists are to treat clients' diverse aspects with respect, competence, and care; this volume makes a strong argument for doing so with clients' religious identifications and interactions. With instruction for assessing religious issues, the reader can increase understanding of how relevant a religious identification is to a presenting problem, specific to the client. Given that the work described is with children and adolescents, recognizing the role of parents' own spiritual and religious identifications and interactions proves helpful to the reader when intervening. Finally, the first section of this volume concludes with a comprehensive review of developmental stages and the role of religiosity within these stages, assisting the reader in better conceptualization of the client and their religious development.

The second section of the book details an assemblage from various modalities such as Object Relations, Child-Centered Play Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Attachment-Based Psychodynamic Therapy. …

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