Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Examining Connections between Values and Practice in Religiously Committed U.K. Clinical Psychologists

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Examining Connections between Values and Practice in Religiously Committed U.K. Clinical Psychologists

Article excerpt

Christian psychologists as employees of secular organizations may experience a particular values interface of their religious commitment and their workplace setting. The idiographic emphasis of this study involved data collection from a small group of Christian U.K. clinical psychologists, using repertory grid and semi-structured interview procedures, and a mix of exploratory quantitative and qualitative data analysis. The three themes reported (an added dimension to work, disclosure to colleagues and clients, and the values congruence/clash of integration) are discussed as providing illustrations of greater evocative detail than is possible from questionnaire-driven research. The aspects of the grounded theory analysis of the data are brought together in a tentative model of identity comprising constantly shifting positions on the dimensions described by the three themes.

**********

The number of times people have asked us "How can you be a psychologist and a Christian?" has drawn us to the simple conclusion that not a few lay individuals must think that the values associated with the two may well be incompatible. Shafranske (1996) suggests that psychology and religion are seen as "paradigms that offer systems of significance, and compete as institutions of influence within the polity" (p. 157, emphasis added). In less general terms, Bergin, Payne and Richards (1996) point out that professional guidelines (American Psychological Association [APA], 1992) prescribe standards which endorse certain values over others, and that this may indeed almost inevitably potentiate value-clash situations for Christian and other religious people--clients or psychologists--in clinical areas such as abortion, or sexual preference.

Allen Bergin (1996) wrote the following keynote to his review of the subject: "a value-free or value-neutral approach to psychotherapy has become untenable, and is being supplanted by a more open and more complete value-informed perspective" (Bergen et al., 1996, p. 297). This being so, he suggests that a purely secular psychotherapy provides an 'alien values framework' for the majority of its clients. Demographic information (Gallup, 1994) shows that for two-thirds of the U.S. population, religion is "a very important factor" in their lives, one third endorsing that it is "the most important factor," whereas Bergin and Jensen's (1990) survey of psychotherapists found their endorsement of religious values lower than the U.S. national average, with clinical psychologists reporting the lowest levels. They are thus positioned as 'out of step', so to speak-a minority group who may risk being out of touch with their clientele on a major formative influence.

However, our perception of the extent of this risk may depend partly upon the categories used to measure it. Shafranske and Malony (1990) report that 40% of their sample of 409 clinical psychologists endorsed belief in God but that when this was made less specific (belief in a transcendent dimension) the figure rose to a substantial majority--70%--comparable to Bilgrave and Deluty's (1998) 66% of a sample of 237 clinical and counseling psychologists for endorsement of a similarly broad category, belief in God or a universal spirit. For many psychologists, therefore, primary resources of spirituality are drawn from outside organised institutional religious involvement--something "less conventional and more personal in form" (Bergin & Jensen, 1990, p.6). Smiley (2001) has provided the only extant survey of U.K. clinical psychologists, which shows a similar trend. Only 18% of his sample of 247 reported formal affiliation to a traditional religion; the figure rose to 38% when "informal affiliation" was added, and to 68% when those affirming "non-traditional spirituality" were also included. Interestingly, the 18% reporting formal religious affiliation also indicated levels of personal religiosity above general U.K. population levels (Brierley, 1999) with respect to self-reported frequency of both regular attendance at a place of worship, and personal prayer--"a small but significant number [of psychologists] who could be classified as strongly religious" (Smiley, 2001, p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.