Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Spirituality in Counseling: A Faith Development Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Spirituality in Counseling: A Faith Development Perspective

Article excerpt

Since the mid-1990s, the integration of spirituality and religion into clinical work has generated tremendous interest as an area of competence needed to address diversity in clients. Recent contributions to this dialogue include Burke, Chauvin, and Miranti (2003); Cashwell and Young (2005); Frame (2003); Josephson and Peteet (2004); Miller (2003); Pargament (2007); and Richards and Bergin (2005). Although most of these authors have mentioned James Fowler's (1981) stages of faith development as one of the models of spirituality that counselors might find useful, there is surprisingly little in the literature showing how one might practically apply Fowler's (1981) model to clinical cases (cf. Droege, 1984; Frame, 2003). This lack of clinical application may be due to a conviction that Fowler's (1981) model omits important dimensions of faith (cf. Ford-Grabowsky, 1986), or it could reflect a belief that the growth-oriented developmental theories on which it is based do not account well for regressive phenomena often seen in clinical work (el. Schneider, 1986). Perhaps, for others, the usefulness of Fowler's (1981) faith development theory (FDT) in clinical contexts is not as readily apparent as its application to other fields, such as religious education (cf. Streib, 2003). Whatever the reasons for the relative absence of clinical applications of FDT, this article seeks to demonstrate the rich, practical usefulness of Fowler's work for counseling.

FDT is only one of several models of spiritual and religious development that counselors will find useful (cf. Faiver, Ingersoll, O'Brien, & McNally, 2001; Frame, 2003; Miller, 2005; Rizzuto, 2005; Tare & Parker, 2007) despite the limitations attendant to each. Cognitive-structural models like Fowler's (1981) or Oser's (1991) tend to neglect more psychosocial dimensions of spiritual life (McDargh, 2001; Parker, 2006), whereas other models (e.g., Genia, 1995; Washburn, 1988) can be too closely tied to single theoretical perspectives (Frame, 2003). Nevertheless, each model offers a window for fruitful engagement of spiritual and religious issues. This article seeks to identify the advantages of Fowler's (1981) model.

Counselors should find Fowler's (1981) model attractive for several reasons. First, FDT provides a developmental model for understanding spiritual and religious changes. This model not only characterizes different stages of spiritual development but also identifies typical developmental crises and transitions between these stages. Second, because FDT describes universal structures that belong to all faiths, it provides a generic, nonsectarian map for diagnosing and assessing the nature and role of a person's faith apart from its specific contents. This permits a counselor to work with a client's faith structures without having to endorse or challenge specific religious beliefs. Finally, FDT offers a growth-oriented model of spiritual and religious development in contrast to the common clinical view of religion as pathological (e.g., Ellis, 1985; Freud, 1927/1961). By providing a theory of the adaptive qualities of faith, FDT increases the counselor's ability to work constructively with spiritual and religious issues.

* FDT

FDT is James Fowler's (1981) multileveled description of the changing patterns by which humans make sense of and commit to transcendent values and reality or to what he termed one's "ultimate environment" (p. 24). Fowler (1981) outlined seven stages of faith through which humans may pass as their ways of meaning making and relating become more complex and comprehensive. Fowler (1981) preferred to speak of faith, rather than spirituality or religion, to describe these phenomena. He described religion as cultural expressions of faith; thus, whereas faith and religion are reciprocal for Fowler (1981), faith is the more encompassing term for him. In this way, his definition of faith lies closer to the definition of spirituality that one finds in some current discussions of the relationship and differences between spirituality and religion (of. …

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