Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Supervision and the Integration of Faith into Clinical Practice: Research Considerations

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Supervision and the Integration of Faith into Clinical Practice: Research Considerations

Article excerpt

We review the research on the involvement of faith in supervision within the leading model of supervision-a developmental model. The developmental model of supervision aims for supervisors to match supervision interventions to the level of counselor development. We find that substantial research on the integration of faith and practice has transpired, and the major findings are reviewed. Nevertheless, a vigorous research agenda is still possible. We suggest that such research should (a) identify specific spiritual or religious (S/R) competencies on which to focus at each level of counselor development, (b) develop better assessment instruments for measuring development of competence and comfort with S/R issues, (c) describe how different theological traditions might require different competencies, (d) be explicit about the theoretical model of integration that supervisors follow, (e) identify evidence-based counseling interventions to teach during supervision, (f) determine the extent and style of discussion of S/R issues during supervision, and (g) detect how personal S/R values of supervisors, counselors, and clients interact to produce different client outcomes.

As Aten and Hernandez (2004) suggest, religion and spirituality have become issues worth considering in the practice of supervision. The literature is still scant and the models and applications are still preliminary. Research in this area is almost non-existent. The purpose of this article is to provide some reflections about how spirituality and religion (S/R) are and can be integrated into supervision, to review the extant research, and to suggest a research agenda for this aspect of supervision.

Why Is It Important to Consider the Integration of S/R Issues in Supervision?

We suggest that it is particularly important to consider how S/R issues are dealt with during supervision. Worthington et al. (in press) reviewed the research on training in S/R. Building on models suggested by Yarhouse and Fisher (2002), and considering the empirical research that had accumulated, Worthington et al. suggested that currently five training models existed: (1) S/R issues dealt with as needed, (2) minimalist incorporation-integration, (3) intentional incorporation-integration, (4) minor-certificate programs, and (5) religiously tailored programs. Most training models-except for the religiously tailored programs and a few intentionally incorporation-integration programs offered little in the way of explicit training in S/R issues. Training occurred, if at all, haphazardly, and only when it came up naturally. Worthington et al. (in press) identified eight potential sources by which therapists-in-training could learn to deal with S/R issues: coursework, informal peer discussions, advisors, research training, practicum training (e.g., from staffing, from clients, and from supervisors), personal therapy, and post-degree training.

Despite the number of these sources of learning, in reality, most S/R training occurred when clients brought up S/R issues in their therapy, and counselors then carried such issues to supervision. Worthington et al. (in press) argued that the likelihood was that this seriously underestimated the number of clients that had S/R issues because clients often had mistaken assumptions that S/R issues were not appropriate for discussion in state-supported agencies or some secular private practices. Furthermore, unless there was a specific policy in place in a training program that encouraged dealing with S/R issues, many counselors simply would not bring such S/R issues to supervision-sometimes even if the issues needed attention with their clients-because the students might believe that such issues were not welcome. Such beliefs are not unfounded. Schulte, Skinner, and Claiborn (2002) surveyed two-thirds of the directors of counseling training at an annual meeting of the Council on Counseling Psychology Training Programs. Only 78 percent of the directors of training said that they believed that practicum supervisors in the program were "open to discussing the client's S/R if it seems relevant to the case" (p. …

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