Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Considerations and Recommendations for Use of Religiously Based Interventions in a Licensed Setting

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Considerations and Recommendations for Use of Religiously Based Interventions in a Licensed Setting

Article excerpt

Human beings are uniquely created with varying degrees of biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual differences. Research suggests that many clients bring spiritual issues and concerns to counseling and request religiously accommodating interventions often in the form of prayer, scripture reading or referral to scripture, assurances of forgiveness by God, or forgiveness of self or others. These heightened requests from clients for religiously accommodating interventions must be matched by the clinician's heightened sensitivity to the disclosure of religious views, cultural diversity, and religious diversity through use of an advanced informed consent. This article will examine the ethical considerations in the use of religiously-congruent interventions through a more in-depth analysis of one specific approach to religiously accommodating interventions, i.e., Theophostic Prayer Ministry. It closes with suggestions for expanded informed consent when assisting clients requesting religiously accommodating interventions.

Belief in the existence of God in the U. S. has remained consistently above 90% over at least the last 50 years and a similar percentage of individuals hold religion to be a fairly integral part of their lives (Wade, Worthington, & Vogai, 2007; Gallop Poll, 2005; Yarhouse & VanOrman, 1999; Allport, 1950). In response, the Zeitgeist in the mental health profession appears to be moving toward an increase in integration of psychology and religion in licensed clinical settings (Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996; Moon, Willis, Bailey, & Kwasny, 1993; Worthington, Dupont, Berry, & Duncan, 1988; cf., Russell & Yarhouse, 2006). As these changes are taking place, they are being paralleled by alterations in church based counseling. Pastoral counseling is being augmented by an increased emphasis in lay counseling within the church setting. With these developments in the field came many discussions about the ethical and professional practice issues relevant to offering religiously congruent interventions to clients who request them.

The purpose of this article is to explore these considerations and offer specific recommendations for navigating ethical and professional practice concerns. To facilitate a more in-depth discussion, we use one specific example of religiously accommodating interventions, that is, Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM), and raise considerations that are applicable to TPM and other related approaches.

Background Information

It was mentioned above that church based counseling and ministry is being augmented in important ways by lay counseling, as members of the church community are playing more of a role in providing front line services to people in need. Interestingly, church-based ministry had an impact on the development of TPM. Ed Smith, the originator of TPM, had seventeen years of traditional ministry experience before he began offering Christian counseling services in 1991 (personal communication, March 11, 2004). Part of this service included leading a women's group for those who had suffered from past sexual trauma. Believing that something was lacking in the women's recovery Smith prayed for guidance and over the "next few weeks a series of simple yet profound principle's began to emerge in [his] thinking as [he] studied the Scriptures and sought God's leading" (Smith, 1996, p. 9). It was from this experience that TPM was birthed.

Smith continues to refine the techniques of TPM accordingly where he sees fit. Smith's end goal was not to design a therapeutic model for use in a clinical setting by licensed mental health professionals; rather, he wanted to assist a small group of women who were victims of past sexual abuse (personal communication, March 26, 2004). However, TPM developed beyond these modest beginnings. One might say the Naturalistic theory that the "times make the person or at least make possible the acceptance of what they have to say" (Jenson, personal communication, May 9, 2006) propelled Smith and TPM to the forefront of discussions of psychotherapeutic and religious integrative techniques. …

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