Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Christians' Perceptions of Hypothetical Case Studies of Five Pastoral Approaches to Marital Therapy: An Exploratory Study *

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Christians' Perceptions of Hypothetical Case Studies of Five Pastoral Approaches to Marital Therapy: An Exploratory Study *

Article excerpt

The study investigates how those who attend conservative Christian churches might perceive the marital counseling provided by a pastor. Participants ( 72=301) completed questionnaires rating case studies employing pastoral adaptations of the counseling approaches of Howard Clinebell, Lawrence Crabb, H. Norman Wright, Everett L. Worthington, and Emotionally Focused Couple's Therapy (EFCT). Ratings of these models indicate participants differentiated between models with Clinebell's approach being perceived to be least attractive.

Clients prefer to work with therapists who acknowledge and understand their spiritual values and who incorporate these values in the therapeutic process (e.g., American Association of Pastoral Counselors, 2000; Ripley, Worthington & Berry, 2001; Rose, Westefeld & Ansley, 2008; Schaffner & Dixon, 2003). While questions related to counselee perceptions of professional counselors and their religious values are addressed in the literature (Morro w, Worthington & McCullough, 1993; Ripley et al., 2001; Rose et al., 2008), little is known about how Christians perceive the therapeutic models employed by clergy. This gap is significant because a member of the clergy may be the first person religious people will turn to for counsel (Abe-Kim, Gong & Takeuchi, 2004; Misumi, 1993; Pescosolido, Martin, Link, Kikuzawa, Burgos, Swindle et al., 1996). In this study the authors examine how theologically conservative participants rated the goals and methodologies of five pastoral approaches to marital therapy. It was expected in this exploratory study that those seeking pastoral marital therapy would not demonstrate a preference for any of the approaches.

Spirituality in Marriage

Faith and spirituality are critical to a couple's identity construct as well as a basis for both resilience and resistance to change (Franklin, 2005; Hunier & Gencoz, 2005; Kallampally, Oakes, Lyons, Greer, & Gillespie, 2007; Marks, 2005). Marital health and satisfaction has been linked to religious motivation, intrinsic vs extrinsic (Brimhall & Butler, 2007), conjoint participation in religious activities (Mahoney, Pargament, Jewell, Swank, Scott, Emery, & Rye, 1999), as well as a couple's understanding of, and their relationship to, God (Butler &. Harper, 1994). A client couple's perception of God may lead to a de-escalation of emotions, a softening of the relationship, a sense of humility, and a facilitation of a solution (Butler, Gardner, & Bird, 1998; Butler, Stout, & Gardner, 2002).

Beach, Fincham, Hurt, McNair, and Stanley (2008) conceptualize that the use of prayer corresponds with the therapeutic strategies of regaining perspective, breaking negative thought cycles, promoting relaxation, and dialoguing with a supportive other. Worthington (2008), however, cautions that therapists need to tailor the use of prayer in ways that are acceptable to clients, noting clients may view prayer in terms of its spiritual rather than psychological benefits. Worthington observes couples are unlikely to pray at the time of the conflict nor are they likely to pray long enough to achieve the desired effect. Furthermore, God's differentiated position within the marriage may become compromised when marital conflict and anxiety are channeled onto God by means of a coalition, displacement, or substitution triangle (Butler & Harper, 1994).

Forgiveness in marriage, another dimension of spirituality, is understood to be an important mechanism for resolving relationship injuries such as when one partner has an affair (e.g., Bagarozzi, 2008; Diblasio, 2000; Makinen & Johnson, 2006; Mauldin, 2003). Finally, although the use of spiritual interventions has been rated highly by Christian clients (Ripley et al., 2001; Wade, Worthington & Vogel, 2007), what is vital is not the number of spiritual guidance techniques employed but rather the decision as to when, how, and, which techniques are employed (Worthington, Dupont, Berry, & Duncan, 1988). …

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