Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Political Attitudes and Religiosity Levels of Israeli Psychotherapy Practitioners and Students

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Political Attitudes and Religiosity Levels of Israeli Psychotherapy Practitioners and Students

Article excerpt

* The paper is partly based on the author's doctoral dissertation submitted to the Senate of Tel-Aviv University, and supervised by Prof. B. Beit-Hallahmi and Prof. S. Spiro.

The study was supported in part by a dissertation-writing scholarship of the Israel Foundations Trustees.


** Lecturer, Paul Baerwald School of Social Work; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Mailing address: 23 Dubnov Street, 64-369 Tel-Aviv, Israel.

The possible influence of therapists' personal values upon the therapeutic process and outcome has been the subject of many studies and discussions. Buhler,(1) in her book Values in Psychotherapy, points out that therapists' values affect their choice of a therapeutic orientation and their attitude toward the desired therapeutic outcome. Weisskopf-Joelson(2) presents clinical examples, personal experience, and empirical research demonstrating that the values of psychotherapists affect diagnoses as well as the process and goals of therapy. She states that some therapists believe that therapy should not be influenced by values, yet they may use indirect ways of disseminating them. In a survey carried out by Norcross and Wogan(3) among 319 experienced psychotherapists, 89 percent agreed that values of the therapist have direct influence on therapy, 43 percent agreed and 37 percent disagreed that the therapist's values should influence therapy (with behaviorally and humanistically oriented therapists more likely to agree than psychoanalytically oriented therapists). However psychodynamic therapists tend to aspire to neutrality. This attitude is also shared by Basch,(4) who considers empathy to be the highest transformation of affective communication, which makes possible a value-free attitude on the part of the therapist.

A series of studies carried out since the mid-fifties, regarding the relationship between the therapist's values and the therapeutic process and outcome, shows that neutrality is rarely achieved. The term frequently used in this context is "convergence" (between the therapist's and client's values), but Kelly,(5) reviewing critically the studies in this field, points out that although convergence implies the movement of two points, researchers have assumed that the therapist's values are not subject to much change since he or she is not seeking help and is typically involved with many therapeutic relationships at any given time. Beutler et al.,(6) who carried out one of the most comprehensive studies in this field, concluded that clients tend to adopt their therapists' values, while the latter, in turn, tend to like clients more and to perceive a greater improvement in their condition the more they adopt the therapists' values. Kelly(5) also noted that patient-therapist values' convergence is associated with the therapist's rating of improvement, but not with the patient's rating and not with a standardized measure of symptom amelioration. This conclusion implies that therapists tend to mold a person of their own image, from a cultural point of view, during therapy.


The most comprehensive study in this field was carried out by Henry, Sims, and Spray,(7) who investigated the political and religious biographies of more than 4,000 American psychotherapists, and found that most of them were more liberal and less religious than their parents. This sample indicated an overrepresentation of urban Jews, whose parents had been immigrants from Eastern Europe. The authors pointed out that the greater was the subjects' involvement in psychotherapy, the more did their biographies fit this cultural pattern. Despite its importance, one may find it difficult to conclude from Henry et al.'s study whether the development of attitudes typically held by psychotherapists preceded the choice of a therapeutic profession, or perhaps the development of these attitudes coincided with practicing psychotherapy and resulted from longtime association with this professional group. …

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