The Psychologies in Religion: Working with the Religious Client

By E. Thomas Dowd; Stevan Lars Nielsen | Go to book overview

Preface

Psychologists and other mental health therapists have only recently discovered religion! Yes, some writers and therapists, such as Allen Bergin, have written on religious topics for years. On the other hand, well-known therapists such as Sigmund Freud and Albert Ellis openly disparaged religion and considered it to be at best worthless and at worst destructive. For them, it was a form of childish superstition and neuroticism, to be outgrown as soon as possible. Even more contemporary therapists have all too often covertly treated religion and by implication religious people with condescension or scorn. It was simply a topic not discussed in therapy. In part, this may have been caused by the fact that psychologists as a group are much less religious than the general population. Religious clients returned the favor by avoiding secular therapists, sometimes considering therapy as potentially destructive to their faith. For example, one advertisement of a Christian therapist stated, “No psychology is needed.”

However, within the last 5 or 6 years, there have been a number of books on psychology and various aspects of religion, several published by the American Psychological Association. In a sense, one might say that psychologists have discovered religion and are beginning to see knowledge of religious beliefs and attitudes as an aspect of cultural competence. These books, however, have largely consisted of a description of the belief structures of people in different religious denominations or, in some instances, a consideration of aspects of religious practice, such as coping. They can be seen as looking from the outside in and are valuable because they provide therapists with information about the values and religious practices of their clients.

However, what has been missing is a look from the inside out; that is, an examination of the thinking, personality, and development processes, as well as clinical concerns of clients who are members of particular religious groups. Religious upbringing influences people in ways

-xiii-

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