Secular Counselors Mostly Ignore Clergy's Role

By Witham, Larry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 6, 1998 | Go to article overview

Secular Counselors Mostly Ignore Clergy's Role


Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The divide between the two leading counseling professions, pyschology and the ministry, is dramatized in a survey that shows only four of 2,400 research articles in psychology journals cite the relevance of clergy in mental health.

This trend, found in eight journals between 1991 and 1994, robs psychology of data to make a "scientific evaluation of the beneficial or harmful effects of clergy involvement in mental health care," according to an article in Professional Psychology.

At the birth of psychiatry and psychology early in the century, Sigmund Freud and others argued that religion was a harmful neurosis - making clergy handmaidens of mental-health problems.

The blindness of today's research to the clergy's role, the new report said, may limit progress in public health because more Americans with concerns defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders go to clergy than to psychologists or psychiatrists combined.

"That this continues to be neglected is not in our best interest," Dr. David Larson, a psychiatrist who is co-author of the report and director of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, said in an interview yesterday . "Race, gender and sexual preference are all considered relevant factors, but not religion or clergy."

Clark Clipson, an American Psychological Association member with the Clarkside Psychology Center in San Diego, said he is not surprised that research psychologists overlook clergy counseling. "Where the separation exists is between research psychology and clinical psychology," he said.

Mr. Clipson said scientists shy away from discussion about religious beliefs or values. Still, he added, psychology has increasingly recognized that it is not a "value-free" science. …

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