Introduction to Special Issue on Spiritual Direction: Part One

By Moon, Gary W. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Introduction to Special Issue on Spiritual Direction: Part One


Moon, Gary W., Journal of Psychology and Theology


To say that the past decade has witnessed a growing interest in spirituality is to bold face the obvious. Even reporting, to be more specific, that the integration of spirituality into the professional practice of psychology has become a mushrooming area of interest among mental health professionals seems redundant. As Hall and Hall (1997) summarized, several important milestones along the road to incorporating religious or spiritual beliefs, values, and practices into the process of psychotherapy, are already in the rearview mirror. Specifically delineated were:

...(a) The inclusion of religion as an element of human diversity in the American Psychological Association's (APA) (1992) code of ethics; (b) the inclusion of spiritual problems as a V-code in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994); and most recently, (c) a number of important publications dedicated to religious therapy (see Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996, for a review). (Hall & Hall, 1997, p. 86)

Lowering the microscope to focus solely on the modern (predominantly evangelical), the integration movement reveals a growing corpus of attention given to Christian spirituality and its potential role in clinical practice. Benner's (1988) Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest, was a permission-giving volume for those who desired to venture across the chasm that had been dug between professional psychology and spiritual longing. In 1995, the Christian Association of Psychological Studies held its international conference under the banner of "Our Heritage of Soul Care." According to Thomas Oden (1995), this was the first gathering of either mental health professionals (including pastoral counselors) that had adopted a theme from Christian spirituality. A special issue of The Journal of Psychology and Christianity followed that was devoted to "Christian Spirituality and Mental Health" (Moon, 1995). Recently, The Journal of Psychology and Theology gave two volumes of attention to "Christian Spirituality: Theoreti cal and Empirical Perspectives" (McMinn & Hall, 2000, 2001).

Tracking the swell of literature on integrating religion and spirituality into professional practice, and the more recent attention to explicit models has been well documented (see Hall & Hall, 1997; McMinn & McRay, 1997; and most recently, Eck, in press; Tan, in press). Eck's specific exploration of the therapeutic use of spiritual disciplines in clinical practice seems to reflect the current crescendo of interest in specific and practical applications of spiritual practices into clinical practice, whereas Tan's attention to ethical issues that surround the integration of spiritual direction into psychotherapy seems to highlight the recent fascination with the specific discipline of spiritual direction--both inside and outside the counseling office--as a fertile area for personal and professional growth.

Against this backdrop The Journal of Psychology and Theology has produced two special issues that are devoted to examining the ancient and modern practice of spiritual direction and the implications for mental health professionals. Equally weighted with this vision is the desire to promote dialogue among those interested in the process of authentic spiritual change and transformation.

The layout of this first volume was inspired in part by Richard Foster's (1998) attention to the different "streams of living water" within the Christian traditions. At the heart of this issue will be the voices of seven different pastors, priests, or theologians who will describe the history and process of spiritual direction from within their denomination/faith group. It was felt that if spiritual direction is to be better understood it would be important to hear from the voices of multiple experts.

The different traditions and representatives are: Orthodox (Father F. …

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