Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy

By Bassett, Rodney L. | Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy


Bassett, Rodney L., Journal of Psychology and Christianity


SPIRITUALLY ORIENTED PSYCHOTHERAPY. Edited by Len Sperry and Edward P. Shafranske. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2005. Hb, 376 pp. $49-95. Reviewed by Larry N. Ferguson (Fresno, CA).

Perhaps it is ironic to read this book, published by the APA. In the early 1970s (when some of us old folks were in graduate school) it was clear that the APA was suspicious of any religious or spiritual conceptualizations within psychology. Programs such as the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology struggled for APA accreditation because of its obvious religious bent. Now, 40 years later, the APA publishes this book on Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy!

Organizations like CAPS, and schools like Fuller and Rosemead have promoted the role of spiritual aspects within psychotherapy. At one time it was a step of faith to claim one was a "Christian Psychologist." Today it is not so. The many hundreds of Christian men and women, psychologists, counselors, and social workers alike, continue to show that the "spiritual dimension in psychotherapy" is important.

Psychology is a science. Therefore the scientific principles applied to any area of research must be applied to the definition, understanding, and application of spirituality in psychotherapy. As the book begins, it is noted "the empirical evidence suggests links between health and spiritual and religious factors" (p. 11). Using the rigors of science to help verify or demonstrate these assertions is critical. Since a religious faith is important to many people, spirituality cannot be ignored in therapy. It is these observations that enervate psychotherapeutic approaches to address the spiritual side of humanity.

This book is outlined in three sections. Part I sets out the Theoretical Foundations. Beginning with definitions and explanation, Shafranske and Sperry set the stage. Then, in chapters two and three, psychoanalytic and Jungian foundations are introduced. Historically and contextually these two major influences in psychotherapy are shown to be valuable in understanding the spiritual aspect of humanity. Rather than explaining away religion or spirituality, it is clear these two allow "the integration of spirituality in psychotherapeutic practice" (p. 5).

One of the questions asked is whether "the psychological and spiritual dimensions of human experience and development" are the same (or different) and which has primacy (if either). There is still theoretical debate on this, and may best be answered at this point as "It is a metaphysical question requiring an answer born of faith" (p. …

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