A Review of Exploring the Therapeutic Use of Spiritual Disciplines in Clinical Practice

September 22, 2018 Religion

Summary The article explores the concept of incorporating spiritual practices in the clinical practice of counseling. One of the primary elements the article wishes professional counselors to consider is the idea that “the values and practices of religious clients deserve the same level of respect and sensitivity as any other ethno-cultural aspect of a client’s life” (Eck 266). In order to accomplish this, the author identifies the ethical, cultural, and professional practice parameters that all counselors should consider.

Eck points out that many professionals receive training to better assist clients from diverse ethnic backgrounds, but very few incorporate any spiritual framework within sessions with a religious client. The research he analyzed indicates that between fifty and ninety percent of clients seen highly value their spiritual orientation, yet it seems that many counselors prefer to leave spirituality out of the sessions.

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There are several reasons he believes this may happen, but advocates strongly that proper training with regard to incorporating religious practices in the counseling session would help counselor competence in the area and provide a better framework for assisting religious clients. He also recommends proper assessment to determine if spiritual interventions would even benefit the client. In addition to discussing religious practices with the client, he also suggests the utilization of standardized measures.

In addition to taking an assessment of the client’s spirituality, the article recommends that professionals be aware of their own level of spirituality and how those beliefs may affect any interaction with a client. There are many ways to incorporate spiritual interventions into practice, but deciding on the best practice depends on the client and on the therapist’s level of training. On the whole, spiritual intervention is a method that helps the client live the life their religion advocates when the client is unable to do so alone.

The article does suggest more research needs to be done to help build better model of therapeutic practices, but indicated many therapists would benefit with simply training more thoroughly with the knowledge we already have. Reflection I was interested in analyzing this particular article because I have always been curious as to why spirituality and modern medicine seem to be mutually exclusive. I especially appreciated how Eck distinguished between the client’s level spirituality and that of the therapist.

Much like any other ethno-cultural aspect, a client’s religion should be incorporated into therapy if it is warranted despite the therapist’s personal viewpoints. According to APA, religion is recognized under the code of ethics, but many therapists seem to leave the spirituality aspect of their client’s lives to religious leaders in their client’s lives. Since so many people highly value the spiritual component in their lives, it seems that a therapist is doing the client a disservice by not incorporating this aspect into their sessions.

Another interesting aspect he presented in the article is the difference between implicit and explicit interventions. A therapist needs to be able to properly assess their own inclinations and beliefs in order to make sure the session is compatible with the needs of the client. This can be especially beneficial to the client when the therapist is trained to determine what avenue to take in assisting the client. There were several works that Eck referred to as being “essential resources for the clinician seeking to develop ethno-religious competency” (Eck 267).

The most recent work is listed as Richards and Bergin’s (2000) Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity. In addition to reading this one, I would like to find a copy of Miller’s (1999) Integrating Spirituality into Treatment. I think these texts will provide more information on current models of treatment that incorporate spirituality into therapy sessions while also serving to enhance my understanding of religious practices that differ from my own. Application The information from this article can be easily applied to virtually any counseling setting.

First and foremost I would make sure that I was aware of my own spiritual identity and any prejudices I might harbor about differing practices. Additionally, I would want to make sure I had a basic understanding of the major religions and a competent mentor that I could turn to if the occasion presented itself. I would begin by asking the client open ended questions about their religious views and practices to help determine whether spiritual intervention is appropriate.

I would make sure to help the client feel comfortable talking about their religion in addition to all the other aspects of their lives. I would also make doubly sure to refrain from talking to them about my preferences so there are no unintended feelings of religious coercion. My next step would be to assess the level of the client’s spirituality with standardized measures along with any other assessment appropriate for their concerns. If a spiritual intervention is warranted, I would find the appropriate spiritual discipline to address the client’s condition.

Eck has identified thirty-nine different spiritual disciplines from various authors that address common themes in therapy. Ultimately that means identifying the religious ideal and discovering what is preventing the client from reaching that goal. In doing so, I can help the client move past these barriers and help them build a life more congruent with their faith. I would also encourage the client to be open with their religious leader about their struggles and progress as that can have a very positive affect for highly religious individuals.


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