In today's time, many individuals are very comfortable discussing their religious or spiritual beliefs. However, when it comes to incorporating religion or spiritual tenets in the counseling room, the therapist must be cautious, careful, and exude compassion. Corey (2009) clients who are experiencing a crisis situation may find a source of comfort, support, and strength in drawing upon their spiritual resources. Counselors must remain open and non judgmental in conversations about religion or spirituality.
Ryan returns home from Afghanistan due to a physical injury incurred when he stepped on a land mine. Predictably, the loss of his leg resulted in an immediate discharge. Ryan is now living at home with his fiancée. Intense anger over his disability eventually drove him into counseling. In the beginning of the session, I conducted an assessment, asking three questions. The first was, “Do you have a religion or association with spiritual beliefs?” Ryan stated that he was a Baptist and his favorite scripture was Psalm 23. My second and third questions followed. “How has this scripture helped you on your journey? Could other scriptures in the bible help you deal with anger?"
Questions such as these will open the door for a discussion regarding a client's faith and the tools that have helped him or her the most in their religious journey, some of which may be:
- Reading the Word
- Listening to religious music
- Attending church
If these are the client's tools, it is important to express a curiosity and strong interest concerning their religious and/or spiritual beliefs during session. Lastly, it is vital to create an atmosphere that allows a client to feel safe in exploring different avenues of healing.
Corey, G. (2009) Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. 9th Edition. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning; Belmont, CA.
Heather B. Duke is a marriage and family counselor in training. She will be completing her internship this summer in Chicago, Illinois. It is her passion to work with couples that are experiencing relational issues due to marriage, divorce, and custody arrangements.