Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Importance of Religion on Counseling by Tony Astro

Importance and Integration of Religion / Spirituality:

It is not just important to assess the religion and spirituality of an individual practicing the religion but it is important to incorporate the spiritual dimension on the counselor’s own personal lives to be truthful in communicating with the patient. Patient can sense if counselor is just being scholar or patronizing the patient. If counselor cannot deal with its own spirituality, how can the counselor honestly empathize with the patient?

Clinicians themselves are increasingly interested in incorporating the spiritual dimension in their own personal lives. Many are involved in their own spiritual development and utilize various spiritual exercises such as prayer and meditation. Those who are pioneers in this emerging field will experience more support and less resistance from colleagues when they share their experiences with clients, trainees and colleagues. Many will seek additional knowledge and training which will further increase their capacity to respond to the concerns of their clients. In other words, the prospects for incorporating the spiritual dimension in clinical practice are great (Sperry, 2001).


One major challenge a counselor can encounter is: Ignorance leading to Preconception (Bias). Spirituality is sometimes part of a person that tells, it is the ultimate truth and others are not the true religion. Too much familiarity of own religion can impose pressure to another. Some spiritual dimension requires that “God says you must share this truth to others” and imposes guilt. If counselor believes strongly on such conviction or principle, counselor may have to live a double life to accommodate the “other religion” who is also the ultimate truth.

Skills and Strategy:

It is not enough to know the what, where, when and how but why is that particular religion has an effect on person’s life. Let’s put that person’s shoes and develop true understanding / empathy of the person and ask: what if the spiritual dimension of that person happens to be my belief as well? It is not an option for the counselor to incorporate religion or spiritual dimension but it is a must to be more effective in knowing the patient whether he or she is spiritual or not.

Within hospice care it has always been clear that spiritual care is “not an optional extra”. Through the thirty years of the modern hospice movement a sense of the importance of the spiritual has been retained. Research published in 1995 compared hospice nurses and oncology nurses and demonstrated that the former group engage in spiritual care activities more often and felt more comfortable in so doing (Cobb and Robshaw, 1998).

Sperry, L. (2001). Spirituality in Clinical Practice: Incorporating the Spiritual Dimension in Psychotherapy and Counseling. Psychology Press, 2001. Page 194.

Cobb, M., Robshaw, V. (1998). The Spiritual Challenge of Health Care. Elsevier Health Sciences, 1998 Page 168

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