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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Religion and Counseling by Tony Astro

For this discussion Three barriers that may be present between client and counselor if:

  • Religion and spirituality are addressed.
  • Religion and spirituality are not addressed.
  • Describe own personal challenges that could present within the domains of counseling and religion.
  • Develop a proactive plan to work through these challenges.


Subject: Discussion 9: Spiritual and Religious Belief - Challenges & Solution by Tony Astro Topic: u09d1 Barriers, Challenges, and Solutions
Author: Tony Astro Date: December 2, 2008 3:54 PM

Must Be Addressed

Religion and spirituality must be tackled in counseling when clients begin to address his spirituality and belief and have an effect on member’s health and influence how both clients and counselor response to the issue of concern, psychologically and physically.

Religious cultural differences with regard to denomination (as well as the beliefs and practices associated with being in a denomination) between client and therapists are likely to exist, particularly for clinical and counseling psychologists (Walker, Gorsuch and Tan, 2004).

Counselor is responsible to research client’s religion or spiritual belief just like analyzing the importance of his or her race, culture and ethnic orientation. Many if not all aspect of religion is very difficult to quantify and as professionals, we look at the obvious and what is proven and not the “invisible” or spirit particularly to diverse minority or people of color and people with strong religious upbringing.

The amount of training that most clinicians undergo within their graduate and professional education is quite extensive. Yet, because much of the training is anchored within the context of a European American psychological perspective, the knowledge base is limited when applied to people of color. This is particularly evident when considering the notion of spirituality (Cervantes and Parham, 2005).

Must Not Be Addressed

In other circumstances when religion is not implied nor has no influence with the patient, religion or spirituality should not be addressed. But sometimes, patients do not have to bring up spirituality and if every avenue has been tried and the remaining aspect of culture that has strong “spiritual” side and has not been explored, it must be deliberated. Spirituality is multifaceted because it cannot be described physically. Exploring this area with the patient can be carefully investigated.

The whole issue of what ‘spirituality’ might be referring to is a complex one. While the word, itself, contains another word spirit, the term has been used more broadly than one to connote simply a belief in the inherent spirit of a person. It is, however, most frequently linked to religion and to religious beliefs. In discussing faith, religion and spirituality, many community members believed that ministers should play a role in providing spiritual counsel and comfort to families when it comes to advance care planning. Community members believe it important to address faith and beliefs with one’s doctor ahead of time. Many believed in the importance of one’s relationship with God or with a higher power, and saw this higher spirit as playing a pivotal role in one’s health, working through healthcare professionals to sustain life, as well as determining when it is “your time to go” (Phipps, True and Murray, 2003).

Personal Challenges

A military career counselor has no authority to discuss religion in any occasion. Military chaplains are allowed to discuss any subjects including medical and career counseling. Many of the military chaplains have counseling license and have high level of privacy unlike any other counselor including physicians and psychiatrist. But as counselor, I should consider the overall personality of a Sailor who needs help and some of them are shaped by religious belief such as:

1. Member is separating because he does not believe in war – sacrificing life due to his Mormon upbringing.

2. An Islam sailor does not want to be deployed to Afghanistan to fight those who have the same spiritual belief of supposed enemy of the Americans.

Clinical and counseling psychologists who find it difficult to understand the cultural heritage of clients who practice their spirituality within the context of an organized religion may wish to consult with explicitly religious therapists on such therapy cases (Walker, Gorsuch and Tan, 2004) .

Proactive Plan

Being in a Christian faith, a professional counselor is accountable to preserve the spirituality and religious belief of every patient. To do this, even though the patient is not vocally spiritual, must examine his/her overall culture including family’s background including religious convictions. The patient may have long been agnostic but have previously believed in Judaism. His disorientation on his previous religion making him agnostic may have contributed to some of his mental uncertainty resulting to some psychological perplexity. Asking the questions will be reasonable: Do you have or had a religion? Why have you not practiced it? Do you want to talk about it?

After those questions, observe the client how he/she reacts. Counselor must then study and know Judaism and start incorporating (if needed) in issues strong to the patient. Some patients discuss issues that cannot be seen or quantified. Spirituality is one of them. If discussing religion gives comfort and liberation to counselee, therapist must acknowledge it to shape him or her towards their stronger wellbeing.

Among the domains of multicultural attitudes and skills most pertinent to this study are (a) an awareness of one's own cultural heritage, (b) respect and comfort with other cultures and values that differ from one's own, and (c) an awareness of one's helping style and how this style could affect clients from other cultural backgrounds. Hence, knowledge of religion and spirituality is an important element of therapists' multicultural competency (Walker, Gorsuch and Tan, 2004).


Cervantes, J and Parham T. (2005). Toward a Meaningful Spirituality for People of Color: Lessons for the Counseling Practitioner. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology by the Educational Publishing Foundation Vol. 11, No. 1, 69 – 81. University of California, Irvine.

Phipps, E., True, G., & Murray, G. (2003, December). Community perspectives on advance care planning: report from the community ethics program. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 10(4), 118-123. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from CINAHL with Full Text database.

Walker, D., Gorsuch, R., & Tan, S. (2004, October). Therapists' Integration of Religion and Spirituality in Counseling: A Meta-Analysis. Counseling & Values, 49(1), 69-80. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

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