Ethics of Religion Imposing Religious Values in Therapy
ETHICS OF RELIGION: IMPOSING RELIGIOUS VALUES IN THERAPY 8
Ethicsof Religion: Imposing Religious Values in Therapy
Ethicsof Religion: Imposing Religious Values in Therapy
Counselingas field falls within psychology which is a scientific disciplinehence the tendency to avoid any integration of religious beliefsduring therapy. The lack of integration also emanates fromtraditional American practice of striving to keep education andreligion distinct. However, over two-thirds of Americans arereligious and admit that individual spiritual practices inform theirevery-day lives. Furthermore, Kahleand Robbins (2014),determined that more than ninety percent of Americans believe in Godor possess some faith in a supernatural power. As such, religionbecomes an important subject in counseling although it is oftenoverlooked yet during therapies there will be clients whose issuesinvolve spirituality likewise the counselor’s therapy often isbased on their religious beliefs and values. Subsequently, the lackof expertise and training before the practice leaves the counselorsto rely on their understanding of how to interpret religious beliefsthereby ending up applying the wrong religious intervention andimposing their religious beliefs on the clients without noticing.
Althoughtherapy may not center on religious matters, it is imperative toacknowledge its impact as it defines everyone’s decision making,beliefs, values and lifestyle choices. Counselors thus have aresponsibility under Principle E of the 2010 APA Ethics Code to besensitive to, cognizant of and respect all personal differences suchas religious beliefs, practices, and values to avoid imposing theirvalues on the clients (Welfel,2015).The study thus determines that Clinical competence, informed consent,collaboration and consultation with other professional and multiplerelationships are the keys to ethically integrating religious valuesin psychotherapy.
EthicalConsiderations in Integrating Religious Beliefs in Psychotherapy
Religionaccording to the American Psychological Association is a diversitythus clinical competency must include being culturally adept inreligious issues. Attaining cultural competency requires carefulclinical supervision and training before the integration of religiousbeliefs into psychotherapy. According to Kahleand Robbins (2014),being culturally competent as a counselor involves having thecultural knowledge, gaining self-knowledge, knowing your attitudesand honing skills to work with particular client concerns. Althoughbeing competent in all the areas as a therapist may be difficult,both you and the client stands to benefit from gaining suchcompetencies as discussed further below.
Withoutnecessarily becoming an expert on all the different religions,counselors must be knowledgeable of the diversities in religiouspractice to be able to determine variations and differences thatarise easily. Cultural knowledge helps the counselor avoidstereotyping that often results due to inaccurate assessment andpossession of little knowledge concerning a given culture. Therefore,to help the therapist not impose their values, undergoing a diversitytraining is imperative as it helps in highlighting existingdifferences even among members of a particular group withoutstereotyping them all as one. For instance, among both Christians andMuslims marked differences exist within these groups because of thevaried interpretations of their holy books hence preconceiving eitherto be of particular nature is misleading. Also, apart from thecounselor being cognizant of their religious beliefs, they muststrive to have a broad understanding of the differences within theworld’s major faiths such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism,Buddhism, and Hinduism. Further, the therapist should also know ofthe other existing small spiritual groups that may be most prominentin their area of practice. Elkonin,Brown and Naicker (2014)points that being cognizant of the variations within any faith isvital in enhancing the therapist’s ability to connect andunderstand the client without imposing their values deeply.
Beingculturally competent as a therapist also requires being in the knowof your personal biases, beliefs and conduct towards a given group.Subsequently, it is imperative to admit that everyone has a prejudicetowards particular people without necessarily admitting to it on aconscious level since most biases stem from the unconscious mind andmay only vary or change with experiences over time. During therapywith religious considerations, self-knowledge plays a major role indetermining what kind of clients the counselor should not counsel.Self-knowledge also helps the therapist determine when to supervisethemselves and ascertain in prior if the therapy is the productivefor the client. Although getting rid of all biases is impossible, itis ethical of the therapist to recognize them and ascertain if theywill jeopardize a positive therapy outcome. As such, counselorsshould be more willing to decline to work with a particular group ofclients without any shame if their religious values are stronglymisaligned. Furthermore, counselors should constantly be in the knowof the potential biases triggers that in turn affects their abilityto remain objective when counseling a client from a given group. Forinstance, many have developed prejudice and suspicion for Muslims inthe western world given the latest terrorist attacks. Sincedetermining if such events have elevated the therapist’s prejudicesis hard, they should perform immediate self-evaluation to avoid harmto the client that may arise out of their biases and valuesimposition unexpectedly during therapy.
Apartfrom self-knowledge, being conscious of your attitudes as a therapistis important as it determines how far you can put up with valuedifferences to be able to counsel a wide variety of clients.Therapists must learn to respect clients’ beliefs withoutarbitrarily trying to destroy them because of their attitude towardsthe religion and the faith practiced by the client. For instance, thetherapist may believe in eternal life after resurrection while theclient may believe in reincarnation after death thus during thesession, the therapist may purposely or unconsciously try to convertthe client to their faith. Attitude misalignment can also result whenthe therapist is either a Muslim or a Christian, but the client isfrom the LGBTQ community. Knowing that engaging in homosexuality orchanging sex is a sin, most religious therapist will want to imposetheir religious values on such clients perceiving it as a salvationwork without any regard to client’s choices.
Therapistshave an obligation to inform clients upfront of all the variousfactors that will significantly impact the outcome of thepsychotherapy. Although informed consent presents the client with allthe available treatment options and their potential dangers andbenefits, it is also important that it mentions the therapist`sreligious beliefs before the counseling begins since religious valuessignificantly determine the preferred therapy. Thus, it prevents harmto the client and adheres to ethics codes by warning the client inprior for instance that the therapist has racist, homophobic or Islamphobic prejudices that may unconsciously lead them to impose theirreligious values upon the client.
Collaboratingand Consulting With Other Professionals
Therapistsoften face dilemmas and challenges in regards to client’s consentif their confidential information is to be shared with otherknowledgeable professionals such as the clergy on a continuous basis.Therefore, when faced with such a challenge, the therapist must firstseek the informed consent of the client before seeking the help ofother professional. Such collaborations are crucial particularly ifthe counselor has no deep understanding of a client’s faith henceshould not be perceived as clinical incompetence because it saves thecounselor from imposing their religious values on the client orgiving the wrong diagnosis due to a superficial understanding of theclient’s faith.
MultipleRelationships and Boundaries Establishment
Whiletackling religious beliefs during a psychotherapy session, it isimperative that the therapist is cognizant of the boundaries withinthe two fields so as to not take the clergy’s role by providingpastoral therapy rather than psychotherapy. By knowing the boundariesin religious beliefs, the therapist can determine upfront if thesession will have a positive outcome or if they have to refer theclient to another therapist because of misaligned religious values.
EthicalIntegration of Religious Beliefs in Psychotherapy
Mostpeople are religious and believe in the existence of a higher powerthus it is necessary that both the counselors’ and clients’religious beliefs are considered for a successful psychotherapy.Ethical integration begins when client’s values, practices, andbeliefs are identified upfront to enable the right recommendationsand treatment options to be used. The integration can includepraying, meditation or appropriately turning to the scriptures.Further, to avoid imposing religious values on the client, thetherapist should adhere to an ethical decision-making model thatenables them to determine when to integrate religious values or notand when their values jeopardize the chances of a successfulpsychotherapy. Therefore, the therapist should respectfully ask theclient`s religious beliefs, cautiously determine any associationbetween religious beliefs and the present problem and honestly assesstheir competence and biases in the case to enhance a positive outcome(Young& Young, 2014).
Sincealmost everyone believes in the existence of God or some higherpower, as a therapist having a broad knowledge of the differentreligions and the variations that characterize them is important inavoiding stereotyping of clients that result from having differentreligious values. Therefore, to avoid imposing one’s religiousvalues on the client, it is imperative to strive for higher clinicalcompetence that includes cultural competence which leads to deepcultural knowledge, self-knowledge, and acknowledgment of attitudestowards a given group. Other mechanisms of eliminating religiousvalues imposition involve ethical decisions such as upholdinginformed consent of the client, collaborating with otherprofessionals and establishing multiple relationships and boundaries.
Elkonin,D., Brown, O., & Naicker, S. (2014). Religion, spirituality andtherapy: Implications for training. Journalof Religion and Health,53(1),119-134.
Kahle,P. A., & Robbins, J. M. (2014). Thepower of spirituality in therapy: Integrating spiritual and religiousbeliefs in mental health practice.5Howick Place, London:Routledge.
Welfel,E. R. (2015). Ethicsin counseling & psychotherapy.Cengage Learning.
Young,C. S., & Young, J. S. (2014). Integratingspirituality and religion into counseling: A guide to competentpractice.Hoboken,New Jersey:John Wiley & Sons.
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