What are some of the ethical issues that might confront psychologists who incorporate religion and spirituality in their patients’ treatments?

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Last Updated: 01/23/2018 at 10:09pm
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January 10th, 2018 3:50pm

I am answering from the perspective of a professional counsellor. There has been much discussion on psychotherapy and religion, on whether can religion and spirituality be incorporated into psychological treatement. There are many strong and valid opinions on both sides of the fence. As mentioned in your question, some of the main issues in involving religion and spirituality in psychotherapy are about ethics. The biggest concern in incorporating religion and spirituality in psychotherapy is when there is a difference in religion or spirituality between the helping professional and the client. Even in cases where both the psychologist or counsellor and the client have the same professed religion, there might still be some major difference in values between the two. In such cases, whose religious viewpoint are to be followed? Even though the general logic is to follow the client's, in actual practice it is harder to distinguish than on theory. Some of the risks in practice when incorporating religion and spirituality in psychotherapy are imposing of values, discrimination, ineffective communication, not sensitive enough, or being too focused on the religion and spirituality aspect (failure to look at the issue apart from the lens of religion and spirituality). However, there are also some who see religion and spirituality as an important part of psychotherapy, and have proved to be effective in using it as a part of their treatment. There are also many people who have benefitted from such therapies. In short, I would say that religion and spirituality is one of the tools that can be used in psychological therapy, and just like any other tools (breathing techniques, counselling, assessment etc.) they can be beneficial when properly utilised, or bring more harm than good if abused.

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