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Touching the Transcendent in Practice

Hinging on our conversation with Christian counselor Robin Webster, LPC, NCC, TPN.Health is considering how religious and/or spiritual frameworks inform clinical practice, from both the client and the clinician’s perspectives.

It has been important in much of literature exploring religion and spirituality in psychotherapeutic practice to distinguish between the terms “religion,” and “spirituality.” In a literature review, Post and Wade (2009) identified religion as a matter of the transcendent having to do with doctrine and dogma; they defined spirituality as having to do with transcendent but disconnected from organized religion. Each one can carry with it unique obstacles or elements for support.

Can you think of a time when a client brought up religion or spirituality as a source of support? Was this source of support something which could have been helpful to explore and incorporate?

Likewise, has a client ever brought up religion or spirituality as a source of distress? If interventions were necessary, what interventions did you put in place?

Even if you as a clinician would not incorporate religious and/or spiritual interventions, it is important to be aware of your own personal frameworks around religion or spirituality. These have the potential to interact with how you address a client who has religious/spiritual frameworks with which you are unfamiliar.

Was there ever a time when you were unfamiliar with the religion and/or spirituality of the client? When your own religious/spiritual framework may have influenced how you perceived the religious/ spiritual framework of a client?

Likewise, it is important to be aware of the intersection of religious/spiritual and cultural identities. For instance, Robin in her practice and personal life within the African American community noted that religion has served as a means of support and sense-making in the absence of access to mental health services.

Reliance upon a faith framework, whether in religion and/or spirituality, has served to inform the community’s well-being in this lack of access to necessary services, like those of mental health. It is also her opinion that the lack of access to services over many years has contributed to the stigma around mental health for the African American community.

Do you have experiences or insight to share on the topics of religion and/or spirituality in practice? You can contribute to the clinical conversation by sharing your questions and comments on the newsfeed at TPN.Health.

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Post, B. C., & Wade, N. G. (2009). Religion and spirituality in psychotherapy: a practice-friendly review of research. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(2), 131–146. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20563.