The couple was treated at a private psychotherapy practice located at a Roman Catholic church in the upper Midwest region of the United States.
Mary and John's presenting problems included unresolved hurts, excessive anger toward each other manifested in daily verbal fighting, and poor communication skills. Mary and John often fought about their religious difference and John's resentment over Mary's efforts to convert him to Roman Catholicism. Mary and John acknowledged that their main motivation for keeping the marriage together was their two children, an 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. After completing a thorough assessment, their therapist, Dr.
Mark J. Krejci, a Roman Catholic, concluded that, despite their differences, Mary's and John's spiritual lives could be a positive area in which they could interact. Both had a deep, genuine belief in God and wanted to share this faith in the family context, but they did not know how to do this. With the couple's consent to work on spiritual issues, Dr.
Krejci encouraged them to engage in a number of spiritual practices together, which included praying for each other, participating in a nondenominational Bible study group, giving altruistic gifts to one another, attending church services at each other's churches, and sharing conversations with one another about their personal spiritual journeys.
Krejci also helped Mary and John to recognize the need and gain the desire to forgive each other for past hurts and offenses. He presented to them a theistic biblical model of forgiveness. In addition to considering forgiveness as a cognitive and emotional process, this model of forgiveness considers images of God's forgiveness to be powerful resources in the change process. Forgiveness played an important role in improving the couple's communication skills and in reducing their angry feelings toward one another.
Instead of using insults and raised voices, Mary and John learned to handle disagreements with what they called "Christian love. They were also able to generalize positive emotions that they had developed from forgiveness and spiritual exchanges to other areas of their relationship. Such positive change via forgiveness, of course, does not have to be rooted in religious belief and practice, but it is our hypothesis that religious conviction, context, and feelings deepen such a process and make it more enduring. She sought assistance from Dr.
Lisa Miller, a Jewish woman who leads an interpersonal psychotherapy group with a theistic spiritual emphasis for pregnant teenagers in a public high school in Harlem, New York. Renee's mother had died during the last year, leaving her without a family or a home.
Renee's biological father refused to have anything to do her after he found out she was pregnant and that she would not submit to an abortion. Renee's boyfriend, the father of her child, also refused to see her any more after she refused to have an abortion. Despite abandonment by her father and boyfriend, Renee continued to assert, "I am not going to kill my baby. This is my child! Miller supported Renee's decision on spiritual grounds to not have an abortion, affirming that the preservation of the child's life was a legitimate decision.
Miller also affirmed that Renee had been brave in protecting her child under such unsupportive conditions.
The other group members also supported Renee's decision and affirmed her courage. As the group therapy proceeded over 12 weeks, Renee had opportunities to realistically examine the challenges that lay before her as a young, unwed mother without familial support. Although the path before her appeared daunting, Renee also had opportunities to explore and affirm her belief that motherhood is a spiritual calling that she wished to honor. She also discussed her belief that her deceased mother was watching over her and that her mother approved of her decision to give birth to the child. By the time treatment ended, Renee had qualified for a governmentsponsored program that provided her with an apartment and child care while she completed her final year of high school and 4 years of college.
She was able to build a world far away from her old neighborhood and the people who might harm her child—a world in which her youth and poverty did not prevent her from being a loving and effective mother. Although Renee was not involved in a religious community or denomination, her Christian upbringing and her nondenominational personal spirituality served as an anchor and source of strength as she prepared for motherhood. Miller's own belief in the grace and spiritual power of motherhood allowed her to empathize with and support Renee in her emotional and spiritual journey toward motherhood.
The purpose of this volume is to describe concepts and interventions that will help mental health professionals implement a theistic psychotherapy approach in their practices. Strong forces of historical inertia resist this effort, but worldwide cultural and intellectual trends that are affecting modern thought propel it forward. For good reasons, the leading minds in the development of science, including psychology, have deliberately excluded spiritual content from their theories, laws, principles, and technical procedures. Some of these leading thinkers were themselves religiously devout, whereas others were neutral or antagonistic; however, there was a general acquiescence to excluding theological ideas and denominational biases for the sake of making a discipline a science.
For many e. Excluding the spiritual was thus a practical decision rooted in the methodological and conceptual assumption that things that cannot be observed, measured, or reliably described pertain to a different realm than science. Assertions concerning faith in the existence of God, the spirit of God, divine intelligence, redemption through Christ, the spiritual essence of humans, the possibility of spiritual regulators of behavior, or the influence of God on the mind or body were thus ruled out of scientific discourse. Faith in science became an alternative to traditional faith.
Theologians and, to a degree, philosophers, lost the prominent place they had once held in the world of scholarship. The movement broadly defined as "scientific modernism" gained momentum and eventual ascendancy. The choice to become objective, empirical, and, when possible, experimental and quantitative, succeeded beyond the expectations of even the most gifted scholars' visions of the future.
These successes have been most evident in the physical and biological fields, but scientific approaches to knowledge and application have spread broadly and have influenced nearly all fields of inquiry, including the behavioral sciences. We have substantial admiration for this way of comprehending and managing the world, including its use in many areas of experimental psychological science. As students of personality and therapeutic change, however, we have regularly confronted obstacles to effective application of this way of thinking to the clinical phenomena we observe.
Our frustration is widespread, and it is why so many individuals and groups have split off from mainstream psychological science over the years. Dozens of great people have grappled with the gap between modernist scientific psychological models or methods and the personal and clinical phenomena with which they have dealt. Some of these efforts managed to keep the less tangible aspects of humanity close to standard scientific procedures, whereas others broke entirely from the tradition in which they had been trained and had faith.
In the spirit of these pioneers' efforts, we propose an alternative perspective, influenced by but departing in degrees from them. The humanistic, existential, cognitive, agentive, and spiritual themes they espoused touched on and opened the door for considering a theistic dimension within the psychological domain. Our effort goes farther to build on the works of insightful and courageous creators of theistic, spiritual perspectives in human personality and psychotherapy.
Some of them have been only marginally noted in the mainstream psychology literature, because much of their work has been disparate from that literature. Collins, Robert Emmons, James W. Fowler, Richard L.
Gorsuch, Ralph W. Hood, Stanton L. Jones, Eugene Kelly, Harold G. Koenig, David B. Larson, Jeffery Levin, Robert J. Lovinger, H. McCullough, Mark R. Pargament, L. Rebecca Propst, Carol R. Rayburn, Edward P. Tjeltveit, William West, Everett L. Worthington, and David Wulff. Although these and other courageous theistic scholars and practitioners have influenced our approach, this book is our personal synthesis and program. The foundational assumptions of our theistic strategy are that "God exists, that human beings are the creations of God, and that there are unseen spiritual processes by which the link between God and humanity is maintained" Bergin, a, p.
We also assume that people who have faith in God's power and draw on spiritual resources during treatment will have added strength to cope, heal, and grow. No other mainstream tradition has adequately incorporated theistic spiritual perspectives and practices into its approach, and so this orientation fills a void in the field. Obviously, theistic clinical perspectives are neither original nor unique to our work; however, we have formulated a position that expresses our own viewpoint but also embraces the substantial contributions of many others. Figure 1.
These conceptual foundations provide a rationale that embraces the necessity for spiritual interventions in psychotherapy, what types may be useful, and when they might appropriately be implemented. Thus, in various places in this book, we offer recommendations for psychotherapists to consider when implementing spiritual perspectives and interventions during treatment.
We include guidelines concerning a adopting ecumenical and denominational therapeutic stances; b establishing a spiritually open and safe therapeutic relationship, c setting spiritual goals in psychotherapy, d conducting religious and spiritual assessments, e attending to ethical concerns in spiritual psychotherapy, and f implementing spiritual interventions appropriately in therapy.
We describe a variety of spiritual practices and interventions that may contribute to therapeutic change, including but not limited to prayer, contemplation and meditation, reading of sacred writings, forgiveness and repentance, worship and ritual, fellowship and service, quest for spiritual direction, and moral instruction and clarification.
Our theistic conceptual framework does not, however, tell psychotherapists specifically how to implement spiritual interventions in treatment, nor does it tell them how to integrate such interventions with mainstream secular perspectives and interventions. Hence, as illustrated by the rectangle in Figure 1.
Theological, philosophical, theoretical, and applied foundations of a theistic spiritual strategy.
We have formulated the conceptual framework for our theistic strategy broadly with the hope that it will be suitable for mental health professionals from a variety of theistic religious traditions, including many branches within Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. This is most appropriate for an orientation that emerges from the professional mainstream. It must appeal to a broad range of practitioners and clients and not be too denominationally specific.
This will make it usable in the wide spectrum of training programs and clinical facilities that serve a diverse but mainly theistic public. Denominational subcultural specificity can be developed within this broad orientation and be practiced appropriately in parochial settings by qualified clinicians.
An Invitation to Theistic Mental Health Professionals Most psychotherapists do not use the term theistic to describe their therapeutic orientation, possibly because it has not previously been offered as an option for mainstream professionals. We wish to offer it as a valid option now.
We propose the term theistic psychotherapy as a general label for psychotherapy approaches that are grounded in the theistic worldview cf. Theistic psychotherapy refers to a global psychotherapy orientation or tradition, such as the psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive traditions, not to the psychotherapy of a specific denomination, such as Christian, Jewish, or Islamic therapies. We also use the term theistic psychotherapy to describe approaches that begin with a theistic foundation but also absorb and integrate interventions from mainstream secular approaches.
We propose the term theistic psychotherapist to refer to psychotherapists who believe in God and who incorporate theistic perspectives and interventions to some degree into their therapeutic approach. We assume that most if not all theistic psychotherapists will integrate theistic perspectives and interventions with one or more of the mainstream secular psychotherapy traditions. Those who combine theistic and cognitive perspectives and interventions could describe their approach as theistic-cognitive e.
Miller, , ; and those who combine the theistic with several mainstream secular traditions could describe their approach as theistic-integrative P. Richards, By using the terms theistic psychotherapy and theistic psychotherapist broadly, we hope to bring some unity and strength to a diversity of practitioners who have faith that God's spiritual influence can assist clients and therapists in their journeys of healing and growth. We do not think therapists must incorporate all of our conceptual framework or process guidelines into their psychotherapy approach in order to be regarded as theistic psychotherapists.
In our view, counselors and psychotherapists who believe in God in a manner that is generally consistent with the theistic world religions, and whose beliefs appreciably influence their theoretical perspective and therapeutic approach, are theistic psychotherapists, regardless of what mainstream secular perspectives and interventions they select.