This deductive essay explores the relationship between and the practices involving psychology and religion in order to uphold the ethics code.
There is a sensitivity level that must be exhibited by psychology professionals that practice traditional psychology in order to make clients feel comfortable and secure in the treatment setting. In addition, this essay explains the use of religion in non-traditional psychology and the professional manner according to the ethics code in which using non-traditional approaches involving religion should be used.
In order to understand religion and psychology and how they correlate we must first try to understand the core meaning of each Chakkarath describes religion as “Religions can be understood as belief systems that provide statements about the meaning of individual and collective life, the relationship between individual and community, proper moral and aesthetic attitudes, individual obligations and rights, the structure of interpersonal, intra- and extra-familial Mental Health, Religion & Culture 385 as well as inter-sexual relations” (2010). With many psychologist believing that the definition of psychology is the “study of the soul” it well though that there would be a relationship between the two (Uznadze, 2009).
As a psychology professional it's important to not impose one's own religious views on clients and to know how to correctly understand and treat people of different faiths. In the article Ethical Issues for the Integration or Religion and Spirituality in Therapy, Fisher highlights ethical challenges involving Spirituality in Therapy including; competence and avoiding secular-theistic bias. Fisher goes on to further explain the effects of Imposing Religious Values, the importance of Informed Consent and the challenges that arise regarding faith and multiple relationships (Fisher, 2009).
The Secular-Theistic Therapy Continuum can be described as an integration of religion in therapy. The continuum includes a wide spectrum of religious integration into therapy practices. On one end of the spectrum is “religiously sensitive therapies” which is the practice of blending traditional psychology with religious sensitivity.
In the middle of the spectrum is “religiously accommodative therapies” a practice that does not promote one particular faith but that integrates the faith of the client by using spiritual interventions that pertain to their faith if necessary. On the other end of the spectrum are “theistic therapies which are therapies that are centered around the religious beliefs of the individual psychologist and involve their own religious techniques in the healing process (Fisher, 2009).
It is important that all psychologists are competent in their skills to assess and determine mental health problems related to spiritual beliefs. Fisher describes being competent as:
Understanding how religion presents itself in mental health and Psychopathology; self-awareness of religious bias that may impair Therapeutic Effectiveness, including awareness that being a member of a faith tradition is not Evidence of expertise in the integration of religion/spirituality into mental health Treatment; techniques to assess and treat clinically relevant religious/spiritual beliefs And emotional reactions; and knowledge of data on mental health effectiveness of religious imagery, prayer or other religious techniques (2009).
In addition psychologists must exhibit competency by collaborating with clergy effectively in order to properly respect the client’s beliefs and knowing how to address a client’s interpretations involving religion. It is important that psychologists obtain written authorization when consulting with clergy as well as abide by standards 4.01, 4.04 (Minimizing Intrusions on and 4.05 (Disclosures) of the Ethics Code when addressing client issues with clergy (Fisher, 2009).
On the subject of avoiding secular-theistic bias Fisher emphasizes the importance of not trivializing a client’s beliefs and not disputing a client’s religious preferences. By doing to this could the psychologists risks interfering with the client’s foundation of family and community support. Psychologist must present an critical understanding of religious beliefs in order to not undercut the client’s treatment when it comes to misunderstanding of religion and spirituality (Fisher, 2009).
The imposition of a psychologists’ religious values on a client is something to be avoided at all costs and can hinder a client’s mental progress by making them vulnerable to coercion and violates their value of autonomy.
This is especially important when dealing with client issues that may conflict with religious and secular moral values these issues often include, divorce, end of life decisions, sexual orientation, etc (Fisher, 2009).
In addition it is important for psychologists to also recognize how culture and religion can be intertwined and how to be culturally sensitive as well, as Joni, Heejung and Kim states “A cultural psychological perspective may offer some important insights for understanding how the influence of religion on secondary control and social affiliation may vary systematically by culture” (2011).
Psychologists must take the well being of the client into consideration when dealing with religious viewpoints on subjects such as these and engage in active critical decision making and should avoid discussing religion if it is not relevant to the client’s needs (Fisher, 2009).
Another challenge that arises in the mixing of religion with professional psychology can be found when a member of the clergy who holds a doctoral degree in psychology and treat members of the congregation.
When this happens, clergy must take precautions to ensure that the boundaries between clergy and psychology professional are clearly distinguished, this is especially important when dealing with confidentiality. It is especially important because clergy and psychologists have different legal obligations when it pertains to mandated abuse reporting and ethically permitted disclosures of information (Fisher, 2009).
In conclusion, psychologists practicing traditional psychology must be sensitive to the client’s needs and religious or non religious foundations or affiliations and do their best to make the client feel comfortable. If exploration of religion is not necessary then it should be avoided to discourage any unnecessary discomfort. When engaging in non-traditional psychology of a religious nature it is important that clients are given informed consent.
According to the American Psychology Association Standard 3.10 Informed Consent states that “When psychologists conduct research or provide assessment, therapy, counseling, or consulting services in person or via electronic transmission or other forms of communication, they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons except when conducting such activities without consent is mandated by law or governmental regulation or as otherwise provided in this Ethics Code”(2010).
By implementing Informed Consent clients are aware of what the treatment will entail (i.e. prayers, forgiveness, scriptures etc) so that the client knows what to expect at all times during the course of treatment (Fisher, 2009).
American Psychological Association. (2010) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct Retrieved Jan 13, 2012, from American Psychological Association Website: http://www.apa.org
Chakkarath, P. (2010). Where psychology meets religion and culture: remarks on Jacob A. Belzen's “Towards cultural psychology of religion: principles, approaches and applications”. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 13(4), 381-389. doi:10.1080/13674670903415295
Fisher, C. (2009) Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists, 2nd Edition J. Y., & Kim, H. S. (2011). At the intersection of culture and religion: A cultural analysis of religion's implications for secondary control and social affiliation. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 101(2), 401-414. doi:10.1037/a0021849 Uznadze, D. N. (2009). An Introduction to Psychology. Journal Of Russian & East European Psychology, 47(3), 33-66. doi:10.2753/RPO1061-0405470303