Spirituality and Counseling African Americans


Spiritualityand Counseling African Americans

Spiritualityand Counseling African Americans

Religionand spirituality has, since time immemorial been a powerful influenceon the lives of a large number of people in the American culture.Indeed, there have been a large number of instances where decisionspertaining to varied aspects of life are made on the basis of one’sbeliefs and faith. Of particular importance is the role that religionand spirituality plays in the mental wellbeing of an individual, withresearch underlining the notion that religion is a stabilizing factorfor the mental wellbeing of individuals. Scholars have noted thatindividuals with religious beliefs have far better physical andmental health, as well as more satisfying relationships compared toindividuals who do not have any religious beliefs at all (Koch,2008). With regard to counseling and therapy, scholars have notedthat individuals seeking therapy may specifically seek for therapistswith whom they share a religious affiliation or belief. Thisunderlines the importance of determining or comprehending the mannerin which religious clients perceive the therapy they receive fromtherapists, particularly those who are not of their faith or thesecular ones.

Addressingreligion and spirituality with regard to counseling comes withtherapeutic value in the extent to which the incorporation assistsclients to connect and relate well with others, move beyond their ownbeliefs, as well as make contribution to the common good. As earliernoted, individuals with religious beliefs also take part in positivesocial relations, community and social service activities, as well asknowledge building tasks (Koch, 2008). It is imperative thatcounselors acknowledge the role that spirituality plays in the livesof clients so as to enhance their capacity to encourage the positivepursuits that would eventually enhance the overall wellbeing of theclients.

Thispaper particularly evaluates the relationship between religion andsuccess in counseling particularly among African Americans. It seeksto comprehend whether religion would have a positive or negativeeffect on the success of counseling offered to African Americanclients. Of particular note is the fact that the clients andtherapists do not necessarily have to share common beliefs orreligion. Would such disparity affect their intake of the therapy?Does it matter the manner in which the therapist deals with theclient’s religiosity or even the matters pertaining to religion asbrought up by the client?

Hypothesis:The religion of a client affects his or her capacity to take uptherapy.

Hypothesis2. The religion of a therapist would have a bearing on the success ofa therapy session.

Hypothesis3: The level of religiosity determines the most appropriate form oftherapy and, essentially, the success of a therapy session.


Toevaluate this hypothesis, a close examination of the literary worksalready written pertaining to the subject was carried out. This isparticularly the case for journals ranging from 1995-to date. Ofparticular note is the fact that there has been no examination of thesubject with specific attention to African Americans. In essence, themost appropriate way for coping with this deficiency is examining theinfluence that culture affects religion, as well as therapy. Insearching for the journal articles and books on the same, key wordssuch as “African American counseling”, “Religion andcounseling”, “spirituality and counseling”, “religion,African American counseling”, “spirituality, African Americanstherapy” and “African American counseling religion” were used.


Descriptivedata pertaining to the characteristics of the therapy and clientunderline the fact that therapists are often open to discussingreligion with their clients, as this would be a component of thewholeness of an individual. Indeed, clients often report thatreligion is discussed right from the start of the therapy. Ininstances, where clients are requested to rate how comfortable theyare with secular, religious and other interventions that have beenpreviously used, clients who took secular counseling aresignificantly less comfortable compared to clients from Christiancounseling centers. On the same note, clients in Christian counselingcenters, as well as private agencies had enhanced comfort withdiscussions pertaining to forgiving themselves compared to clients insecular agencies.

Further,in instances where clients and therapists have a similar religiousbelief, they experienced a higher level of perceived closeness. Thisis particularly considering the fact that the clients and thetherapists would be capable of sharing resources such as prayersessions or even quote from the religious books.


Oneof the most significant results pertaining to the current research isthat the interactions between the therapists utilization of religiousinterventions and client’s religious commitment were related to theclient’s view of the closeness to the therapist and, therefore, theimprovement of the presented problem. In essence, the utilization ofinterventions that match up the worldview of the client may becrucial to the effectiveness of the therapy, as well as the closenessof the relationship between the therapist and the client. This isparticularly the case for clients who had deeper religiouscommitments. Of course, the deficiency of religious interventions intherapy would mean that the religious and non-religious clients doequally well. Nevertheless, the utilization of religiousinterventions may offer a unique benefit particularly for thereligious clients, and a disadvantage for the less religious clients(Gockel, 2004). This underlines the fact that religious commitment iscrucial to religious therapy as people who are highly committed to aparticular religious perceive the world with regard to their valuesand beliefs.

Asmuch as the religious commitment of the client interacted with theutilization of the religious interventions, the research showed thatthere exists no interaction or relationship between the therapist andclient religious commitment to the client-rated change or closeness.Indeed, it is noteworthy that religious clients did well not whenthey were matched to religious therapists by when they obtainedreligiously oriented treatments particularly from the non-religioustherapists (Carlson et al, 2002). The divergent results may beexplained by the fact that the important factor is not really thereligiosity of the therapist but rather whether the clients see thetherapists as accepting, understanding and open to the commitments ofthe clients. Indeed, unless the therapists specifically state thatthey are religiously oriented or open up to the clients regardingtheir religious commitments at a particular point in the therapy, theclients can only guess the beliefs of the therapists pertaining toreligion from their actions (Carlson et al, 2002). In instances wheretherapists make use of religious interventions, it could communicateto the religious clients that the counselor is open to the religiousvalues of the clients or are even religious themselves. Essentially,they may be more trusting of the counselor, an element that resultsto improved outcomes and better working alliance.

Further,there is widespread agreement amongst scholars that the specificingredients pertaining to religious interventions such as the quotingof sacred writings or even praying with them are effective not viadirect connection to the outcomes but instead through their capacityto promote common curative factors (Graham et al, 2001). If thechange and closeness are moderated by the utilization of thereligious interventions with certain clients, the implication is thatany therapist, irrespective of his personal religiosity may offerinterventions that are maximally effective. In essence, therapistsare not restricted by the match between themselves and the patientsbut may offer religious interventions to clients who have the highestlikelihood for benefiting from them (Graham et al, 2001).

Thiswas based on a study done in US in 2001 with the American Religiousidentification survey. 73.5% of the clients who were interviewedsupported the fact that religiosity was helpful in making progresstowards the goals. 16.3% indicated that incorporation of religiosityin counseling was moderately helpful and 10.5 % were indifferent. Norespondent indicated that the religiosity integration was unhelpful.Similarly, Rose et al, 2001 surveyed 74 individuals and found outthat more than half of the people interviewed (55%) preferreddiscussing their religious beliefs as they believed that religion andspirituality were essential for healing, 18% reported not wanting todiscuss religion in counseling.

Theimplication, in this case, is the importance of evaluating thespiritual or religious commitment of an individual prior tocomprehending the interventions that a therapist may most effectivelymake use of. This is particularly in instances where the a highlyreligious client has been referred to a particular therapist who isdeemed to be a Christian, so as to receive Christian therapy. Suchinstances necessitate that the therapists evaluate the religiouscommitment of the client and make use of some explicitly Christianinterventions (McCorkle et al, 2005). In the case of less religiousclients, it may be the case that the clients would want to discussthe relational or emotional conflicts pertaining to religion in spiteof or even as a result of their low commitments. Simple questionspertaining to religiosity such as “are you spiritual” may beinsufficient in capturing the nuances pertaining to the concerns ofthe client (Gockel, 2004).

Onthe same note, religion and spirituality have a positive correlationwith the capacity of an individual to cope with stress. Indeed, thelevels of spirituality and/or religion of a client or even lackthereof would have a bearing on the manner in which they assess andevaluate the stressful situations in their lives through theprovision of a meaning to their lives, as well as offering theindividual a higher sense of control over the situations, not tomention improving their self esteem. Scholars have also acknowledgedthat religious institutions come as resources that clients may use intimes of stress via offering community, as well as a sense ofidentity (McCorkle et al, 2005). Some of the religious resources thathave been identified as commonly used in times of stress includefaith in God, prayer, guidance from the clergy, as well as solitaryactivities, all of which are a representation of the social,behavioral and cognitive elements of faith (Wylie, 2000). A widerange of studies have suggested that the varying and multiple copingresources that religion and spirituality offers assists varyinggroups. On the same note, scholars have been concerned about theeffect of economic wellbeing on the impact of religion andspirituality in an individual. According to Koch (2008), religiositycomes as a health resource for individuals whose income falls belowthe national average.

Further,individuals with a healthy identity often heal at considerably fasterrate and have the capacity to have healthier lives. Indeed, healthyspiritual identities revolve around feeling self-worth and connectedto the love of God, as well as having a definite purpose and meaningin live, not to mention have the capacity to fulfill the greatestpotential that an individual has. According to Graham et al, (2001)students taking counseling lessons and still being religious andspiritual had a higher overall health compared to those that weresimply spiritual, which showed that the institutionalized values,morals, community and belief have a larger connection to healthcompared to spiritual practice alone (Duriez, 2003). Taking part inreligion is seen as having the capacity to reduce the potential fordisability among adults living in community settings in certaincases, which is an indication of the fact that religiosity may play acrucial role in assisting individuals to cope with the physicaldisabilities.

However,it is noteworthy that the manner in which the counselor deals withthe religious beliefs of the client would have a bearing on thesuccess of the therapy. Scholars have acknowledged that there arethree ways in which the counselor may combat the religiosity of theclient including avoidance, integration and eradication (Worthington&amp Sandage, 2002). Avoidance may be seen as a conscious effortthat the counselor makes to postpone and/or discourage addressing thereligious issues that the client raises (Worthington &amp Sandage,2002). Integration, on the other hand, amounts to the unconscious orconscious effort that the counselor makes to incorporate thereligious faith of the client to the therapy process with the aim ofassisting him or her to progress towards spiritually andpsychological wholeness. Eradication, however, underlines theunconscious or conscious effort made by the therapist to eliminatethe religious beliefs of the client and replace them with othersystems of belief (Sperry &amp Shafranske, 2005). Integration worksfar much better in enhancing the success of therapy compared toeradication and avoidance as the clients would be more comfortablediscussing almost all matters with their therapists. Avoidance worksbest in the case of secular and less religious clients whileeradication may eliminate clients trust in the therapist and breedconflicts between them.


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