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Spiritual & Religious Issues in Psychotherapy: An Introduction

4 CE Credit Hours - Online Course - $39.00

Developed by Louis Hoffman, Ph.D.

Course materials: text/webpage Articles

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General Course Description

Religious and spiritual issues are important to many psychotherapy clients; therapists and counselors, too, are beginning to become aware of the importance of these issues. Research has also consistently shown a positive relationship, albeit small, between being religious or spiritual and better psychological health. However, few counselors and therapists have been adequately trained to deal with these issues. Spirituality This course provides a framework for understanding what you need to know before working with religious issues, how to incorporate various religious and spiritual interventions into therapy, and an overview of essential ethical issues that therapists should be aware of when working with religious and spiritual issues in therapy.

The first article provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of what you should know prior to beginning to work with religious and spiritual issues in therapy. Many therapists put themselves at risk by practicing outside of their competency; this article provides what you need to know to avoid this. The second article builds upon the first article providing a thorough foundation for helping therapists begin integrating religious practices into psychotherapy. It goes into greater detail about types of interventions, when these interventions should be made, and other considerations to be aware of when implementing these interventions. While many of the interventions in the second article focus more on interventions with religious clients from a theistic background, the third article focuses on basic issues in integrating a Buddhist approach into psychotherapy. This article includes a number of case examples to help the reader begin to flesh out the interface of spirituality and psychological health. The final article moves to the topic of suffering, a difficult topic for many religious and spiritual clients. This returns to focusing more on theistic perspectives and incorporates challenges many clients have in their religious experience. By the end of the course, therapists and counselors will have been introduced to material on how to begin working with religious and spiritual issues in therapy and, as appropriate, begin using some basic religious and spiritual interventions in therapy.

Educational Objectives

This course will teach the participant to:

1.    Evaluate the important ethical issues that must be considered prior to beginning to work with religious and spiritual issues in psychotherapy.

2.    Summarize and differentiate four categories of interventions and the level of training and supervision needed to begin using these different types of interventions.

3.    Identify ways that therapists, often inadvertently but still inappropriately, impose their beliefs upon their clients.

4.    Define important terms relevant to religious and spiritual issues in therapy including religion, spirituality, and religious experience.

5.    Name and describe important information that should be obtained in history-gathering about a client's religious and spiritual beliefs.

6.    Identify specific challenges that may emerge when applying a Western psychological paradigm with some religious clients, especially Buddhist or clients influenced by Eastern religion and philosophy.

Course Syllabus


  • A Brief History of Religious/Spiritual Issues and Psychotherapy
  • Why it is Important for Therapist to be Concerned about Religious/Spiritual Issues in Therapy

Approaches to Integrating

  • Religious Psychotherapy
  • Expertise in Working with Religious and Spiritual Issues in Therapy
  • Pastoral/Religious Care
  • Transpersonal Psychology
  • Alternative Models

Cultural Competency in Working with Religious and Spiritual Issues

  • Knowledge, Self-Knowledge, Attitude, and Skill
  • Training Needed Before Beginning
    • Minimal Risk Interventions
    • Lower Risk Interventions
    • Moderate Risk Interventions
    • Higher Risk Interventions

Ethical Issues

  • Overview of Ethical Issues
  • Case Examples of Ethical Issues

Practice Issues

  • Gathering a Religious/Spiritual History
  • Interventions
  • Training Issues


  • Eastern Religions and the View of Self
  • Implications for Therapy
  • Outcome Issues

Suffering and Religious Experience

  • Religious Experience in Theistic Clients
  • Theodicy and Suffering
  • Working with Religious Experience in Therapy


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