The Role of Religion in
Marriage and Family
Counseling
Jill D. Duba, Ph.D., LPCC, NCC, MFTA
Assistant Professor, Western Kentucky University
[email protected]
Duba, 2007
Program Outline
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Review of definitions pertaining to religion
and spirituality
Religious diversity within the world and US
Religious consideration in the field of
Professional Counseling
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Program is taken from: Onedera, J. D. (Ed.).
(2008). The role of religion in marriage and family
counseling. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.
Duba, 2007
Definitions
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The professional’s responsibility:
 The first of the nine spiritual competencies
for counselors states: “The professional
counselor can explain the relationship
between religion and spirituality, including
similarities and differences” (Association for Spiritual, Ethical
and Religious Values in Counseling [ASERVIC], 1999).
Duba, 2007
Spirituality, or Spirit
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“Spirit” defined in various languages:
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Latin: spiritus meaning breath, courage, vigor or
life
Greek: pneuma meaning wind, breath, life and
spirit
Hebrew: ruach meaning wind, breath, life and
spirit (Ingersoll, 1995; Roth, 1990; Sheldrake, 1992; Wiggins-Frame, 2005)
Duba, 2007
Spirituality, or Spiritual
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Webster’s New Universal Unabridged
Dictionary (1996) defines spiritual:
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1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of spirit;
incorporeal. 2. of or pertaining to the spirit or soul
as distinguished from the physical nature: a
spiritual approach to life. 3. closely akin in
interests, attitude, outlook, etc.: the professor’s
spiritual heir in linguistics.
next.
Duba, 2007
Spirituality, or Spiritual cont.
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Webster’s New Universal Unabridged
Dictionary (1996) defines spiritual:
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6. of or pertaining to the spirit as the seat of the
moral or religious nature. 7. of or pertaining to
sacred things or matters; religious; devotional;
sacred. 8. of or belonging to the church;
ecclesiastical: lords spiritual and temporal. 9. of or
relating to the mind or intellect. (p. 1840)
Duba, 2007
Religion
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Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary
defines religion:
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a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of
the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a
superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving
devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a
moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. 2. a
specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally
agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian
religion, the Buddhist religion. 3. the body of persons
adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices. (p.
1628)
Duba, 2007
Religion cont.
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W. C. Young (1995) defines religion:
 “Religion is human transformation in response to
perceived ultimacy” (p. 4).
 A Human Experience
 Transformation, or a change that occurs from
one state to another state by some means
espoused by the religion
 Perceived Ultimacy, such as God in Christianity
or Nirvana in Buddhism
Duba, 2007
A Historical Perspective
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Many books have introduced counseling issues
related to both spirituality and religion;
although discussion of religion is typically
from a general perspective.
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Counselors who encourage clients to develop
their own beliefs apart from the teachings of
the stated religion unintentionally may be
leading the client out of their religion.
Duba, 2007
Has Religion had a Place in the
Psychotherapy Room?
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Freud (1973): Religion as something harmful which
can be traced to infancy
B. F. Skinner (1953): Religion was nothing more than
fiction held in place by negative reinforcement and
threats of punishment.
Ellis (1980, p. 637): “Religiosity, therefore, is in
many ways equivalent to irrational thinking and
emotional disturbance . . . The less religious they are,
the more emotionally healthy they will tend to be.”
Duba, 2007
Recent Welcomes to Religion
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30 CACREP programs associated with
religious colleges, universities and seminaries
The American Association of Christian
Counselors (AACC)
Leaders in Christian Counseling movement
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James Dobson, Larry Crabb, Timothy Clinton,
Paul Meier, Frank Minnerth and Everett
Worthington
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Religious Diversity
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Major World Religions
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Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,
Confucianism, Taoism, Humanism with different
subgroups with very distinctive beliefs and
practices (Young, 1995)
Other
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Indigenous and Folk Religions
Duba, 2007
Subgroups within a Religion:
The “Christian” Example
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Catholics
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Protestants
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American Catholic Church, Liberal Catholic Church,
Mariavite Old Catholic Church, Polish National Catholic
Church of America
Small Independent Churches, larger mainline
denominations (i.e., Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian)
Orthodox
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Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations
Duba, 2007
Religion and Cultural Diversity
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Does religion adapt to the culture or does
culture adapt to the religion?
The professional’s responsibility:
 The second spirituality competency
states, “The professional counselor can
describe religious and spiritual beliefs
and practices in a cultural context.”
(ASERVIC, 1999).
Duba, 2007
Cultural and Religious Integration:
Confucianism and Asian Cultures
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Confucianism in China
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Official doctrine of China for centuries until 1913
Taught in Chinese educational system until 1949
Common Values
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Family values and proper decorum (McGoldrick, Pearce, &
Giordano, 1982)
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“Filial piety” and respect for authority
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Cultural and Religious Integration:
Christianity and America
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Christianity in America
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Protestant work ethic of working six days and then
honoring the Sabbath
American Culture
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Work was done Monday through Saturday with
Sunday being a day off
“Blue Laws” prohibited businesses from operating
on Sunday
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Politics and Religion
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2004 Elections
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Some religious leaders want practitioners of the Religion to
be faithful to the principles of the Religion
Some politicians said they separated their religious beliefs
from their political responsibilities
Will political leaders follow their Religion or will they
create a dichotomy within themselves where they believe
one thing but do something different? How will such
dissonance affect their mental health?
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Cultural Expressions of Islam
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Sunnism
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Shi’ism
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Believe leadership should have remained in the family of
the prophet
Sufism
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90% of world’s billion Muslims
Less emphasis on legalism, and more religious experience
and embracing all people in divine love
Leader of Muslim is referred to as “Imam: rather than
“Caliph”
Nation of Islam
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Expression of African pride movement of Marcus Garvey
(Mead & Hill, 1985)
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Culture Expressions of Christianity
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White Anglo Saxon Protestants
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Ethnic Roman Catholic Parishes
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German-American Lutherans, Irish
Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, and Southern
Baptists
Irish Catholics
Hispanic Catholics (Virgin of Guadalupe)
Polish Catholics
African American values within Church
Duba, 2007
Adherents to the Major World Religions within the
United States and World
Religion
United States**
World***
Kosmin et al., 2001
Adherents.com, 2005
159,980
2,100,000
Jewish
2,831
14,000
Muslim/Islamic
1,104
1,300,000
Buddhist
1,082
376,000
Unitarian/Universalist/H
umanist
668
800
Hindu
766
900,000
Native American
103
Christian
Taoist
40
2,700****
Sikh
57
23,000
29,481
1,100,000
No religion specified
Duba, 2007
U.S. Statistics
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Growth from 1990 to 2000
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Hinduism grew by 237%
Buddhism grew by 170%;
Islam grew by 109%
Christianity grew by 5%
84% of Americans consider Religion
important in their lives (AP/Ipsos Poll, 2005)
Duba, 2007
Religion and Counselors
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Research Findings
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80% of counselors reported some type of religious
preference; below the general public’s 92% (Bergin &
Jensen, 1990)
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90 % of 479 members of the American Counseling
Association (ACA) indicated some type of
spiritual or religious orientation; however spiritual
values were more widely held than religious values
(Kelly, 1995)
Duba, 2007
Religious Issues in Therapy
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Religious commitment of the therapist
Therapeutic values or theory which may
prevent therapist from initiating discussion of
value-oriented topics
Agency/therapeutic settings (conditions and
policies)
Clients attending counseling in secular
agencies may be intimidated from initiating
religious discussions (Worthington et al., 2008)
Duba, 2007
The Therapist’s Religious Disposition
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Virtue Orientation (Worthington et al., 2008)
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Conscientiousness-based virtues include justice,
truth, honesty, responsibility, accountability, and
self-control.
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Therapist will likely move couples towards
demonstrating truth, responsibility, honesty, and selfcontrol.
Warmth-based virtues include love, empathy,
forgiveness, mercy, sympathy, and compassion
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Therapist will likely move clients towards forgiveness,
compassion, mercy, and sympathy.
Duba, 2007
Affects of Therapist’s Religious
Orientation in Therapy
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View of marriage
Choice of counseling theory
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Religious therapists are adopting empirically tested
theories, rather than simply adopting approaches
that are consistent with their theology.
Case conceptualization
Goals of therapy
Treatment planning (Worthington et al., 2008)
Duba, 2007
Religion in the Marriage and Family
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Definition of marriage
Dating and cohabitation
Roles within marriages and families
Child bearing, birth control, abortion, teenage
pregnancy
Finances
Dissolving relationships, divorce, annulment
Managing family after separation and/or divorce
Death and dying
Homosexuality in couples and families
Duba, 2007
Questions Left to Ponder
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Worthington et al. (2008) asks:
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Should the therapist bring up religion?
Can a religious therapist counsel a person highly
committed to a different religion?
What is religious counseling?
Duba, 2007
Religion in Counselor Education
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Religion is suppressed in many training
programs as some counselors believe that
religious issues should be referred to religious
counselors (Kahle & Robbins, 2004).
Many students have reported feeling
unprepared in the area of addressing religious
concerns with clients (Prest et al., 1999; Young et al., 2002).
Duba, 2007
Religion in Counselor Education cont.
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87 of 343 counselor education programs had
no course specifically addressing spiritual or
religious issues.
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250 programs did not have religion or spirituality
as a part of any course (Kelly, 1994).
Only half of counselor educator programs
surveyed incorporated religious issues in
counseling within their curriculum (Kelly, 1997; Pate &
High, 1995)
Duba, 2007
Religion in Counselor Education cont.
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Within 70% of the programs, religious and
spiritual related counseling factors are attended
to somewhere in the curriculum (Young, 2002)
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Internet search indicated 12/203 CACREPaccredited counselor education programs have
a specific course addressing spiritual and
religious issues (Onedera, 2008)
Duba, 2007
Questions for Reflection
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58% of the general public believe that religion can
answer all or most of today’s problems (Gallup Poll, 2005)
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Do students get training in the treatment of clients from
all religious backgrounds or only from their own
tradition?
Is some religious training better than no religious
training?
Or does it result in a narrowed perspective with
students prepared to treat only those from their
religious heritage?
Duba, 2007
Consequences: The Religious Elephant
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A reluctance on the part of the
counselor to even attend to their client’s
religious experiences and values
Struggles to achieve rapport and
demonstration of empathy
Limited exploration into client’s
worldview and cultural background
Duba, 2007
Consequences: The Religious Elephant
cont.
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Inability to manage conflicts between the
counselor’s beliefs and values and that of the
client’s
Failure to meet the standards of the ACA Code
of Ethics (2005) specifically regarding respect
of matters related to the client’s cultural
background (A.2.b) and awareness of one’s
personal values and beliefs (A.5.b)
Duba, 2007
Religion in Counseling Curriculum
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A Specific Course: Course Objectives
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Meet the ASERVIC spiritual competencies
Developed in such a way that the course adheres to
CACREP Standards (2001) (“understanding of the
cultural context of relationships, issues, and trends
in a multicultural diverse society related to such
factors as . . . religious and spiritual values” (Section 11.
K. 2).
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Structured around the AMCD Competencies
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(a) beliefs and attitudes, (b) knowledge, and (c) skill
(Arredondo et al., 1996)
Duba, 2007
Religion in Counseling Curriculum cont.
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Within Particular Counseling Courses
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Diversity Course
Techniques/Methods Course
Practicum
Internship
Duba, 2007
Topics to Ponder
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How can the counseling community further its
dialogue between spirituality and religion and
to convey some importance to studying the
various World Religions?
What affect does religion have within the
counseling room?
How does religion affect the way clients view
their problems and/or view the type of
treatment they want?
Duba, 2007
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