Psychologist and client spirituality in psychotherapy: an exploratory study
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AbstractThis study employed exploratory research methods to examine the spirituality of 20 psychologists and 50 clients. Measures included the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS) the Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale - Revised (SIBS-R), and client form of the Working Alliance Inventory (W AI-C). Two non-standardized measures were also employed. Results indicated that compared to clients, proportionally fewer psychologists identified themselves as "religious". However, psychologists had higher SWBS and SIBS-R scores. The greatest area of difference between psychologists and clients was in the area of existential well-being, with psychologists showing notably higher existential well-being than clients. The majority of clients reported a deepening or increase in the affective or intrapsychic areas of spirituality as a result of therapy. Conversely, the majority of clients reported no change in spiritual beliefs or overt practices (e.g., prayer) as a result of therapy. Clients with higher SWBS and SIBS-R scores more often noted a deepening or increase in spirituality as a result of therapy. Positive associations were noted between SWBS, SIBS-R, and W AI-C scores. A Principal Components Analysis identified two independent components; spirituality and the working alliance. Several suggested hypotheses include: (a) psychologists may view "religion" as more pejorative than clients, despite potentially higher levels of religious and spiritual well-being among psychologists, (b) psychotherapy and spirituality overlap, particularly in the area of existential well-being, (c) existential well-being and the more affective, intrapsychic aspects of spirituality are more amenable to change as a result of therapy, ( d) clients with higher levels of spirituality are more likely to report positive changes in spirituality as a result of therapy, (e) psychotherapy does not decrease client spirituality, (f) clients with higher levels of spirituality are more likely to have a strong working alliance, and (g) for clients with low levels of spirituality, the formation of a strong working alliance may be more difficult. Examination of psychologists with lower levels of spirituality is recommended for future studies. Also, use of the SWBS is not recommended in future studies apart from theo- and Eurocentric groups.
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