International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Religious Discourse in Psychotherapy

Alvin Dueck


Religious language in psychotherapy has been the occasion of much controversy. On the one hand there are those who argue vigorously for its presence in therapy while others argue just as strongly for its exclusion. This paper will explore the role of religion in therapy from a cultural anthropological perspective. We will assert that religion is, like ethnicity, a social phenomenon. The religious client has the right to have his or her religion respected, validated, affirmed and resourced in the process of healing. Failure on the part of the therapist to validate the religious tradition of the client may undermine the therapeutic alliance, diminish the client’s willingness to disclose deeper issues of significance, increase absenteeism, and lead to generalized resistance. This paper will explore concrete ways in which the therapist can appropriately address religious issues and create a psychotherapeutic culture in which clients feel freedom to use religious language.

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