Friday, April 29, 2011

The religious and spiritual make up of the therapist

Dr. Steven C. Hayes is a professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada and is renown for his implementation of Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) in psychological maladjustment. There is more information about him and the type of therapy he does in the link below. It also is important to recognize that he is not a believer of any sort, in other words he is an atheist.

In one of the therapy sessions that he conducted he works with an African American woman who experiences a great sense of guilt from the expectations she perceives as coming from her mother. In that therapy session, which we watched in Counseling 506, Dr. Hayes uses an ACT approach and also displays sensitivity to the client's religious beliefs. For me that raises the question of how can God use an atheist therapist in helping a woman of faith? In class we briefly touched on how the Holy Spirit is present to minister healing to the client in the therapy session. More precisely that in many ways the therapist, in some situations facilitates or can even lead an individual to experience God.

As a Christian who is preparing to enter in the field of counseling and therapy, and desiring to do an honest and effective integration of spirituality, theology and psychology, I wrestle with many questions. I understand that the presence of the therapist and particularly his or her relationship with God has a strong influence on the therapy process. However, in Dr. Hayes' case, he is an atheist and still very capable of helping a religious woman. What this does to me, it opens my mind more to God's ability to use anyone to help His children. Also it allows me to see that psychological intervention without implicit or explicit Christian values can be somewhat helpful.

1 comment:

  1. This is a thought provoking post Dorin. There is certainly a Biblical precedent for the idea that God can use non religious people to help his children. The first passage that came to mind was Isaiah 44:28 where God says of King Cyrus, "He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; and will say of Jerusalem, "let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "let its foundations be laid." Though King Cyrus, the atheist counselor, and many others can be used by God, it is by his design and not theirs that brings about his purposes. I'd also point out that the Christian woman had the Holy Spirit working inside her, even if the counselor did not. Atheists can give sound practical advice on how to feel better, but only God changes hearts.


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