Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spirituality...AND Science?

While it may seem contradictory, recent research at leading universities explores the intriguing connection between religion and health. Duke University has delegated an entire branch within their psychology program to this study.

This summer, the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke is hosting week-long intensives to post-doctorate professionals, approaching health in a surprisingly holistic manner. Topics of study will include:
-Resources for learning more about spirituality and health
-Previous research on religion, spirituality and health
-Applying findings to clinical practice
-Spirituality of the health care provider
-Theological considerations and concerns

As future Christian counselors, it is exciting to see this trend within psychology. While in the past, religious practices were viewed as neuroses, and a sign of psychological dysfunction, even non-religious psychologists now acknowledge the impact of spirituality on both physical and psychological health. Findings on how people use religion to cope raise questions about the use of spiritual interventions in therapy.

The door is wide open for Christians to engage their faith, and even conduct research to show the effectiveness of spiritually-based interventions. While professionalism definitely requires sensitivity to clients' preferences and religious orientation, it is exciting to see scientists hypothesizing on the inter-relationships of spirituality and health.

Rather than being shy or ashamed of our faith, Christian psychologists should be on the front lines (in both Christian and secular circles) of scientifically investigating, theorizing, and applying spirituality to the counseling experience. Negative stereotypes about a Christian counseling education as inferior can be easily reframed as critical preparation for helping clients address spiritual questions and explore the use of religious coping in their path toward psychological health.

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