Clinical psychologists' understanding of the concept of spirituality, and of the processes through which it is addressed within therapy
thesisposted on 14.03.2013, 13:11 by Jon Crossley
Traditionally, there has been a dissociation between spirituality and psychology. More recently, a greater focus has been placed upon spirituality within the psychological literature, but research has highlighted concerns that the phenomenon continues to be marginalised within a therapeutic setting. The aim of the current study was to develop an account of the way in which clinical psychologists understand and address spirituality within therapy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight psychologists. The narratives were analysed using the qualitative methodology of grounded theory, which also informed the data collection process. There was diversity in the meaning that was attached to the concept of spirituality by participants. A theme that bridged the diverse accounts however, was that spirituality (in its different forms) provides individuals with an ongoing sense of perspective about their existence. In this sense, spirituality was understood to be significant to a broad range of clients, and a prevalent issue within therapy. A further theme that emerged from the data, was that spirituality is a difficult concept to comprehend, that is infrequently discussed. In this sense, spirituality was understood to be a remote concept. It is suggested that further research needs to build standard frames of reference, in order that the concept may be more uniformly and coherently understood, and thus more available to the profession. When addressing spiritual beliefs, participants attempted to respect the beliefs that were held. This created difficulties, when the beliefs were perceived to be contributing to distress. It was nevertheless emphasised, that it is possible to work in a way that is consistent with beliefs, yet also allows more adaptive spiritual understanding to be developed. It is suggested that this dilemma be considered more fully within clinical training, to prepare clinical psychologists for the challenge of working artfully with spiritual beliefs.