Assessing Religion And Spirituality In Counseling – Reflections And Recommendations

There is growing professional awareness about the importance of spirituality and religion in counselling. This is however often overlooked by many professionals during the phase of assessment in the counselling process (Kelly, 1995; Miller & Thoresen, 2003; Richards & Bergin, 2005). Spiritual and religious assessment is relevant to counselling for several reasons.

By understanding the clients’ spiritual view, the counselor will be able to understand them. The misunderstanding of this view will in most cases undermine the relationship, therapeutic relationship that they are supposed to have. The mutual understanding between the client and the counselor can lead to positive outcomes. When a counselor assesses the client’s spirituality, they are able to respect their religious beliefs and values. The spiritual assessment may also help to decide if there would be need for spiritual intervention to be indicated with the clients (Richards & Bergin, 2005).  If there is need, then they are able to know which ones are most helpful. These assessments are able to indicate whether a client has any unresolved needs or spiritual concerns that need to be addressed in the counselling session. Finally, it also enables the counselor determine whether the client’s religious or spiritual belief is deleterious to their health mentally or whether this can be used to help in faster healing.

The code of ethics guiding spirituality has been set in place by a number of the professional counselling organizations so as to ensure that every person who needs counselling are treated equally. The counselor’s professionals pledge is to commit to increase the clients understanding of the meaning of life, beneficial and the vital understanding of the benefits of the counselling profession (D’Andrea & Sprenger, 2007). The implementation of religion and spirituality helps clients’ growth and welfare and also help solve the issues that the clients bring to them (Steen, Engels & Thweatt, 2006).

There are several ways that have been recommended by scholars to help in assessing the religious beliefs of the clients. (Richards & Bergin, 2005). The counselors can assess the religious beliefs of their clients through inquiring on the various aspects of their lives.  This, this might include their physical, emotional, relational, physical, spiritual well-being and also their occupational well-being. Assessments can be done on two levels. The first level basically involves depending entirely on the client’s self-description and self-receptions of the way they are operating in every aspect of their lives. This is important in helping the counselor understand how the client’s spiritual background will be relevant in solving the problem at hand and aid in the treatment process.

When deemed relevant, the counselor may go ahead and undertake the level 2 assessment. This assessment is done so as to determine the specific spiritual and religious beliefs. This goes to greater depth. When a client states that their spiritual concerns are creating complication to them emotionally, the counselors may be interested in exploring the concerns further (Richards & Bergin, 2005).

Level 1 assessment may also be obtained through the use of counselling interviews and questionnaires. This information may also come up as a result of the counselling process. These questionnaires can be filled before the interview (Richards & Bergin, 2005). For the questionnaires to be efficient, it should ensure that all the important life events of their clients are assessed right at the beginning of the counselling session. The clients can also be given inspirational quotes from the different spiritual and the religious traditions. The counselors may also create their own quotes to top up.

The level 2 assessment may also be done through the administration of the standardized measures of assessment. Several instruments have been set up to aid in the study of the religious variables. Most of these instruments have got psychometric properties that are well established (Hill, Hood, 1999; Miller & Thoresen, 2003).

Thus assessing the client’s spirituality and religious beliefs can play a huge role in therapy. According to the discussion above, it is very beneficial in helping in the therapy session and thus should be fully incorporated by the professionals.

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