The Place of Spirituality in Psychology

The field of psychology encompasses many aspects that must be dealt with on a daily basis. Psychologists and others working in the field are often faced with moral dilemmas that may cause them to question the place of morals and spirituality in psychology. Those who practice some form of religion may use their specific values and morals when it comes to finding resolutions in these situations. There still lies the question of whether religion has a place in the day-to-day practice of psychology and if so, where to draw the line.

In part, psychology is considered a science. Though it is not exact in all situations, it does carry with it various similarities to science where theories and decision making are concerned. Ethics play a big role in psychology for both the roles of the psychologist or psychological professional conducting evaluations and providing treatment and the client or patient receiving the services or treatment. The code of ethics was put into place to protect both parties involved. Ethics is based on right and wrong and, can therefore be closely related to morality in many instances. Because of this, it can be argued that religion plays a role in the ethical decisions that are made everyday. Though the code of ethics does not specifically site religion as a part of what is contained there in, various aspects of morality and common values are found.

Spirituality as a whole has become even more prevalent in the field of psychology over the past several years as evidenced by the number of Christian counseling centers that have opened around the country. The professionals working in these settings offer what some say is the perfect combination of treatment, psychology based on Christian values and beliefs. Here the psychological principles and ethics are used with various aspects of religious values and beliefs interwoven into the treatment plans. Patients are often counseled on how spirituality can help them through their difficult situations. In these settings, professionals strive to find a balance between psychology and religion, a challenging task at times. Psychology is based on various principles, theories and ethics while religion is based mostly on faith. Psychological issues are proven in a scientific way while a good part of religion is based on belief in the unseen. While many people don’t question their faith, it can be difficult to intermingle what can be physically seen with what cannot. This causes many people to question the place of spirituality in psychology.

Because faith is often questioned, it has become necessary to receive proof. This proof often comes in the form of answers that are a direct result of the testing of ideas (Myers). When ideas are tested and found to be correct, faith is easier to maintain; however, then they do not survive the test, faith can become a very shaky prospect. When this principle is applied to psychology, the outcome can change on a regular basis. Different situations call for different ideas which may or may not prove to work. Also, what works in one situation may prove impossible in another. The key to understanding where spirituality fits in is knowing how to apply it to each individual situation and idea and make determinations and assessments based on the information that is gathered and the particular values that are relevant to the end result.

To better understand where religion fits into the psychological realm, let’s take a closer look at the human attributes that make up each. Where religion is concerned there is the theological wisdom. This deals with the acceptance of divine love in order to enable individuals to accept themselves. Psychological wisdom, however, deals with self-esteem, optimism and personal control (Myers). The ability to use the two together to make important decisions will provide the freedom to use what we know, admit what we don’t and search for the answers. Because we are both the creatures and creators of our own social world, people and situations matter (Myers). While ultimate control lies beyond us, we carry responsibility for making important decisions that have a lasting effect on us as well as others.

Psychologists face these dilemmas everyday. They must make important decisions that will directly effect their patients. Each decision is made on an individual basis and is dependent on each specific situation and its own set of circumstances. Each decision will carry with it a separate set of ethical issues and dilemmas and the solution will remain unique to each. Religion is said to heal people while medicine was designed to do the same. The two often work in different contexts, but it can be argued that medicine was discovered because of ideas and values based on religious beliefs. Because of this, it is believed in many situations the two are used together to come up with treatment plans that will be both effective and long lasting.

In many ways, people who have great faith have found the insights and critical analyses of psychology to be supportive of the understanding they possess of human nature. Their assumption that religion is conducive to happiness and good health is also attributed in great part to psychology. The science of psychology offers principles that can be applied to the construction of messages that will prove both memorable and persuasive. Here the tasks of peacemaking and reconciliation are promoted in a way that offers solutions that will provide the means by which others can achieve happiness by establishing healthy relationships (Myers). While the science may challenge our way of thinking, the same can be said of religion. Faith is often questioned in an effort to find answers. This has proven to be helpful in many situations where the answer wasn’t clearly defined. Here, the science of psychology is used along with the religious beliefs to find solutions to problems that seemingly have no immediate or clear resolution. Still, faith is not always a negative aspect of psychology.

A strong value and belief system can help a psychologist working as a professional in the field deal with situations where the traditional psychological theories aren’t showing a definite answer. Here the process is reversed because religion is used to clarify a particular set of circumstances based on the lack of information that can be gathered at a given time. There are also times where one can support the other. Religious beliefs are often used to support the reasoning behind many ethical situations whereas psychology is often used to prove various religion based ideas. This is where the two can be used in tandem to come up with a truly unique solution that will work.

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