T8. Spiritual Interventions: Working with Harmful Spirituality and Religion
Presenter(s): Rev. Jill L. Snodgrass, Ph.D. and Russell Siler Jones, Th.D., LPCS.
Approved to award 1.5 NBCC hours
Religion and spirituality are often sources of resilience, meaning, and healing, but they can also do harm. Sometimes the persons we serve are the ones being hurt by religion, and sometimes they’re the ones using religion to harm others. For example, spiritual beliefs and practices may be used:
- to justify nonobligatory suffering, self-neglect, treatment refusal, suicide, or violence against others;
- to isolate people;
- to diminish pleasure, joy, or healthy risk;
- to avoid pain and growth;
- as a tool of interpersonal power: religious justification for marital hierarchy, abusive parenting, etc.; or
- as a tool of group/political power: race, gender, LGBTQ, justification for war.
Harmful religion is sometimes connected to an underlying mental health issue, but more often it is related to social factors. The spiritual virtues at the heart of religion get suppressed by the demands of religious group cohesion. Under strong social influence, people sometimes participate in behaviors that diminish the human capacity for compassion and empathy. Furthermore, an individual’s anxieties, defenses, and prejudices are all more entrenched and intractable when they are supported by some religiously-based rationale.
It can be challenging for therapists, chaplains, and educators to mitigate the destructive impact of religion. Interventions with harmful religion and spirituality require considerable skill, respect, and patience and they proceed from safety, respect, and curiosity. Working with harmful spiritual or religious beliefs or practices is an advanced skill that requires significant self-reflexivity and support.
This workshop is an abbreviated version of one of the 10 courses in the Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy (SIP) curriculum. A brief overview of the SIP curriculum will be provided at the beginning of the workshop.
- Participants will be able to identify elements of harmful spirituality or religion.
- Participants will be able to discuss how spirituality and religion become harmful.
- Participants will be able to identify examples of harmful spirituality or religion that they have encountered personally or in their practice.
- Participants will be able to discuss strategies for countering the impact of harmful spirituality or religion.