Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychotherapist and patient, Spirituality-Psychological aspects, Mixed methods research, Spirituality, Religion, Therapy, Clinician as client


This exploratory, mixed-methods study was conducted to investigate the experiences of clinicians who have both been in personal therapy and practice with clients, to consider the nature of addressing issues pertaining to religion and spirituality, both in the role of client and as clinician. The study sought to explore whether there was any evident correlation between clinicians' experiences in therapy or one's personal spiritual affiliation, or lack thereof, and if and how they approached the discussion of these topics with clients. The research was carried out via an online survey that was distributed to practicing clinicians via direct as well as NASW list serve appeals. Participants were eligible for this study if they were clinicians, holding at least provisional licensure and a master's or higher degree in social work, psychology, or a related therapeutic discipline, and 60 of the respondents proved eligible. The survey asked participants to answer an array of quantitative and qualitative questions that initially focused on their experiences as clients in their own therapy and then followed with inquiry on their experiences as therapists working with clients. Findings suggest that the more respondents consider themselves to be spiritual, the more spirituality was discussed, both in their personal therapies and in their work as therapists, with the reverse is also being true--- the less spiritual respondents perceive themselves to be, the less apt they are to discuss these matters. Religiosity, however, and the value individuals place upon their own faith increased the likelihood that participants would discuss these matters in their own therapy, but not in their work with clients. Additionally, findings indicate that those who had a positive experience addressing religious and spiritual issue with their own therapists were apt to carry on these conversations with clients, intentionally incorporating techniques modeled by their personal therapists. Most notable, and perhaps worrisome, is the discrepancy between the high importance therapists attribute to religion and spirituality in therapy and the limited frequency and depth with which these issues are being addressed. Though participants stated that they felt comfortable having these discussions, many seemed to be inhibited by a perceived difference of beliefs between client and therapist. Since religion and spirituality can be a significant component of personal identity and how one shapes one's worldview, building therapist competence in addressing these areas, in spite of difference, is vital to effective and ethical social work practice.




iv, 68 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 53-56)