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Theistic Integrative Psychology shows an approach for incorporating belief in God into therapy. An important aspect of this therapy is the assumption that spirituality and faith are central to many people's lives, and therefore therapists should be open to including religious beliefs in their work with clients.
In this session, Dr. P. Scott Richards works with a 60-year-old African American woman who was recently diagnosed with diabetes. He first seeks to understand how she is handling this news and the accompanying thoughts about her mortality and then looks at how her spiritual beliefs are both helping and hindering her process of coping.
This approach is distinguished from most therapeutic models in that its primary worldview is that God and spirituality often play an important role in people's lives: The starting point for Dr. Richard's theistic integrative approach is theistic, as opposed to the naturalistic or atheistic starting point for other models in psychotherapy.
This is an integrative approach in which many psychotherapeutic approaches may be incorporated, including person-centered and cognitive approaches, depending on which may be most suitable for the client. Tailoring the therapy to the individual client while also being open to the role of God in the client's life will result in more effective therapy. Assessment includes questions about religious beliefs and affiliations as well as more typical questions to assess mood and psychological traits.
To use this approach, a psychologist need not adhere to traditional religious beliefs, although having respect for and some understanding of spiritual worldviews is helpful. A therapist who is not a believer might look at this approach as a way to treat religious clients in a culturally sensitive way.
Whether the therapist believes in God or not, the most important thing to remember when allowing religious belief to enter therapy is that the therapist must never impose his or her own beliefs on the client. The goal of this therapy is to look for how the client's beliefs might help (or hinder) the journey to psychological healing.
To learn more about this approach, Dr. Richards recommends continuing education classes as well as reading literature on theistic integrative psychology.
About the Therapist
P. Scott Richards received his PhD in counseling psychology in 1988 from the University of Minnesota. He has been a faculty member at Brigham Young University since 1990 and is a professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education.
He is coauthor of the first and second editions of A Spiritual Strategy for Counseling and Psychotherapy (APA, 2005); coeditor of the Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity (APA, 2000), and the Casebook for a Spiritual Strategy in Counseling and Psychotherapy (APA, 2004).
He received the Dissertation of the Year Award in 1990 from APA Division 5 (Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics). In 1999, he was awarded the William C. Bier Award from APA Division 36 (Psychology of Religion).
He is a fellow of Division 36, served as secretary of the division from 2000 to 2003, and is currently president of the division.
Dr. Richards is a licensed psychologist and maintains a small private psychotherapy practice at the Center for Change in Orem, Utah.
Richards, P. S. (2005). Theistic integrative psychotherapy. In L. Sperry & E. P. Shafranske (Eds.), Spiritually oriented psychotherapy (pp. 259–286). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of psychotherapy and religious diversity. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (Eds.). (2004). Casebook for a spiritual strategy in counseling and psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (2005). A spiritual strategy for counseling and psychotherapy (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.