Can Therapists Talk about Religion in Therapy?


This holiday is not only a day to go on egg hunts, but is also a holiday that Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection. 

This religious holiday got me thinking about religion in therapy. Is a therapist allowed to talk about religion in therapy? I always thought the answer was "no", but now I know how very wrong I was! Religion in fact may be a vital topic to talk about in a client's personal therapy. There may also be clients who want nothing to do with religion!

Long story short, yes, therapists can talk about religion in therapy, but it depends on how and why the therapist presents the topic. 

Below are 4 reasons why a therapist would talk about a client's religion in therapy:

A therapist would talk about religion because...

1. The client wants to talk about their faith

If the client brings up the topic of religion, it would be unethical for a therapist to avoid this topic. If religion or spirituality is something that the client wants to process through, the therapist should be ready to do so! However, therapists need to make sure that this process is for the clients benefit. The therapist should not have any ulterior motives of trying to change the client's faith. The goal of this time should be to help the client process through their beliefs and allow them to come to their own conclusion.

2. The therapist wants to know more about their background and if religion plays an important role in their life

It is appropriate for a therapist to ask if the client is spiritual or has a religious belief. This is an appropriate question because for many people, faith can shape their identity. Faith can be very important for many clients. A therapist who neglects to bring up to the topic of religion would actually be hindering the client. 

3. It is a therapy that has faith integration

If a therapist is working at a religious organization or practice in which the client has accepted faith integration in the therapy, it would only make sense that the therapist would present the topic of faith. Just like secular therapy, the therapist must not present their own personal beliefs about faith. The therapist should not have theological arguments during therapy: that is not in the mental health therapist job description. I encourage you to do more research about what faith integration would look like in therapy.

Reasons a therapist would not talk about religion

1. The clients does not want to

Pretty straightforward... if the client does not want to talk about religion then the therapist should not force this topic on the client. 

2. Problematic Countertransference occurs 

If a the therapist is experiencing countertransference when talking to a client about religion, it is important that the therapist makes this evaluation. If the therapist's own personal beliefs are going to impede on the client's goals for therapy, the therapist will need to talk to their supervisor to see if this therapist-client relationship should continue. 

YES, therapists can talk about religion in therapy, BUT the therapist must be careful. I encourage you to do more research about how therapists incorporate the topic of faith into therapy. Therapists need to make sure they are acting in an ethical manner when topics of religion are presented. Do you think you would consider being a therapist who works for a religious organization? Let me know! No matter what you decide to do, I know you are going to do great things!

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