By Angelique Thomas
Two BYU psychology professors are using religious sensitivity to aid mental health care professionals.
P. Scott Richards, an associate professor in the department of counseling and special education, and Allen E. Bergin, a retired professor of psychology are the editors of the guide “Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity.”
Richards said the book gives an overview of specific religions and their role in therapy.
“The book is opening the way to legitimize spirituality and religiosity in mental health,”said Counseling and Special Education Department Chair Ronald Bingham.
The two professors wrote a book in 1997 “A Spiritual Strategy for Counseling and Psychotherapy,” which proposes a theistic approach to counseling and psychotherapy, Richards said.
He said after the first book they realized it would be beneficial to put together a book to help mental health professionals work sensitively with their client’s religious beliefs.
Richards said each chapter addresses different religious beliefs.
He said, each of the chapter authors is both a psychotherapy practitioner as well as a practicing member of a faith.
The chapters discuss the history and beliefs of their religion and how as a professional to work effectively with people who belong to that religion, Richards said.
Some of the major religions included in the book are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islamic.
“The chapters discuss how to establish a trusting relationship and diagnostic suggestions for what may help in that religious belief,” Richards said.
The two professors wrote the first and last chapters and helped write the chapter about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s beliefs, Richards said.
“The mental health profession attends to cultural diversity but leaves religion out of the diversity equation,” Bergin said.
Bergin said they wrote the book because most clients are religious and religion is an important part of a client’s core values.
Bergin said he hopes the book will be an instrument of professional education and a declaration that no longer can a mental health professional get away with ignoring religious diversity and its importance in mental health.
Richards said it is not uncommon that therapists encourage things that contradict with their client’s religion.
The book should help mental health professionals avoid proscribing things that conflict with the client’s religions, Richards said.
Clients who seek counseling and therapy will benefit from this book because it will be less likely that they will encounter insensitivity from their mental health professional, Richards said.
Additionally, mental health professionals will learn, from this book, to be more effective and respectful to their client’s religion, Richards said.
The idea for the book came from students who did papers about how mental health professionals can work sensitively with their client’s religion, Richards said.
The two professor’s work is highly regarded and respected in the profession as evidence from the publication of the book by the American Psychological Association, Bingham said.
Bingham said doctrinal students at BYU would use the book in the Spiritual Values and Methods in Psychotherapy class.