Encountering Questions of Religion in Psychotherapy: A Hermeneutical-Phenomenological Study of Religious Patients' Experiences

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https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/275; https://ddc.duq.edu/etd/275
Ahern, Jonathan
Counseling; Psychology; Psychotherapy; Questioning; Religion; Religious
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This dissertation presents a hermeneutical-phenomenological investigation of having one's religious or spiritual views called into question in psychotherapy. A review of the literature revealed very few studies exploring the experiences of religious or spiritually devoted psychotherapy patients and a complete lack of studies describing the lived phenomenon of having one's religious or spiritual views called into question in psychotherapy. Three self-described "religious" or "spiritually devoted" former psychotherapy patients provided in-depth descriptions of having their religious views or practices called into question in psychotherapy. Participants' descriptions--gathered first in writing and then by way of a hermeneutic interview--comprised the empirical qualitative data for this study. The data were interpreted using an adaptation of Giorgi's Descriptive-Phenomenological method. The interpretive analyses of these texts suggest that for the participants in this study, religious questioning in psychotherapy began as a conflict between seemingly opposing views which corresponded to and held in place, key relational affiliations and ways of being-in-the-world. Acting as cultural agents and personally meaningful individuals, psychotherapists came to shape the participants' conflicts as they, together with the participants, meaningfully engaged their patients' experiences with varying degrees of mutuality. As the participants changed the way they took up their religious conflicts, they experienced profound changes in their identities and in the nature of their relationships with individuals, communities and broader cultural narratives. The implications of these findings for competent clinical practice are discussed with an emphasis on the importance of mutuality in the therapeutic relationship.