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Spiritual & Religious Competencies in Clinical Practice

Guidelines for Psychotherapists & Mental Health Professionals

By Cassandra Vieten, PhD and Shelley Scammell, PsyD
Forward by Daniel J. Siegel, MD

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Spirituality lies at the heart of many clients' core values, and helps shape their perception of themselves and the world around them. In this book, two clinical psychologists provide a much-needed, research-based road map to help professionals appropriately address their clients’ spiritual or religious beliefs in treatment sessions.

More and more, it has become essential for mental health professionals to understand and competently navigate clients' religious and spiritual beliefs in treatment. In Spiritual and Religious Competencies in Clinical Practice, you’ll find sixteen research-based guidelines and best practices to help you provide effective therapy while being conscious of your clients' unique spiritual or cultural background.

With this professional resource as your guide, you will be prepared to:

  • Take a spiritual and religious history when treating a client
  • Attend to spiritual or religious topics in a clinical setting
  • Hold clear ethical boundaries regarding your own religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Know when and how to make referrals if topics emerge which are beyond the scope of your competence

This book is a must-read for any mental health professional looking to develop spiritual, religious, and cultural competencies.

In the video below, Cassandra and Shelley talk about how this work came about, and the impact they hope it will have on the field of psychology.

Praise

Read a review from the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology.

“This book fills a very important gap in the training of most mental health professionals. Carefully researched, well organized, and wonderfully practical, it will help any clinician who recognizes the importance of spirituality and religion in most people's lives yet feels uncertain of how to approach these issues in psychotherapy.”
Ruth Baer, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky and author of The Practicing Happiness Workbook

“Spiritual and religious competency is a foundational skill for clinicians, but has typically received much less attention than it deserves. This book thoughtfully engages key issues and provides clinicians with up-to-date resources and strategies for building this core skill.”
Willoughby Britton, PhD, assistant professor of research in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

“If you're a psychologist or clinician, put Spiritual and Religious Competencies in Clinical Practice on your list of must-read books. It will be your guide to helping clients access the religious and spiritual resources—like coping skills or social support—available for their treatment or recovery. Keep it close and refer to it often!”
Christine Carter, PhD, author of The Sweet Spot and Raising Happiness

“If you are unaware of the spiritual dimensions of healing, your competence will be seriously compromised. This is a must-read manual for therapists, healers, doctors, nurses, or anyone in the healing professions.”
Deepak Chopra, MD

“This critical resource takes a deep look at the self-insight, knowledge, and skills that clinicians need to have in working with clients of varying spiritual and religious identities. Unlike vague advice to be open and empathic, this book relies on research and provocative clinician experiences to highlight specific recommendations to take seriously psychologists' oft-ignored requirement to respect and take seriously clients' diverse spiritual and religious identities.”
Adam Cohen, associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University

“This is a much-needed contribution that significantly raises awareness of religious and spiritual dimensions of clients' lives, highlights client resources that can be drawn upon, and expands the diversity discussion in a thoughtful and inclusive way. I would recommend this book for every therapist.”
Brant Cortright, PhD, professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and author of Psychotherapy and Spirit and Integral Psychology (SUNY Press)

“One of the major developments in psychology and medicine in recent decades is the realization that spiritual and religious practices can have major positive influences on health and longevity. These findings, buttressed by thousands of studies, are now largely accepted as part of the canon of medical science. These practices are not handed down from on high, but can be taught by professionals who are competent to do so. The development of these competencies is what this breakthrough book is all about. Spiritual and Religious Competencies in Clinical Practice is a doorway toward a more empathic, compassionate, and effective form of healing. This book is of value not just for mental health professionals, but for practicing physicians as well.”
Larry Dossey, MD, executive editor of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing and author of One Mind

“Aimed at clinicians, this is also a quietly profound and transformational book. It draws readers into a heartfelt engagement with their own deepest questions and longings while offering many practical guidelines and suggestions for skillful, effective work with diverse spiritual, religious, and existential issues. Unique, and destined to be a classic in the field.”
Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Buddha's Brain

“Grounded solidly in research, Vieten and Scammell do a masterful job of applying general multicultural competence issues involving therapist attitudes, knowledge, and intervention strategies to the spiritual and religious domains. A must-read for all mental health professionals, but especially those who find their commitment to diversity most challenged by clients' spirituality and religiousness.”
Peter C. Hill, PhD, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University

“In this revolutionary book, Vieten and Scammell open our eyes to the power of the sacred in the therapeutic encounter, enabling client and clinician to find purpose, healing, and joy in the individual's religious and spiritual convictions.”
Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley; director of Greater Good Science Center; and author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

About the Authors

Cassandra Vieten, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, president and CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and a scientist in the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. Her research has focused on spirituality and health, development and pilot testing of mindfulness-based approaches to cultivating emotional balance, and transformative experiences and practices. She is coauthor of Living Deeply (New Harbinger/Noetic Books 2008) and author of Mindful Motherhood (New Harbinger 2009).

Shelley Scammell, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with a twenty-year practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and has taught psychology at Sonoma State University, as well as at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Formerly, she was an associate professor of English at New York University, and taught at Baruch College and Mount Holyoke. As copresident of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology, she was fundamental in developing the sixteen competencies. She has published articles on the competencies in APA journals as well as presented them at several APA national conventions. Her extensive background in Western and Eastern spiritual practices and studies has informed her diagnosis and treatment of clients in spiritual struggles. Her clinical experience has fostered a desire to share this expertise with fellow clinicians.

Foreword writer Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is executive director of the Mindsight Institute and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. He is author of The Developing Mind, The Mindful Brain, and other books, and founding editor of the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology.

Research Papers

Competencies for psychologists in the domains of religion and spirituality.
Vieten, Cassandra; Scammell, Shelley; Pierce, Alan; Pilato, Ron; Ammondson, Ingrid; Pargament, Kenneth I.; Lukoff, David
Spirituality in Clinical Practice, Vol 3(2), Jun 2016, 92-114.

Spiritual and religious competencies for psychologists.
Vieten, Cassandra; Scammell, Shelley; Pilato, Ron; Ammondson, Ingrid; Pargament, Kenneth I.; Lukoff, David
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Vol 5(3), Aug 2013, 129-144.