Spiritual and Religious Competencies for Psychologists

January 1, 2013
Cassandra Vieten, PhD

Vieten, C., Scammell, S., Pilato, R., Ammondson, I., Pargament, K. I., & Lukoff, D. (2013). Spiritual and religious competencies for psychologists. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5(3), 129-144.


It is clear from polls of the general public that religion and spirituality are important in most people’s lives. In addition, the spiritual and religious landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, with nearly a fifth of people unaffiliated with a religion, and increasing numbers of people identifying themselves as spiritual, but not religious. Religion and spirituality have been empirically linked to a number of psychological health and well-being outcomes, and there is evidence that clients would prefer to have their spirituality and religion addressed in psychotherapy. However, most often, religious and spiritual issues are not discussed in psychotherapy, nor are they included in assessment or treatment planning. The field of psychology has already included religion and spirituality in most definitions of multiculturalism and requires training in multicultural competence, but most psychotherapists receive little or no training in religious and spiritual issues, in part because no agreed-on set of spiritual competencies or training guidelines exist. In response to this need, we have developed a proposed set of spiritual and religious competencies for psychologists based on (1) a comprehensive literature review, (2) a focus group with scholars and clinicians, and (3) an online survey of 184 scholars and clinicians experienced in the integration of spiritual and religious beliefs and practices and psychology. Survey participants offered suggestions on wording for each item, and a subset of 105 licensed psychotherapists proficient in the intersection of spirituality/religion and psychology rated clarity and relative importance of each item as a basic spiritual and religious competency. The result is a set of 16 basic spiritual and religious competencies (attitudes, knowledge, and skills) that we propose all licensed psychologists should demonstrate in the domain of spiritual and religious beliefs and practices. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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