An exploration of broaching and integrating religion and spirituality within a solution-focused counselling practice (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Counselling
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsSantich, Renéeshow all
This project explores the practice of broaching the topic of religion and spirituality in a solution-focused counselling practice. Within the recent history of psychotherapy, the practice of broaching has been used primarily to explore areas of client-counsellor racial difference, and also to discuss racial and other forms of client diversity.
Research suggests that clients who have religious and/or spiritual beliefs (R/S) prefer integrated counselling and experience better outcomes when their beliefs are welcomed into the counselling room, though therapists sometimes struggle when clients hold differing spiritual beliefs from their own.
Solution-focused counselling is a collaborative, language-based approach to change, where the client is regarded as the expert on themselves and their preferred future, while the therapist is regarded as the expert on solution-focused conversations. This client-led aspect of solution focused counselling can provide challenges for counsellors who wish to broach what some might consider controversial topics. This must be negotiated delicately by counsellors. As a consequence this project included the development of a R/S well-being and helpfulness scale, to promote dialogue about the importance and usefulness of integrating R/S within counselling.
This research uses microanalysis to explore both processes used to broach and integrate spirituality, and outcomes with one client in two transcribed solution-focused counselling sessions. The findings display that broaching R/S is complex. A willingness to broach with an attentiveness to the importance of R/S for the client, their desire for integration and non-verbal cues was demonstrated as vital to enhance client agency and develop the therapeutic alliance. The findings show that the R/S helpfulness scale is a useful tool to privilege the client view of integration of spirituality, and the R/S well-being scale reflects changes in spiritual well-being.
Findings demonstrate solution-focused counselling that is inclusive of client spiritual beliefs. This research demonstrates three solution focused assumptions that are useful to integrate client spiritual beliefs, a client-led approach with a collaborative counsellor stance that prioritises the therapeutic alliance. Techniques found to be helpful in integrating religion and spirituality are, the use of listen-select-build, tentative and echoed client language, normalising spiritual diversity and using minimal encouragers to welcome beliefs, the use of a non-expert R/S stance, amplifying client agency, an awareness of intersectionality, and the responsive use of client informed outcomes.
Finally, this research uses thematic analysis to reflect on implications for one counsellor broaching and integrating R/S, and found four themes generated in the findings, spiritual discomfort, broaching a new frontier, proactive engagement, and collaborative partnership. Findings show counsellor spiritual self-awareness is critical, as well proactively engaging with client spiritual language and knowledge, and developing a robust alliance that flexibly engages with the client on spiritual issues.
These findings are discussed in light of relevant literature and implications for counsellors and counselling practice are considered.