I’m a therapist and an atheist… question about dealing with religious clients.
Posted: 04 August 2012 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I’m in a marriage and family therapy master’s program, and I hope to go onto a PhD program next year. At my internship, I have several religious clients. Since I am an atheist, I can’t help but be a little unnerved by my clients’ religious tendencies. Sometimes I worry if my clients would even come back to see me if they knew that I am an atheist. I often think about how Harris and Dawkins suggested that people who are moderately religious make it seem like faith is a virtue and, therefore, make it safe for other people who use faith as a reason to do/believe terrible things. Anywho, here’s my question: is it my responsibility, as a therapist, to encourage my religious clients to use their faith as a resource if they may benefit from it, or should I never support a person’s religiosity? Last week, I suggested to one of my religious clients to continue “talking to God”. I felt really weird about saying that, but she is paying to come see me to open up in a safe environment and to improve her quality of life, so I thought maybe I should just use her faith as a resource. What do you all think?

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Posted: 04 August 2012 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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jonathankimmes - 04 August 2012 05:51 PM

I’m in a marriage and family therapy master’s program, and I hope to go onto a PhD program next year. At my internship, I have several religious clients. Since I am an atheist, I can’t help but be a little unnerved by my clients’ religious tendencies. Sometimes I worry if my clients would even come back to see me if they knew that I am an atheist. I often think about how Harris and Dawkins suggested that people who are moderately religious make it seem like faith is a virtue and, therefore, make it safe for other people who use faith as a reason to do/believe terrible things. Anywho, here’s my question: is it my responsibility, as a therapist, to encourage my religious clients to use their faith as a resource if they may benefit from it, or should I never support a person’s religiosity? Last week, I suggested to one of my religious clients to continue “talking to God”. I felt really weird about saying that, but she is paying to come see me to open up in a safe environment and to improve her quality of life, so I thought maybe I should just use her faith as a resource. What do you all think?

 


If and when I seek therapy again, I would avoid anyone who suggested that I rely in any way on a personal god to intervene on my behalf.
Atheists would feel far more secure and comfortable going to a therapist whose mind was not clouded with delusional beliefs in a higher being and an afterlife.
It would be grand to have a therapist who was smart enough to see through the sham of religion.
Trying to coax one entrapped within an ancient, irrelevant dogma to disentangle themselves from a convoluted mind would be akin to stacking shadows with a flashlight.
Perhaps you could start a practice devoted to realists.

 

 

[ Edited: 04 August 2012 09:43 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 17 August 2012 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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jonathankimmes - 04 August 2012 05:51 PM

I’m in a marriage and family therapy master’s program, and I hope to go onto a PhD program next year. At my internship, I have several religious clients. Since I am an atheist, I can’t help but be a little unnerved by my clients’ religious tendencies. Sometimes I worry if my clients would even come back to see me if they knew that I am an atheist. I often think about how Harris and Dawkins suggested that people who are moderately religious make it seem like faith is a virtue and, therefore, make it safe for other people who use faith as a reason to do/believe terrible things. Anywho, here’s my question: is it my responsibility, as a therapist, to encourage my religious clients to use their faith as a resource if they may benefit from it, or should I never support a person’s religiosity? Last week, I suggested to one of my religious clients to continue “talking to God”. I felt really weird about saying that, but she is paying to come see me to open up in a safe environment and to improve her quality of life, so I thought maybe I should just use her faith as a resource. What do you all think?


The situation is a bit sticky.  Not all religions are equal relative to either the amount of comfort (C) they provide or the the amount of human spirit destroying abusiveness (HSDA) they mete out. For example:


Unitarian Universalism: Perahaps 99% C and 1% HSDA.


Catholicism: 40% C 60% HSDA depending on the priest & locale


Mormonism: 20% C 80% HSDA


Scientology: 5% C 95% HSDA


Islam: 0 to 30% C, and 70 to 100% HSDA depending on the location & group


Religion is a natural phenomenon. Not gods are the same. So when you use the word god you have to also consider which god you’re telling them to return to. The Mormon God, who dislikes adolescent masturbation, premarital sex, and homosexuality while at the same time allowing his founding prophets to sleep with 14 and 15 year old girls and with the wives of other men? The Islamic God, who delights in endless torching of his detractors? The Scientologist god who’s a hostile crazy alien who really likes the money of movie stars and who also likes to lock up his followers in “Sea Org” camps? The Catholic God, who allows his priests to rape children en masse? Or, the Unitarian God, who is really a god you get to define any way you wish - love, sex, nature, the Universe, whatever… So there is a huge difference.


Helping someone out of their abusive faith can be a tricky operation. But when a person is being held down by and abused by their religion I believe it’s our duty to help them.


For your research you could listen to the past conferences of the Exmormon Foundation:


http://exmormonfoundation.org/conference2011.html


Related links about recovery from Mormonism & the problems with Islam:
http://corvus.freeshell.org/corvus_corax/two/life_path/life_path.htm


Related videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OymNAUmVUBY
http://www.youtube.com/results?q=i+am+an+exmormon


I think you really should be honest with your clients so to speak. They’re paying you to essentially be their friend. If their god is a light and fluffy bunny, sex, love, Nature, or the Universe, then maybe it’s ok to tell them to pray to their god. But if their god is an angry bastard who needs to be destroyed at all costs, then maybe it would be best to suggest an alternative approach. And, the fact that the Enlightenment happened & the fact that humans have for the first time found out our true place in the Universe only via science and not via religion should in my view fall into the mix prominently.


Maybe Bill Gardiner, who reportedly works as a counselor and who appeared in Bill Maher’s Religulous film could provide more ideas for you: http://exmormonfoundation.org/media-contacts.html

 

[ Edited: 17 August 2012 10:19 AM by birdman]
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Posted: 17 August 2012 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I grew up Catholic. I recovered from alcoholism and drug addiction 22 years ago using the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. 10 years or so ago I started coming to the realization that god did not get me sober, but my belief that god would help did. This transformation from theistic comfort seeker to non-theistic realist came very slowly due to the lifelong conditioning of a traditional catholic upbringing combined with resistance from within the ranks of the AA program that I used as my vehicle to sobriety.

A higher power or “god as I understood him/her” is the bedrock of the AA 12 steps.  Fortunately, AA provided a bridge that allowed for me to cross over to where I am at now.  That bridge, (which AA uses for people that are atheistic in nature when they first arrive) was used by me to walk away from their desired outcome of finding of your own higher power, and ultimately calling it god.

The bridge itself is a simple acronym.  G.O.D.= Good Orderly Direction.  No matter how devoutly religious your patients may be, they should not find any difficulty in appealling to good, orderly, direction as a way to progress towards mental health.  This concept, once introduced, becomes a call to personal accountabiliy and proper action whatever the circumstances may be. And in no way, shape or form can your patients deny that good, orderly direction is what their god wants from them.

You may not be able to free them from their theistic views, but at the very least you have a way to appeal to any common sense they might have left without selling out yourself or reality.

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Posted: 30 August 2012 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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jonathankimmes - 04 August 2012 05:51 PM

What do you all think?

I’m not a therapist so keep this in mind when evaluating my cold-hearted, cold-turkey opinion.

Why do people go to therapy?  They need help figuring out their life, right?  Your job is to balance the kind of help they need with the kind of help you can give.  So ask yourself what kind of help you want to give.

As an atheist you should agree that we’re alone in the universe and we should to help each other without the wobbly crutch of a made-up god as an excuse not to help each other, so I would take “God” out of my toolbox and not be ashamed or afraid to tell my clients.  As an ardent atheist myself, if someone was to ask me for help with their problems by asking/praying to their god for help then I’d tell them to go to their preferred spinner of religious bullshit for that answer.  But if they want help standing on their own two feet and learn to fix their problems themselves so they don’t need a therapist then your hourly rate is $______ .

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Posted: 13 September 2012 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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jonathankimmes - 04 August 2012 05:51 PM

I’m in a marriage and family therapy master’s program, and I hope to go onto a PhD program next year. At my internship, I have several religious clients. Since I am an atheist, I can’t help but be a little unnerved by my clients’ religious tendencies. Sometimes I worry if my clients would even come back to see me if they knew that I am an atheist. I often think about how Harris and Dawkins suggested that people who are moderately religious make it seem like faith is a virtue and, therefore, make it safe for other people who use faith as a reason to do/believe terrible things. Anywho, here’s my question: is it my responsibility, as a therapist, to encourage my religious clients to use their faith as a resource if they may benefit from it, or should I never support a person’s religiosity? Last week, I suggested to one of my religious clients to continue “talking to God”. I felt really weird about saying that, but she is paying to come see me to open up in a safe environment and to improve her quality of life, so I thought maybe I should just use her faith as a resource. What do you all think?

As a psychology undergraduate I find this to be a very interesting subject. I’m not only an atheist but also an anti-theist which is to say I consider religion to be incredibly harmful and the source of a great deal of evil in the world. So, yeah, of course I would be unnerved by my future client’s religious tendencies but I would try not to show it. What I would never do is lying.  Few things are more “sacred” then honesty, specially in a therapeutic setting.

I would never tell a patient to keep talking to god or to pray. But I would also never tell them to not do it unless there was some visible harm caused by it.

If the patient were to ask me my opinion on religion I would give it. Of course I wouldn’t say everything I think about it but I would be honest. This, however, does not apply if religion is the only source of comfort the person has or if the person is at an advanced age.

jonathankimmes - 04 August 2012 05:51 PM

I often think about how Harris and Dawkins suggested that people who are moderately religious make it seem like faith is a virtue and, therefore, make it safe for other people who use faith as a reason to do/believe terrible thing

This is certainly true.

 

Also, you could probably benefit from reading Harris’s ebook, Lying.

[ Edited: 13 September 2012 06:08 PM by BernardoPinto]
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Posted: 10 May 2014 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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jonathankimmes - 04 August 2012 05:51 PM

I’m in a marriage and family therapy master’s program, and I hope to go onto a PhD program next year. At my internship, I have several religious clients. Since I am an atheist, I can’t help but be a little unnerved by my clients’ religious tendencies. Sometimes I worry if my clients would even come back to see me if they knew that I am an atheist. I often think about how Harris and Dawkins suggested that people who are moderately religious make it seem like faith is a virtue and, therefore, make it safe for other people who use faith as a reason to do/believe terrible things. Anywho, here’s my question: is it my responsibility, as a therapist, to encourage my religious clients to use their faith as a resource if they may benefit from it, or should I never support a person’s religiosity? Last week, I suggested to one of my religious clients to continue “talking to God”. I felt really weird about saying that, but she is paying to come see me to open up in a safe environment and to improve her quality of life, so I thought maybe I should just use her faith as a resource. What do you all think?

YOU CANT DEAL WITH THEM. THEY HAVE NO LOGIC. THEY HIDE BEHIND THEIR FINGER. THEY ARE DELUSIONAL.

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Posted: 10 May 2014 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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I ALREADY GAVE YOU MY ANSWER BUT HERE IS ANOTHER,ONCE I HAVE READ YOU POST.
I UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR PROBLEM IS NOT ONLY THAT THEY UNNERVE YOU,BUT THAT THEY WOULD LEAVE YOU,SO YOU ARE IN BOTH CASES WORRIED ABOUT YOU OWN WELLBEING WHILE TAKING THEIR MONEY FOR THEIR WELLBEING. HOW MORAL IS THAT?

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