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Using prayer as an intervention within sessions requires a delicate awareness of an individual client on the part of the counselor. Likewise, with a secular counselor, there is a potential for weakness in the intervention that might render it ineffective or, even worse, harmful for the individual client. With these considerations in mind, the authors consider ethical mandates, articulate concerns, and make recommendations with respect to how to safeguard faith-based interventions from becoming useless or harmful and how to utilize those methods effectively. The authors begin their consideration with a brief description of the prevalence of prayer and spirituality within the counseling community of the United States. Among the highlights of these considerations is the fact that a vast majority of Christian-based counseling agencies (76 percent to 100 percent) believe that prayer is an appropriate intervention for clients, in contrast to 11 percent of secular agencies believing that prayer is appropriate for clients. Within the marriage and family counseling community, a vast majority (95 percent) believe that spiritual and mental health is related. However, only a slight majority (62 percent) actually utilized the spiritual dimension in their practice. This differential might be due to a lack of education on how to successfully integrate the two dimensions and the relative novelty of considering spirituality in a counseling practice (p. 126). Bearing in mind how widespread the use of faith-based interventions is in clinical practice, particularly with Christian-based counselors, the authors move on to consider the ethical responsibilities of counselors. These responsibilities ultimately reduce to promoting “the welfare of clients” and avoiding “harming their clients” (p. 127). To promote client welfare and avoid harm, the authors recommend that all counselors take an initial assessment of clients to evaluate their spirituality, which involves asking directed questions. Next, the authors recommend determining whether using spirituality in the treatment could harm or benefit clients. For instance, clients with mental health problems “may act out their problems religiously” (p. 128). Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that an individual is religiously mature before proceeding with an intervention based on spirituality. Knowing when prayer could be helpful or harmful will reduce the risk of incorporating certain kinds of therapies, according to the authors. Although prayer with less developed clients might increase superficial faith through insecure prayer, prayer with more developed clients might facilitate growth and self-awareness. All of these steps require a high degree of training on the part of the counselor (p.131). Additionally, faith-based interventions require a great amount of multicultural sensitivity, especially with an increasingly diverse population. In addition to specifying that counselors should promote the welfare and avoid harm to their clients, the ACA Code of Ethics also states that counselors should recognize diversity and embrace a cross-cultural approach, which refers to the identification of differences between individuals. Just like individual differences are crucial to deciding whether clients are spiritual mature enough for prayer in-session, counselors need to recognize and use vocabulary and imagery that is ...Show more


In Weld and Eriksen (2007), the authors note the increasingly important role that spirituality and religion plays in counseling generally. In addition to describing the increasing prevalence of faith-based treatment in the United States, the authors take the next step by noting certain normative problems that arise with using religion and faith heavily in a counseling session…
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