THE USE OF SPIRITUALLY INTEGRATED INTERVENTIONS AMONG BAHÁ’Í MENTAL HEALTH PRACTITIONERS
spiritually integrated interventions
religion in social work
religious/spiritual psychotherapy behaviors
Social and Behavioral Sciences
With growing recognition of the importance of religious and spiritual concerns in mental health practice, empirical research into spiritually integrated interventions has begun to increase. However, to date, the body of research undertaken in this emerging field has been largely conducted from a Christian perspective. This study aimed to expand the scope of research by exploring the use of spiritually integrated interventions by a cohort of mental health providers who are self-identified members of the Bahá’í Faith, one of the lesser-known but fastest growing religions in the world today. Utilizing online survey research, this first convenience sample (N=105) study of Bahá’í mental health practitioners explored participants’ intrinsic religious motivation as a measure of their religious identity, their use of spiritually integrated interventions, and their beliefs about these interventions as appropriate or inappropriate for mental health practice. Results of this study indicate that Bahá’í mental health practitioners are intrinsically motivated, showing similar results in measures of motivation and direction in life (Pargament, 1997) and perceptions of practicing spiritual beliefs (Stewart, Koeske, & Koeske, 2006) or following a spiritual path in life (Derezotes, 1995). Conceptually, intrinsic motivation seems to project perceptions of spiritual strivings (Baumeister, 1991), concept of meaning and purpose in life (Frankl, 1984), belief in God (Sheridan, Wilmer, and Atcheson, 1994), and measures of religious commitment (Wimberley, 1984). Bahá’í mental health practitioners’ belief in the inherent intrinsic value of a human being (e.g., client) and the synonymous parallelism that all therapeutic work is spiritual in nature were noticeably integrated into their use of spiritually integrated practice. The Bahá’í mental health practitioners’ responses to RSPBQ Index of 29 interventions showed “often” to “very often” utilization of spiritually integrated interventions in contrast with Frazier and Hansen’s (2009) original survey of professional psychologists indicating “infrequent” responses to the same index. They indicate a willingness to use some evidence-based spiritually integrated interventions to their mostly private practices. Responses to open-ended questions show how Bahá’í respondents respect the ethical guidelines for professional practice. An appreciation for the “universality of human beings’ capacities” informs their practice. Viewing the client as “inherently whole and capable” instead of “someone to be fixed, controlled or cured,” the Bahá’í mental health practitioners use spiritually integrated services to achieve a goal of spiritual integration in therapy while fostering “peace and confidence within” instead of adherence to a specific creed, dogma or rituals. Future research should explore other diverse perspectives, such as those of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, and/or non-religious practitioners. The efficacious use of evidence-based spiritually integrated interventions as alternative ways of coping with mental health problems should also be considered for future examination.
Roberta Sands, Ph.D.
Michael Penn, Ph.D.