Ethical issues and challenges working with religious individuals and organizations: Providing culturally competent professional mental health services

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Cambridge University Press


In this chapter, I hope to highlight some of the most common and most challenging ethical dilemmas and concerns for mental health professionals who work closely with religious organizations. Since my almost 30 years of clinical experience with religious groups have been conducted primarily with the Roman Catholic Church, I will focus my attention in this chapter on Catholics. However, many of the challenges discussed in this chapter could also be applied to other religious organizations. In the spirit of the adage “write what you know,” I will limit my observations to these groups. Additionally, in accordance with the spirit of the other chapters in this edited volume, I will highlight several complex and unique case studies that provide rich material for ethical reflection and discernment. All of the cases discussed in this chapter are actual cases that I have worked with, but in order to carefully respect and protect confidentiality, names and minor details have been changed.

Chapter of

The Cambridge handbook of applied psychological ethics


Mark M. Leach
Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel