Spirituality, religion, and psychological counseling

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


A substantial majority of people believe in God in some form and consider themselves to be spiritual, religious, or both. However, most psychologists and other mental health professionals perceive themselves as not religious and have little if any training in spirituality and religious diversity. Psychologists can use spiritual principles and practices to better serve clients, even if they do not share the same or any religious or spiritual perspective. We review and illustrate the emerging relationship between psychology, spirituality, and religion and its current status. Benefits of religious/spiritual engagement for physical, social, and mental health are outlined. We also comment on religious hazards to health. Spiritual tools commonly found in major religious traditions are discussed and suggested for use by counseling psychologists and others under certain conditions. A brief spiritual inquiry method is presented. Results of a spiritually focused intervention using spiritual practices serve as an example. Ethical and research issues are also discussed, along with important questions to consider.

Chapter of

Oxford Handbook of Counseling Psychology


Elizabeth M. Altmaier
Jo-Ida C. Hansen


Also published in L. Miller (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, pp. 388-409. New York: Oxford University Press. http://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199729920.013.0025