The “What” & “Why” of Project #1:

This first project focuses on mental health professionals across various disciplines: psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, licensed clinical social workers, professional counselors, pastoral counselors, and marriage/family therapists. Within these disciplines, many mental health practitioners have little education or training in how to attend to the RS domains in clinical practice ethically and effectively (Brawer, Handal, Fabricatore, Roberts, & Wajda-Johnston, 2002; Hage, Hopson, Siegel, Payton, & DeFanti, 2006; Oxhandler & Pargament, 2014; Oxhandler, Parrish, Torres, & Achenbaum, 2015; Schafer, Handal, Brawer & Ubinger, 2009; Schulte, Skinner, & Calibom, 2002). In spite of the fact that several excellent scholarly books and articles have been published on spiritually-integrated, spiritually-informed, or spiritually-competent psychotherapy (e.g., Griffiths, 2010; Pargament, 2007; Richards & Bergin, 2005; Vieten & Scammell, 2015), most mental health professionals receive little or no training in RS issues within the umbrella of multiculturalism, in part, due to lack of awareness of their importance, and also because no agreed upon set of spiritual competencies or training guidelines exist. To address this need, through a series of studies and working groups, members of our research team developed a set of 16 basic RS competencies (click here). We propose that all licensed mental health professionals should both receive training in and be able to demonstrate these RS competencies in their clinical practice.

Project Activities:

  1. Adapt basic RS competencies in order to fit a broader range of mental health care providers with respect to:
    • Perceptions of the importance and feasibility/acceptability of each competency in clinical training.
    • Level of training received in each domain of competence.
    • Current perceived competence in these domains.
    • Perceived barriers to performing spiritually integrated care.
  2. On a national level, survey a larger, more diverse sample of mental health providers across disciplines.
    • Survey of 1,200 practicing mental health clinicians with a minimum of 10 participants from each field listed above. 
    • Participants recruited from from national association conventions, list-servs, publications, social media sites, and mental health care agencies.
  3. Pioneer and pilot the development of a scale to evaluate clinicians’ knowledge in relation to their overall competence towards RS as well as assess relationships between provider responses and attitudes.

Desired Changes:

These findings will underscore the need for training in RS competencies and demonstrate that mental health professionals generally:

  • Lack of knowledge about RS and these competencies;
  • Report a lack of training with respect to these RS competencies;
  • Perceive training in this are to be important;
  • Identify a variety of personal and institutional barriers to fostering training in RS.

This knowledge will serve as the foundation for:

  • Revised set of RS competencies relevant to the range of mental health disciplines;
  • Presentations and publications documenting the need for training in RS competencies in mental health care;
  • Successful efforts to foster wider adoption of training in RS competencies;
  • Improvements in the quality of mental health care by fostering RS competencies in the training of mental health professionals.

What We Found:

  • Both national surveys of multi-disciplinary mental health providers and mental health consumers on the need for spiritual competency training were successfully completed. Preliminary findings have demonstrated the lack of training received by providers in this domain and the desire among consumers for skills and sensitivity toward RS issues in treatment.