Psychology & Religion: The Spirtual Side to Counseling Essay

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Abstract: In today’s society the field of psychology and the study of religion have hardly ever set will with one another. New information is being composed about the two fields working together, this paper is a brief description of those ideas and thoughts.

The psychological study of religion in the United States illustrates tensions and opportunities that exist between psychology and religion. It also demonstrates the multifaceted views taken by psychologists as they address areas of living that have personal implications. Following the early period, American psychology’s push toward behaviorism resulted in the neglect of spiritual matters. The reductionism methods of
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Ralph Hood (1998), a major figure in American psychology of religion, suggests six psychological schools of thought regarding religion. The psychoanalytical schools draw from the work of Freud, and attempt to reveal unconscious motives for religious belief. Although Freud reduced religious belief to a natural, if ultimately flawed, attempt to cope with life’s stresses; contemporary psychoanalytic interpretations are not necessarily hostile to religious faith. Analytical schools find their inspiration in Jung’s description of spiritual life. Most psychologists, however, consider such descriptions to be undemonstrated by scientific research, and therefore it plays a limited role in psychology. Object relations school also draws from psychoanalysis, but focus their efforts on maternal influences on the child. Each of these three schools rely on clinical case studies and other descriptive methods based on small samples, which runs counter to the prevailing practice of psychology in America. Transpersonal schools attempts to confront spiritually directly, often with the assumption that spiritual phenomena are real. They utilize a variety of methods in an attempt to study transcendent experience. Phenomenological schools focus on the assumptions underlying religious experience and on the commonalties of the experiences. They favor description and critical reflection over experimentation and measurement.

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