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September 2019
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Aerden [userpic]
On Handling Inner Religious Conflict

I have a friend whose therapist counseled her to switch to a different religion. The friend is justifiably pissed off by this and is, I think, looking for a different therapist.

I know nothing of what induced the therapist to make such a suggestion. However, having read my friend's journal posts, it doesn't seem to me that her religion is causing her any great emotional turmoils at the moment. I could be wrong, of course, but that's my impression.

The only time I would ever make such a suggestion to a patient, if I were a psychological therapist, would be if my patient were clearly in deep emotional distress to the point of contemplating suicide. Then I would have something to say. Presuming my patient's religion was Christianity, though the basic message is applicable to anyone of any faith, my advice would go a bit like this:

"God did not put you on this earth to be miserable. You have a right to happiness just as much as anyone else does. I want you to think about something. There is faith in God, and there is religion. They are two entirely different things. Faith in God is something that exists in your heart. No one has any say in that except God and you. Religion, on the other hand, is an artificial construct. It has priesthoods, and hierarchies, and rules, and writings--all of which were created by human beings, who created these things with all of their opinions and prejudices intact.

"What you need to decide is which of these two is more important to you--your private faith in God, or your adherence to a man-made religion that is causing you much unhappiness--unhappiness that I don't think God ever meant for you to have to feel.

"Sometimes, people regard periods of deep unhappiness as a crucible, as a way to strengthen their faith. But other people are broken by them. I don't want this to break you. God doesn't want this to break you. So think about it. Fairh or religion? Your lifestyle need not be a part of the choice unless you want it to be."

Anyway, as a therapist of the completely unlicensed, armchair variety, that's what I'd advise. It would not be as simple as I've put it, of course. People who are deeply distressed are often not rational, and the message might not get through, despite the therapist's best efforts. But I think this is a heck of a lot better than telling a patient, "I think you should just stop following X religion, and go to something else." I mean, geeze!

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

I needed that.

I'm not sure I believe it.

But I needed to hear it.


As long as something like that might help someone find a way to stay alive, I figured it was worth saying. I really believe God does not cause problems in the world, but religion sure has caused a lot of them.



I am unsure that a mental health professional should even mention God or religion unless it's something the person in question has chosen to discuss as being a very important aspect of their life.

To suggest a new religion... hmm... I'd be curious what brought that suggestion. Or was it perhaps to try a new church? I have no idea, but it does seem rather odd for a person in such a position of trust to suggest a completely different spiritual path unless they were openly asked about it in a manner that was condusive to a therapy session.

If the conversation was based around the tenets of a religion conflicting with an individual's life (just for an example, a homosexual going to a church who's religious views openly damned homosexuality), then perhaps discussing religions that worked for them and their chosen lifestyle would be acceptable. And only if the patient directly asked for that sort of thin. Otherwise, no. Not appropriate in my book.

But that's just based on my limited scope of the subject. :-)

Lance--Yep, I agree. Religion shouldn't be discussed in that kind of seeting unless the patient himself brings it up as something that is causing problems. Otherwise, it just gets too intrusive. And if I were the therapist, I'd want to be very careful of what I said on the subject. For one thing, I'd place all decisions in the patient's hands. "This is the situation. You're not happy with it. Here are your choices--or you come up with better ones." etc.


That does seem a strange thing for a therapist to say. I wish your friend the best of luck with the whole problem. Also, I like your description. I am of the same thoughts and it goes hand in hand with my religion which is always good. *g*