Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Spiritual Care and Counselling


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Kris Lund

Advisor Role

advisor of the dissertation



Key Words: religion, spirituality, sacred, intervention, spiritual intervention, soul

Over the past twenty years, spirituality and religion have gained increased attention in the field of psychotherapy. In the research of psychotherapy, psychology, and social work, there is recognition that spirituality and religion can contribute to positive outcomes when people are faced with various challenges and distresses in life.

The main challenges are tied into determining how to move the research beyond the fact that spirituality has importance in psychotherapy to exploring how spirituality is integrated in psychotherapy. There are numerous questions to explore regarding the application of spirituality into psychotherapy. What is a spiritual intervention and how is it integrated into a theory of psychotherapy? How can a therapist use spirituality as a resource in therapy? Can any therapist, regardless of his/her personal beliefs and values, integrate spirituality into his/her clinical practice? Does a therapist’s perceptions and definition of spirituality determine his/her hesitancy to incorporate spirituality into therapy? These questions led me to the following research question: What is a therapist’s experience of integrating spirituality in the context of a client’s cognitive, emotional, or behavioural challenges and distresses in life?

This qualitative, phenomenological study investigates the meaning and essence of fifteen therapists’ experiences of integrating spirituality into psychotherapy.

This research takes place in a Canadian context where statistically, the demographic landscape reflects a spirituality that is moving towards a non–theistic perspective rather than a theistic–orientated worldview. Statistically, the Canadian landscape is less on common religious worldviews with more of an emphasis on spirituality. The Pew Research Center’s (2019) most recent survey in Canada, conducted in 2018, suggested a declining share of Canadians identify as Christian while an increasing share say they have no religion. The Angus Reid Institute (2017) identified the non-believers at 19% of the total population; spiritually uncertain 30%; the privately faithful 30% and 21% religiously committed. Secondly, in the Canadian context, the term spiritual care is associated with psychotherapy more so then the term pastoral counseling.

The data analysis is guided by a phenomenological, heuristic method, which will explore the lived experiences of therapists who practice a spiritually integrated approach to psychotherapy. The implications for practice will be addressed.

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