Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work
Though Christian spirituality and therapeutic relationships are unique subjects, commonly found throughout literature pertaining to each topic is an emphasis on how people ought to approach and participate in relationship with one another. In other words, each subject represents a unique tradition of relational engagement. For therapists who practice Christian spirituality, it is possible, if not likely, that both traditions impact how they go about engaging with clients. Despite this, there is a lack of material exploring the experience of relational engagement when these traditions intersect. For this reason, I set out to explore what this experience is like for Christian therapists. Using concepts found within Relational Theory as a guide, this study employed a hermeneutic phenomenological framework to gather and process information. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty Christian therapists across the province of Ontario, Canada, to learn more about this experience. Findings from the study suggest that this experience is fluid, complex, and made up of several “structures” that interact with, impact, and are impacted by each other. These include the personal and professional identities of Christian therapists, whether and how such identities are integrated, as well as several relational actions and relational perceptions. Based on this, the following recommendations are made. First, that counsellor educators encourage students to reflect on their personal and professional identities and whether and how they are integrated. Second, that therapists similarly reflect on the intersection of their personal and professional identities and how it impacts their relational engagement with clients. Finally, that clinical supervisors support supervisees in considering how their personal identities impact their approaches to, and experiences of, relational engagement in professional settings.
Smith, Aaron, "Relational engagement at the intersection of personal and professional identities: A phenomenological exploration of the experience of Christian therapists" (2021). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2405.
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