James GRIFFITH and Melissa GRIFFITH, Encountering the Sacred in Psychotherapy: How to Talk with People About Their Spiritual Lives. New York: The Guilford Press, 2002. pp. 320. $23.00 pb. ISBN 1572309385.
Reviewed by by April CUNION, Regent University, VIRGINIA BEACH, VA 23464

Opening discussions regarding spiritual aspects with clients seeking psychotherapy can be anxiety-inducing for both clinicians and patients. Indeed, encountering the sacred in psychotherapy has historically been viewed as taboo, or in the least, a procedure delegated to clinicians specializing in forms of specifically religious psychotherapy. In this text, Griffith and Griffith introduce the concept of incorporating spiritual issues into psychotherapeutic encounters, thereby better addressing the holistic needs of clients seeking aide. Towards that end, the authors provide multiple case examples of disguised clinical scenarios revealing methods of approaching sacred discourse in therapy, including the use of metaphors, stories, and conversations with God. They also detail methods for drawing upon individual beliefs and spiritual rituals, and document the importance of using the community as a resource for clients in psychotherapy.

Overall, the book is an important step towards incorporating spirituality into therapeutic endeavors. The approaches detailed in the book can easily be incorporated into therapy and are demonstrated by Griffith and Griffith to open up new avenues of discourse. Additionally, addressing spirituality in psychotherapy is a way to more holistically evaluate clientele, and integrating spirituality into therapy has been shown by the authors to provide distinct sources of additional coping for some clients, thereby bettering general mental health in these individuals. As such, this book provides an appropriate subject matter for all clinicians and a foundation for opening the avenues of interaction between matters of spirituality and psychotherapy.

That being said, the book seems to be a necessary, but not sufficient, introduction to generating therapeutic interactions regarding individualized spirituality. As mentioned earlier, the text offers a foundation for integrating spirituality and psychotherapy; accordingly, the authors claim no affiliation to any specific form of spirituality and offer no discourse on interventions designed to address spiritual difficulties. Towards the end of the text, I found myself desiring more. I felt as though the stage had been set, as the authors provided examples of ways in which clinicians could draw upon their basic skills in innovative manners to more adequately address spirituality. However, for those that are interested in working more directly with spirituality in psychotherapy, future work is necessary, intended to more specifically address various religious interventions that would build upon the foundation set by Griffith and Griffith.

Nevertheless, one cannot deny the essential nature of this text in detailing the need to address spirituality in session. Overall, I would report this book as a "must read" for therapists interested in incorporating spiritual components into their clinical work, and would highly recommend the text for any clinician seeking to more holistically evaluate the needs of their clientele.


Amazon.com - Continuum - Crossroad - Eerdmans Publishing - Liturgical Press - Orbis Books