The ISU Department of Psychology recently received a $50,871 grant to study spirituality in psychotherapy. The study will examine incorporating spirituality into therapy in a variety of ways, according to assistant professor of psychology Joshua Swift.
“There are many different approaches for psychotherapists and counselors to integrate spirituality into their work with clients,” Swift said.
These approaches can range from what Swift calls “full treatment protocols,” which involve completely focusing on spiritual work with clients, to simply allowing clients to discuss and explore their own spirituality for themselves. Swift said the study will focus on the full range of spirituality in psychotherapy.
“We are trying to identify which approaches are commonly used,” he said. “We’re also looking at therapists’ decision-making process regarding whether to integrate spirituality at all with clients and how to best do that.”
The grant money will be used for paying for equipment to enable clients to complete the study measures on a session by session basis as well as providing an honorarium for both the therapists collecting the data and the student researcher who will serve as the project manager.
This student researcher will be in charge of training the therapists in study procedures and will oversee the entire data collection process, according to Swift. He added that other graduate students in the Psychotherapy Process and Outcome Research Lab will prepare presentations and publications based on the project results.
“[This] data will be shared with a network of researchers who are conducting similar studies across the globe,” Swift said. “It is expected that the overall results could have some impact on the way psychotherapists and counselors practice with their clients.”
Data from the study will be collected throughout the state, according to Swift, including in areas such as Boise, Twin Falls, Blackfoot and Idaho Falls in addition to Pocatello. Data collection will begin in January, and the study will last for two years. The data will be collected from 1,200 clients and analyzed from around 10,000 psychotherapy sessions.
“Most clients, whether they are a student seeking treatment at an ISU clinic or a client meeting with a private practice therapist out in the community, have some type of spiritual belief that plays an important role in their lives,” Swift said. “This study will help us see if treatment can be more effective if we integrate that spirituality in a way that meets their expectations and preferences for treatment.”