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Agape Christian Counselling, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 (416) 234-1850


George Hartwell M.Sc.


Prayer and Psychotherapy - an exploration of the therapeutic nature of Christian Prayer and its possible use with Christian clients in secular psychotherapy.

Paper by Peter M Gubi - Lecturer and Director of Counselling Courses 

Contact Address: Social and Community Care, South Cheshire College, Dane Bank Avenue, Crewe, Cheshire, England. CW2 8AB, Email: p-gubi@s-cheshire.ac.uk

Brief description of research carried out:

Qualitative interviews were carried out with seven reflective, counsellor trainers who teach in British Universities. The use of thematic prompts enabled interviewees to explore their understanding of prayer, how it might be psychologically understood and used in the psychotherapeutic process, and what ethical considerations might affect its use. The data was analysed using Grounded Theory.

Brief summary of results:

How prayer is understood within the Christian tradition is explored. The literature search demonstrates that prayer is of psychotherapeutic benefit. Prayer is of covert benefit to psychotherapeutic practice as: a means of 'grounding' for the counsellor; a means of support; a way of understanding counselling, and as a way of upholding the client when away from the counselling environment. Prayer could be used overtly as: a form of meditation to reduce anxiety; a way of 'acting out' an issue; a way of expressing feelings from the heart to enable sensitisation and awareness of emotions to develop; a method of reformulation; a form of guided fantasy; a way of transcending the enormity of experience, and as a coping strategy away from the counselling environment. Prayer can be psychologically understood as: a form of attachment; a means of reducing anxiety; a method for dealing with the recognition of existential aloneness; a method of fostering a greater sense of self-worth; a completion of gestalt; a psychological defence; and as a cathartic process of venting emotion.

Implications and recommendations:

Prayer can have a place in secular psychotherapy with clients who are able to step back from the act of praying and reflect on their process. Attention must be paid: to the client's ability to be psychologically-minded; to the client's level of spiritual development; to boundary issues that might arise; to the impact on the counsellor/client relationship, and to minimise the imposition of the counsellor's belief system on the client. Prayer may be difficult to justify as a therapeutic intervention when a counsellor is held to professional account. Using prayer can be powerfully therapeutic with the 'right' client, but it is a risky intervention which needs further research to determine methodology.