What Can and Cannot be Said: Discourses of Spirituality and Religion in Clinical Psychology
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To allow material to be submitted for publication in research journals.
Objective: To examine the discourses used by trainee and qualified clinical psychologists from the South West of England to manage discussions of spirituality and religion as they relate to clinical practice. Methods: Four focus groups were carried out with a total of 25 qualified and trainee clinical psychologists.Transcripts were analysed using discourse analysis. Results: Three key discourses were identified, giving insight into how cohorts of qualified and trainee clinical psychologists manage discussions of these difficult topics. These were: balancing medical and therapeutic discourses, particularly when discussing psychosis and religious or spiritual beliefs; positioning and the Other, including religion and spirituality as a proxy for talking about race; and negotiating what can or cannot be said, principally when sharing personal views. Conclusion: Ensuring that clinical psychologists have an awareness of the different discourses in use within the profession and how these may impact practice is important. Explicit discussion of the medical and therapeutic discourses likely to arise across different settings should be encouraged, including how these can constrain discussions around difficult topics such as spirituality and religion, race, and sexuality. Training should equip psychologists to have an awareness of othering, particularly in relation to religion or spirituality and race, and the potential effects this could have on power and engagement in therapy and broader work.