Therapy Without Religion | INFJ Forum

Therapy Without Religion


Retired Staff
Mar 9, 2009
It is my observation that some patients cannot be helped by a trained psychotherapist without that therapist introducing what are essentially religious concepts to the patient during therapy. It seems to me like psychotherapy has taken over what was traditionally the function of religion to some extent. The function of the psychotherapist is the make the patient feel more functional, and the preacher often does essentially the same thing. The preacher explicitly uses religious concepts, while the therapist has to custom tailor the worldview to the client. But I bet there are some themes that are common, such a feeling part of a whole, practicing forgiveness, believing in the power of positive thought (that is a very popular one).

What do you all think?
There is a very direct link between pastoring a church and counselling, a good bit of it you described yourself. I have to take counselling classes here at FCC as part of my degree specialized in preaching.

However, most preachers aren't in position to run the gambit of psychotherapy. As such one of the first things to learn is when to send a person to someone who knows better then you.
As far as I know, Buddhism has practiced that for a long time without worshiping any diety.

I would expect a lot of buddhist practices to be found in contemporary psychotherapy.

Jeffrey M. Schwartz covered using some buddhist practices to cure OCD and Tourettes, among some others I can't think of off the top of my head. They don't work for everyone, but the statistics he presented were pretty significant IMO.

Four truths of Buddhism:

  • The first noble truth is that life is frustrating and painful.
  • The second noble truth is that suffering has a cause.
  • The third noble truth is that the cause of suffering can be ended.
  • This is the fourth noble truth: the way, or path to end the cause of suffering.
Pulled from
I just find the similarities amazing and didn't expect them. I'd expect them to be very different things, but going to church is kinda-like group therapy from my experience.
Community and sociology is one of the biggest factors in the spread of religion. It is a gathering for people to have a common cause, everyone has the same bedrock basis to start from, and from there you grow.

Sorry, I didn't read your original post well enough so my Buddhism post was out of place.
I've wondered why AA and NA programs insist you accept the influence of a higher power over your life, since I do think therapist can be effective without introducing religious concepts.

Maybe they have higher rates of success with patients already open to religion, and that is why the therapy is tailored to those patients, not the other way around.
To some extent, you lose self-accountability, right? Although, in a lot of these cases, I think there are unhealthy inferences that something was their fault when it really wasn't, but they can't accept that it was just coincidence, they need something to be responsible, and so that something is a higher power. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that's all that belief in a higher power is, but just in this specific circumstance for a generalized overview.

But why not just explain how things work? Some people perhaps aren't intelligent enough to comprehend the concepts, but sometimes I think they just want to keep the patient coming back, and group therapy feels good (I.E. addictive), as long as the group has the same bedrock agreement.

Mmm cyclical payments *nom nom nom*
Religious scriptures are largely self help books. They set rules that people can abide by in order to obtain health for their bodies, minds, and spirits. Religious scriptures also served the purpose of dictating a hierarchy for social groups. Religious counselors have historically carried the duties of using these scriptures to guide people in how to live their lives in accordance with their respective deity and preserving the social norms that promote the hierarchy.

Social work has its historical basis in charity work and counseling has its historical basis in neurology from the development of psychoanalytical theory by Freud. While historically they have been heavily influenced by religion, they are not based on religious concepts. Social work gets its philosophical basis from humanism, and argues that ethics, justice, and reason dictate practice, not supernatual deities or religious dogma. Counseling attempts to utilize the study of the mind, psychology, to determine the best treatments and has become steadily more scientific over the decades.

That said, there are a lot of similarities between the styles used by both and both have influenced each other over the course of the decades. The influence of social work and counseling on religion has been so great that a modern religious counselor is not representative of one that lived 100 years ago.
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