Spirituality has become increasingly important in counseling, with prayer being the spiritual intervention of choice for Christian counselors. The controversial nature of including prayer in counseling requires careful consideration of ethical issues. This article addresses the intersection of spiritual interventions, particularly prayer, with client welfare, multicultural sensitivity, values, and countertransference. The authors consider the ethical mandates, articulate concerns, and make recommendations.
Spirituality has been increasingly recognized as important in counseling (Miranti & Burke, 1995; Wade & Worthington, 2003). The majority of mental health professionals claim some type of religious affiliation, believe that spirituality is personally relevant, and value personal prayer (Bergin & Jensen, 1990; Carlson, Kirkpatrick, Hecker, & Killmer, 2002; Shafranske & Malony, 1990). Many mental health professionals also speak of the importance of spirituality to people's well-being (Genia, 2000; Miranti & Burke, 1995; Wade & Worthington, 2003). Prayer is the spiritual intervention most frequently used by Christian counselors (Sorenson & Hales, 2002; Wade & Worthington, 2003). Even secular practitioners regularly incorporate religion into their practices (Ball & Goodyear, 1991), with many believing that praying for a client is appropriate. Some secular practitioners do pray with clients, although most believe that it is inappropriate to do so (Carlson et al., 2002; Shafranske & Malony, 1990).
Perhaps as a result of the majority of the U.S. population's belief in God (Gallup Organization, 2006) and the power of prayer (Princeton Survey Research Associates, 2003), many clients want to discuss religious or spiritual issues within the context of counseling (Rose, Westefeld, & Ansley, 2001). Christian clients in particular expect prayer to be included in Christian counseling (e.g., Belaire & Young, 2002). Because sensitivity to clients' expectations...