At the San Francisco convention, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution regarding the relationship between religion and psychological practice and research. I have posted it elsewhere on the blog for your review. Here I am going to pull out some points relevant to our discussions on sexual identity.
It is important for psychology as a behavioral science, and various faith traditions as theological systems, to acknowledge and respect their profoundly different methodological, epistemological, historical, theoretical and philosophical bases. Psychology has no legitimate function in arbitrating matters of faith and theology; and faith traditions have no legitimate place arbitrating behavioral or other sciences. While both traditions may arrive at public policy perspectives operating out of their own traditions, the bases for these perspectives are substantially different.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association take a leadership role in opposing discrimination based on or derived from religion or spirituality and encouraging commensurate consideration of religion and spirituality as diversity variables.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association views no religious, faith or spiritual tradition, or lack of tradition, as more deserving of protection than another and that the American Psychological Association gives no preference to any particular religious or spiritual conventions.
This statement of religion as a diversity variable dovetails very nicely with the religious coalition’s letter to the APA regarding religious diversity.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages individuals and groups to work against any potential adverse psychological consequences to themselves, others or society, that might arise from religious or spiritual attitudes, practices or policies.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are encouraged to recognize that it is outside the role and expertise of psychologists as psychologists to adjudicate religious or spiritual tenets, while also recognizing that psychologists can appropriately speak to the psychological implications of religious/spiritual beliefs or practices when relevant psychological findings about those implications exist. Those operating out of religious/spiritual traditions are encouraged to recognize that it is outside their role and expertise to adjudicate empirical scientific issues in psychology, while also recognizing they can appropriately speak to theological implications of psychological science.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are careful to prevent bias from their own spiritual, religious or non-religious beliefs from taking precedence over professional practice and standards or scientific findings in their work as psychologists.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages collaborative activities in pursuit of shared prosocial goals between psychologists and religious communities when such collaboration can be done in a mutually respectful manner that is consistent with psychologists’ professional and scientific roles.
When religious belief seems to associate with some adverse mental health outcome, the psychologist can point this out but still may not opine about the religious value of holding a belief. In some traditions, for instance, suffering is valued, even it could be prevented via psychological interventions. Psychologists should not be shy about saying such suffering could be prevented but the psychologist may also respect the tradition of the client and recognize where personal beliefs can bias psychologists.
All in all, I think these are important statements and have relevance to sexual identity ministry and therapy. I will have more to say later on this, so let’s consider this an open forum on this topic.
36 thoughts on “APA resolution on religion and psychology”
I have to agree with Eddy – your communication skills are impeccable 🙂
Once again I’m enjoying your communication gifts. Your post 44375 was clear, succint, insightful, memorable AND on topic! The kind of post I come here for.
* * * –Pretend they’re stars; pretend they’re gold.
There has been a shift in many christian (conservative christian) churches that are now accepting the reality of global warming. In fact, most of those christinas I socialize with are well aware of and practice lives of less waste, more recycling, more efficient energy sources etc…
I was thinking about this post while working (go figure). Let me give an example that I think the gay community on the whole isn’t getting.
Let’s say I am a religious type and am pregnant out of wedlock. I don’t want to add to my troubles. I am in counseling and my counselor is not a religious person. She says what the law says – it is okay to have an abortion and here are resources for me. But my faith (although I’ve obviously committed some sins here) says that abortion is not right (regardless of the law of the land) and I just cannot do that. But my counselor is frsutrated with me and knows that aborting the child would benefit me financially and otherwise. But my faith is in deep conflict with that. Does she counsel me to accept the abortion? Or does she counsel me to make wiser decisions (without getting an abortion) with the choices I currently have?
Or – can I seek out a conselor who is also in line with the faith concepts and helps me with my predicament because she does have resources within the faith communities. (What got me there and what am I going to do know, with church, child out of wedlock, etc…)
Amusingly the religion/science divide is similar to the gay/Christian divide. People assume that if you are one you can’t be the other.
And there have been too many unscupulous people on all sides raking in contributions by whipping up distrust and lurid accusations. Think “secular progressive”.
It’s reached the stage that if science says something, conservative religious folks just assume it isn’t true. A good example of that is global warming. It has become almost a tenat of faith to deny that global warming exists.
Why on earth would denying global warming be a religious issue? Why would churches preach that it isn’t so? Because they distrust science and believe that anything that science has to say is skewed and liberal and humanistic and evil (unless, of course, it confirms what they already believe).
“I for one am very glad that I am allowed to bring relgion into my counseling sessions. God/faith/theology is a HUGE part of my life and thus will be – no matter how the APA tries to remove it.”
I am glad that you are able to incorporate your faith, and I have no problem with that at all. However, I think the APA in some respects just wants to keep “in check,” the individuals who use religion as a means to promote particular theories on “treatment” that are not scientifically viable and could be harmful. Like Richard Cohen. He’s an embarassment on both fronts – religion and the practice of mental health care…and dangerous in this respect.
On the other hand, I think the APA also wants to keep “in check,” psychologists who might attack religion. I realize that having my doctorate in clinical psychology doesn’t necessarily make me a Biblical scholar, equipped to revamp theology.
I have found, as Warren stated that “The APA resolution has a great respect for religion and the different traditions and approaches of religion and spirituality.”
I hope that we can continue the long tradition of intertwining an individual’s spiritual path into their psychological consult, remembering the mistakes of the past, and hoping to create a better future.
Simply saying from my point of view – that a person cannot exclude one from the other. I agree that some people have used religion poorly and tried to skew science from that perspective – but not all people do that. Blanket statments are what cause problems.
Warren, (corrected version)
I agree – to a point. We should definitely respect both, but we should also understand the limitations and purposes of each. Too often religion tries to do what it is not designed to do, and science does the same thing. Respect both definitely, but respect the limitations of each as well – and don’t get the two mixed up. AND, don’t forget the lessons that history has taught us about religion and science.
The APA resolution has a great respect for religion and the different traditions and approaches of religion and spirituality. Psychology and religion are viewed as alternative ways of knowing. One does not need to trash one to embrace the other. Each has its own way of addressing the human desire (need?) to know and gain a sense of understanding.
And let’s not forget what religion has done to science – tried to silence it, imprison it – etc. Galileo, The Scopes Monkey Trial… History is littered with religion meddling in science and trying to bend it to its will.
yes, but they didn’t let their religious views interfere with sound science – It really depends on the kind and type of religion we are talking about – Evangelicals and Fundamentalists often want to shape science so that it fits their faith, others are much more objective. The creationists, for instance are trying to push their views as science, even though it is not, and has already been judged not to be science in a court of law. The Catholic Church, on the other hand has stepped out and defended evolution.
Religion has no place being involved with science.
Hmmm. Some of our greates scientist were/are religious people.
I for one am very glad that I am allowed to bring relgion into my counseling sessions. God/faith/theology is a HUGE part of my life and thus will be – no matter how the APA tries to remove it.
I’m sorry, but the problem with ideologies doesn’t come as strongly from the APA as it does from many overtly religious evangelicals. It is THEIR ideologies that are causing the problem and creating the issues – and religion has no purpose being involved with science. I think the APA’s statement is finally trying to get religioun out of science – the APA is about science, religion, most often, is not.
Actually – there are many churches that perform same-sex ceremonies/marriages – which leads me to believe this is no longer an issue of religion, as much as evangelicals would like you to believe it is – there are churches in every state that perform gay marriages – the problem is with the secular state recognizing and supporting those marriages. An interesting twist that I hadn’t thought of before
“BTW, My personal beleifs for how I live my life are probably not the same as others – so please don’t assume so.”
I didn’t assume that at all.
I agree with you Jayhuck.
I don’t assume that my experiences are the totality – but I think Warren said it better than I. And I could not be more specific – sorry.
BTW, My personal beleifs for how I live my life are probably not the same as others – so please don’t assume so. I really don’t care if someone wants to be gay, ex gay, celibate or promiscuos. And overall, I think that christianity (obviously because it is called christianity) has similar values across the board regardless of one’s interpretations – but there are differences – that’s why Americans are fighting over this very subject –
Warren wrote: I have found some real common ground with gay identified Christians even though we disagree about the teaching on sexual ethics. However, many if not most gay Christians I know believe they should be sexually pure until they find a life mate.
Kinda difficult to do if one doesn’t have the attendant institution to lend creedence to the such an ethic. Should a church then institute marriage for its gay and lesbian members should not the civil authority follow suit? If a religion has marriage for gays and lesbians as a part of its faith, are not constitutional amendmets which define marriage heterosexully then unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment, Freedom of Religion?
It’s late, my mind wanders…..
All I was trying to do was to point out what the churches had in common – which was actually quite a bit. I completely understand where they are different, but I think they share more in common than not – regardless of their views on sexuality.
Mary et al – I would say the difference is in belief or interpretation about certain Scriptures. I have found some real common ground with gay identified Christians even though we disagree about the teaching on sexual ethics. However, many if not most gay Christians I know believe they should be sexually pure until they find a life mate.
I sense this could get lost in semantics; hope it doesn’t.
The tone of the APA resolution is certainly positive and appreciated. We can hope that this will set a new direction for the APA as a professional body that serves the public by limiting its role to clarifying disputes about interpretations of empirical studies. Sadly, APA has a poor track record in this regard and frequently uses its power to promote ideologies under the guise of research results. Former APA leaders Rogers Wright and Nick Cummings did an excellent job exposing such deceptive practices in their brilliant book.
Will APA stay away from trying to stop psychologists from assisting clients who want to live in accord with their religious values? Let’s see.
I couldn’t agree with Timothy more when he stated:
“The ONLY distinction between the religious values of gay Christians and ex-gay Christians is that gay Christians do not believe that identifying as “gay” sets them apart in the eyes of God….”
and further states
“Your study of Scripture may have led you to one conclusion on homosexuality. Fine. But that does not mean that you have different values – it simply means that you interpret a small handful of scriptures differently.”
Mary, I value your experiences as a self-defined ex-gay woman, but please do not assume that your experiences are the totality of experience for all people.
If you do believe this still to be the case, that somehow gay Christians and ex-gay christians differ in their values or faith, please be more specific.
In a gay christian church homosexuality is viewed as a valuable aspect of God’s giving. That is a value about sexuality. In some christian churches they do not view homosexuality as a valuable aspect of God’s giving.
Granted there are some gay affirming christian churches. There are some very open churches that do not isolate nor ostracize an individual who has homosexual feelings etc… But these two described churches value sexuality differently. That is the value of which I am writing. I AM NOT saying these values are better nor worse than the other – simply they are different.
Of course, MCC, Methodist, other gay affirming churches value compassion, peace, ministry to the poor, widows etc… but there are differences in values – that is why they are different churches. They value a different set of beliefs. Overall they all teach “goodness”. Along those lines yes, they have the same values – but those are pretty vague and the interpretation of such begins to define the differences.
I think, when it comes down to it, you’ll find in most Christian churches (gay, ex-gay, anti-gay) that the values really are the same – the values of love, family, self-sacrifice, justice, peace and fellowship – along with a belief in God/Christ and his teachings.
I have to disagree with you then – my experience has been completely the opposite. I was raised in a fundamentalist/traditional (Baptist/Non-Denominational) church that viewed homosexuality as sinful, and since then I have been Episcopalian, Methodist and Orthodox. Some of these churches have been gay-affirming, some believe it is a sin – I’ve even been to churches that are more gay-affirming – and I have not seen much difference between the churches, the people or the belief system. Now some gay-affirming churches are very, very liberal in their theology, and this makes them stand out, but there are other much more traditional churches that are also gay affirming and share much with those that aren’t.
Rather than continue to just make this blanket statement, perhaps you can share in what way the values differ. What, exactly, do ex-gay Christians value that gay Christians do not?
Let me clarify – when I was gay – some christian values of gay christians that I was exposed to are different than the christian values of non gay affirming christians (not anti-gay) . So – I’m trying to say – I have seen both sides and they are different. I’m not saying that christians PRACTICE what they preach – but the values are different.
I know as a gay woman that gay christian values are different from those christians values that are not of a gay affirming church. I know this as an ex gay woman. Sorry – it does not mean greater or lesser value – I am just saying different.
Gay christians and ex gay christians come from two diverse religious values.
With all due respect, I cannot disagree more.
This is a notion frequently spread by anti-gay activists – that gay-supportive theology is somehow not “bible believing” or is “liberal” or that gay christians are “choosing their desires over God” or some other great difference in values.
What I have found is that gay Christians come from all Christian traditions and that their beliefs run the gammot from very liberal to very conservative theology. The ONLY distinction between the religious values of gay Christians and ex-gay Christians is that gay Christians do not believe that identifying as “gay” sets them apart in the eyes of God.
Some gay Christians believe that God requires celibacy, others that a union can be blessed by God. But none got there because their religious values are so very different (ie less valued) than ex-gays.
Your study of Scripture may have led you to one conclusion on homosexuality. Fine. But that does not mean that you have different values – it simply means that you interpret a small handful of scriptures differently.
To claim that a different understanding of scriptures means different values would be to claim that Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God have different religious values because they differ in their beliefs about whether the gifts of the Spirit (specifically speaking in tongues) is active today.
I’m sorry for responding so vehemently, but this is an issue that annoys me greatly. Too often anti-gay Christians are arrogant and smug and assume that anyone who disagrees with them does so out of worldliness or unwillingness to submit to God. They can’t conceive that THEY may be the ones who are unwilling to submit to God. The truth is that we all, on some level, resist submitting but that isn’t out of our “values” but simply because we are human. (Sorry, I was reading Romans this morning)
… can speak to the implications ….. (very open to interpretation)
…when relevant psychological implications about those findings exist …. (also very open to interpretation)
Yep some counselors are christians and advertise as such. So they can speak on both issues. Also, the idea that a psychologist who does not have a belief system that is similar to the client means that they cannot speak against that system either. That’s how I read these guidelines.
That full statement pretty much sets the limits. So when it says;
Where does that put the psychologist whose faith is contradicted by the science? Does it stop him from affirming the values of a like-minded patient?
I don’t know that the values of “Ex-Gay” and Gay Christians are really all that different.
I am so happy that the APA is finally trying to get religion out of psychology and emphasizing the need not to let religious bias determine a psychologist’s role.
I appreciate this statement, but feel saddened that it needed to be made. However, it is a necessity on both ends…most psychologists would not claim to be ministers or do the work of one…now, if only many organized religious groups could hold up their end of this:
“Psychology has no legitimate function in arbitrating matters of faith and theology; and faith traditions have no legitimate place arbitrating behavioral or other sciences.”
When we see faith-based practices attempting their own homegrown methods of reorientation (through things like forced “masculinity” or “femininity”), then this is where these things seem to go awry. I appreciate that the APA acknowledges these in a far more civil manner than I might by stating:
“While both traditions may arrive at public policy perspectives operating out of their own traditions, the bases for these perspectives are substantially different.”
Yes…man’s interpretation of scripture vs. scientific findings. In my opinion, this forces a false dichotomy – I think that science and scripture really should be hand in hand. It reiterates the “culture war” perspective that so many evangelicals already verbalize, leading to further hostility between camps.
I do agree with the underlying principle however. Perhaps we should allow theologians to debate theology, and have power to do this, and have behavioral scientists debating psychology. The problem? That sometimes scientists are christians, and christians are scientists…both allowing their biases to bleed into their work.
I would hope that this might set the stage for operations against homosexuality which have no real scientific backing…to go the way of extinction.
Until then, if we could at least get evangelicals to acknowledge that there are diverse religious perspectives and that all are equally valid…we’d be doing something amazing.
I do like the idea the non religious bias is also included. And that religious diversity is recognized. Gay christians and ex gay christians come from two diverse religious values.
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