I chose the article, Atheism and nonspirituality as diversity issues in counseling to review because I believe this specific issue to be one that could easily be overlooked but be very important in how we as counselors chose to treat our clients. I have experience dealing with many who are Atheists, agnostic and nonreligious but I also have many religious family members as well. I think there is a way to constructively and effectively deal with all types of believers or nonbelievers and this article served as an excellent resource for me.
According to D’andrea and Sprenger most of the recent literature on diversity in the field of counseling has been on the importance of attending to the beliefs of clients. However, there has not been a focus on clients who hold opposing beliefs. Recently generated interest points to nonbelief needing to be included in the definition of diversity.
The importance of religious and spiritual themes in the field of counseling has been documented. D’Andrea and Sprenger suggest that client’s values and beliefs inform all their choices and behaviors, as well as how they deal with psychological issues. How to intervene appropriately has been the topic of many scholarly counseling articles in the past decade. Why have nonspiritual clients been left out of this discussion?
Some implications and suggestions D’Andrea and Sprenger bring up for working with atheists and nonspiritual clients are to ask about celebrations and events that are important to them. What milestones do they commemorate and what days or events hold a special meaning to them? Honor these differences they show and avoid making assumptions about how nonreligious the client acts or sees the world. Explore problematic areas and validate nonreligious experiences.
Other methodologies can include focusing on personal responsibility and approaching problems from point of view reality vs. meaning. Focus more on empowerment, personal choices and self-determination which may offer better direction. Third, as a counselor you must engage in self-reflection as well, exploring your own religious and spiritual values and evaulate the extent to which they may help or hinder your client’s growth. Above all else, respect privacy and confidentiality. Fearing negative opinion a nonreligious person may be reluctant to talk to a counselor about their beliefs or lack of beliefs. The authors suggest encouraging clients to talk but only if they want to. Overall, I found this article to be very helpful in being sincere and not prejudiced while working with clients who may have different religious beliefs than myself.
D’Andrea, Livia M., and Johann Sprenger. “Atheism and nonspirituality as diversity issues in counseling”. Counseling and Values 51.2 (2007): 149+. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 17 May 2015.