RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY

Religion and spirituality are sociocultural domains that are informed by the variables of race and ethnicity. They may greatly influence how people of color seek psychosocial services, adhere to prescribed treatment plans, and engage with service providers in health, mental health, and other systems of care (see Congress & Gonzalez, 2013; Gonzalez & Gonzalez-Ramos, 2005). Research studies (see Department of Health and Human Services, 2001) have shown a possible positive association between religion and spirituality and mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. Subjective well-being and life satisfaction are two important variables that appear to have a strong link with reported and/or observed levels of spirituality. For specific people of color, such as African Americans, religion and spirituality have been identified as predictors of improved self-perception, self-esteem, and adherence to health-related behaviors (Taylor, Mattis, & Chatters, 1999).

Clinical practitioners or providers of care might anticipate culturally normative ambivalence and confusion about how to use the clinical process without violating religious tenets. Ethnic-sensitive practice principles that are guided by an appreciation for racial differences and an understanding of marginalized and oppressed groups prescribe open and co-constructed exploration at all times to determine how a problem can be approached in ways congruent with the client's outlook (Ecklund & Johnson, 2007). When working with an Hispanic client, if the practitioner isn't open about the different outlooks between practitioner and client—the client may forgo treatment to keep his/her religious beliefs intact. (Flores & Carey, 2000; Gonzalez & Gonzalez-Ramos, 2005; Santiago-Rivera et al., 2002).

Religion and spirituality often are separated by the theoretical-t reatment models that inform the helping process and psychosocial treatment. Fortunately, emerging psychosocial intervention approaches with culturally diverse populations—such as relational therapy—are stressing the integration of faith with physical and emotional well-being (see Rosenberger, 2014). Relational theory's nonjudgmental embrace of all contents, seeking only to identify its utility in the maintenance of self-fulfillment and functioning, poses no barrier to religious or spiritual beliefs in the helping process. From an interpersonal and relational perspective, Urrabazo (2000), for instance, has noted the curative potential of faith and religion in therapeutically assisting Hispanic clients, and more specifically undocumented Hispanic immigrants who have been robbed, raped, and beaten while crossing the border into the United States. Religion appears to emotionally sustain Hispanics who are continuously subjected to racism, discrimination, and social injustice. During times of psychological crisis or environmental distress, the religious belief systems of Hispanics may be used as an adjunct to conventional clinical practice, providing a healing community where self-validation, connection to others, guidance, and social support may be found.

 
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