Brief religious sensitization intervention with psychologists administering therapy: An initial study

David Green, Fordham University


Spirituality or Religion (S/R) is one of the most ubiquitous experiences within American culture, with roughly 92% of Americans believing in God or a higher power, and 85% stating that religion plays a significant role in their lives. This issue extends into mental health, as over 50% of patients in treatment express high levels of religious belief, a desire to incorporate S/R into their therapy, and that addressing spirituality in treatment accelerated their own recovery. Psychologists, in contrast, have much lower rates of belief in God, with reports closer to 66%. This discrepancy, known as the “religion gap” can present a troubling divide between therapists and patients. This study hypothesized that exposing clinical psychologists to the recent research emphasizing clients’ desires to incorporate S/R into therapy and general guidelines on how to incorporate these topics would help promote a willingness to engage in S/R topics in therapy, and lessen clinician’s bias in incorporating S/R into treatment. Method: Participants (N = 56) were psychologists engaged in clinical work and were randomly assigned to an experimental or control group. Individuals were then either shown an animated 7 minute intervention video, or a nature video of similar length. An implicit measure, the Go No/Go Association Task (GNAT) was used with explicit measures to accurately ascertain the efficacy of any intervention towards biases and prejudice. Participants completed the GNAT measuring response rates to ‘go-no go’ tasks, along with explicit measures. Results: Group makeup was comparable for age, gender, and years of clinical experience. The study replicated previous findings that psychologists had significantly lower levels of personal S/R participation than general population samples in the US. There were no significant differences in implicit or explicit measures were present between experimental group (22 female, age M = 39.97, SD = 11.43) and control group (17 female, 3 male, age M = 38.52, SD = 10.56). Conclusions: These findings lend support to the initial premise that psychologists have religious perspectives different than those of the US population, but did not support the novel implementation of brief educational intervention as a remedy for this issue. This study presents a first attempt to address the “religion gap” in an empirical manner, and will hopefully provide guidance on next phases of incorporating S/R effectively into clinical settings.

Subject Area

Religion|Clinical psychology|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Green, David, "Brief religious sensitization intervention with psychologists administering therapy: An initial study" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10013404.