Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Everett Jr. Worthington


Large numbers of couples seek treatment from religious counselors who integrate religion and spirituality (R/S) into counseling. The present dissertation reviewed the literature examining the effectiveness of R/S counseling. Several R/S treatments were helpful in treating psychological problems. There was little evidence that R/S treatments outperformed secular treatments. In Study 1, a nationwide survey was conducted that examined the beliefs of Christian counselors about integrating R/S into couple counseling. Christian counselors (N = 630) completed measures of religious commitment, experience in couple counseling, attitudes toward using religious techniques in couple counseling, and the use of theory in couple counseling. Counselors were highly religious, and religious commitment was a positive predictor of viewing religious techniques as appropriate. Christian couple counseling was popular and widely practiced, although there was wide variation in the number of couples seen per counselor. Counselors were influenced by both secular and Christian theories of couple counseling. There were several differences between professional, pastoral, and lay counselors, indicating that each subgroup be treated separately rather than grouped together. In Study 2, the nature of Christian couple counseling was described and the effectiveness of Christian couple counseling was examined using a longitudinal study. Counselors (N = 20) completed a measure of religious commitment, and clients (N = 60) completed measures of religious commitment, the use of religious and secular techniques in counseling, relationship satisfaction, working alliance with the counselor, and satisfaction with counseling at three time points during counseling. Religious techniques were common in couple counseling, and most were used in about 50% of the sessions. The religious commitment of counselors was a positive predictor of the number of religious techniques used in counseling. Clients attending Christian couple counseling reported increases in relationship satisfaction and working alliance with the counselor over time, and reported high levels of satisfaction with counseling. Working alliance with the counselor was a positive predictor of both relationship satisfaction and satisfaction with counseling. A close match in religious commitment between counselor and client did not predict greater improvement in relationship satisfaction, but it did predict a stronger working alliance throughout counseling.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

March 2010

Included in

Psychology Commons