Religious orientation in marriage and family therapy

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Virginia Tech


The stated purpose of this research project was:

  1. to provide a consensus definition of "religious orientation" as the term is currently being used by Marriage and Family therapists familiar with religious families.

  2. to identify and prioritize clinicians' perceptions regarding the effects of religious orientation on "Well Family" functioning, both positively and negatively.

  3. to develop descriptions of clinicians’ perceptions of dimensions of behavior which can be employed beneficially in marriage and family therapy with religiously-oriented families.

In order to address those areas of inquiry, a Delphi methodology was employed, polling marriage and family therapists familiar with Religious Orientation in clinical practice, research and supervisory contexts. This research design is one which is useful in exploratory studies, following the data rather than attempting evaluate a preconceived hypothesis. Open-ended questions generated the initial data base which was subsequently refined and clarified through recursive re-evaluation of each suggested characteristic by the participant-panelists. The final profiles included only those characteristics identified as important or very important by at least 80% of the participants when describing the attributes under consideration. This study suggests that Religious Orientation can be a healthy, stabilizing, life-enhancing perspective about which many individuals and families organize their lives and experience. This study has identified and distinguished between many specific characteristics of both healthy and unhealthy Religious Orientation for individuals and families. Assets of Religious Orientation to the therapeutic process and well-family functioning were also specifically identified. The general omission of Religious Orientation from marriage and family therapy training, supervision and research was addressed from historical and epistemological perspectives. Recommendations for inclusion of Religious Orientation as a significant paradigm were offered, as were recommendations for further research.