The Ethics of Psychology and Christainity in Review of a Theoretical Orientation

The Influence of Theoretical Orientation, Vision, and Values     The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Does the way a theoretical orientation, conceptual vision, and underlying values are possessed have a potential to become an ethical dilemma for a practitioner? The simplest approach to an  answer is to consider how core values have impact decision making processes. Every practitioner is an individual holding  a set of value contained in an orientation that is a part of how decisions are made personally and professionally that express individual person-hood. An example of how personal values have an influence can be illustrated in the evangelical Christian value system which is a minority view among psychologists. For those who hold this point of view, it is reasonable to believe that beliefs held will encounter resistance from some traditional perspectives in the field of psychology.  This potential conflict is noted by Meyer (1988) who describes how psychology programs respond to Christian applicants:

Studies have shown that the religious population, particularly in the traditional institutional sense, is underrepresented in the profession of psychology (Malony, 1972; Ragan, Malony, & Beit-Hallahmi, 1976; Shafranske & Gorsuch, 1984). Gartner (1986) found evidence of an “antireligious prejudice” in admissions to doctoral programs in clinical psychology after sending mock applications to graduate programs (p. 486). What is apparent is that there may be a correlation between religious orientation and acceptance into graduate psychology programs.

If it is true that a bias exists against those who hold certain religious perspectives, a potential conflict may be present in the way candidates in the process of applying for graduate programs face disqualification which may indicate a larger issue of  general attitudes about religious issue in counseling setting.  What is apparent is that there is a noticeable gap in how religious orientation is viewed from traditionally held psychological perspective that may be affecting how the delivery of competent training is cited in this research. An a area of concern that is raised in how will those trained in an atmosphere of bias be adequately be considered competent to provide services to those who make up a a religious culture of clients when appropriate education, training, and ethical development is not represented.

There may be a mythology held by some in psychological education which minimizes religion as a non issue while maximizing scientific approaches as maximum intellectual truth.  The result informs an attitude that posits beliefs and values thought to be scientific as accepted principles for determining how religious people will be treated in matters related to faith.  As a result, the anti-religious sentiment represented establishes an ethical norm systematically imposed upon professional practice through training—educating of graduate students.

One way the disparity can be approached is by providing a reasonable approach to addressing religious issues. Then, determining what ethical issues and which principles may be relative to understanding the disparity. Identifying the philosophical assumptions is the foundation of understanding  for where the source of conflict is created.  Four key assumptions relating to ethical research are, ontological, epistemological, axiological, and methodological (2010, p. 4)

Both perspective have one fixed reality—ontological, possess an assumption about how truth is sourced—epistemology, emphasis upon certain values—axiology, and a rationale for how decisions are made—methodology. While both would claim to use a scientific approach that is based upon a particular empiricism, the source of conflict is a fundamentally different epistemology. When the question of where truth comes is asked for a Christian the answer is from God, or specifically what is known in a scientific study of theology about God.  For the secular theorist a philosophy of how truth is determined is either Kant’s formalistic rationalism, a utilitarian best case scenario, situational relativity, or contextual ethics.   One holds a Theo-centric epistemology while the other holds an anthropocentric-person, experience centered as a  locus of truth.  Therefore, what is reasonably assumed to be true and translated as a value is what each acts from.  In the same way that cultures differ in beliefs, mores’, and values, cultures, peoples, and races must be understood in context with ethically appropriate behaviors. The disparity that is seen in under-representation and bias among graduate schools indicate a potential ethical complexity and a potential for conflict in inadequate understanding, training, and representations to enable higher levels of competence.

Providing a rationale with support for the ethical conflict can be found within ethical codes prescribed by professional organizations.   Using a problem solving approach to resolve the potential conflict leads to B.1. Respecting Client Rights B.1.a. Multicultural/Diversity Considerations (2005, p. 7) and  2.01 Boundaries of Competence:

Psychologists provide services… within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience … [with] understanding of factors associated with age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status is essential for effective implementation of their services or research (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010).

Based upon the principles expressed, the central question raised related to competency.  Is a therapist who was trained in an educational environment that is under-represented, described with a  bias against the culture of conservative religion, reasonably assumed to be competent and comply with the ethical code’s principle of competence?  If the answer is presumed to be negative, what is apparent is that there is an ethical dilemma and the counselor will be challenged to find ways to ethically,  professionally, and competently address a significantly represented cultural group who are underrepresented in multicultural training.


Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2010, from Amercan Psychological Association:

Ford, G. (2006). Ethical reasoning for mental health professionals. Thousand Oaks, California, USA: Sage Publications.

Meyer, M. (1988). Ethical principles of psychologists and religious diversity. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice , 19 (5), 486-488. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.19.5.486.

PhD Weekend experience SOSBS T2. (2010). Minneapolis, MN, USA: Capella University.

The ACA Code of Ethics. (2005). Retrieved October 1, 2009, from


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