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Praying for clients?

Praying for clients Continuing with the discussion of spirituality in therapy I was struck by Lorraine Wright's statement that she sometimes prays for her clients. Here is part of what she writes in her article, “Spirituality, Suffering, and Beliefs”,

“ Over the past few years, I have on occasion, independently adopted Dossey’s (1993) practice of praying for, although not with, clients and families with whom I work. As Dossey (1993) suggested, if a health professional believes that prayer works, not to use it is analogous to withholding a potent medication or surgical procedure: ‘Both prayer and belief are nonlocal manifestations of consciousness, because both can operate at a distance, sometimes outside the patient’s awareness. Both affirm that, “it’s not all physical”, and both can be used adjunctively with other forms of therapy.” (p.141) In praying for our clients, we perhaps also heighten our connection with them and our investment in their recovery and well-being.”

P. 64 in Spiritual Resources In Family Therapy edited by Froma Walsh

In further research, Dossey's claims have not been affirmed and it appears that there is no physical benefit to praying for someone who does not know they are being prayed for.

However, I wonder if praying for clients detracts from the psychotherapy? Is this a counter transference issue that would enhance the therapeutic alliance or interfere with it in some ways? If you had a student or supervisee who told you in clinical supervision that he/she was praying for his clients without the client's knowledge how would you handle it? Supposing it was with the client's knowledge?

Is praying for clients something that should be encouraged or discouraged? 

I, myself, sometimes pray for my clients and if wishing them well is considered praying, I pray for them all. I think that whether a therapist or a health care provider prays for clients would depend on the therapist's beliefs and spiritual practices. Certainly, clients pay a health care professional for a professional service and not for prayer, but I think that most clients would want their therapist to wish them well and care about their lives and the outcome of the therapy and not just be in it for the money.

Unfortunately, health care has turned into a business. It has become a commercial enterprise and is no longer a human service or a ministry in the broad sense of the word. I do not run my practice only as a business enterprise. I want to be of service to my clients and my community and take a number of clients pro bono and at reduced fees. I could make more money if I only served the more affluent who could pay me full fee, but that is not why I became a therapist and that is not what I believe God has called me to do with my professional skills.

Perhaps it is this desire to serve that is a prayer in and of itself.

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