Pastoral Psychology

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Online ISSN: 1573-6679
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Article
  • Kirk A. BingamanKirk A. Bingaman
Human-induced climate change is fast becoming a climate emergency as we near an irreversible point of no return. In our anthropocentric quest to have dominion over all the earth, we are putting all of life at risk, including human life and civilization. The introduction of collapsology serves as a reality check for better understanding the severity and urgency of the present crisis. Moreover, because of the deleterious effects of environmental racism and classism, there can be no climate justice without racial justice as well. It is hoped that in the end there will emerge a more informed pastoral theology and, by extension, a more informed pastoral and spiritual care, guided by the findings of climate science.
 
Article
  • Saleem Khaldoon Al-NuaimiSaleem Khaldoon Al-Nuaimi
  • M. Walid QoronflehM. Walid Qoronfleh
There are over 26 million refugees worldwide, and the majority are Muslims who hail from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. It is widely recognized that refugees are at high risk for mental health concerns and are in need of cultural and psychological adaptations to improve their well-being. Given the paucity of data in religio-spiritual adaptation using psychological interventions, the authors propose developing a religio-spiritual training resource that could help humanitarian aid workers and other professionals understand the needs of displaced Muslim refugees (Al-Nuaimi & Qoronfleh, 2020). Here, the authors present a religio-spiritual model that uses evidence-based psychological interventions to provide transcultural religiously and spiritually driven psychological care for displaced Muslim refugees.
 
Article
  • Craig A. RubanoCraig A. Rubano
A statistically significant group in the United States (conservatively, 6% of the population) is engaged in a migration away from prescribed gender strictures and into a realm of what psychologist and preeminent expert in treating gender-diverse youth and their families Diane Ehrensaft has coined “gender creativity.” Given the pathology of cultural reactions to transgender and gender-nonconforming persons, this group is also at high risk for developing psychosocial adversities that threaten health, safety, and life itself. This paper argues that a pastoral theology opening doors to genuine gender-diverse dialogue and care creates congregational and seminary environments primed to enhance the resilience needs of gender-creative individuals, such as those who self-reported in a landmark phenomenological study led by Anneliese A. Singh. Moving to affirmative pastoral ministries beyond gender binaries is not only essential for embodying the kinds of expansive care needed in an increasingly gender-diverse world, it also puts all caregivers on migratory trajectories of gender liberation and expansion.
 
Article
  • Brendan HydeBrendan Hyde
  • Dawn JosephDawn Joseph
During the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, Melbourne in Australia endured one of the longest lockdowns in the world. Although the severe restrictions for faith communities in particular posed many setbacks, new opportunities for worship were experienced. This paper focuses on a research project that explored hope, grace, and resilience during COVID-19 in Melbourne. A total of 106 participants from a variety of Christian denominations in Melbourne completed an online survey in relation to the notion of grace. Thematic analysis of the qualitative data was employed to explore the lived experiences of the participants. Two overarching themes—God’s grace offers favour, and God’s grace provides strength and builds resilience—are discussed. The findings indicate that while grace is bountiful through faith, it can also be found in unexpected places within faith settings and the wider community. While generalizations from this study cannot be made to other faith communities, recommendations are offered in relation to ways in which ‘church’ may be experienced in 2022 and beyond. The study showed that “there is ‘plenty’ of grace”. Its transformational power offers hope and builds resilience as God’s grace “is not a limited commodity!”
 
Article
In this article, political pastoral analyses or diagnoses are deemed to be a spiritual practice. To move this argument forward, I begin with a brief discussion of what I mean by spiritual practice and its corporate underpinnings. Before addressing how political pastoral diagnosis is a spiritual practice, I explain what I mean by political pastoral diagnosis, offering several illustrations from Scripture and contemporary society. I then move to argue that political pastoral diagnosis is a spiritual practice that comprises (1) a critical assessment of the social-political situation, relying on multiple interpretive frameworks, (2) compassionate lamentation, (3) a challenge based on the vision of the common good, and (4) a demand to restore liberative care and justice—a demand that includes proposed pastoral interventions. Included here is an explanation of why political pastoral diagnosis is a spiritual practice—a practice vital to the well-being of communities of faith and society. I conclude by briefly arguing that teaching students pastoral care involves more than providing theories and skills to care for people. It also involves offering spiritual practices associated with political pastoral diagnoses—spiritual practices of raising Amos.
 
Article
David W. Kling offers a response to the essays by Ines Jindra, Dana Robert, and Joseph Lee in a book forum on his A History of Christian Conversion (2020). Following a discussion of the background to the research and writing of his book, Kling engages the disciplinary approaches of each author (Jindra’s sociological, Robert’s missiological, Lee’s historical), and concludes that his own approach relied in varying degrees upon these disciplines.
 
Article
This article reviews David W. Kling’s A History of Christian Conversion by putting it into dialogue with mission history. It suggests that conversion is an integral component of mission history that prioritizes the personal and social dimensions of religious change. Engaging the author’s expansive temporal, geographical, cultural, and social synthesis of the scholarship on conversion, the article highlights the value of Kling’s comprehensive work: it is highly useful for mission history but does not encompass its entirety.
 
Article
The balanced affect model of psychological well-being conceptualises positive and negative affect as two separate continua and well-being as the function of these two entities. The COVID-19 pandemic lasted over two years in the United Kingdom and initially caused widespread declines in mental health and well-being. This paper tests whether such declines continued or stabilised as the pandemic lockdowns persisted. The psychological well-being of a religiously committed sample was assessed by perceived changes in affect balance (a function of negative and positive affect) using The Index of Affect Balance Change (TIBACh) from the first to the third COVID-19 lockdowns in the Church of England. The 2020 sample in the first lockdown comprised 792 stipendiary parochial clergy and 2,815 laity who were not in licensed ministry in the Church of England. A repeat survey in the third lockdown in England in 2021 collected responses from 401 equivalent clergy and 1027 equivalent laity. Both clergy and lay people showed increased proportions reporting lower positive affect and increased proportions reporting higher negative affect in the second survey, suggesting psychological well-being had continued to deteriorate as lockdowns persisted.
 
Article
Logotherapy, grounded in the insights of Viktor Frankl, suggests that meaning-making and the sense of purpose in life is central to healthy human functioning. This thesis was tested among a sample of 156 Catholic priests and religious sisters in Italy; their healthy human functioning was assessed through the two indices of positive affect (satisfaction in ministry) and negative affect (emotional exhaustion in ministry) proposed by the Francis Burnout Inventory. After controlling for personal factors (age and sex) and for psychological factors (emotionality and extraversion/introversion), the data demonstrated that higher scores on the Purpose in Life Scale were associated with both higher scores on the Satisfaction in Ministry Scale and lower scores on the Scale of Emotional Exhaustion in Ministry. These findings suggest that professional burnout and poor work-related psychological health among priests and religious sisters may, at least in part, be attributed to a poor sense of purpose in life. In light of this empirical evidence, therapeutic techniques developed by logotherapy may be relevant to addressing the problem of professional burnout and poor work-related psychological health among Catholic priests and religious sisters.
 
Article
Dispositional forgiveness and its various forms have been related to personality and religiosity. However, previous studies rarely focused on the unique contributions of personality and religiosity in predicting the particular tendencies to forgive self, others, and situations. The goal of this study was to investigate the incremental validity of religiosity over and beyond the six-dimensional structure of personality containing the factors Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), eXtraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O), known as the HEXACO personality model, in predicting dispositional forgiveness. We predicted that religiosity would have incremental validity, particularly in predicting forgiveness of others, but that it would also account for less well explained additional variance in other forms of dispositional forgiveness. One hundred seventy-six individuals participated in the study (Mage = 30.938; SDage = 4.885; 106 women). We applied the measures of HEXACO traits (using the International Personality Item Pool; IPIP-HEXACO), as well as the centrality of religiosity, religious struggles, and trait forgiveness (tendency to forgive, attitude toward forgiveness, forgiveness of self, others, and situation) scales. The hierarchical regression indicated the incremental validity of centrality of religiosity over and beyond personality in predicting attitude toward forgiveness and forgiveness of others. Religious struggles accounted for a significant portion of the variance in self-forgiveness and forgiveness of situations beyond personality. Centrality of religiosity was related to higher disposition to forgive others, while higher religious struggle was associated with lower forgiveness of self and of situations. The study demonstrated that religiosity accounted for additional variance in forgiveness beyond personality. However, depending on its dimension, religiosity may foster forgiveness of others but inhibit forgiveness of self and of situations.
 
Article
Psychological capital and the Sermon on the Mount (SM; Matthew 5–7) are the founts of human values, wellbeing, and growth. On the one hand, psychological capital claims to offer a predictable capacity for happiness and success in personal and professional life. On the other, the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation to live a contented and meaningful life. The Sermon on the Mount is a manual on human ethics and happy living; it explains how one can live a just life. Thus, this study analyzes two promising models of wellbeing – psychological capital and the Sermon on the Mount – which can be viewed as either very different or as similar but with different cultural connotations. Both sources are investigated from a pragmatic understanding. The paper concludes that the two models of wellbeing share a similar goal and are geared towards assuring a good quality of life.
 
Article
This article contends that the concepts of “immigrant” and “refugee” are political fictions that have various functions within and for society. Given the realities of the Anthropocene Age, when millions of people will migrate within and between borders, it is necessary to exposes the fabrication of political concepts, such as “immigrant,” for the sake of reconceptualizing our political philosophies and theologies. In short, by problematizing political and theologicafl constructions of immigrants/refugees, we are invited to think and act otherwise toward included-excluded others. Giorgi Agamben’s notions of inoperativity, singularity, and coming community—inflected through the political concept of care—are used to depict a kind of political dwelling that is independent of any representable condition for belonging, which is then framed from a theological perspective.
 
Article
Deconversion from the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is often an arduous process and can lead to a sense of losing one’s identity. This article describes the stories of people who deconvert from the LDS church while making sense of the link between deconversion and identity. The manuscript is based on 18 interviews with people leaving the LDS church. While some of the deconverts had achieved a stable sense of identity at the time of the interview, others were still struggling with this task. This article attempts to understand these differences while also paying attention to the role of gender. The study also has implications for pastoral care and social work practice.
 
An Outline of Themes: Evangelical Perceptions of Self-Harm
Article
Mental illness within evangelical Christian communities is frequently stigmatised, with many attributing it exclusively to demonic possession, lack of faith, personal sin, or other negative spiritual influences. This study explores perceptions of self-harm in the context of evangelical Christian faith communities using the novel qualitative story completion task. A convenience sample of 101 UK-based evangelical Christians completed a third-person fictional story stem featuring a devout female Christian who self-harms. A contextualist informed thematic analysis was carried out focusing on perceptions of cause, cure, and treatment. Most stories positioned spiritual causes of mental illness (that is, demonic possession or personal sin) as harmful to the individual by rendering individuals as stigmatised objects or as socially displaced. The stories also provided insight into negative perceptions of females experiencing mental illness within evangelical communities. The stories suggested that these views often led to stigma and shame, which ultimately exacerbated illness and led to reduced help-seeking. Conversely, stories depicting the integration of relational care alongside spiritual resources frequently led to recovery. That the stories represented the need for relational support, within a spiritually syntonic framework, for recovery from mental illness highlights the limitations of a dichotomised approach to pastoral care. Meth-odologically, the study demonstrates the usefulness of a seldom-used tool within the pastoral psychology context-the story completion task-for accessing sociocultural discourses and wider representations surrounding stigmatised topics or populations.
 
Article
The distinction between guilt and shame is well established in psychology. Research suggests that shame-proneness correlates with problematic outcomes, while guilt-proneness is more likely related to adaptive behaviors. Consequently, shame is considered an unhealthy moral emotion, while guilt is seen as an adaptive response to one’s failures. Biblical stories appear problematic in this regard. The Story of the Sinful Woman in Luke 7:36–50 exhibits strategies for inscribing not just guilt but also shame as a proper reaction to sin. As such, it appears to engender an unhealthy moral emotion. Careful analysis, however, reveals that the evocation of shame is framed by a relationship with God, whose forgiveness re-creates the shamed self. The narrative accommodates shame by working it into thoroughgoing relational transactions of sin and forgiveness. Those committed to facilitating psychological healing using biblical stories can benefit from considering the distinct scriptural configuration of moral emotions.
 
Strategies for Coping with Spiritual Dryness Divided Into Four Main Topics and Subcategories
Article
Many believers experience phases of spiritual dryness in their lives coupled with feelings of exhaustion, confusion, and emotional emptiness. Even religious sisters and brothers experience such phases. But how do they cope with phases of spiritual dryness, and what resources do they use to overcome them? In a qualitative study, 30 religious brothers and sisters utilized four main categories of resources: internal reflective resources, internal spiritual resources, external personal resources, and external other resources. A primary strategy does not seem to exist for overcoming phases of spiritual dryness. In the context of this study, therefore, several resources emerged that were used in accordance with the triggers and were applied against the background of the life situation, context and attitudes, perceptions, behavioral competencies, resources, and abilities of the person concerned.
 
The Q-Sorting Grid Used in the Study. Numbers in Parentheses Indicate the Points Given for Items in Each Column of the Grid
Article
Young adults are increasingly rejecting religion in favor of various forms of disbelief, including atheism and agnosticism. Many religious leaders hope to bring these young adults back to belief. This study examined the experiences of 10 college students who self-described as becoming believers after a phase of disbelief. Using Q methodology, this group of students was found to come, or return, to a belief in God for one of three reasons: (1) looking for truth, (2), wanting life to mean more, or (3) suffering because of life crises.
 
The Pastoral Care and Support Evaluation Construct Plotted for Each Church
The Pastoral Care and Support Evaluation Construct Plotted in Relation to Actual Pastoral Care Experiences
Article
Pastoral care in parishes is a rather “silent” religious practice. As a result, data regarding the quantity and quality of regular pastoral care in local churches is scarce. To address this deficiency, we added several questions about pastoral care and support to the Church Life Survey and then carried out the survey with church attenders (N = 2,854) from 30 Dutch Protestant parishes. The results show that church attenders mostly receive pastoral care from their minister or professional pastoral worker. Church attenders also frequently advise others in their community to ask for pastoral support. They feel that their congregations should not only pay attention to particularly joyful or painful circumstances but should also direct more pastoral attention towards a general interest in people’s lives. By and large, respondents acknowledged that pastoral support is done in a competent and safe atmosphere. This study reveals a wide range of quantitative and qualitative insights into the frequency and quality of pastoral care as a religious practice, a practice that is not often discussed but which is of great importance to church attenders and is now a practice that is being given a voice through data.
 
Article
According to Catholic theology, God offers a gift of love, known as divine grace, to all of humanity. This gift of divine grace is the gift of redemption and forgiveness of sins from God that is offered to everyone who decides to acknowledge and accept it. Grace is central to the lived experience of many Christians. This qualitative study examined how Catholics perceive and experience divine grace using interviews that assessed perceptions of divine grace in 29 practicing adult Catholics. A grounded theory analysis resulted in themes indicating that these Catholics view God’s divine grace as a tangible gift that is undeserved though continuously offered. The participants’ experience of God’s grace is not just an abstract theological concept but an embodied aspect of religious life with which believers can interact in many powerful ways. Three characteristics of God’s divine grace (i.e., salvific grace, cooperation through free will, primacy of conscience and the afterlife) and three mechanisms to experiencing God’s grace (i.e., sacraments, prayer and meditation, saints) are presented.
 
Test Information Curves (TIC) and Item Information Curves (IIC) of the Original and Short Version of the of the Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith Questionnaire (SCSRFQ)
Relationship Models of the Original and Short Versions of the Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith Questionnaire (SCSRFQ) With Other Constructs
Article
The aim of this study was to evaluate the psychometric evidence of the original and short versions of the Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith Questionnaire (SCSRFQ) in Spanish in a sample of 245 Peruvian adolescents and adults (mean age = 21.04 years, SD = 3.07, 47.8% male and 52.2% female), selected by nonprobabilistic convenience sampling. Additionally, the Coronavirus Anxiety Scale and the Satisfaction with Life Scale were applied. Confirmatory Factor Analysis, internal consistency reliability methods, hierarchical sequence of variance models, and a graded response model were used. Results indicate that both versions of the SCSRFQ showed robust psychometric properties: adequate unidimensional structure, adequate difficulty and discrimination parameters, and significant relationships with the measures of fear of COVID-19 and satisfaction with life. The original version of the SCSRFQ showed evidence of strict measurement invariance by sex and age, whereas the short version showed strict invariance by sex and configural invariance by age. Both versions showed acceptable reliability indices. In conclusion, the original and short versions of the SCSRFQ in Spanish show evidence of psychometric indicators that support their use to assess the strength of religious faith.
 
Article
Numerous studies have shown the beneficial role that spirituality can play in helping cancer survivors cope with the disease process, but there is limited research about the lived experiences of cancer survivors who have had a spiritually based meditation practice prior to diagnosis. The purpose of this study was to understand the meaning of the spiritual experiences of cancer survivors who were long-term Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga meditation (BK-RYM) practitioners. A total of six participants with a history of cancer diagnosis were recruited from BK-RYM centers. Participants were interviewed in-depth, and the data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Seven superordinate themes were identified from a cross analysis of the participants’ narratives: (A) mental stability and clarity, (B) spiritual connection and self-empowerment, (C) personal relationship with God, (D) mind–body-soul healing practices, (E) empowering support system, (F) positive health outcomes, and (G) post-cancer spiritual growth. An additional singular theme emerged for one participant: (H) transient negative state of mind. These findings point toward the possibility that integrating spiritually focused meditation early in a cancer diagnosis may improve the quality of life and well-being of cancer survivors. Such spiritual measures may serve to reduce suffering as well as reduce healthcare costs by decreasing cancer-related emotional and physical complications.
 
Three elements of successful encouragement encounters
Article
The significant challenges and constantly changing nature of contemporary Christian ministry can be overwhelming, especially for those serving as senior pastors in their first year. While some clergy can persevere and continue with the ministry work, Christian leaders need the external and internal resources of encouragement to assist during the early transitional year of leading Christian congregations (Brubaker, in Servant Leadership: Theory & Practice, 3(2), 23–58, 2016; Hessel, in Phenomenological study of pastor burnout, 2015). This qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experience of encouragement as a protective factor for newly appointed Christian pastors in the United States during the first year of their pastoral appointment. Using the tripartite encouragement model, the researcher interviewed eight new Christian pastors from diverse denominations. Thematic data analysis resulted in eight themes regarding how Christian pastors describe their encouragement encounters. The findings affirmed that, for new Christian pastors, the foci, effectiveness, and atmosphere of encouragement could be described by three elements of encouraging: who encourages, what is said in the encouragement messages, and when the encouragement encounters occur.
 
Article
In this article, an emended version of Christopher Bollas’s notion of “unthought known” provides an explanation for social-political resiliency in the face of systemic oppression and marginalization. The argument is that the unthought known emerges within the context of reliable, good-enough parental attunement in relation to infants’ assertions, which are organized pre-symbolically. These semiotic organizations of unthought knowns comprise embodied senses of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect, which are essential to infants’ burgeoning agency necessary for proto-conversations—speaking and acting together—with caregivers and corresponding semiotic experiences of rapport. These unthought knowns, which later become entwined with more complex, symbolically organized experiences related to good-enough interactions with caring others, function later in childhood and adulthood as a source of social-political (individual and collective) resilience in the face of oppression and marginalization. This resilience can be further understood as rendering inoperative the social-political apparatuses that produce political and economic forms of marginalization.
 
Article
Like God, humans are always on the move. Migrating people reflect the imago Dei of God the Earthroamer. Unlike God, humans do not always move with freedom as geopolitical forces, from societal disintegration to war and climate change, force migration. The experiences within migration reflect elements of a “personal knowledge” (Michael Polanyi). This essay recognizes that much of the migrating experience may escape verbalization, which not only impacts migrating people but also the scholars and researchers studying migration. Drawing on narratives in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the essay identifies seven pastoral-theological polarities to describe the migrating experience: Anticipation and disappointment; trouble and restoration; curse and blessing; at home and being a stranger; becoming and continuity of being; articulation and silence; and alone and in communitas. These themes are illuminated by pastoral-theological, cultural, psychological, and psychodynamic theories.
 
Article
The way we conceptualize and understand the human spirit has a direct bearing on how we design research and how we provide clinical interventions for those seeking help from mental health practitioners. Three disciplines contribute to ways we can understand the human spirit: philosophy, theology, and psychology. This paper takes a brief look at contributions made by each of these disciplines and to the two prominent models of human ontology, the two-dimensional (spirit being a component of psyche) and the three-dimensional (spirit being its own dimension, albeit interrelated with psyche and soma). Against this backdrop, the paper sketches the contours of the human spirit, proposing it to be a separate dimension that is interrelated with the other two ontological dimensions. The contours suggest its realm of experience, its functions, and its characteristics. Finally, clinical examples are given that demonstrate the clinical efficacy of using the three-dimensional model in psychotherapy settings.
 
Process of search, retrieval and inclusion of articles in the study
Article
We conducted a bibliometric analysis to evaluate the effect of the Holy Qur’an on various physical and psychological diseases and conditions. The review is based on scientific publications (identified by searching the Web of Science) that used the Holy Qur’an, largely listening and recitation, to treat various conditions and diseases. After retrieving 229 articles on the subject and eliminating those with unrelated content, we selected 19 articles for this review. Five sets of diseases and conditions—stress, anxiety, and depression; cancer; pain, including pain during childbirth; heart disease; and coma were identified, and the Qur’anic intervention showed significant improvement and amelioration of these incapacitating conditions. We suggest further research needs to be done to document the efficacy of the Holy Qur’an as a therapeutic resource to help spiritual caregivers and other professionals in health-related fields.
 
Article
The COVID-19 syndemic has raised many unanswered questions about the most important values in human life. It has revealed the limits of looking at mere survival and ignoring closeness, spirituality, and “connectedness”. Spiritual accompaniment, in contrast, is a valid therapeutic tool for individuals suffering from life-threatening diseases, allowing a real recovery of the transcendent dimension of existence which retrieves one's relationship with the mystery, and reintegrates illness and death within one's horizon of thought. According to this vision, in the field of healthcare, people experienced in spiritual accompaniment may support patients through their disease journey by strengthening their resilience; this was extended in 2020 with telematic assistance, to patients with COVID-19, with very positive results. This gave impetus to the project to rebuild a rural village, suitable for pursuing the principles of green therapy (also known as echotherapy) in order to host patients in various stages of life-threatening illness who wish to deepen their spiritual search by receiving expert, non-confessional spiritual accompaniment, by living side by side with families and resident monks; there will also be a hospice oriented towards spiritual assistance, to accommodate patients in advanced stages of illness. The spiritual accompaniment proposed here is centered on meditation and is part of a historic tradition, although it is promoted with language adapted to the modern era. This has for decades helped many people following this path.
 
Article
Spirituality has ascendant value during times of adversity. Religious activities have beenfound to increase spirituality, and therefore might be considered a coping resource for the individual. The present research aims to explore participants' experience in an online Catholic prayer group in northern Italy that was held throughout the period of COVID-19 social restrictions. The group comprised 16 Catholic individuals aged 34 to 85, who were interviewed in writing following a protocol of four open-ended questions. The results reported four main thematic areas: (1) the benefits of the spiritual journey while coping with the pandemic; (2) the potential of the online setting; (3) the challenges of the online setting; and (4) the bond with God and how it evolved during the pandemic. The findings confirm the valuable contribution of the on-line group religious activity to the participants' wellbeing, particularly during the time of social distancing.
 
Article
The growing interest in spirituality has enabled numerous avenues of pastoral counselling support, which can be a useful resource for improving quality of life in the context of significant social deprivation. The aim of this research was to investigate the role of the spiritual dimension of pastoral support interventions created to help the inhabitants of a strongly deprived territory in Southern Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eight people between the ages of 28 and 67 took part in the study. A qualitative research design was applied via online interviews with the participants, who were operators of a pastoral counselling service located on the outskirts of a suburban town. The main emergent themes were the importance of religiosity and spirituality in the lives of the participants, the role that these two aspects play in the lives of those who carry out activities devoted to helping others, and the ways in which these dimensions are used within support programmes responding to the needs of an area characterized by socioeconomic and psychosocial problems. The interviews revealed how pastoral counselling can be useful in situations of stress in highly deprived areas.
 
Article
Spirituality may be a key factor in reducing the negative psychological effects of traumatic events and a means by which the experience of grief can be processed. The objective of the present research is to assess whether and how spirituality provided concrete support in those who lost a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants are 8 people from the most affected cities in northern Italy. They were interviewed in depth, the interviews were transcribed and the texts were analyzed through Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. The results show that spirituality has been found to be a protective factor with regard to the processing of grief in crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular with regard to the belief that the deceased loved one is now in an otherworldly dimension. In addition, the celebration of a funeral rite offers support to the grieving person in the early stages of mourning thus laying the foundation for a healthy grieving process. It is therefore important to support individual spirituality, which can be a useful tool for processing the traumatic experience, especially in difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Article
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the related lockdown measures have had intense negative impacts on the psychological well-being of both adults and children. Among such impacts is a significant increase in mortality salience and changes in how people deal with grief and losses. This qualitative research used semi-structured interviews with 23 Italian parents to draw insights on the impact of the pandemic on children aged 5˗15 years with regard to their representation of death and the eventual role that family spirituality/ religiosity played in helping them understand both the concept of dying and possibly the pandemic itself. From the data analysis, four main thematic areas emerged: “Lockdown experience,” “Fears and worries related to COVID-19,” “Emergence of thoughts on the process of dying,” and “Representation of death and the impact of religious beliefs.” The participants highlighted how stressful the lockdown measures have been for their children and the anxiety that their children have experienced because of fears related to the pandemic. The interviews also surfaced how living in a religious family has contributed significantly to shaping children’s representation and understanding of death and sometimes even helped both the parents and their children to face difficult moments such as those caused by the pandemic.
 
Article
Several researches in scientific literature analyze the theme of Muscular Dystrophy (MD), As well as many others focus on the theme of the Covid-19 pandemic; however, there is a rather limited number of studies that analyse how the pandemic has affected the life of people suffering from MD, especially during the time of the first lockdown in the spring of 2020. The present study has applied a qualitative research design with the aim to investigate how patients with MD have lived the social restrictions imposed for the contagion containment and whether the assistance of associations for their support has contributed to make the participants feel closer or more distant from the spiritual dimension. The analysis involved 12 participants, and they were presented with a semi-structured interview. The data obtained from the interviews have been analysed through a thematic analysis from which 4 thematic areas have emerged: (1) the impact of the pandemic on an emotional level; (2) the illness management and the role of family; (3) the role of the associations; (4) aspects related to spirituality. The crucial role that the closeness of family and the activities promoted remotely by the associations for patients’ support has emerged, since they have allowed the participants to feel united by something beyond, to discover new aspects of themselves, to give more value to Life and to move closer to their spiritual dimension.
 
Article
The COVID-19 pandemic has created profound upheavals in today’s society, accompanied by psychological effects. The discomfort experienced during the pandemic accompanied by the increased availability of time has offered many people the chance to reconnect with their spiritual dimension, which is considered a vital resource in managing the stress produced by the perception of risk to their health. This study addresses the motivations that led research participants to choose to receive spiritual support via a 10-week training. The work also explores the changes perceived by the participants as they overcame the difficulties resulting from the pandemic. The research involved nine people between the ages of 19 and 59 who took part in an online experience focused on the spiritual dimension. Almost all the participants came from an area in Northern Italy most affected by the pandemic. A qualitative research design was used, with semistructured interviews designed to understand participants’ views on the topic under investigation. The areas that emerged from the interviews concerned the motivations that led the participants to choose a spiritual support process, the role of spirituality in daily life, and the changes participants experienced after the conclusion of the experience related to managing the stress caused by the pandemic. In agreement with the existing literature, the results show that spiritual support can be useful in counteracting the negative effects of the pandemic, producing improvements in the quality of life.
 
Article
A student asked, “What is pastoral care amid the COVID-19 pandemic?” The student and the professor embarked on a conversational journey to explore the layers of suffering during the pandemic that prompted the question and to interpret the neoliberal characteristics of the relational pains in the experience. Through the participatory case study of this conversation, this article puts the pandemic experience of the student in dialogue with the Matthean passage on the vineyard workers to expose the limits of the neoliberal rationality that feeds into the suffering during the pandemic. The ensuing theological reflection culminates in a conversation about the understanding of the Matthean evil eye, Emmanuel Levinas’s understanding of the face, and Bruce Roger-Vaughn’s concept of third-order suffering. The reflection concludes with an answer to the question about pastoral care during COVID-19.
 
COVID-19 in Italy and the Viral Epistolary Project
Results of the Thematic Analysis
Article
This article outlines the results of a three-month-long community letter-writing and letter-sharing project called “Viral Epistolary” (VE), which we completed online in Italy during the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns. In it, we collected 340 digital letters from all over the country and connected thousands of people through epistolary exchanges. We used the genre of letters as a mediating, meaning-making, and (auto)biographical tool whereby people could share their experiences of domestic isolation and physical distancing, thus creating a community of support. Based on a well-documented understanding of meaning-making as a core human endeavor, especially in times of social disruption and personal crisis, this article frames sense-making as a transcendental and even spiritual process that yields broad principles for organizing life. Thus, the research adopts a psychosocial perspective on spirituality and applies thematic analysis to qualitatively analyze written narratives. The results reveal that many respondents underwent a three-part, not-necessarily-sequential process of collapsing, self-distancing, and transcending during lockdown, which allowed them to rearrange themselves according to the new total social fact of the pandemic. Through this process, respondents negotiated themes of semiotic crisis, striving for meaning, and beyond meaning (the essential). Finally, the article discusses the role of meaning as a transcendental component of psychosocial meaning-making coping processes and tries to highlight how shared writing experiences can stimulate personal and communal healing processes in the wake of social crises.
 
Article
This article builds on an address delivered in New York City in March of 2020 to the National Conference of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, a professional society of clinical pastoral educators. Interweaving narrative reflections of noted authors, poets, filmmakers, and other artists with pastoral theological literature and recent genetic and social scientific research, the essay explores parameters of the soul or psyche as comprising the unique center of the self. It invites readers to a recovery of soul by means of arduous acts of introspection—revisiting lost childhood wonder, hope, memories, and dreams—and an embrace of pluralism and individual difference.
 
Article
This study considers the relationship between dreaming and race in light of the public protests following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Findings are presented from an online survey about dreams and the Black Lives Movement (BLM) gathered from 4,947 demographically diverse American adults sampled between June 15 and June 19, 2020. The results show that the people most likely to have dreams about the public protests were those who support BLM, who are highly educated, and/or who have high dream recall. The dreams themselves tended to be anxious, fearful, and nightmarish, with several recurrent themes: references to George Floyd, participating in protests, threats to one’s home, concerns about the pandemic, and conversations about BLM. The findings of this study contribute to a growing research literature showing that dreams, dream recall, and dream sharing can vary significantly depending on people’s racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. This study also provides new evidence that dreams have meaningful content relating directly to current events and public affairs. Practical implications for therapists and pastoral counselors are discussed.
 
Article
This article offers an empirical approach to the field of conversion by addressing what contributes to increased faith. The material is based on a subset of a nationwide population survey of people living in Norway. The article identifies four empirical categories of sources contributing to increased faith: (1) life events, (2) increased awareness, (3) community experiences, and (4) spiritual experiences. These sources contributed to increased faith through a multilayered complex of changes that facilitated perceived improvements in life. The changes in participants’ faith were often linked to changes in their perceived relation with a deity and a higher spiritual consciousness. Due to the relational aspect of these sources, we discuss the findings in light of attachment theory. The empirical complexity nuances existing research in the fields of conversion, attachment theory, and perceived attachment relationships. Our findings reveal a need to reflect on the interplay between the various characteristics of an attachment relationship more than the safe haven characteristic or, to some extent, the secure base as isolated, independent characteristics. In addition, relational processes and seeking personal growth and meaning emerged simultaneously. We argue that the notion of meaning would benefit from being understood within a sociocultural approach in which relations and meaning cannot be separated. Lastly, the conversions occurred both abruptly and gradually and often in a dynamic interaction in which the informants could be both passive and active at the same time, or “pactive,” in their interactions with their circumstances.
 
Article
Mental illness is a prevalent concern that affects Christian churches in North America in significant ways. Previous studies on the relationship between mental illness and the church have found that beliefs and practices within the church can contribute to stigma towards people with mental illness. Yet, the typical experience of people with mental illness who attend church has been found to be positive, suggesting that there are considerable resources within the church for supporting those who experience mental health problems. One such resource is the concept of hospitality, which promotes a sense of belonging for those with mental illness in the church. This qualitative study advances the construct of hospitality as a helpful paradigm for addressing mental health needs within the church, capturing perspectives and practices that are currently in place or seen as necessary by church attendees. The study methodology also emphasized the need to incorporate cultural considerations that are appropriate for the racial and ethnic make-up of particular churches. Semistructured focus group interviews were conducted with participants from eight churches that were either predominantly African American, Asian American, Latinx, or multi-ethnic. Findings resulting from content analysis of transcripts indicated that hospitality was a broadly helpful construct for addressing mental health concerns in the church, though some cultural differences existed in the understanding and application of hospitality. Both the interface of the findings with the existing scholarly literature and the relevance of findings for church leaders are discussed.
 
Article
Bereavement is an ongoing process of negotiation and meaning-making in which widows and widowers make sense of the changed nature of their relationship with their deceased spouse. We analyzed the experiences of meaning in life among older widows and widowers (aged 65+) using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; see Smith et al. in Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method and research, Sage, 2009), with the following question: How do widows and widowers search for meaning through continuing and/or transforming their bond to their deceased spouse? The results demonstrate that some of the widowed persons sought meaning through rituals or various means of after-death communication with their deceased spouses. Other participants transformed the bond, for example, through clearing out their deceased spouse's belongings or a process of reconciliation. Many continued and transformed the bond simultaneously, which shows that negotiation of the relationship after the death of a spouse is an ongoing process in which both continuity and change are present. The experience of a violation of meaning in life affected the participants' capacity to continue their bond with their deceased spouse.
 
Article
Critical pastoral theology has no doubt come to recognize the significance of social formations in the crisis of addiction as a symptom of suffering. This article suggests that how we understand and describe these social formations matters. It argues that our most common approaches to addiction risk reproducing forms of domination via an incomplete notion of freedom in their attempt to clarify the exceptional status of addiction. This can function to obscure the capitalist nature of addiction and the addictive nature of capitalism undergirding our everyday lives. The author argues that addiction is itself a symptomatic expression of capitalist social formations; not merely an individual pathology, addiction names the way our social attachments to objects and to one another become compulsive despite their negative consequences. This critical concept of addiction allows us to see, name, and negate the false promises on which the endurance of capitalism depends. The ultimate aim of this critical approach is to consider how we as caregivers might reflect on and transform these dominating social divisions.
 
Article
Although humility has long been valued as a virtue in the Christian tradition, congregational conflict can be driven by the narcissistic needs of ministry leaders and church members alike. Congregations are places where competing narratives intersect and sometimes collide, and parties to a conflict may each have their own unique and conflicting accounts of the situation. Because of disparities of power, however, pastors and ministry leaders bear a specific responsibility for ensuring that their behavior is not driven by narcissistic needs for self-enhancement. Against this background, the importance of narrative humility is proposed, a concept which originated in narrative medicine to address the intrinsic hierarchy between doctor and patient that can lead to the patient’s dehumanization. Parallel ideas from the practice of narrative therapy are also explored. The application of the concept to the congregational context is illustrated through a case study, and several questions for self-reflection are offered to support the cultivation of narrative humility.
 
Article
The Examen is a 500-year-old end of day prayer developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (better known as the Jesuits). Like many other religious or spiritual practices, such as mindfulness and yoga, the Examen is suitable as either a spiritually focused or secular intervention strategy to assist people within clinical psychotherapy practice and elsewhere. Adapting the Examen as a cognitive behavioral psychotherapy intervention is easy to do and may add another important tool to the toolbox of practicing clinicians interested in thoughtfully integrating spiritually based approaches in their clinical work with religiously as well as nonreligiously minded clients.
 
Article
The adventure stories that boys enjoy reading often depict male characters in their exposed becoming and dreaming. Boys are drawn to these adventuring characters in part because such characters portray a masculinity that feels more human than the otherwise stoic masculine norms of Western culture. Taking a cue from adventure literature, this paper addresses adventure and the dreaming spirit as avenues of self-understanding in boyhood. In adventure, this sense of exposure is not experienced in relation to shame but in relation to possibility. Adventure and the dreaming spirit are both motifs that lend themselves to Christian living. Viewing selfhood as adventure can provide boys with a self-concept that feels human. Boys do not always have friendships of mutual trust in their lives where they feel secure addressing their becoming and dreaming. Persons in pastoral roles can offer this kind of accompanying and affirming friendship to boys in their becoming.
 
Article
Meditation is an essential component of mind–body medicine. The mind sound resonance technique (MSRT) is a unique technique that uses sound as a stimulus to induce relaxation. Several studies have been done to assess the effects of MSRT on various aspects of health. The current article compiles qualitative research done using MSRT as an intervention. Approximately 700 articles were found in Google Scholar and PubMed. After screening, 13 articles were included in the review. Evidence shows that MSRT is beneficial for the physiological and psychological dimensions of health. More specifically, the technique has improved varied aspects of cognition in different populations. Thus, MSRT can be implemented as an add-on to conventional treatment of several conditions. It can also be included in school curricula to improve cognitive function and total health. However, further research should be conducted with large sample sizes and good study designs to ascertain the benefits.
 
Article
Resiliency in athletes is related to effective coping strategies. Expectedly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this attribute was highlighted in collegiate football players. To date, the relations among locus of control (LOC), strength of religious beliefs (i.e., religiosity), and resiliency in collegiate football players have not been explored in the literature. Exploring the relation of LOC and religious beliefs to resiliency may shed light on avenues to foster resiliency in football players, which in turn can determine players’ behaviors, performance, and actions during adverse times. The purpose of this study was to gain a more in-depth understanding of the relations among LOC, religiosity, and resiliency in NCAA Division II football players at a public university located in the southwestern United States. A structured online survey containing the Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale (Rotter in Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80(1), 1–28, 1966), the Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith Questionnaire (Plante & Boccaccini in Pastoral Psychology, 45(6), 429–437, 1997), and the Conner Davidson Resilience Scale (Connor & Davidson in Depression and Anxiety, 18(2), 76–82, 2003) was completed by 91 Division II football players. Statistically significant correlations were found between LOC and resiliency (r = −.42) as well as religiosity and resiliency (r = .26). Regression analysis indicated, on average, that football players with greater internal LOC and higher strength of religious beliefs had a higher level of resiliency than players with higher external LOC and lower strength of religious beliefs.
 
Article
Catholic priests are called to follow God by preaching the good news as well as sanctifying and leading God’s people. The work of a priest is evaluated by the people he serves and by the bishop. The assessment is rather informal and is based on two references: people’s experiences and their reports to the bishop. As a result, the evaluations are subjective in nature. The aim of this study is to formulate an objective scale that is a qualitative and quantitative instrument based on six key dimensions for use in evaluating the pastoral effectiveness of parish priests. This self-report scale contains 36 valid and reliable items that ask for 4-point Likert responses.
 
Article
Imitating Nathan Carlin’s correlational method in Pastoral Aesthetics, this essay provides an extended description of a patient care situation to consider what it means to reciprocally recognize someone as being able to make autonomous choices in health care. Next, Larry Graham’s concept of the interlocking brokenness of selves and worlds is explored in relation to the case and the concept of reciprocal recognition. And finally, borrowing from Graham, Albrecht Dürer’s engraving “Knight, Death and the Devil” is reinterpreted as a deformed structure of recognition, one that has relevance to patient care.
 
Top-cited authors
Thomas G Plante
  • Santa Clara University
Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell
  • Duke University Medical Center
Thomas P. Doyle
  • Thomas Doyle Consulting, Inc.
Carrie Doehring
  • The Iliff School of Theology
Pamela Cooper-White
  • Union Theological Seminary, New York