Psychotherapy, religion, and spirituality

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Journal Article

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The Psychotherapy of Hope: The Legacy of Persuasion and Healing


Even today, mutual suspicion, ambivalence, and at times overt hostility characterize the relationship between theories supporting psychotherapy and those that underlie religious healing. Such tension is a legacy of the early modern period, when Freud's effort to explain human suffering in secular and scientific terms fostered the development of psychotherapy as a formal, medical intervention. In Persuasion and Healing, Jerome Frank (1961) shifted the debate by pointing out that religious healing remained one of the three major philosophical traditions, together with applied science and hermeneutics, on which modern psychotherapy rests. Frank's work helped clarify the place of psychotherapy in relation to other systems of healing. Persuasion and Healing focused on cult and religious conversion experiences as forms of healing that could produce rapid and dramatic behavioral changes. Frank believed that, in learning from religious healers, psychotherapists could better understand their own effectiveness. He noted how religious healing techniques could mobilize hope, instill expectations of cure, bolster self-esteem, arouse emotions, and strengthen ties with a supportive community. Frank found parallels to each of these processes in the practices of psychotherapists. © 2011 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights reserved.

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