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ACT for Clergy and Pastoral Counselors

ACT for Clergy and Pastoral Counselors
Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Bridge Psychological and Spiritual Care





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ISBN: 9781626253216
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$49.95In Stock
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About the Book

For the first time ever, three pioneers in the field of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) present an edited volume that outlines how the core ACT processes can be applied to religious and spiritual care approaches.

If you are a clergy leader or pastoral counselor, people struggling with difficult situations or life traumas frequently turn to you for guidance. And while you’re passionate about helping, you may be unprepared for counseling people with certain mental health challenges. On the other hand, if you are a psychotherapist, you may need guidance in supporting your client’s religious belief system in therapy. In either case, this book presents a powerful road map to help you provide the best care.

In this book, you’ll find a complete overview of ACT, as well as strategies for integrating ACT and issues related to spirituality. You’ll also learn how the core processes of ACT—such as commitment to change and values-based living—can be seamlessly tied into spiritual and religious counseling, no matter your faith or therapeutic background.

By teaching you how to fuse conceptual psychological and spiritual principles, this book will provide you with the tools needed to enhance your counseling skill set.


Jason A. Nieuwsma, PhD, is associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, and serves as associate director of the Mental Health and Chaplaincy program at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nieuwsma... Read more

Books by Jason A. Nieuwsma

Robyn D. Walser (Editor)
Robyn D. Walser, PhD, is director of TL Consultation Services, codirector of the Bay Area Trauma Recovery Clinic, staff at the National Center for PTSD, and an associate clinical professor at the University of California, Berkeley. As a licensed... Read more

Books by Robyn D. Walser

Steven C. Hayes (Editor)
Steven C. Hayes, PhD, is Nevada Foundation Professor in the department of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has been president of numerous professional organizations, is author of forty-five books and nearly 650 scientific articles,... Read more

Books by Steven C. Hayes

Siang-Yang Tan (Foreword by)
Siang-Yang Tan, PhD, is professor of psychology at the graduate school of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, and senior pastor of First Evangelical Church Glendale in Glendale, CA. He has authored or coauthored numerous... Read more

Books by Siang-Yang Tan


“Physical and emotional suffering bring to light the spiritual in most persons, whether overtly expressed or not. Frontline care of the spiritual needs of the suffering usually falls to spiritual care providers, such as clergy and pastoral counselors, yet does not escape the responsibility of the ‘secular’ therapist.  When spiritual care providers meet the patient, the encounter can vary widely across the same faith tradition, not to mention different traditions. In addition, persons suffering are both vulnerable to ill-advised comments by these care providers, and resistant to anyone viewed as tampering with their faith. Nieuwsma, Walser, and Hayes provide a guide into and through this most important yet tenuous relationship—the application of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The central tenants of ACT—openness, centeredness in the present, and engagement through commitment—clarify this confusing experience for those suffering through informed and empathic intervention by the spiritual care provider. ‘If I am suffering, what am I to do with my faith?’ Recognize who you are, recognize where you are at this critical stage in your life, and recognize and engage your core values. This approach is inclusive yet does not devolve into a watered down generic spirituality. Rather it calls upon the inner values and strengths that each faith tradition brings to the healing of the body and the emotions.”
Dan Blazer MD, MPH, PhD, J.P. Gibbons Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC

“This superb volume is practically the ‘bible’ on how to integrate religion and spirituality into ACT.  It is the first and last word on ACT in religious contexts and for professional pastoral settings.  Highly recommended.”
—Jeff Levin, PhD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and population health, and director of the religion and population health program at Baylor University

“ACT’s flexibility is marvelously on display in this adaptation for religious persons and contexts.”
Timothy A. Sisemore, PhD, director of research, and professor of psychology and counseling at Richmont Graduate University, and author of The Clinician’s Guide to Exposure Therapies for Anxiety Spectrum Disorders

“Nieuwsma, Walser, and Hayes have provided valuable guidance to spiritual care providers—congregational clergy, laypersons, chaplains, and pastoral counselors—on how to integrate the principles of ACT into their practice. Without trying to turn spiritual care providers into therapists, they nonetheless show how ACT is consistent with some current practices, and can be used to extend spiritual interventions even further. Spiritual care providers benefit from having an evidence-based therapeutic model to draw on. The authors and editors have held ACT like a jewel to the light, and shown how ACT can be utilized across major faith traditions and in the full diversity of settings in which spiritual care is provided.”
—Daniel H. Grossoehme, DMin, MS, BCC, associate professor of pediatrics who focuses his research on ways in which faith influences health behaviors in pediatric chronic diseases, and Staff Chaplain III serving the cystic fibrosis team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

“Evidence is mounting seemingly by the day supporting the relationship between meeting spiritual and religious needs and positive health outcomes in both the psychological and physical domains. However, there is a major shortage of tested interventions positioned to help deliver these outcomes effectively and efficiently. This problem is compounded by the long-standing barriers to partnering ‘spiritual’ and ‘psychological’ interventions to the benefit of the whole human person. This book makes a major contribution to filling this gap and overcoming these barriers. In doing so, it gives both spiritual care and mental health professions a powerful new tool to help reduce suffering. Bravo!”
—The Rev. George Handzo, BCC, CSSBB, director of Health Services Research and Quality at the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network

ACT for Clergy and Pastoral Counselors is the perfect resource for clergy, pastoral educators, and mental health providers dedicated to continuing the legacy of Rev. Anton Boisen and Richard C. Cabot of bridging mental health and spiritual care. The book is excellent for clinical pastoral education (CPE) supervisors who want to introduce students to an established, evidence-based practice that is patient centered, flexible, and values based. Clinical staff chaplains will find it provides practical tools to help them work more effectively as a member of mental health interdisciplinary teams. It’s an outstanding text for any professional healthcare provider!”
—A. Keith Ethridge, MDiv, BCC, ACPE CPE Supervisor, former director of the VA Chaplain Service, and associate director of Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Service at the VA National Chaplain Center in Hampton, VA

“This is a timely and important book, making ACT accessible to spiritually sensitive providers, not only as an evidence- and philosophically-based practice, but one capable of informing a range of theological perspectives to human suffering, in demonstrably practical ways. Both clinicians and spiritual care providers will find it a valuable resource.”
—John Raymond Peteet, MD, psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

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