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University System of Maryland

Spiritual Competency Training in Mental Health

University System of Maryland and University of Maryland, Baltimore via edX Professional Education


Are you a mental health provider who wants to more effectively work with the increasing spiritual and religious diversity in your clients? Do you know how to help clients who encounter spiritual and religious distress? Or how to harness clients’ spiritual resources to support positive therapeutic outcomes? If so, this course is for you!

Spiritual Competency Training in Mental Health is a program designed to train mental health providers in basic spiritual and religious competencies. Taught by instructors who are experts in the field of religion/spirituality and mental health, this course will equip providers with greater confidence and competence helping clients with religious and spiritual issues. The program focuses on core spiritual competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) that underlie effective mental health care and are common to mental health disciplines and therapeutic orientations. Basic competency in spiritual and religious issues in mental health is an ethical requirement for most professional boards and associations related to mental health clinical practice. Yet, few of us received this training in our graduate programs. This program bridges the current training gap.

The program consists of eight modules and takes about six to eight hours to complete. The modules consist of engaging learning activities, such as watching brief videos, reading text screens, listening to audio clips, and completing short reflection questions and knowledge check questions.

Mental health professionals (MD, PhD, Master’s level, and trainees) of all disciplines are welcome to participate. Therapists who complete the program will be eligible for 6 CE credits.


Module 1: Introduction and Orientation

We’ll begin by answering the question, "What is spiritually integrated mental health care?" Then, we’ll learn important reasons for integrating spirituality into therapy. We’ll conclude by exploring what's involved in putting spiritually integrated therapy into practice.

Module 2: Understanding Spirituality

We distinguish between spirituality and religion. We then survey the core beliefs and practices of major religious traditions to explain individual differences in spirituality. We’ll also learn about key spiritual developmental processes and forces that shape spiritual development.

Module 3: Guiding Principles for Spiritually Integrated Mental Health Care

We will learn about inappropriate therapist orientations that should be avoided. Then, we’ll look at approaches to establish an effective orientation to spiritually competent care. Finally, we focus on the influence of therapists' spiritual orientation and biases.

Module 4: Questions to Distinguish Spiritual Experiences from Psychopathology

We begin by discussing spiritual beliefs and practices that facilitate psychological/emotional well-being. Then, we explore forms of spirituality that conversely can contribute to a problem. We also examine types of spiritual problems and their interplay with mental illness.

Module 5: Assessing Spirituality in Mental Health Care

We’ll be introduced to the concept of spiritual assessment. We will provide language for you to use in your assessments with clients and also explore a four-step model of spiritual assessment.

Module 6: Mobilizing Spiritual Resources

We’ll review the general guidelines for integrating spiritual resources in mental health care. Then, we explain how you can cultivate and mobilize spiritual resources in therapy and provide some examples to illustrate these processes.

Module 7: Addressing Spiritual Problems

We will identify common mistakes we make when attempting to address clients' spiritual problems. We learn about five different ways that therapists can address spiritual problems. Finally, we summarize the most challenging aspects of spiritually integrated mental health care.

Module 8: Putting it All Together, Challenges, and Future Directions

We will explore the five key ethical challenges and questions that can come up when conducting spiritually integrated therapy. You will have the opportunity to synthesize and apply your knowledge from all eight modules by completing a comprehensive case study.

Taught by

Michelle Pearce, PhD and Kenneth Pargament, PhD


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