The Faith Development of Clinical Psychologists


Tiana Blackburn, Psy.D., is a 2017 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Dan Schwartz, Ph.D., Chairperson
  • Lee Weiser, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Murray Stein, Ph.D., External Expert


Clinical Psychology, Interpretative Phenomenological Approach, Stages of Faith, Fowler Faith Development Theory, Faith Development Interview, Religious, Spiritual, Agnostic, Atheistic, Clinical Psychologists, Spirituality

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This research is a phenomenological study which explores the faith development of six clinical psychologists. Thematic aspects of faith were determined using James Fowler’s Faith Development Theory and includes form of logic, perspective-taking, moral judgment, social awareness, coherence, locus of authority, and symbolic function. These aspects are seen as foundational to an understanding of participants’ stage of faith development. Note that in Faith Development Theory a religious belief system is not required in order to have the experience of faith. In terms of affiliation or non-affiliation with religion, psychologists’ beliefs included atheist, agnostic, religious, and spiritual. Faith was also viewed through a depth psychological lens to help understand the construct. Psychologists’ completed a survey of their personal perspectives on religion and spirituality in clinical practice, personal characteristics, and their demographics. They were interviewed using the Faith Development Interview from which aspects of faith were interpreted and coded. It was observed that maturity of faith varied within and between aspects. Uneven development is to be expected in any growth process. Scores within aspects were averaged and rolled up to an estimated stage score. The stages of faith for two of these clinical psychologists was interpreted as transitioning from Synthetic-Conventional (stage 3) to Individuative-Reflective (stage 4). The stages of faith for four of these clinical psychologists was interpreted as Individuative-Reflective (stage 4) with two psychologists transitioning to Conjunctive Faith (stage 5). The conclusion is that clinical psychologists do indeed have faith and here they describe their experience of it. This study is a move towards a multi-perspectival view of what it means to have faith. Future studies can provide a better understanding of faith development when they are analyzed alongside states of consciousness. It remains to be seen whether or not faith makes a qualitative difference in therapeutic outcomes. This Dissertation is available in Open Access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, http://aura.antioch.edu and OhioLink ETD Center, http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd

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