Challenges and Clinical Issues in Counseling Religiously Affiliated Fathers
The dilemma can be perplexing: how to help a man who maintains that his clearly ineffective fathering practices are rooted in his religious values? It is a “dilemma” in the classic sense of the word; it forces a choice between two unfavorable alternatives. On the one hand, if a clinician strongly recommends that a father change behavior that is based on deeply held religious views, then two risks follow. One is the loss of professional credibility (“If you don’t respect my faith, how can I respect your parenting advice?”). The other is the possible precipitation of a religious crisis during which the fathering behavior may worsen. On the other hand, if the clinician ignores the religious motivation driving unsuccessful fathering practices, then alternative risks emerge. The father may feel offended that the importance of his worldview is overlooked. The counselor will miss opportunities to discuss fathering in the context of values and beliefs that the father will find motivating, and the overall likelihood of enduring change is reduced. This dilemma is not merely academic; children’s welfare is involved.