Dallas Group Analytic Practice

Bob Bennett, MD,CGP,FAPA ·   Melissa Black, PhD,CGP
Dale C. Godby, PhD,CGP,ABPP
  ·   Myrna Little, PhD,CGP
Scott Nelson, PhD, CGP

  6330 LBJ Fwy, Suite 150, Dallas, TX 75240


Dale C. Godby, PhD, ABPP, CGP
Group Analytic Practice of Dallas, LLC

International Congress of Group Psychotherapy
London, England

This experiential group will explore the meaning and functions of spirituality in the context of psychodynamic group psychotherapy. The participants will have an opportunity to see how the issue of spirituality in themselves and their patients affects the therapeutic process. The repression of spirituality, its use as a resistance, and its effect on transference, countertransference, subgrouping and impasses will be explored.


1. In what spiritual practice or discipline were you raised and what do you practice today or find yourself adverse to? In what ways did your spiritual community or group relate to other groups in the community? Was it in the majority or minority? Was your group idealized or demonized? How does this affect how you listen to yourself and your patients?

2. What specific transference or countertransference patterns do you observe in patients involved in spiritual practice? In what ways do these patterns change when the patient's practice is the same, similar, or different than your own?

3. In what ways do you see these practices creating or resolving therapeutic impasses?


To speak of psychodynamic group psychotherapy and spirituality immediately involves us in an exciting but staggering interdisciplinary dialogue. For this dialogue to be fruitful we need to know who the dialogue partners are. Which psychodynamic theory, religion, and understanding of group psychotherapy are we considering? A generalist approach is useful in developing this dialogue. We are living in what is often called the information society and are suffering from what José Ortega y Gasset has called the "barbarism of specialization", which dismisses a generalist approach to the world of learning as amateurism.

To think and play successfully with all that is involved in psychodynamic group psychotherapy and spirituality one must manage the anxiety that arises from being labeled a dilettante. Any one religion or psychoanalytic theory requires more than a lifetime to thoroughly understand. The value of a group of inquiring minds and hearts brings some resolution to this dilemma in bringing together numerous lives to explore the issues at hand. The following bibliography will attempt to acquaint you with some of the available literature in the interdisciplinary dialogue.

I. Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy On Its Own Terms

Klein, R.H., Bernard, H.S. & Singer, D.L. (1992). Handbook of contemporary group psychotherapy: Contributions from object relations, self psychology and social systems theory. New York: International Universities Press.

This book discusses three major psychodynamic models, their relevance for patient care and their understanding of the role of the therapist. The editors have included useful commentaries which facilitate dialogue between the various perspectives.

II. Spirituality and Religion On Its Own Terms

Smith, H. (1991). The world's religions: Our great wisdom traditions. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

Smith writes with a deep feeling and commitment to listening to each of the seven major world religions on their own terms. He works with a definition that William James used to epitomize religion as "belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves to that order".

Smith, H. (1992). Forgotten truth: The common vision of the world's religions. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

In this book Smith takes the common vision of the world's religions and puts them in dialogue with contemporary science. He is in a particularly good place to do this in that he taught for a number of years at MIT.

Streng, F. J., Lloyd, C. L. & Allen, J. T. (1973). Ways of being religious: Readings for a new approach to religion.

This book explores the world's religions through primary readings organized around advocacy, interpretation and critique. It develops and places them within a framework of eight different ways of being religious. It is based on the premise that "he who knows one religion understands none". The definition they develop for religion is useful in the dialogue between psychoanalytic theory and psychodynamic group psychotherapy. They understand "religion as a means toward ultimate transformation".

III. Religion Through The Psychoanalytic Lens

This is a large and developing literature written by psychoanalysts or psychoanalytically oriented therapists that wrestles with an understanding of religious experience from a psychoanalytic perspective. The following books and articles will introduce you to this literature and the bibliography that is included in these references provides an extensive overview.

Finn, M. & Gartner, J. (1992). Object relations theory and religion: Clinical applications. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Jones, J. W. (1991). Contemporary psychoanalysis and religion: Transference and transcendence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Loewald, H. W. (1978). Comments on religious experience. In H. W. Loewald, Psychoanalysis and the history of the individual (pp. 55-77). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Meissner, W. W. (1992). Religious thinking as transitional conceptionalization.  Psychoanalytic Review, 79, (pp. 155-196).

IV. Psychoanalysis Through The Religious Lens

Psychoanalysis may have been critiqued from a number of religious perspectives. The one I am most familiar with is by Hans Küng who is a Roman Catholic theologian. He writes, in a section of the book entitled "Religion-The Final Taboo?", that religion still plays a negligible role in the practice of psychoanalysis, despite its increasing importance in the lives of most people. Has religion replaced sex? Küng asks, as an integral facet of human experience ignored or repressed by the very profession that seeks to enlighten?

Küng, H. (1990). Freud and the problem of God. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Vitz, P.C. (1994). (2nd Ed.). Psychology as religion: The cult of self worship. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.

This book although written by a psychologist offers a critique, primarily of humanistic psychotherapy, from a Christian perspective.

V. Integrative Approaches

The following references illustrate how psychotherapy can be integrated with a variety of religious perspectives. On the whole, they tend to treat psychology and religion as peers or partners. Group psychotherapy has a long history of being frequently treated by psychoanalysis as less than a peer. Group psychotherapy's ability to work with peer transferences places it in a unique position to develop a dialogue between psychology and religion. The idea of treating each discipline as a peer in which the relationship is based on mutuality and respect is developed in the article by Jones (1994). The majority of references listed are written by psychologists or psychotherapists who practice the particular religious perspective mentioned in the title.

A. Buddhist/Hindu/Meditation Practice

Goleman, D. (1988). Meditative mind: Varieties of the meditative experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Epstein, M. (1998). Going to pieces without falling apart. A buddhist perspective on wholeness: Lessons from meditation and psychotherapy. New York: Broadway Books.

Kornfield, J. (1993). A path with heart: A guide through the perils and the promises of spiritual life. New York: Bantam Books.

B. Christian

Browning, D. S. (1983). Religious ethics and pastoral care. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Carter, J. D. & Naramore, B. (1979). The integration of psychology and theology. Michigan: Zondervan.

Jones, S., & Butman, R. (1991). Modern psychotherapies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

C. Jewish

Lerner, M. (1994). Jewish renewal: A path to healing and transformation. New York: A Grosset/Putnam Book.

Ostow, M. (Ed.). (1982). Judaism and psychoanalysis. New York: KTAV.

Schater, Z. M. & Hoffman, E. (1983). Sparks of light: Counseling in the Hassidic tradition. Boston: Shambhalla.

Strean, H. (1994). Psychotherapy with the Orthodox Jew. North Vale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

D. Muslim

Khan, V. I. (1982). Introducing spirituality into counseling and therapy. New Lebanon, NY: Omega Publications.

Rizvi, S. A. A. (1988). Muslim tradition in psychotherapy and modern trends. Lahore, Pakistan: Institute of Islamic Culture.

E. Transpersonal

Walsh, R. & Vaughan, F. (1993). Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision. LA, CA: Tarcher.

Wilber, K., Engler, J. & Brown, D. P.  (1986). Transformations of consciousness: Conventional and contemplative perspectives on development. Boston: Shambhalla.

General Reviews

Hood, R.W., (1995). Handbook of religious experience. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press.

Jones, S. L. (1994). A constructive relationship for religion with the science and the profession of psychology. American Psychologist, 49, 184-198.

Lovinger, R. (1984). Working with religious issues in therapy. North Vale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

This excellent book provides, in a single volume, the promises and perils of working in psychotherapy with patients from a variety of religious perspectives,including Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam.

Richards, P. S. and Bergin A. E. (1997). A spiritual strategy for counseling and psychotherapy. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Sorenson, R. L. (1994). [Special Issue]. Psychotherapy with religiously committed patients.  Journal of Psychology and Theology, 22 247-443.

Stern, M. (1985). Psychotherapy and the religiously committed patient. New York: Haworth Press.

VI. Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy and Spirituality

There are relatively few articles that discuss religion in group psychotherapy from a psychodynamic perspective. In a recent issue of Group Analysis there was a special section on the treatment of religious issues in long term psychodynamic groups.

Aspects of Religion in Group Analysis. (1993). [Special Section]. Group Analysis, 26, 5-79.

Reinertsen, A. M. (1993). The private god in group: The God image object relations view. Group Analysis, 26, 5-25.

Kleij, G. van der (1993). Religion and Freud in groups. Group Analysis, 26, 2 7-37.

Westcott, B. (1993). Group analysis and religion: Is there a common ground:  Ideas arising from paper by Gregory van der Kleij. Group Analysis, 26, 39-53.

Sandison, R. (1993). The presence of God in the group: An eclectic dimension. Group Analysis, 26, 55-65.

Christie, J. (1993). Religion in group analysis: An existential essay. Group Analysis, 26, 67-79.

Jacques, J. R. Working with spiritual and religious themes in group therapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 48, 69-83.

VII. General Articles On Group Psychotherapy And Religion

Since there are relatively few articles on psychodynamic group psychotherapy and spirituality I decided to pull some references from Lubin & Lubin Comprehensive Index Of Group Psychotherapy Writings. This reference covers group psychotherapy literature from 1906 until 1980. The relatively few references give you an idea of how infrequently spirituality or religious experience is discussed within the context of group psychotherapy. In the recent third edition of Kaplan & Sadock's Comprehensive Group Psychotherapy there was one reference to religion in close to eight hundred pages.

Bobroff, A. J. (1962). Biblical psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 15, 129-131.

Bobroff, A. J. (1963). Religious psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 16, 36-38.

Boisin, A. T. (1954). Group therapy: The Elgin plan. Pastoral Psychology, 5, 33-38.

Boisin, A. T. (1948). The service of worship in a mental hospital: Its therapeutic significance. Journal of Clinical and Pastoral Social Work, 1, 19-25.

Burns, G. W. (1972). Religious influences on behavior of the group therapist. Psychological Reports, 31, 638.

Casella, B. M. (1972). Group process in training catholic seminarians. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 22, 384-389.

Chase, P., and Farnham, B. (1965). A report on religious psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 18, 177-190.

Clayton, G.M. (1971). Sociodrama in a church group. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 24, 97-100.

Figge, H. H. (1972). Trance mediumism as group therapy: An aspect of the Brazilian Umbanda. Zeit. Psychotherapy and Medical Psychology, (Stuttgart) 22, 149-156.

Foster, A. L. (1972). The use of encounter groups in the church. Journal of Pastoral Care, 26, 148-155.

Green, J. R. (1961). Sociodrama in a church setting. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 14, 62-65.

Haas, A. B. (1950). The therapeutic value of hymns. Pastoral Psychology, 1, 39-42.

Hollweg, A. (1964). The dialogue between group dynamics and interpersonal theology. Journal of Pastoral Care, 18, 13-22.

Johnson, P. E. (1959). Interpersonal psychology of religion: Moreno & Buber. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 12, 211-217.

Joyce, C. (1977). The religious as group therapists: Attitudes and conflicts.  Perspectives on Psychiatric Care, 15, 112-117.

Joyce, C. R. B. and Wellson, R. M. C. (1965). The objective efficacy of prayer: A double-blind clinical trial. Journal of Chronic Diseases, 18, 367-377.

Kaschten, T. (1977). Individual spiritual care and group dynamics in the problem patients. Rehabilitation Record, 30, 29-31.

Kidorf, I. W. (1966). The Shiva: A form of group psychotherapy. Journal of Religion and Health, 5, 43-46.

Kiernan, J. G. (1909). Limitations of the Emmanuel movement. American Journal of Clinical Medicine, 16, 1088-1090.

Leslie, R.C. (1955). Group therapy: A new approach for the church. Pastoral Psychology, 6, 9-14.

Lewis, H. S. (1950). The use of religious elements in modern psychotherapy.  Journal of Pastoral Care, 4, 9-16.

Linzer, N. (1966). Deepening the Jewish understanding of teenagers: A study of group process affected by group worker's role. Jewish Community Center Program Aids, 28, 7-10.

Meissner, W. W. (1965). Group dynamics in the religious life. Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press.

Mowrer, O. H. (1971). Is the small-group movement a religious revolution? Voices, 7, 17-20.

Nolte, J., Smallwood, C., and Weistart, J. (1975). Role reversal with God. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 28, 70-76.

Peterson, N. L. (1962). Group dynamics found in scriptures. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 15, 126-128.

Pollard, R. A. (1960). A clergyman's first psychodramatic experience. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 13, 206-207.

Pompilo, P. T. and Krebs, R. (1972). A time-limited group experience with a religious teaching order. Journal of Religion and Health, 11, 139-152.

Slavson, S. R. (1944). Group therapy at the Jewish Board of Guardians. Mental Hygiene, 28, 414-422.

Steinberg, R. O. (1976). The encounter group movement and the tradition of Christian enthusiasm and mysticism. Dissertation Abstr. International, 36, 5286B.

VIII. Case Studies

Erikson, E. H. (1969). Ghandhi's truth: On the origins of militant nonviolence. New York: W. W. Norton.

In this now classic study Erikson offers a psychoanalytic understanding of Ghandhi's greatness. Many considered this book to be more successful than its predecessor, A Young Man Luther, in which Erikson brought his powers to bear on the understanding of Martin Luther's development and his role in the reformation.

Meissner, W. W. (1992). Ignatius of Loyola: The psychology of a saint. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Meissner is a psychoanalyst and Jesuit priest and writes with the dedication of both a psychoanalyst and a priest as he attempts to understand the founder of the Jesuit order. Meissner, in many ways, is responsible for psychoanalysis seriously considering religious experience.

Solari, R. (1994). On Divine Responsibility. Common Boundry, 12, 32-39.

This is an article on a living writer and lecturer, Andrew Harvey. He is an Indian born Oxford educated homosexual male who was a long time follower of an Indian Hindu woman named Mother Meera, whose followers claim is an avatar, or a divine presence on earth. This article is a summary of Andrew Harvey's life and an interview with him. It explains in a straight forward manner why he became obsessed with Mother Meera from a psychological and developmental point of view.

IX. The Therapist's Spiritual Experience

In Lovenger (1984, V. F.) there is a chapter on the secular and the religious background of the therapist in which he discusses both the religious and the non-religious therapist. There are also a group of articles that will be listed as follows:

Bergin, A. E. & Jensen, J. P. (1990). Religiosity of psychotherapists: A national survey. Journal of Psychotherapy, 27, 3-7.

This article appeared in the Journal of Psychotherapy in which the entire issue was dedicated to articles on psychotherapy and religion.

Cohen, P. (1994). An interesting contradiction: A study of religiously committed psychoanalytically oriented clinicians. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 22, 304-318.

Sorenson, R. L. (1994). Sea changes, interesting compliments, and proselytizing in psychoanalysis: Commentary on "An interesting contradiction: A study of religiously committed psychoanalytically oriented clinicians". Journal of Psychology and Theology, 22, 319-321.

These two papers offer an enlightening dialogue between an east coast and a west coast psychologist who have some very interesting views concerning psychoanalysis and religion. They particularly pick up on a split that is often seen between a public God, which psychoanalytically oriented clinicians deem psychologically presentable, and the private God, to whom they often run for sustenance. This is rather dramatically illustrated by a patient who Cohen says, after having been diagnosed with a serious disease, noticed that, ". . . the God he railed at on walking home was not his 'faceless, genderless, great chain of being', but the old Jesus of 'this I know, the Bible tells me so' ".

X. General Books On Psychotherapy And Spirituality

Benner, D. G. (1988). Psychotherapy and the spiritual quest. Michigan: Baker.

Booth, L. (1989). Breaking the chains: Understanding religious addiction and abuse. Long Beach, CA: Emmaus Publications.

Cox, H. (1977). Turning east: Why American's look to the Orient for spirituality - And what that search can mean to the West. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Foster, R. J. (1988). (Revised edition). Celebration of discipline: The path to spiritual growth. New York: Harper & Row.

Freud, S. (1927). The future of an illusion. In the Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, transcribed and edited J. Strachhey, 21. London: Hogarth.

Fromm, E. (1959). Psychoanalysis and religion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Gay, P. (1987). A godless Jew: Freud, atheism, and the making of psychoanalysis. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Goleman, D. (1985). Vital lies simple truths. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hiltner, S. (1972). Theological dynamics. Nashville: Abingdon.

Jung, C. G. (1969) (Second Edition). Psychology and religion: West and East. (Volume 11, Complete Works). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Leavy, S. A. (1988). In the image of God: A psychoanalyst's view. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Meissner, W. W. (1984). Psychoanalysis and religious experience. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Meng, H. & Freud, E. (Eds.). (1963). Psychoanalysis and faith: The letters of Sigmund Freud and Oskar Pfister. New York: Basic Books.

Menninger, K. (1973). Whatever became of sin? New York: Hawthorn Books.

Oates, W. E. (1970). When religion gets sick. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.

Pruyser, P. W. (1976). The minister as diagnostician: Personal problems in pastoral perspective. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.

Rizzuto, A. M. (1979). The birth of the living god: A psychoanalytic study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

XI. Journals Which Focus On Spirituality And Psychotherapy

(Published since 1991)

(Published since 1947)

(Published since 1981)

This journal is an official publication of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) and is designed to provide scholarly interchange among Christian professionals in the helping professions.

(Published since 1976)

This journal is dedicated to exploring the relationship between psychology and Judaism and examines the relationship on both the clinical and philosophical level. The journal publishes articles that are related to the spheres of psychology and Judaism and have implications concerning the synthesis of the two areas. The journal serves as a forum for discussion and development of integrated approaches to uniquely Jewish problems in the clinical and metaclinical realms.

(Published since 1973)

The purpose of this journal is to communicate recent scholarly thinking on the interrelationships of psychological and theological concepts and to consider the application of these concepts to a variety of professional settings. The major intent of the editors is to place before the evangelical community articles that have bearing on the nature of human kind from a biblical perspective.

(Published since 1961)

The journal is published in cooperation with The Institutes of Religion and Health and is a quarterly for all who are interested in the indivisibility of human well being: physical, emotional, and spiritual. The journal welcomes contributions from professional representatives of all religious faiths and all disciplines concerned with human health and well being.

(Published since 1969)

This journal has developed as an independent vehicle for the study and open communication of transpersonal experiences, concepts and practices. It accepts as its province the full range of human development, especially those elements that are personal as well as trans-personal, reaching through, across, and beyond the human personality.

As a major orientation in psychology, a transpersonal perspective exercises both objective and subjective modes of knowing. It connects contemporary educational, scientific and clinical methodologies with personal, social and spiritual understanding. It is concerned with full human awareness, the integration of psychological and spiritual experience, and the transcendent self.

(Published since 1952)

This journal provides a forum for discussion of the work of ministry as this work is illumined by comments from other professions and professionals, by behavioral science research and theory, and by theological awareness and critique.

(Division 36 of the American Psychological Association, Published since 1975)

The Newsletter invites articles, interviews, book reviews and announcements relevant to the interdisciplinary focus of psychology and religion.

Nonacademic Publications

(Published since 1982)

This bi-monthly publication explores the common boundry between spirituality, psychotherapy and creativity.

(Published since 1983)

This is a semi-annual newspaper which is independent and does not represent the Insight Meditation Society or any particular teacher or ideology. This journal will be produced for and supported by the Vipassana Sangha, and as such will reflect the interests of the community. Our collective purpose will be to inspire, stimulate and share. We welcome controversy. We invite fresh perspectives. We will consider the10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows in all of their multiple shapes and forms. [This publication offered an excellent issue on psychotherapy and meditation in the summer of 1988. Vol. 5, No. 1.]


This journal, which is owned and published by the California Yoga Teachers Association, is dedicated to communicating, to as broad an audience as possible, the qualities of being that yoga exemplifies: peace, integrity, clarity and compassion. In particular, we focus on body/mind approaches to personal and spiritual development such as Hatha yoga, holistic healing, transpersonal psychology, body work massage, the martial arts, meditation, Eastern spirituality and Western mysticism - and on people who, in their life and work, epitomize these practices. we encourage open dialogue and a range of viewpoints and we invite you to join us and bring into our troubled world life affirming vision of harmony and wholeness.


1. Psychoanalysis has largely considered religion a sign of mental immaturity. Religion, on the other hand, has considered psychoanalysis as a sign of hubris. Is this type of polarized encounter the best we can hope for between psychoanalysis and religion? Does psychoanalysis have anything to offer religion? Does religion have anything to offer psychoanalysis?

2. Loewald in his writing sees certain forms of religious experience as more deeply repressed than sexuality. Do you agree?

3. Why did Freud not recognize that religious life, as anything else in human life, is capable of evolving more mature forms of functioning and expression?

4. What is lost when primary process thinking is interpreted only within the context of secondary process language?

5. Can religious and sexual passion be differentiated?

6. Is illusion an avoidance of painful reality or a means of access to it?

7. What advantages does group psychotherapy offer when exploring the meaning and function of religious experience?

Questions developed for presentation by Dale C. Godby, Ph.D. and Malcom Bonnheim, Ph.D. on Psychoanalytic Aspects of Religious Experience, Dallas Society For Psychoanalytic Pschology, January 19, 1994.


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