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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access September 30, 2016

Paganism and Counseling: The Development of a Clinical Resource

  • Kevin A. Harris , Kate M. Panzica and Ruth A. Crocker
From the journal Open Theology


Sensitivity to religious diversity is an important part of multiculturally competent psychotherapy in the United States, but few resources exist for working with Pagan clients. Using a simultaneous parallel interviewing procedure, we reviewed the literature, conducted qualitative interviews with, and solicited online feedback from Pagans, to write a manuscript on culturally-sensitive therapy with followers of Paganism. Our participant-informant experts indicated that Paganism is nature-oriented, rooted in historical beliefs and practices, polytheistic, and revering the feminine divine. Pagans believe in harming none and judging no one, celebrate many different holidays and worship rituals, believe in multiple deities, cosmic balance, Magic, and an afterlife, and often have spiritual or mystical experiences. Pagan character traits include open-mindedness, individualism, multiculturalism, experientialism, feminism, sex, and sexuality. Participants described encountering many stereotypes of Pagans, including evil Pagans, teenaged Goth chicks, witches, New Age Hippies, just a phase, sex-crazed perverts, and within- Pagan stereotypes. They described their attitudes about mental health and psychotherapy, and (perhaps idiosyncratic to our sample) they also described a process of religious identity development similar to the sexual identity development of people who are GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered). We discuss recommendations for counselors and psychotherapists, including assessment and diagnostic issues, the client/counselor relationship, sense of humor, autonomy and personal responsibility, stigmatization, relationships, sex and sexuality, identity issues, ethical issues, and Pagans as healers.


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Received: 2016-2-20
Accepted: 2016-7-19
Published Online: 2016-9-30

©2016 Kevin A. Harris et al.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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