Humility: A Moderator for Religious and Spiritual Salience, and Psychotherapy Outcomes

We looked at the relationship between religious and spiritual (RS) salience (similar to RS commitment) and three measures of psychosocial functioning in a sample of Danielsen clients. Our key question was whether client humility would moderate or alter the relationship between RS and functioning, which it did. For clients with at least a moderate level of humility, RS had a positive association with all three different measures of psychosocial functioning. However, for clients low in humility this relationship turned negative, that is RS was negatively related to functioning. We might tend to think of RS providing helpful resources for client coping, but this may only be the case if clients hold a moderate or higher level of humility.

This offers some initial empirical evidence that humility may be a key factor that influences differing forms of relational spirituality and whether RS is helpful or harmful to lived experience. We can think of various potential reasons for these effects. For example, individuals low in humility may have difficulty relating to others and fitting into RS communities, or perhaps humility is a necessary part of implicit relational spirituality templates that correlate with social adjustment. We will be formulating more specific questions for future studies and welcome your ideas.

We hope this contributes to the larger literature on RS and health where researchers have moved beyond general questions, such as whether RS is “good” or “bad,” to look for factors that can offer a more nuanced understanding. Other than the clinical studies of cultural humility, this may be the first published empirical study of humility among psychotherapy clients. We hope it prompts more clinical investigations of the impact of humility and related virtues on psychosocial functioning.


Paine, D.R., Sandage, S.J., Ruffing, E.G., & Hill, P.C. (2018). Religious and spiritual salience, well-being, and psychosocial functioning among psychotherapy clients: Moderator effects for humility. Journal of Religion and Health.


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