Linking Spirituality and Violence Prevention in School Counseling

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to discuss the importance of spirituality in school counseling and to link spirituality in counseling practice and programs with violence prevention. ACA/ASERVIC Spirituality Competencies are translated into school counselor competencies with suggested implementations for school counseling programs.

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An awareness of the important role of spirituality is growing within the education system. Meditation on and the inclusion of religious works as literature in some public school curricula are occurring. Students are seeking for personal identity to give meaning to their lives in the fast-paced world of the 21st century. School counselors have often been reticent to discuss religious or spiritual issues with their students in keeping with the constitutional principles of the separation of church and state. With the advent of character education, a renewal of the importance of values has been reintroduced into public schools and integrating spirituality into counseling practice and programs may provide troubled youth with renewed respect for themselves and others.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the importance of spirituality in school counseling and to link student spirituality to the reduction of school violence and facilitation of a culture of respect. The principal faith traditions in the United States contribute to the issues involved in promoting conflict resolution and violence prevention in schools. Spiritual development in children and youth set the tone for student tolerance and respect of others. School counselor program and training standards are surveyed to determine if spirituality is included. A review of the research on violence and prevention techniques and programs provides the background for school counselor intervention. Finally, suggestions for integrating spirituality into counseling practice and programs to enhance violence prevention are examined.

DEFINITION OF SPIRITUALITY

Spirituality is a multidimensional construct of cognitive, metaphysical, and relational dimensions (Jankowski, 2002) and often associated with resilience or ability to overcome and succeed during times of distress and challenge (Walsh, 1998). Legere (1984) viewed spirituality as experiential. Subsequently, Myers (1990) defined spirituality as "a continuing search for meaning and purpose in life; an appreciation for the depth of life, the expanse of the universe, and natural forces which operate; a personal belief system" (p. 11). In traditional literature, spirituality is defined as: (a) values and beliefs often connected to a formalized religious set of doctrines; (b) a metaphysical, mystical, or transcendent element; or (c) a sense of connectedness with another person or persons, nature, and/or God (Jankowski). For the purpose of this article, spirituality is defined as giving personal and cultural meaning to life, part of a belief or value system providing personal identity and capable of reducing conflict and encouraging harmony. Spirituality is a part of the predominant faith traditions in America and encompasses the values that are desirable for young people to acquire during their early developmental years.

FAITH TRADITION

Spirituality, giving meaning to life, cannot totally be separated from religious traditions. Tatum (1997) stated that religion is a formative part of our identity. If religion is part of personal identity, then a few statements must be made about the major religious traditions that influence the development of both our personal and collective identities, the essence of spirituality. The major religious traditions in the United States (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) provide believers with a set of values and beliefs, an explanation of the mystical or transcendent elements in the world, and a connection with other persons or a divine entity. An examination of the predominant faith traditions in America shows that belief systems include both teachings for peace and harmony and a defense of one's beliefs and traditions against nonbelievers, at times with violent ramifications. …