Spirituality in Counselor Training: A Content Analysis of Syllabi from Introductory Spirituality Courses

By Cashwell, Craig S.; Young, J. Scott | Counseling and Values, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Spirituality in Counselor Training: A Content Analysis of Syllabi from Introductory Spirituality Courses


Cashwell, Craig S., Young, J. Scott, Counseling and Values


The authors discuss the results of a content analysis of 14 syllabi of introductory courses on spirituality in counseling. Course syllabi were examined to determine trends in the content of these courses and to determine if the instruction is consistent with 9 competencies developed at the Summit on Spirituality. Results suggested that there was substantial variance in the extent to which the competencies were covered in the syllabi. The authors discuss implications for teaching courses on spirituality in counseling.

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The authors discuss the results of a content analysis of 14 syllabi of introductory courses on spirituality in counseling. Course syllabi were examined to determine trends in the content of these courses and to determine if the instruction is consistent with 9 competencies developed at the Summit on Spirituality. Results suggested that there was substantial variance in the extent to which the competencies were covered in the syllabi. The authors discuss implications for teaching courses on spirituality in counseling.

For many people, spirituality and religion are vital aspects of their lives (Gallup & Bezilla, 1994; Hadaway, Marler, & Chaves, 1993). Despite the fact that many counselors and counselor educators believe religion and spirituality to be important in counselor training (Young, Cashwell, Wiggins-Frame, & Belaire, 2002), survey data have shown that limited numbers of programs include this content in the curricula, although the numbers appear to be rising. Kelly (1994) found that only 25% of counseling programs included religion and spirituality in the curriculum, and later studies (e.g., Kelly, 1997; Pate & High, 1995) found higher percentages of up to 60%. Along this line, there seems to be increased attention among scholars to the infusion of religion and spirituality into the counseling curriculum (Briggs & Rayle, 2002; Burke et al., 1999). In addition, the most recent standards published by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2001) give increased attention to the inclusion of spirituality and religion as one aspect of a person's culture. Thus, one apparent trend in counselor education is increased attention to religion and spirituality across the counseling curriculum.

A second trend seems to be an increase in the number of spirituality courses, most often taught as electives. In a recent study, Young et al. (2002) found that 23 of 94 CACREP-accredited counseling programs that were surveyed indicated that they offered a specific course on spirituality and religion in counseling. Nevertheless, many respondents indicated that they need additional training and curriculum guidelines to teach these concepts effectively.

One template for curricular experiences is the spirituality competencies that were developed at the Summit on Spirituality. In 1995, a group of experts met and produced a set of nine competencies that provide direction for counselors and counselor educators regarding how counselors can competently integrate issues related to spiritual and religious values in counseling. These nine competencies suggest that a counselor who is competent to integrate spirituality into the counseling process can do the following:

1. "Explain the relationship between religion and spirituality, including similarities and differences"

2. "Describe religious and spiritual beliefs and practices in a cultural context"

3. "Engage in self-exploration of his/her religious and spiritual beliefs in order to increase sensitivity, understanding and acceptance of his/ her belief system"

4. "Describe one's religious and/or spiritual belief system and explain various models of religious/spiritual development across the lifespan"

5. "Demonstrate sensitivity to and acceptance of a variety of religious and/or spiritual expressions in the client's communication"

6. …

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