The College Campus Ministry Internship Site: Interfacing Religion and Counseling

By Aten, Jamie D. | Counseling and Values, October 2004 | Go to article overview

The College Campus Ministry Internship Site: Interfacing Religion and Counseling


Aten, Jamie D., Counseling and Values


This article presents a model for creating internship sites at college campus ministries for students interested in interfacing religion and counseling. More specifically, a systematic process that students can implement in developing these unique training opportunities is provided. Developing campus ministry internship and other training sites can afford students opportunities for (a) specialized supervised experience working with religiously committed individuals, (b) providing consultation and program evaluation services, and (c) becoming a liaison who has the opportunity to influence and educate the next generation of religious leaders and members about mental health issues.

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According to Quackenbos, Privette, and Klentz (1985), clients report that they prefer therapy that includes their religious belief system, with 78% stating religious values should be addressed in therapy. Furthermore, religiously committed clients favor therapy that attends to religious themes in counseling (Rose, Westefeld, & Ansley, 2001). Moreover, counselors who integrate religious interventions into treatment are perceived more optimistically and as more competent by religiously committed clients (Keating & Fretz, 1990; McCullough & Worthington, 1995).

Despite these findings, it seems that very few counselors are properly prepared to competently interface religion and counseling (Burke, Hackney, Hudson, & Miranti, 1999). For example, only 25% of counselor education programs (accredited and nonaccredited) have been found to address the issues of religion and spirituality as a course component (Kelly, 1994). In addition, 82% of the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs reported that their programs did not offer course work on religious and spiritual themes (Schulte, Skinner, & Claiborn, 2002). Likewise, more than 90% of psychologists stated that religious issues are rarely, if ever, addressed in education and training (Shafranske, 1996; Shafranske & Malony, 1990).

Overall, the number of students preparing to work with religious issues and clients remains relatively low. However, the climate in academia is, at several institutions, becoming more accepting of the important role religion can have in therapy (Burton, 1992; Koenig, Larson, & Matthews, 1996; Pollner, 1989; Roth, 1988; Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996). Despite this progress, counseling students attending secular programs may find few opportunities to specialize in and work with religiously committed clients. This article presents one model for creating internship sites at college campus ministries for students interested in interfacing religion and counseling. More specifically, this article presents a systematic process for student implementation, presenting a seven-part model that can be used as a guide for developing campus ministry internship sites.

Training Site Experience

The following ideas and recommendations are based on my own experiences in successfully developing a campus ministry internship site (at the Christian Campus Ministry in Terre Haute, IN). These experiences include 2 years of meeting weekly with a local campus minister, 6 months of preparation (e.g., meetings with campus ministry board members and student leadership), and collaborating with and soliciting permission from faculty. I provided counseling services over the course of 1 academic year, under the supervision of two faculty members of a counseling department accredited by the American Psychological Association, to religiously committed college students who attended a campus ministry affiliated with a small midwestern university. The campus ministry has an active student body of 150 members who represent more than 20 denominations.

The Population

Religiously committed college students make up a unique and possibly underserved population with specific needs. …

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