Spirituality in the Counselor Education Curriculum' a National Survey of Student Perceptions

By Dobmeier, Robert A.; Reiner, Summer M. | Counseling and Values, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Spirituality in the Counselor Education Curriculum' a National Survey of Student Perceptions


Dobmeier, Robert A., Reiner, Summer M., Counseling and Values


Interns (N = 335) from 36 programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs completed a survey about their preparation to integrate the 9 Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Issues in Counseling (ASERVIC) Spiritual Competencies into their counseling practice, Most respondents felt prepared to integrate all but 1 of ASERVIC's competencies. Spiritual topics of wellness, meaning, hope, and faith were addressed most frequently in course work and were associated with feeling prepared to integrate 8 of the competencies. Classroom discussion, experiential activities, and reading were the modalities most useful for learning about spirituality.

Keywords: ASERVIC Spiritual Competencies, counselor education curriculum

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Over the past few decades, there has been a growing belief that spirituality is an important dimension of the human experience and that counselors cannot ignore the spiritual needs of their clients (e.g., Briggs & Dixon Rayle, 2005; Burke et al., 1999; Cashwell & Young, 2004; Young, Wiggins-Frame, & Cashwell, 2007). The ACA Code of Ethics (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2005) acknowledges both the importance of counselors enabling clients to meet their spiritual needs (Section A.9.a. Quality of Care) and the importance of counselors exploring their own spiritual beliefs (Section C: Professional Responsibility). The 2009 Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) Standards, in two of the eight core curricular requirements, stipulate that spirituality be integrated into counselor education (CACREP, 2009). The Social and Cultural Diversity standards state that students should participate in studies designed to foster students' understanding of self (Section II, F.2.b.) and culturally supported behaviors that promote wellness and growth of the human spirit, mind, or body (Section II, E2.e.). The Human Growth and Development standards state that students should participate in studies that address strategies for facilitating optimum development and wellness over the life span (Section II, E3.e.).

The Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC), a division of ACA, has offered clear direction to the field in a White Paper (ASERVIC, n.d.-b) that clarified the concept of spirituality and identified nine counselor competencies for integrating spirituality into counseling practice (ASERVIC, n.d.-a). In the White Paper, ASERVIC describes spirituality as follows:

Spirituality is a capacity and tendency that is innate and unique to all persons. This spiritual tendency moves the individual toward knowledge, love, meaning, peace, hope, transcendence, connectedness, compassion, wellness, and wholeness. Spirituality includes one's capacity for creativity, growth, and the development of a value system. Spirituality encompasses a variety of phenomena, including experiences, beliefs, and practices. Spirituality is approached from a variety of perspectives, including psychospiritual, religious, and transpersonal. Whereas spirituality is usually expressed through culture, it both precedes and transcends culture. (ASERVIC, n.d.-b, p. 1)

ASERVIC's (n.d.-a) Competencies for Integrating Spirituality Into Counseling (henceforth "Spiritual Competencies"; see Appendix A, Section III, for the nine competencies) were developed during the 1995 ASERVIC Summit on Spirituality by 15 individuals who represented various ACA divisions and regions of the United States on behalf of ASERVIC. In 2009, ASERVIC approved a revised version of the competencies. According to Young et al. (2007), the competencies are considered "essential in training counselors to work effectively with clients' religious and spiritual concerns" (p. 48). Young et al. (2007) reported that 68% of the surveyed ACA members felt that it was either important or very important that counselors receive formal training in addressing spiritual and religious issues.

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