Incorporating Spirituality into Core Counseling Courses: Ideas for Classroom Application

Article excerpt

Recently, spirituality has received increased attention in the counseling field, and both spirituality and religion have been acknowledged as important aspects of multiculturalism. The role of spiritual and religious beliefs is mentioned throughout the Standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), and guidelines for working with spiritual issues within various cultural paradigms are emerging. Nevertheless, many counselor educators seem unsure about how to infuse spiritual issues into courses, This article presents a rationale for inclusion of spiritual issues in counselor education curricula and provides activities to incorporate knowledge and skills for dealing with spiritual and religious diversity in CACREP core courses.


Many Americans consider themselves religious or spiritual (Richards & Bergin, 1997), and religious and spiritual traditions are as varied as other forms of diversity (Fukuyama & Sevig, 1999; Miller, 2003). In addition, spirituality is a more examined and discussed topic in the field of counseling as counselors strive for holism through integrating psychological and spiritual concerns into counseling (Frame, 2003; Miller, 2003). This myriad of spiritual and religious backgrounds of clients creates a call for inclusion of religious and spiritual content in counseling and counselor training (Miller, 1999).

Recently, authors have suggested the usefulness of incorporating spirituality into counseling (Hinterkopf, 1998; Miller, 2003). In addition, the American Counseling Association's (ACA; 1995) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice now includes religion as a component of human diversity, and spiritual concerns are included as a V-code in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Furthermore, in 1996, the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC), during what is referred to as the Summit on Spirituality, developed a list of competencies that are necessary for the ethical integration of religion and spirituality into counseling (Miller, 1999). Finally, in the 2001 Standards, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) listed spiritual and religious values under the Foundations portion for each of the counseling programs (i.e., career; college; community; gerontological; marital, couple, and family; mental health; school; student affairs; and doctoral-level counselor education and supervision) after the statement "the following curricular experiences and demonstrated knowledge and skills are required of all students in the program" (p. 12).

Despite existing guidelines and codes, many counselors do not feel prepared to address clients' religious or spiritual concerns because they have not received adequate training to do so (Kelly, 1995). Counselors-in-training are not regularly exposed to the curricular knowledge and skills that are needed to feel prepared to work with clients' religious and spiritual issues (Burke et al., 1999). Consequently, Burke et al. made a solid argument for including spirituality in the eight core CACREP curricular areas and provided methods and resources for doing so. Burke et al. concluded that instructional strategies related to spirituality in counseling needed further development.

Various authors (Burke et al., 1999; Kelly, 1994; Souza, 2002) have reported a perceived need and desire on the part of counselor educators, practitioners, and students to include spiritual issues in counselor training. Although spirituality has gained increased attention, experts agree that helping professionals lack a basic understanding of clients' spiritual issues (Burke et al., 1999). For example, Kelly (1994) noted that although most counselor educators recognize and support the value of addressing spiritual concerns in training counselors, only a small percentage of programs (25%) offer related courses. …