Academic journal article Counseling and Values

The Spiritual Competency Scale

Academic journal article Counseling and Values

The Spiritual Competency Scale

Article excerpt

This study describes the development of the Spiritual Competency Scale, which was based on the Association for Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling's original Spiritual Competencies. Participants were 662 counseling students from religiously based and secular universities nationwide. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a 22-item, 6-factor solution with internal consistency. The data highlighted areas for remediation, suggested that a stand-alone spirituality in counseling course may be the most effective instructional strategy, and provided a template for revisions to the Spiritual Competencies.

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Over the past few decades, spiritual and religious beliefs have become relevant constructs in the multicultural and holistic philosophies that guide the counseling profession. The empirical relationship that has recently been established between spiritual and religious beliefs and well-being is probably of little surprise to a majority of Americans, who have consistently voiced the significance of these beliefs in their lives (Gallup, 1986; The Gallup Organization, 1993; Russell & Yarhouse, 2006; University of Pennsylvania, 2003). So important are these beliefs that many people would like to include them in their counseling experience (Kelly, 1995; Quackenbos, Privette, & Klentz, 1985; Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sanders, 1996). Until recently, this preference may have been disregarded because of the tension that has long existed between the mental health professions and religion.

Psychology was born in an era when science was driven by deterministic, mechanistic, and reductionistic philosophies (Nielsen & Dowd, 2006). Influential theorists, such as Freud, Ellis, Watson, and Skinner, discounted religious beliefs or equated them with pathology. Early therapists were reportedly less religious than was the general public, and perhaps as a consequence, this topic was seldom approached in counseling (Bergin & Jensen, 1990; Richards & Bergin, 1997; Shafranske & Gorsuch, 1984). On the other side of the relationship were religiously oriented clients, who may have feared that their spiritual or religious beliefs would be misunderstood or undermined by the therapist and either hesitated to seek secular counseling or refrained from sharing these perspectives (Worthington et al., 1996).

Despite the opposition, other theorists recognized the pervasive influence of spirituality and religion on mental health and well-being and kept these ideas alive in the literature (Allport, 1960; Erikson, 1966; Frankl, 1963; James, 1902/1985; Jung, 1958; Maslow, 1971). In the past 20 years, a prolific body of multidisciplinary research has repeatedly substantiated the relationships between spiritual and religious beliefs and physical health (Koenig, McCullough, & Larson, 2001), mental health (Mohr, Brandt, Borras, Gillieron, & Huguelet, 2006; Trenholm, Trent, & Compton, 1998; Wink, Dillon, & Larsen, 2005), wellness (Dixon, 2007; Thompson, 2008), quality of life (Saxena, O'Connell, & Underwood, 2002), adaptation (Pargament, 1997), healthy lifestyles, and prosocial functioning (Chatters, 2000). Counselors themselves have reported a level of personal spirituality and religiosity that parallels that of the general public (Myers & Truluck, 1998). Most counselors now believe that spirituality and religion are important and valid topics in counseling (Carlson, Kirkpatrick, Hecker, & Kilmer, 2002; Weinstein, Parker, & Archer, 2002; Young, Wiggins-Frame, & Cashwell, 2007).

The governing body of the counseling profession further substantiates this position. Spiritual and religious beliefs are very much a part of the multicultural approach that is mandated by the ACA Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association (ACA; 2005). The ACA Code of Ethics also requires that counselors practice within the boundaries of their competence. …

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