Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Spiritual Needs and Practices of Counselor Education Students

Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Spiritual Needs and Practices of Counselor Education Students

Article excerpt

This study examined the self-reported value of spirituality, types of spiritual practices, and values of 69 counselor education students. It also examined counseling students' ideas for how to increase their comfort with incorporating spirituality into counseling practice. Implications for implementing spirituality training in counselor education programs are addressed.


The need to address spirituality issues with clients and to train counselors in effective counseling methods for exploring these client issues has been acknowledged by the counseling profession (Belaire & Young, 2000; Belaire, Young, & Elder, 2005; Burke et al., 1999; Curtis & Davis, 1999; Ingersoll, 1997; Matthews, 1998; Miller, 1999; Pate & High, 1995; Schaffner & Dixon, 2003). Myers and Truluck (1998) suggested that "it is both appropriate and timely for counselor education training programs to ensure that the religious beliefs of clients, and perhaps also of counselor trainees, are included in counselor training" (p. 121). Burke et al. (1999) recommended that "a balanced inclusion of the spiritual and religious aspects of life at appropriate points in the CACREP [Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs] curriculum is a reasonable step in helping counselor trainees acquire competencies necessary for incorporating the spiritual/religion dimension into the counseling process" (p. 256). They further suggested inclusion approaches for the eight CACREP common core areas of study.

Kelly (1995) found that 45% of surveyed counselors were active in organized religion, and 61% reported attending religious services regularly. Although studies have demonstrated a high level of interest in spirituality by many counseling professionals (e.g., Burke et al., 1999; Holt, Houg, & Romano, 1999; Ingersoll, 1997), few studies have addressed the issue of spirituality with counselor education students, as did Souza's (2002) groundbreaking study. This current study surveyed students' expression of their spirituality and spiritual values.

The first purpose of the study was to assess the significance of spirituality in the lives of master's-level counseling students and its current meaning/practice in their lives. To address this issue, we asked the following questions:

Research Question 1: What spirituality practices do counselor education students observe?

Research Question 2: What are the values counselor education students identify as most important?

The second purpose of this study was to ascertain what might increase students' confidence in integrating spirituality into their counseling approaches when appropriate. To address this issue, we asked the following question:

Research Question 3: What strategies would increase students' comfort level for integrating spiritual issues into the counseling process?



Counselor education students at a large southeastern university were invited to participate in a research study designed to examine the role of spirituality in their lives. Sixty-eight students (51 women, 17 men) participated in the study, ranging in age from 22 to 55 years (women: M = 32.34 years, SD = 9.64; men: M = 30.79 years, SD = 8.11), and were Caucasian (82%), Black (10%), Hispanic (6%), and other (2%). The majority of participants classified their religious preference as either Christian/Protestant (56%) or Catholic (24%). Other religious preferences (agnostic, atheist, Jewish, and New Age) each had 3% representation, and the category "none of the above" captured 8% of the students. When asked if they had experienced a spiritual crisis, 50% of participants (n = 34) responded yes.


Students were asked to complete a survey we designed to address specific research questions outlined for this study. The following definition was written on the survey: "Spirituality is a search for meaning and purpose in life" (Koch, 1998, p. …

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