Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Spiritual and Religious Competencies: A National Survey of CACREP-Accredited Programs

Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Spiritual and Religious Competencies: A National Survey of CACREP-Accredited Programs

Article excerpt

In this study of 94 Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited counselor education programs, 69% of respondents reported their programs addressed spiritual and religious issues; however, only 46% of CACREP liaisons perceived themselves as prepared or very prepared to integrate material related to spirituality and religion in counseling into their teaching and supervision activities. In addition, only 28% of respondents viewed their colleagues as similarly capable of addressing these issues as a component of counselor preparation. The authors discuss implications for training and practice.


The vast majority of individuals in the United States have reported that they are spiritual or religious (Richards & Bergin, 1997). Although the terms religion and spirituality are related, for the purpose of this article, Kelly's (1995) definitions are used. According to Kelly (1995), spirituality refers to "a personal affirmation of a transcendent connectedness to the universe" and religion is the "creedal, institutional, and ritual expression of spirituality that is associated with world religions and denominations" (p. 4). According to a 1991 Gallup poll, 94% of adult Americans believe in God or a universal spirit. In addition, 68% of adult Americans are members of a church, synagogue, or place of worship, and 58% of the same population rate religion as being very important in their lives (Gallup, 1993).

Despite these statistics, many counselors do not address religious or spiritual issues in their work with clients (Kelly, 1995). Some believe they are unequipped to deal with clients' spiritual or religious beliefs and practices because they have not received training in this area (Collins, Hurst, & Jacobson, 1987; Genia, 1994; Shafranske & Malony, 1990). Others are skeptical about religion and spirituality because of the conflict between the scientific, objective perspective of psychology and the transcendent, subjective aspects of religion and spirituality (Lovinger, 1984; Pattison, 1978; Prest & Keller, 1993; Rayburn, 1985; Wallwork & Wallwork, 1990). Still others believe that religion and spirituality are best discussed only within an ecclesiastical setting (Thayne, 1997). Counselors' personal experiences with religion or spirituality and their assumptions about it also affect the way they work with clients' religious or spiritual concerns (Frame, 1996; Grimm, 1994; Stander, Piercy, MacKinnon, & Helmeke, 1994).

Recently, however, more attention has been given to religion and spirituality in the therapeutic area. Examples of this increased interest are the inclusion of religion as an element of human diversity in the American Counseling Association's (ACA, 1995) code of ethics and that of the American Psychological Association (1992); the inclusion of spiritual problems as a V-code in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994); and, most recently, a number of important publications dedicated to religion and psychotherapy (Hall & Hall, 1997). In addition, "religious and spiritual values" are used in the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP 2001, p. 61) standards in the common core area of Social and Cultural Foundations. Thus, there is a growing awareness in the mental health field that religion and spirituality are one aspect of clients' culture (Pate & Bondi, 1992) that should be considered in the counseling process.

Spirituality and Religion in Training

Despite the increased openness to addressing spiritual and religious issues in counseling, these topics seem to receive modest to mixed treatment in counselor training (Kelly, 1994). In his study, Kelly (1994) found that of 341 accredited and nonaccredited counselor education programs, only 25% reported that religion and spirituality were included as a course component. …

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