Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Incorporating Faith, Spirituality, and Religion into College Counseling and Student Affairs Graduate Programs

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Incorporating Faith, Spirituality, and Religion into College Counseling and Student Affairs Graduate Programs

Article excerpt

Several associations have provided standards and competencies in the area of faith, religion, and spirituality. This article reviews three of those sets of standards and competencies.

As the recognition of faith, spirituality, and religion in student development is considered, it is important to look at training in the graduate programs for college counselor and student affairs professionals. While various associations and organizations have explored this field, this article will focus on three organizations and the guidance they offer for educators who are challenged to expand in this arena.

The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), the Association for Spirititual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC), and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) have all incorporated faith, spirituality, and religion into the standards and competencies that they advocate for individuals working as educators in the counseling and student affairs fields. Nevertheless, the counselor education and student affairs graduate preparation programs are still challenged to transfer these competencies effectively so that new professionals feel well or even adequately prepared.

Young, Cashwell, Wiggins-Frame, and Belaire (2002) found after studying 94 CACREP accredited programs that 70% of the respondents stated their programs addressed spirituality and religion. Furthermore, "half of the respondents viewed themselves as prepared or very prepared to infuse the competencies into their teaching and supervision" (p.28). However, a majority of the individuals who responded did not think of their colleagues as prepared to address these issues.

If we need to put more focus on the issues of faith, religion, and spirituality into our programs we also need to be sure that those of us who are educators in the fields of college counseling and student affairs are competent to he the trainers. just as we want our graduates to be prepared, so too we need to evaluate our level of preparation. As Parks (2000) states, "Professors have been vulnerable to functioning as less-than-whole persons. The vocation of higher education has been impoverished, and young adults searching for a fitting orientation to ultimate reality - a faith to live by - have been abandoned by faculty and others in the academy who are distinctively positioned to serve the formation of a critical and worthwhile faith" (p. 101-102).

While it is important for educators to have a strong self-awareness in this area, their ability to provide the needed foundation does not have to he correlated with their own religion, faith, or spiritual foundation. An "authentic respect for others, their relationship abilities and their technical competence, not their personal religiousness or nonreligiousness, constitute the fundamental base for sensitive and effective counseling" (Kelly, 1995, p. 43). We can evaluate our knowledge base and technical competence by reviewing several of the CAS standards, the ASERVIC Spirituality competencies, and the some of the CACREP standards.

Professional Standards and Competencies

In the CAS masters-level graduate program for student affairs professional standards (2002), faith, spirituality, and religion are incorporated in the following areas:

* In part 5b. "There must be extensive examination of theoretical perspectives that describe students' growth in the areas of intellectual, moral, ego, psychosocial, career, and spiritual development; racial, cultural, ethnic, gender, and sexual identity; the intersection of multiple identities; and learning styles throughout the late adolescent and adult lifespan ." (CAS, p. 12)

* In part 5.3a "student development theory, including. . . spiritual development (CAS, p. 15).

* In part 6: Equity and Access "Institutional personnel policies must not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, color, veteran status, religion. …

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