Spirituality: Implications for Professional School Counselors' Ethical Practice

By Lambie, Glenn W.; Davis, Keith M. et al. | Counseling and Values, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Spirituality: Implications for Professional School Counselors' Ethical Practice


Lambie, Glenn W., Davis, Keith M., Miller, Geri, Counseling and Values


The separation between church and state (e.g., public education) is contentious. Furthermore, schools and many professional school counselors (PSCs) may choose to disregard and/or discount spirituality. This article (a) presents the importance of spirituality in counseling, (b) explores legal statutes and ethical standards relating to spirituality as a component of multiculturalism and professional school counseling, and (c) offers steps and strategies to support the ethical practice of PSCs. A case example and implications are discussed,

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The division between church and state is contentious, which has led to indistinct legal statutes relating to spirituality and public schools. As Cambron-McCabe, McCarthy, and Thomas (2004) noted, Efforts to identify the appropriate relationship between government and religion have generated substantial controversy in our nation[, and] ... schools have provided the battlefield for some of the most volatile disputes" (p. 25). Therefore, schools and many professional school counselors (PSCs) may work to avoid the controversy by disregarding and/or ignoring the topic of spirituality (Sink, 1997). Furthermore, PSCs may believe that "dialogue on spiritual and faith issues is thought to detract from the progress of counseling and to be inappropriate or even 'taboo' for a 'value-free' public school setting" (Sink, 1997, p. 59). Thus, many counseling professionals do not integrate spirituality into their counseling (Young, Cashwell, Wiggins-Frame, & Belaire, 2002). Counselors may also avoid this area because of concern about their knowledge base, having a different religion from the student, or being biased against spirituality. Additionally, students' spiritual beliefs often influence their coping strategies when presented with various life challenges (e.g., relationship issues, educational choices, and vocational planning; Shimabukuro, Daniels, & D'Andrea, 1999).

However, students' spiritual beliefs and practices may play a significant role in their educational, social, emotional, and physical well-being. For many students, spirituality is an important component of the counseling process for promoting constructive change (Curtis & Davis, 1999; Frame, 2000; Myers & Williard, 2003; Sink, 1997). Furthermore, The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005) advocates that PSCs work to support the academic, vocational/career, and personal/social development of all students. More specifically, the association recommended that PSCs designate the majority of their time and energy "in direct service to all students so that every student receives maximum benefits from the program" (ASCA, 2005, p. 13). ASCA (2004) noted the importance of PSCs' diversity competencies (i.e., awareness, appreciation, knowledge, understanding, and skill base) in relation to supporting students' academic success and ethical practice. Additionally, the multicultural counseling competencies of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD; see Roysircar, Arredondo, Fuertes, Ponterotto, & Toporek, 2003) stipulate that multicultural competent counselors provide counseling services relevant to students' human diversity (e.g., gender, spirituality, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background), supporting an effective counseling process. Furthermore, the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC; n.d.) has advocated that counselors integrate clients' spiritual beliefs within the counseling process to support clients in achieving their counseling goals. Within professional school counseling, these beliefs can support students' academic, personal/social, and career development. Hence, PSCs who disregard the spirituality of students and their families (when students present spiritual concerns) may be practicing inconsistently with the professional goals and competencies established by ASCA, ASERVIC, and AMCD. …

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