Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly McDonnell

Second Advisor

Dr. Glinda Rawls

Third Advisor

Dr. Donna Talbot


Counseling psychology, religion and spirituality, doctoral training, faculty members' experiences, phenomenological, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)


Religion and spirituality (R/S) are two of several multicultural variables salient to some clients seeking counseling, therefore psychologists are expected to be sensitive to and respectful of R/S in professional duties (APA, 2017a; APA, 2017b). However, research has shown that the integration of topics of R/S into the training of psychology graduate students has been minimal at best (Brawer et al., 2002, Hage et al., 2006, Saunders et al., 2014; Schafer et al., 2011; Schulte et al., 2002; Vogel et al., 2013). There are potential logistical and personal barriers to the inclusion of religion and spirituality into mental health training curricula, and many psychologists debate the best practices for training (Adams et al., 2015; Crook-Lyon et al., 2012).

Moreover, counseling psychology is well-known for emphasizing a multicultural focus and social justice advocacy in doctoral training (CCPTP, 2013; Scheel et al., 2018), but this field tends to prioritize other factors of cultural identity over R/S (Adams et al., 2015; Hage, 2006; Schulte et al., 2002). Given the limited information about the specific ways in which topics of R/S are integrated into counseling psychology doctoral training, this study attempted to fill a gap in the literature by exploring the perspective of faculty members who are responsible for implementing the training. The central research question investigated the experiences of faculty members at APA-accredited counseling psychology training programs regarding their attempts to integrate topics of religion and spirituality into counseling psychology doctoral training. Two sub-questions sought to understand contextual influences on participants’ attempts, including professional and personal values and attributes. Given the qualitative nature of the questions posed the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) method (Smith et al., 1999) was used to collect and analyze data. Data were collected from ten participants across the United States using a demographic screening survey, an initial interview, and a member check interview.

The researcher’s interpretation of participants’ stories revealed five themes related to their attempts to integrate religion and spirituality in training. Participants’ descriptions of their attempts revealed that they were thoughtful around the planning and execution of their attempts. Participants named various constituents that they were serving (professional organizations, institutions, departments, programs, and students) and described the complexity of meeting the needs of each entity. Additionally, participants felt varying levels of support for their efforts, which led to experiences of tension and pressure when making attempts. However, participants’ personal values, and desire to give their students tools they would need to provide culturallysensitive clinical care around topics of R/S, helped participants in making attempts despite these challenges.

This research contributes to the field of counseling psychology by providing information about the integration of topics of R/S across a range of courses, topics participants presented on during attempts, and methods that were used in attempts made. Results of this study contributed to ideas for future training, research, and practice around topics of R/S. These include intervening at various levels: professional, institutional, departmental, training program, and individual.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access