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Introducing spirituality to Professional School Counseling.

We need a new world view again. We need to put old ideas "in new light." But how? What is left out of which to build a new world vision? I suggest that we begin to look again at the bases of social brokenness. And that we begin to see the spiritual link between the personal and the public. Joan Chittister (n.d.)


These comments by the noted contemporary social psychologist and international speaker resonate well with the intent of this special issue of Professional School Counseling. Although school counselors recognize that students and school personnel possess some type of spirituality, regrettably, this topic has garnered little attention in the school counseling literature. With the publication of this issue, this noticeable gap in the literature and the much delayed dialogue about this topic begins. By way of introduction to the subsequent articles, we overview the objectives, provide a rationale, define what we mean by spirituality, and summarize the content of this special issue.


We framed this special issue with specific goals in mind. Articles needed to be (a) broad in interest and direction; (b) germane to readers of various spiritual shades; (c) a starting point for further conversation among school counselors and counselor educators about how to ethically incorporate spirituality into their particular areas of influence; and, (d) credible to both school counseling practitioners and scholars.


If we view spirituality in large part as a meaning-making activity (see below for further clarification), there is a palpable relationship between spirituality and counseling. Consistently, school counselors are dealing with students' expressions of pain, hurt, and concerns that relate to their spiritual development. Sample "spiritual issues" we have seen in schools are students experiencing a spiritual crisis after a disaster, grieving over a lost parent and wondering why God allowed this to happen, or the loss of meaning that may come with the breakup of a family or the untimely death of a classmate. Students also pose spiritual questions that may relate to their "inherited" religious belief systems, spiritual concerns about abortion and child-beating, understanding of the spiritual dimensions of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, dabbling in witchcraft or devil worship, and their place in the world.

As such, this topic is quite timely, especially given the American Psychological Association's recent edition of its flagship journal, American Psychologist (Miller & Thoresen, 2003a, 2003b), addressing the intersection of spirituality and emotional-mental well-being and physical health. Moreover, the American Counseling Association has long recognized the importance of spirituality to counselees' and counselors' lives by publishing numerous articles and books on the topic (e.g., Hinterkopf; 1998; Kelly, 1995; see also articles in Counseling and Values journal). What is spirituality in the context of this special issue?

Definition of Spirituality

As we were developing this issue, we agreed that authors would use the term spirituality as an overarching notion that reflects a person's attempts to make sense of his or her world. In other words, spirituality is loosely defined here as humans' expressions of and attempts at "meaning-making" that are uniquely personal as well as communal or sociocultural. This definition is obviously too wobbly for some readers, but we wanted room for most "voices" to be heard.

In particular, we suggest that spirituality' can be religious in the formal sense of the term, but generally speaking it is not manifested by students in schools in this manner. Spirituality within a school environment is perhaps exhibited through their meaning-making activities (e.g., career decision making, deep reflection on a poem), choice of clothing, beliefs, sense of something "larger" than oneself, strongly held feelings, use of symbols as well as use of a "life-organizing" framework. Oftentimes, students' spirituality, cannot be satisfactorily verbalized but it contributes nonetheless to their "meaning-making" processes.

From our perspective, for many students spiritual acts may involve meditating on nature, hiking in the woods, reading an evocative poem, listening to inspiring music, singing, reading a meaningful passage, participating in counseling, attending a faith-related service, saying a prayer or going through a life-changing event. The spiritual naturally can be an experience like sensing the sacred and transcendent. A spiritual belief can be formal or informal, organized or not organized, rational or irrational, transcendent or non-transcendent. A spiritual feeling is an emotion that often accompanies a spiritual action, experience, or belief. Some spiritual feelings are love, hope, caring, evil, isolation, guilt, connectedness, oneness, emotional pain (e.g., grief, loss), centeredness, intimacy, and so on. Finally, there has been no attempt by the editors and contributors to put forth any preconceived religious or spiritual agenda.


To place some context for the rest of the articles, MacDonald first provides a helpful overview of spirituality and religion and then gives readers a rationale for school counselors to explore the topic with their students. Subsequently, a spiritual wellness model to flame students' development is presented by Ingersoll and Bauer followed by Sink's attempt at positioning spirituality within the American School Counselor Association's (2003) National Model for School Counseling Programs. Lonborg and Bowen then assist counselors to appreciate the ethical and multicultural issues related to spirituality within small communities. As a follow up, Hanna and Green look at how Asian spirituality (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam) might be manifested in the schoolchildren and youth.

Continuing with these more application-oriented articles, Bruce and Cockreham show how counselors can foster the spiritual development of adolescent girls through small group counseling. The close connection between spirituality and career counseling is explored next by Bloch. Allen and Coy's piece looks at how students' spirituality could be tapped to help moderate school-related violence. On a related topic, morality education and spirituality are blended nicely together in Rayburn's article. As a practicing school counselor, Wolf provides readers with useful guidelines for effectively addressing the spiritual concerns of students. Finally, we close out this special issue with Lee Richmond's article on how to assist children and youth as they experiment with or become heavily involved in unhealthy expressions of spirituality. We hope you find this special issue interesting and informative. Please send us your feedback.


American School Counselor Association. (2003). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Chittister, J. (n.d.). Of pieties false and true. Retrieved December 11, 2003, from chittister_3612.htm

Hinterkopf, E. (1998). Integrating spirituality in counseling. Alexandria, VA:American Counseling Association.

Kelly, E. (1995). Spirituality and religion in counseling and psychotherapy. Alexandria,VA: American Counseling Association.

Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (Eds.). (2003a). Spirituality, religion, and health [Special section]. American Psychologist, 58, 24-63.

Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003b). Spirituality, religion, and health: An emerging research field. American Psychologist, 58, 24-35.

Christopher A. Sink, Ph.D., NCC, LMHC, is professor and chair, School Counseling and Psychology, Seattle Pacific University, WA. E-mail:

Lee J. Richmond, Ph.D., NCC, NCCC, is a licensed psychologist and professor of Education, School Counseling, Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore. E-mail:

The authors would like to express our deep appreciation to each of the distinguished contributors to this special issue as well as to ASCA's publication staff and PSC's editor for their support in helping to bring this seminal issue to publication.
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Author:Richmond, Lee J.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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