Proclaiming Hope: The Critical Role for Faith-Based Schools in Counselor Education.
A suggestion for counselors to bracket their values, beliefs, and attitudes, a common recommendation to remove potential value-conflicts, rests on two assumptions. The first assumption is that a value-less approach to counseling is possible, and the second assumption is that the acknowledgement and inclusion of the counselor's values to the therapeutic relationship is inherently bad (Scott, 2018b). As Henriksen (2019) argued, counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals to accomplish their goals for wellness, mental health, and other goals. These goals are based in values and convictions, both for the client and the counselor.
The valuing of the person of the client requires the inclusion of the counselor's values, acknowledging that the counselor must be aware of these values and the role these values play in informing client care. These values provide the lens through which life and its purpose is viewed, providing a framework for a person's relationship to the world (Sire, 2004). The process of fostering awareness to developing appropriate application of values in counseling must occur during graduate training, providing a safe venue for exploration of personal beliefs and values while equipping counselors to live out these beliefs as part of their professional identity as a counselor (Greggo, 2016; Scott, 2018b). This process of developing self-awareness is ongoing, requiring the counselor to continue to reflect on how his or her background, experiences, and beliefs may differ or affect others, approaching these differences with both humility and civility (Hook, Davis, Owen, & DeBlaere, 2017). Because faith-based schools take seriously the calling to equip students as stewards of the gifts and purposes God designed, by incorporating the process of spiritual formation into the task of counselor professional identity, faith-based schools are better equipped to assist students in aligning their professional affiliation and Christian identity into a contextualized whole through the process of mentoring, modeling, and academic training (Bracey, 2018).
Holistic Counselor Development
Professional identity development is the process of alignment between the personal self and the professional self to form a cohesive and complementary whole within a professional context (Moss, Gibson, & Dollarhide, 2014). As counseling seeks to emphasize the distinctives of wellness, prevention education, lifespan development, and empowerment, a holistic model of counselor identity development, incorporating the six domains of moral, social, emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual development, forms a critical foundation for training counselors with the personal and professional skills necessary for effective application in the field (Wolf, Thompson, & Smith-Adcock, 2012). With the therapeutic relationship forming the predominant contributor to counselor effectiveness in multiple studies (Lambert, 1992, 2004; McMinn & Campbell, 2007), the holistic development of the person of the counselor in preparation and contribution to their professional identity development forms a critical role in the continued effectiveness and identity development for the field of counseling (Dollarhide et al., 2013; Scott, 2018a). With most non-faith-based (NFB) counseling programs unprepared for fostering moral and spiritual development (Davis, 2012; Ghali, 2016), two foundational components that provide direction, expression, and intent for the remaining developmental domains, faith-based counselor education programs deliver a critical niche, providing the unique opportunity for drawing all elements of a counselor's professional identity development together into a contextualized and comprehensive whole (Bracey, 2018).
The Role of Graduate Training in Counselor Development
Karkouti (2014) described professional identity development as the process of incorporating perceptions, values, and beliefs about the self within a personal life with the roles, responsibilities, and skills of professional life in a professional context. While this process of identity development occurs once counselors enter the field of practice, the alignment and integration of the personal and professional selves must begin during graduate training, providing a safe context for insight, exploration, and adjustment within the relational contexts of students and faculty through modeling, mentoring, and academic training (Calley & Hawley, 2008; Hawley & Calley, 2009; Pittman & Foubert, 2016). These student and faculty relationships allow faculty to model professional identity, providing explanation and content through academic training while demonstrating identity development with research support and mentoring as students practice integrating their personal and professional selves (Trede, Macklin, & Bridges, 2012). As higher education shifts to practice-based, action research approaches for realworld training, graduate school provides a critical time for counselors to learn and apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions for effective, holistic development across all domains through these mentoring models (Clegg, 2008; Spurgeon, Gibbons, & Cochran, 2012). While graduate training provides a critical timeframe for initiating professional identity in counselors, graduate programs that limit or lack the training and experience for developing the moral and spiritual domains impede future counselors both in their professional identity development as well as their skill application in working with clients on issues of faith and spirituality (Davis, 2012; Scott, 2018b).
Non-Faith-Based Graduate Training
The goal of non-faith-based CACREP-accredited (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) training programs is to prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary for effective and ethical counseling work (CACREP, 2017). These programs align their training with the 2014 ACA (American Counseling Association) Code of Ethics, preparing students with the theories, skills, dispositions, and competencies necessary for working with diverse populations. Many counseling professionals and professional organizations, including the American Counseling Association, interpret section A.4.b. of the Code of Ethics (ACA, 2014) on personal values as requiring counselors to bracket their values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors as a means to avoid imposing those values onto their clients. While theoretically beneficial to prevent counselors from imposing their worldview onto clients, the process and practice of bracketing could ignore a couple of very important elements. First, bracketing ignores that professional counselor identity is the integration of the counselor's personal and professional identities, merging and incorporating the personal values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors inherent in the personal life of the counselor with the professional identity of the counselor to establish a comprehensive whole (Karkouti, 2014). Second, bracketing assumes that one's values, attitudes, and beliefs can be sectioned off and contained as individual elements, ignoring their integral influence on all areas of life and purpose. Third, the expectation for counselors to bracket their values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors is biased in its application, suggesting that a universal, non-biased worldview exists to which counselors must align in their clinical practice.
This assumption of a non-biased worldview is untenable in that all worldviews carry some bias by the very nature that a worldview is formed through culture, experience, belief, values, attitudes, and behaviors (Martoia, 2008; Sire, 2004; Wronka, 2008). Counselors must be trained through modeling and practice to identify and acknowledge the role and influence of their worldviews with convicted civility (Yarhouse, 2013), holding in tension and balance the values and beliefs they carry with the needs and best care for the client, using these values as the moral and ethical foundation for effective clinical care across all areas of the Code of Ethics (ACA, 2014). Research is demonstrating that when counselors seek to isolate or bracket their spiritual and religious views and beliefs, counselors then ignore the spiritual and religious beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors of their clients within the therapeutic relationship, creating further ethical concerns as counselors fail to consider critical domains of holistic care, development, and value for their clients (Ghali, 2016; Magaldi-Dopman, 2014). Instead of ignoring or bracketing, counselors must be taught to appropriately apply the ACA Code of Ethics by also considering the first phrase of that section, expecting counselors to not just "avoid imposing," but also to "[be] aware of... their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors" (ACA, 2014, p. 5). Graduate training programs need to assist students in exploring their personal values to increase their awareness of these foundational elements of worldview, providing venues to increase their insight as to the contextualization of these values into all elements of their personal and professional identities, establishing objectives and guidelines to foster students' spiritual competencies (Dobmeier & Reiner, 2012; Ghali, 2016; Morrison, Clutter, Pritchett, & Demmitt, 2009). As Hook et al. (2017) suggested, counselors must become comfortable with the tension, continuing to acknowledge and own personal perspectives and limitations as opportunities for growth and connection. While most NFB programs lack the means for providing this development because their curriculum, faculty, and mission statements ignore these elements, faith-based graduate training is designed to intentionally and deliberately foster the holistic development of counselors within their graduate training to establish a comprehensive counselor professional identity.
Faith-Based Graduate Training
Clients seek counseling because they are struggling, suffering, stuck, confused. Clients hope that counseling might provide relief from their current state of difficulty and pain. Merriam-Webster (2019) defined the verb of hope as "desir[ing] with expectation of obtainment of fulfillment." Worthington (2005) suggested that couple's counseling, and really all counseling, rests on the clients' and counselors' hope for something better. Hope is a value, a belief, and an attitude providing the means for a change in behavior. In describing our current state as justified and at peace with God, Romans 5:1-5 explains how the hope we have for the promises God provided rests both in our current hope and the process of our hope put to the test and affirmed through the continued provision of God's Spirit through suffering. Hope is a foundational component to counseling and is founded on a belief system, a worldview and value. Faith-based counseling programs are unique from NFB programs in that the basis and intention of this value is made explicit and fostered throughout the training, contextualizing this critical component of personal belief and value into the process and professional identity of the counselor in training (Greggo, 2016).
As Bracey (2018) explained, "Christian academics must recognize the importance of their vocation. Integration failure has serious repercussions. Vacuums will be filled, and where Christians do not speak up and defend their worldview, non-Christians will, and they will influence generations. That is the story of much of higher education in the modern era" (p. 37). Higher education must continue to teach the theoretical and formal knowledge base of historic education while engaging students in the real world as active professionals (Trede et al., 2012). Acknowledgement of the importance of one's worldview as a personal value informing decisions for both personal and professional life is a fundamental building block on which the skills, dispositions, motivations, and intentions of counseling rest. As Sire (2004) suggested, "developing a cognizance of my own worldview has provided a way of orienting not just my own thoughts but my whole take on life itself" (p. 11). It is not enough to teach the quantifiable skills of counseling without the qualitative dispositions and competencies informing the person of the counselor (Scott, 2018b; Spurgeon et al., 2012). Christians must contextualize their personal and professional identities with their vocational calling and identity as a disciple of Christ to be consistent and effective as counselors (Greggo, 2016), but this contextualization process must be fostered and transmitted just like professional identity development through modeling, mentoring, and academic training in graduate school (Pittman & Foubert, 2016; Scott, 2018a). Faith-based counseling programs are uniquely suited and have critical responsibilities to take this further step in counselor training to enhance student development across the moral, social, emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual domains to create contextualized, holistic counselors, addressing and formulating the "underlying convictions that establish the very priorities and principles that guide [the]... imperceptible choices moment by moment on what to assess, where to pursue, how to attune, and when to turn the conversation" (Greggo, 2016, p. 26).
Intentional Training & Development for Faith-Based Counselor Education
With faith-based programs uniquely situated for purposeful holistic contextualization of counselor's beliefs and convictions, the questions remaining are what does this training and development for effective holistic counselor development look like and how can faith-based schools continue to enhance and improve their training models to produce counselors with comprehensive counselor professional identity? Greggo (2016) developed a faith-based counselor identity model (Figure 1) that addresses three emphases for focus and development across the developmental progression of counselor convictions, case conceptualization, and counseling practice conceptualization. The counselor's convictions begin with the passions that inform the principles and priorities for counseling (Greggo, 2016). The concept of bracketing assumes these counselor convictions exist independently from the functioning, flourishing, and formation of case conceptualization and the resulting relationships between client, culture, and counseling setting in the counseling practice. However, as Greggo's (2016) model (Figure 1) illustrated, the counselor's convictions form the base and foundation for what follows, demonstrating the need for insight and development of these convictions as formational elements for understanding clients and serving them through clinical practice.
What does intentional faith-based counselor training designed to enhance insight and growth regarding counselor convictions and worldview for improved holistic professional identity development look like? Greggo's (2016) model acknowledged the key role of mentoring and modeling as the means for equipping leaders to live a Christian identity wisely in a professional capacity. This process of learning and growth requires relationship, walking alongside counselors in training for discipleship and spiritual formation. By being willing to acknowledge the values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that form the counselor's convictions, the passions that inform the principles and priorities for case conceptualization and practice, counselor education can provide a context to equip future counselors to understand and develop personal convictions to inform effective counseling without imposing those convictions onto clients (ACA, 2014; Greggo, 2016). The modeling and mentoring that occurs in graduate training provides the means for the counselor educators to use the supervisory skills of isomorphism and parallel process to intentionally foster contextual practice regarding the identification and application of the issues of convictions, spirituality, and religion with students (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). The counselor educator can apply parallel processing as an intervention through the recognition of the student's unconscious replication of the therapeutic relationship and engage his or her training style to provide teaching and learning (Morrissey & Tribe, 2001). By highlighting that this process is occurring within the teaching relationship, the counselor educator can also engage isomorphism and model methods for facilitating insight, self-reflection, and awareness for the student (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). The key to the effective application of these tools in counselor education is the relationship or working alliance of the student and instructor, determined by the qualities of the instructor and the intentionality of the interaction across the modeling, mentoring, and academic instruction (Carifio & Hess, 1987; Ladany, Ellis, & Friedlander, 1999; Pittman & Foubert, 2016).
By acknowledging that counselors have convictions as the foundation for their functioning and practice, we can then work to understand and address those convictions. This process of insight, understanding, expression, adjustment, and application occurs in therapy as well, encouraging clients along their path toward improvement, growth, and awareness of self, to be able to recognize the perspective of others (Benner, 2015). By incorporating intentional strategies within the mentoring relationship and within the coursework with opportunities for reflection of counselor convictions, faith-based counselor education enables and equips counselors to recognize the roles these convictions play in their lives and explore similar issues and convictions in the lives of their clients, effectively supporting clients according to their needs and values in religion and spirituality (Dobmeier & Reiner, 2012; Ghali, 2016; Morrison et al., 2009). The goal is not to simply mimic the worldview and beliefs of the mentor, but to use the tension of differences and struggle to grow in insight, awareness, and humility (Hook et al., 2017).
Faith-based education must model the awareness of bias and perspective inherent in worldview by assisting students in identifying the lenses by which they perceive the world at the first stages of counselor training. Worldview forms the context in which all of life is experienced, content is learned, and memories are formed (Sire, 2004). While worldview is typically taught alongside multicultural elements of counseling, the intentional acknowledgement of the influence of worldview, and the underlying values and beliefs that contribute to the convictions of this worldview (Greggo, 2016), must occur early in the counselor's training to provide improved direction for the contextualization of all the content and skill of the graduate process. Graduate students in counseling approach their training with these convictions providing the passions, principles, and priorities driving their pursuit within this field. If faith-based counselor education is to harness these convictions to increase counselor awareness as a means to avoid bias and imposition (ACA, 2014), this awareness must begin at the beginning before the formation of training is contextualized to a faulty or unacknowledged value system. Starting at the beginning and providing training in awareness and direct acknowledgment of the underlying convictions allows faith-based programs to help counselors in training to incorporate these values appropriately within the context of their professional identity development to foster the skills and competencies necessary for effective and ethical practice with those who hold similar beliefs and those who differ. Awareness of the role and influence of the convictions is necessary to prevent the blind or intentional imposition of those convictions onto others in counseling (ACA, 2014). Acknowledgment of this universal occurrence is the first step in supporting all future counselors through the process of insight, understanding, expression, adjustment, and possible application within the appropriate context of counseling.
If professional identity development is to incorporate the personal and professional values of the counselor as motivating factors for helping people, NFB graduate counseling programs that ignore the insight and expression of certain forms of values and beliefs may be leaving counselors in training fractured in their professional identity, unable to incorporate or contextualize the convictions they experience in their personal lives with their motive and practice in their professional lives. Values and attitudes that are unacknowledged or ignored still influence and distort our thinking, but now occur outside our awareness. Ethical counseling and counselor training do not just bracket the beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors of the counselor to avoid the imposition of these factors on the client. The counselor must first become aware of these beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors and acknowledge the role and influence they have on their convictions as a counselor. The convictions of counselors influence and inform the case conceptualization and counseling practice, whether acknowledged or not (Greggo, 2016). Faith-based graduate programs provide the perfect setting to assist counselors in training to identify and contextualize their convictions in appropriate ways to enhance ethical clinical engagement with intentional training for considering the spiritual and religious needs of clients and in acknowledging how these convictions inform the case conceptualization and practice conceptualization for the counselor. Hope is a belief, conviction, and value that something better is coming. Faith-based programs align with the reality of this hope and by modeling, mentoring, and training students to recognize the role of these convictions for themselves, these future counselors will be prepared to proclaim hope for the lives of their clients.
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Seth L. Scott
Columbia International University
Seth L. Scott, PhD, NCC, LPC is an associate professor of clinical mental health counseling at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. Seth also maintains a private practice in the community.
Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Seth L. Scott, Ph.D., 7435 Monticello Road, Columbia, SC 29203; email@example.com
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|Author:||Scott, Seth L.|
|Publication:||Journal of Psychology and Christianity|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2019|
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