Ethical Consideration for Integrating Spirituality in Counseling
Vasti Holstun, PhD, LPC, NCC
Lynn Bohecker, PhD, LMFT
This presentation focuses on 10 belief systems and practical strategies for ethically addressing spirituality in counseling. Because spirituality can support good mental health and foster resiliency, it is important to be ethically integrated with clients of all ages. Learning information about belief systems and developmental stages of spirituality will help counselors feel more competent when addressing spirituality. Personal value conflict and practical considerations will be addressed.
Spirituality has always been an important aspect of human nature (Vieten & Scammell, 2015). Research shows that spirituality can support good mental health (Diener, Tay, & Myers, 2011). However, spirituality in counseling is a topic that many find difficult to address with their clients (Schlosser, et al., 2010). The discomfort often comes from finding that they have inadequate knowledge about the religious beliefs that clients may have, as well as being leery of trespassing ethical boundaries (Knox, et al., 2005). Addressing spirituality within ethical boundaries with clients of all ages comes with unique challenges. Children and adolescents have their own particular developmental needs (Fowler, 1995; Spero, 1992; Genia, 1995), and thus present with more intricate ethical dilemmas (Stone, 2017). While spirituality has a positive impact on client growth, many spiritual or religious beliefs can impact mental health negatively (Vienten & Scammell, 2015). Consequently, counselors need to be prepared to address spirituality, and adequately bracket their personal values and religious beliefs when working with children and adolescents. In this presentation participants will learn fundamental concepts about 10 belief systems present in the general US population and their impact on values and outlook on life. Participants will explore practical and ethical ways of addressing spirituality with clients of all ages, as well as common aspects of all beliefs. Special emphasis will be on practical strategies for bracketing, and fundamental ethical principles, such as non-maleficence, beneficence, autonomy, and justice. Counselor personal comfort levels with different beliefs will be addressed.
1. Explore 10 fundamental belief systems present in the general population
2. Learn about developmental stages of spirituality and how each stage impacts mental health
3. Analyze fundamental ethical principles when addressing spirituality