Date of Award

Spring 2-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Kathleen Gathercoal, Ph.D.


Abstract The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the growing area of spirituality and religion in counseling. The American public values religion; and the American Psychological Association (APA) acknowledges religion/spirituality as a vital area of diversity. With APA calling for specialized training in religious diversity, it is important to consider what religious/spiritual issues arise in a community counseling setting. This study was designed to determine whether clients or therapists raise religious issues, and whether clients who self-identify as religiously affiliated spend more time discussing religious/spiritual topics in session. In addition, researchers hoped to learn about what religious content was brought into therapy, and when in the course of short-term therapy spiritual issues arise. Data were gathered from archived session tapes from a community mental health clinic, located at a university that is know in the community to have a strong religious identity. The participants (N = 15) had a mean age of 48.9 years, 60% of them were female and 93.3% self-identified as White; half of them requested faith integrated into their therapy (N = 8). Two session tapes per client were reviewed to look for religious content. Additional demographic data, Session Rating Scales, Outcome Rating Scales and a post-hoc client attitudes questionnaire were collected to provide additional information. The results showed that 80% of clients self reported a religious affiliation and 80% of clients discussed some religious/spiritual content in at least one observed session. These conversations were more frequent in early sessions and were typically initiated by the client. While there was not a statistically significant difference in the amount of time spent discussing spiritual content based on whether clients requested spiritual integration, there was a significant correlation between these factors and a large effect size. The most common content to arise included that surrounding church/faith community, religious texts, and rituals such as prayer. These findings suggest that spiritual issues are commonly brought up by clients and provide some insight into these concerns.