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Spirituality, Students, and the School Counselor
Though there is a clear separation of church and state when it comes to religion in our public schools, it must be understood by the school counselor that our students often do carry with them a certain level of spirituality and for many strong ties to their religion. A student’s decisions, reactions to school policies and rules, and interactions with classmates, teachers, administrators, and other members of the school community are often directly impacted by the religious beliefs instilled in the student from the home environment. Some students, particularly students entering middle and high school, are often at a stage where they are exploring their religious beliefs and spirituality. This time of exploration can often cause conflict at home and impact the school environment. As a professional school counselor, we need to be prepared for spirituality and/or religion to enter the conversation during small group or individual counseling sessions. The way in which we handle this occurrence will impact the counselor-student relationship.
Denelle Wallace, Ph.D.
Norfolk State University
Skills and Techniques: Reflecting works well in instance where religion enters the conversation with students. You can convey what the student has communicated respectfully without promoting particular religious beliefs or revealing your own level of spirituality. Linking is another skill that allows the counselor acting as the group leader to relate one student’s comments or concerns related to dealing with a situation or problem based on religion or level of spirituality to the concerns expressed by another group member. The focus is on the similarities of the situations or problems instead of the religion or spirituality. However, interaction among group members is promoted without rejecting the comments and concerns of the student providing connections to his/her religion or spiritual focus.
Resources: At the secondary level, the educators of world history serve a fantastic resource in understanding many of the world religions. They are able to provide information from a strictly education and historical perspective, which is well within the guidelines of school policy.
Information Source: Corey, M.S., Corey, G. and Corey, C. (2010). Groups: Process and Practice– 8th Edition. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Virginia Counselors Association 2014 Counselor of the Year!