The professional counselor responds to client communications about spirituality and/or religion with acceptance and sensitivity.
This week’s ASERVIC competency, Competency Seven, focuses on the client-counselor exchange within the counseling setting. As with other topics of concern to our clients, when clients wish to discuss topics regarding religion and spirituality, counseling professionals demonstrate unconditional positive regard and empathy.
“…responds…with acceptance and sensitivity…“ASERVIC Competency Seven
As counseling professionals, we know that clients can be affected by their beliefs and experiences surrounding religion and spirituality, and must acknowledge that these items can affect their mental health and wellbeing. In the same way we talk with clients about their family systems, automatic thoughts, or coping skills, we can allow them to talk openly about their religion and spirituality.
The counseling professionals’ understanding of the importance of religion and spirituality in the lives of our clients helps shape our engagement and response. We know that the clients’ religion and spirituality can be integral to their counseling outcomes. Therefore, we must respond in kind.
Regardless of the client’s expression of religion and spirituality, the counselor must provide the respect and empathy they deserve as a human being.
Working with Clients
Our clients must feel able to talk about their religion and spirituality opening and without fear of retaliation or judgment. Often, the best way to demonstrate to a client that the counseling office is a safe place is to demonstrate this through discussion in other topics.<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When you as a counseling professional respond with sensitivity and acceptance to other important aspects of your clients' lives, the client will be more likely to share openly about their religion and spirituality. Your response in these moments is critical in empowering the client to discuss these topics within the counseling session, but also in the real world.
Your intentional choice to engage in acceptance and sensitivity, rather than judgment or fear, can help promote positive outcomes in your clients.
What Steps Have You Taken?
What opportunities have you pursued to meet ASERVIC Competency Seven?
- Can you think of a time when you’ve responded with sensitivity and acceptance when a client discussed his or her religion and spirituality?
- In what ways might you improve your responses or asses your own biases with clients who might believe differently than you?
More from VA-ASERVIC:
Want to read from the beginning? Check out ASERVIC Competencies Series: Competency One!
This week, we discuss competency 13, which addresses the specific techniques used within the counseling session. Previously, we have discussed the counselor’s limitations, attitude of acceptance, clinician’s choice of language, recognizing spiritual themes, intake, and diagnosis, but today we get to the meat of the spirituality subject – counseling techniques.
As we discussed in previous weeks, the client’s spiritual and religious beliefs can directly impact the pieces of the counseling process, such as the intake session, counseling rapport, and diagnosis. ASERVIC Competency 12 addresses how the client’s spiritual and religious beliefs should also affect the goals that the client wants to address.
This week, we focus on ASERVIC Competency 11: diagnostic planning. Throughout the past ten competencies, we’ve discussed how a client’s spirituality, religion, and ethical values can affect the counseling process, specifically in all areas, from intake to termination. One of the more controversial parts of the counseling process – diagnosis – is no different.