The professional counselor sets goals with the client that are consistent with the client’s spiritual and/or religious perspectives.

For more information on the ASERVIC Spiritual Competencies, visit the ASERVIC Website.

Visit these websites for more information on the American Counseling Association or the Virginia Counselor’s Association.

Competency Twelve

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.

“…sets goals with the client that are consistent…”

– ASERVIC Competency 12

An important thing to note is where the responsibility in setting these goals lies. ASERVIC Competency 12 suggests that the clinician is the one to initiate this topic and begins the process of goal setting. In other words, it’s not the client’s responsibility to speak up for himself or herself in the goal setting process. The clinician should advocate for the client’s worldview, even within the confines of the counseling session.

Now setting goals opposite to the client’s worldview is quite obvious. A good example would be a Christian counselor suggesting than an Atheist go to church. This counselor is clearly not honoring the spiritual values of his or her client, and is likely not acting in the appropriate counseling role.

However, setting goals that are consistent with the client’s spiritual beliefs is a tad more difficult, especially if you are rather unfamiliar with the client’s spiritual perspectives. In other words, it’s much easier to miss the target than it is the hit the bullseye.

Working with Clients

When setting goals with your clients, consider all of the background information you have gathered until this point. As a spiritually-aware clinician, you have integrated their spiritual and religious beliefs and values throughout the counseling process up until this point, and should have a general idea of the client-specific perspective you are to take during the goal setting process.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is a principle from Solution Focused Therapy – if the client does not agree with their goals, believe their goals are possible, or want to participate in actions to pursue their goals, etc., they will not attempt to accomplish their goals throughout the week after session.

If the goals that you set with your clients are not consistent with their spiritual beliefs, they won’t adhere to them, and might not even attempt them.

In other words, client progress could be dependent on your adherence to Competency 12!

At this point, if you are uncertain, ask your clients – they are the only authority on all information about their spiritual and religious beliefs. Take a student’s attitude and attempt to continue learning about your clients so that you both can set appropriate goals for their progress.

What Steps Have You Taken?

What opportunities have you pursued to meet ASERVIC Competency Twelve?

  • Are you unsure if your clients’ goals are consistent with their spiritual and religious beliefs?
  • In what ways could you improve your goal setting process with your clients to better represent their beliefs and values?

If not, check out some of these resources from the American Counseling Association or get involved with ASERVIC or VA-ASERVIC via membership and events.

More from VA-ASERVIC:

Want to read from the beginning? Check out ASERVIC Competencies Series: Competency One!

ASERVIC Competencies Series: Competency 14

This week on the VA-ASERVIC resources page, we discuss ASERVIC Competency 14 and address the importance of including theory and research in the counseling session with our clients.

ASERVIC Competencies Series: Competency 13

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.

ASERVIC Competencies Series: Competency 11

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.


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