The professional counselor is able to a) modify therapeutic techniques to include a client’s spiritual and/or religious perspectives, and b) utilize spiritual and/or religious practices as techniques when appropriate and acceptable to a client’s viewpoint.

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 Thirteen

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.

Competency 13 explains that counselors should be able to use currently understood techniques to the benefit of the client’s spiritual perspective, but also that clinicians should be able to use spiritual practices that are agreeable to the client in session in a therapeutic manner.

“…modify therapeutic techniques…and utilize spiritual and/or religious practices as techniques…”

– ASERVIC Competency 13

Practically, this means that counseling professionals must be so proficient and comfortable with their practiced counseling techniques that they are able to adapt and change these techniques to honor the spirituality and religious values of the client.

Additionally, the counseling professional must be familiar enough with the spiritual practices of the client to use them in an agreeable manner within the counseling session. While these practices do not need to be utilized or initiated by the counseling professional every session, the counseling professional must be able to recognize when there is an appropriate period in session to use them.

Working with Clients

The most important aspect of competency 13 is that these techniques and spiritual practices must be used for the therapeutic value of the client. If you’ve been able to integrate and prioritize competencies one through 12, you are likely ready to begin approaching competency 13 in your own practice.

The process of modifying therapeutic techniques to honor the spiritual practices of the client will take both proficiency in your counseling techniques, but also and understanding of the individual client’s idiosyncratic spiritual views. Take time to understand both.

Maybe for you this means studying others who have used the techniques you frequent via observation videos, trainings, or reading. Additionally, it might mean going to spiritual leaders and resources in your area to better understand underlying themes in your client’s spiritual practices.

Regarding the integration of your client’s spiritual practices in the counseling session, beyond familiarity with their spiritual practices, consider looking to the client for guidance in integration. Your client is the authority on how and when they want their spiritual practices integrated in the counseling session – don’t be afraid to ask them first!

For example, prayer is a common spiritual practice that is easily integrated in the counseling session, but turn to your client for guidance on how they would like this integrated. Some clients enjoy prayer aloud during session, others at the end of session, and some might like prayer throughout the session using times of silence.

While you are responsible to have proficiency in techniques and knowledge of spiritual practices, your clients are the authority on their specific spiritual practice integration in their counseling sessions.

What Steps Have You Taken?

What opportunities have you pursued to meet ASERVIC Competency Thirteen?

  • Are you familiar with you own counseling techniques in such a way that you could adapt them to include the spiritual and religious values of your clients?
  • Can you identify spiritual practices from a variety of religions that you would know how to use within the counseling session therapeutically.

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 12

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.

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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