University of Missouri - Saint Louis

The Graduate School


An oral examination in defense of the dissertation for the degree

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Daniel Blash
M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling, May, 1998, Lincoln University – Jefferson City.
B.A. in Psychology, May, 1995,University of Missouri-Rolla.

Faith in counseling: A Qualitative Examination of the Experiences of African American College Students With the Integration of Religion and Spirituality into Counseling



This qualitative study explored the integration of religion and spirituality in counseling among African American college students. The intention was to explore the counseling experience of highly religious and highly spiritual African American college students concerning the issue of integrating their faith into counseling. Specifically, attention was given to the circumstances that either facilitated or discouraged the students’ willingness to include their faith system in counseling.

Thematic analysis was used with in-depth semi-structured interview transcripts to determine the expectations and in-office counseling experiences of African American college students and assist others in delineating ethical, professional, and culturally sensitive counseling practice in related education and training contexts.

Religion and spirituality played a key role in the lives of the study participants. Participants included the use of religion and spirituality in resolving academic, vocational and personal challenges. The participants overwhelmingly preferred to have religion and spirituality integrated into their counseling sessions. The students’ religious and spiritual belief system was not a luxury; it was a necessity to survive the pressure of life. Students felt most comfortable when their counselor was open minded and sensitive to their religious and spiritual beliefs. It was very important that the counselor not judge or marginalize the students’ religious or spiritual practices, or make negative remarks about the students’ religious affiliation.

Results of this study potentially can be used to guide on-campus services for African American college students. This study suggested that future research might examine the challenges faced by counselors who must attempt to integrate their clients’ faith without violating their profession’s ethical guidelines. Additionally, this study suggests more research is needed to clarify the relationship between help seeking behaviors among African American college students and the integration of religion and spirituality.


Date: November 1, 2010

Time: 1:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Place: 201 Education Administration Building


Defense of Dissertation Committee


Therese Cristiani, Ph.D. (Advisor)

Joseph Polman, Ph.D.
  Susan Kashubeck-West, Ph.D. Charles Schmitz, Ph.D.