Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Dr. Barbara Herlihy

Second Advisor

Dr. Roxane Dufrene

Third Advisor

Dr. Zarus Watson


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore counselor educators’ perceptions of working with students unwilling to set aside their personal religious beliefs while counseling clients. Purposeful sampling was used in a snowball fashion to select participants with a minimum of one year experience as a counselor educator and who are currently working in the field of counselor education.

The participants of this study reported and described perceptions of their lived experiences as counselor educators. The primary research question for my study was what are the perceptions of counselor educators as they relate to working with students who are unwilling to set aside their religious beliefs while counseling clients?

The foundation for my study was provided by a review of counselor education literature which focused on areas such as gate-keeping, values conflicts, remediation, referrals, due process, and student dismissal. In this study, the Ward v. Wilbanks et al. and Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley et al. legal cases provided the context within which the question of how counselor educators handle working with students who are unwilling to set aside their religious beliefs was explored. Semi-structured phenomenological interviews including the use of open-ended questions were used to collect data. Taped interviews were transcribed, read and analyzed for key words and descriptive terms. The data was coded into categories, categories were clustered into themes and themes were cross-analyzed to create super-ordinate themes. Super-ordinate themes were then used to address the primary and secondary research questions.

Based on the results of my study the one over-arching theme that appeared was gate-keeping. Under the realm of gate-keeping fell three super-ordinate themes: ethical issues, student interventions, and legal issues. Implications for counselor educators are presented along with recommendations for further research. Personal reflections of the researcher were presented.


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