Amidst growing literature regarding the importance of spirituality within counseling and counselor education, little is known of the experiences of doctoral students regarding their religious and spiritual backgrounds while matriculating through their doctoral program. This research explored the experiences of four researcher-participant counselor education doctoral students from diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds. This exploration deepened their understanding of the role their religious and spiritual identities played in their thoughts, emotions, challenges, and strengths of their experiences. A phenomenological autoethnography method was used for this study. A unique data analysis procedure was developed called Integrative Group Process Phenomenology (IGPP), which was used to analyze journal and music data. The overarching experience was described as a journey with four primary categories of themes identified: painful experiences, learning and awareness, velocity (i.e., themes descriptive of movement and action), and connect versus disconnect. This research brought to light the challenges that counselor education doctoral students may encounter in their training, while highlighting the strength and resilience that religion and spirituality may offer. Recommendations, limitations, and implications for the counseling profession are offered to further the development of research regarding religious and spiritual experiences.


Counseling Students, Religion, Spirituality, Autoethnography, Phenomenology, Doctoral Training

Author Bio(s)

Alyse M. Anekstein is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education at Lehman College at the City University of New York. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Alyse M. Anekstein, Department of Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education, Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park West B-20 Carman Hall, Bronx, NY 10468; Email: alyse.anekstein@lehman.cuny.edu.

Lynn Bohecker is with the Department of Counselor Education and Family Studies at Liberty University and an adjunct professor with Messiah College and Northwest Nazarene University. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: lbohecker@liberty.edu.

Tiffany Nielson is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Human Development Counseling at the University of Illinois Springfield. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: tniel3@uis.edu.

Hailey Martinez works in counselor education & supervision as an online full time core faculty member for Grand Canyon University, and runs a private counseling and equine practice in Southeastern Idaho. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Hailey.Martinez@gcu.edu.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.