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Joanne Miller, Jill L. Snodgrass, Ph.D.

Counselor and Theological Identity Formation and the Ethic of Inclusion for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients

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This qualitative study used interpretative phenomenological analysis to examine how Christian counselors-in-training engaged their theological beliefs about sexual orientation in relation to the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association (ACA). The ACA Code of Ethics requires counselors to refrain from imposing their personal values on clients and to refrain from discriminating against lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) clients. The study sought to understand the interplay between theological beliefs and counselor identity formation. Participants were 12 counseling students from three Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredited programs who self-described as both Christian and concerned about counseling LGB clients. Results indicate that the participants were in various stages of acceptance regarding their ability to counsel LGB clients, yet participants believed that working with LGB clients was possible while still remaining faithful to their religious beliefs. While the issue of same-gender sexual desires and behaviors is complicated in a Christian context, when confined to the responsibilities of being a counselor with LGB clients, participants appeared able to come to a place of partial reconciliation. This process was facilitated by seeing the client as God or Jesus would and/or an increasing awareness of the counselor’s limitations and control. Implications for pastoral counseling practice, counselor education and supervision, and issues for further study are also discussed.

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