Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Brian Hutchison, Ph.D.


McAfee-Maag, Jennifer

Nelson, M. Lee

Althof, Wolfgang


Counselors working in religious schools have a unique opportunity to help students integrate religious/spiritual (R/S) practices, teachings, or beliefs and emotion regulation (ER) strategies to control intense emotions. The primary research question guiding this study was to explore how school counselors integrate ER strategies with R/S practices, teachings, or beliefs to support adolescents in grades 7-12. Eighteen interviews, journal entries, and responses to a vignette were analyzed using grounded theory methodology. Four males and 14 females (ages 32-69) from 15 schools, (4 all female, 5 all male, and 9 co-educational) participated in this study. The findings revealed that counselors are continuously balancing and attuning the counseling process, being mindful of the impact of messages from the R/S school culture, as well as their own beliefs and experiences as they strive to maintain a nonjudgmental manner, while still providing emotional or R/S guidance to adolescents. The theory of balanced attunement hypothesizes that when there is a balance of maintaining a nonjudgmental manner, and providing emotional or spiritual guidance in the counseling process, effective integration of R/S and ER strategies occurred. This theory provides school counselors working in religious school settings with a framework with which to examine their practice and fills a gap in the school counseling literature in this area.

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