Samantha McGee, PsyD, is a 2022 graduate of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

Michael Sakuma, PhD, Committee Chair

Leihua Edstrom, PhD, Committee Member

Cheryl Azlin, PsyD, Committee Member


Religion, Spirituality, teaching, doctoral psychology training, diversity, qualitative

Document Type


Publication Date



Religion and spirituality, when viewed through a holistic lens, can reflect important aspects of a person’s identity. It can be a source of well-being and also struggle. The fields of religion, spirituality and psychology have had a history of being polarized, with some efforts to integrate the two fields. Tensions exist at multiple ecological levels around the topic of religion and spirituality, which can make it easier to avoid discussing it in classrooms and therapy rooms. It is important to address and create room for discussion of experiences around religion and spirituality in classrooms that are training psychologists so they can be better prepared to address it with their clients. The addressing of religion and spirituality in considering multiple levels is supported by the new ecological framework shared in the American Psychological Association (APA) multicultural guidelines. Many psychologists, students, and the APA itself, support the idea of training in religion and spirituality as a diversity factor, yet this topic is being taught inconsistently across accredited health service psychology doctoral programs. The incongruence between the support for training and lack of consistent implementation in doctoral programs revealed an opportunity to explore the topic of teaching religion and spirituality with instructors. Understanding their experiences helped to make sense of what might contribute to these inconsistencies. This study explored and analyzed the topic of religion and spirituality by understanding the experiences of instructors in secular APA accredited clinical doctoral psychology programs across the U.S. It sought to explore instructors’ relationship with religion and spirituality and how their personal and professional experiences influence their teaching practices. Data was collected from eight instructors across the U.S., using semi-structured interviews and analyzed through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The results of this study revealed three major themes about these instructors’ experiences with religion and spirituality. These experiences crossed multiple ecological levels, which impacted their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors both inside and outside of the classroom that demonstrated: [religion and spirituality as a] diverse inter-related evolving process, the [importance of] creating space in the tension, and the [importance of understanding] biases shaped by support and struggles. This information could help to create more space in clinical and classroom settings for discussion on complex topics like religion and spirituality, developing cultural humility, and also exploring its impact on treatment and healing processes.


Samantha McGee, PsyD, 2022

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-1552-4734