Humans are hardwired to ask the big questions and the search for the sacred is central to many of those big questions. For many, the term spirituality is a reference to the sense of interconnectedness with all life or to a universal power or presence. For others, it's a reference to religious life and practice. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, spiritual practices often improve coping skills and level of optimism and reduce anxiety. As Americans show increased interest in the role of spiritualism in their health, graduate schools have responded.

Programs With the Pastoral Counseling Emphasis

Loyola University Maryland's Ph.D. program in pastoral counseling is designed to prepare candidates to teach, supervise or research in the field of counselor education. The program synthesizes the theory and techniques of the helping professions with spiritual and theological insights. Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta offers the Doctor of Theology in pastoral counseling -- the Th.D., which is an equivalent of the Ph.D. but designed for those with a professional interest in pastoral counseling. Students learn how and when to apply both theological and theoretical concepts in pastoral counseling situations, according to the school's website.

Programs With a Christian or Bible-Based Focus

For those interested in a Bible-based or Christian emphasis, Catholic University's Doctor of Philosophy in spirituality provides preparation for either seminary or advanced research. Applicants need a master's degree in theology or religious studies and a reading knowledge of Latin, Greek and one modern European language. Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California offers a doctoral program in Christian spirituality. Again, applicants need a master's degree in a related discipline and proficiency in one modern and one ancient language. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers two professional doctoral programs: the Doctor of Ministry and the Doctor of Educational Ministry, with concentrations such as biblical spirituality, Christian worship and evangelism and church growth.

Women's Studies and Psychology-Based Programs identifies two Ph.D. programs with a unique focus on women's spirituality: the Claremont (California) Graduate University and the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Sofia University in Palo Alto, California offers the Doctor of Psychology -- Psy.D. -- in clinical psychology, with an emphasis on the spiritual in treatment. Training is accredited by the American Psychological Association and geared to those interested in working with couples or families professionally. According to the university's website, graduates are prepared to work as licensed clinical psychologists. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a Psy.D. in clinical psychology, with a concentration in psychotherapy and spirituality.

For students interested in a somewhat broader focus or in teaching religion, several California universities provide options. The California Institute of Integral Studies offers a doctoral program in ecology, spirituality and religion, according to CIIS's website. University of California Santa Barbara doctoral students can earn the Ph.D. in religion and culture, religion in America or Native American religions. The University of California Riverside offers a doctoral program in religions of the West.

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