10 Jan
  • By L.O.V.E. Foundation

Importance of Religion and Spirituality to Minority Adolescents

Individual Considerations: Religion and Spirituality

Spirituality and religion are important individual multicultural factors to consider when delivering optimal human services to minority adolescents. “Among American adolescents, 95% state that they believe in God, over 85% say religion is important in their life, and close to 50% claim that they frequently pray alone” (Yeh, Borrero, & Shea, 2011, p. 186). Yeh, Borrero, & Shea (2011) studied the life of a Samoan high school student to understand the importance of spirituality and religion in the lives of minority adolescents as well as examining past studies on the effects of spirituality on the lives of minority adolescents. The research indicated the importance of religious and spiritual beliefs for minority adolescents. With minority youth, spirituality is a key component because it is a factor that influences all aspect of minority adolescents’ lives. Urban schools, urban non-profit organizations, and human services being delivered in urban settings may consider spiritual beliefs and spiritual practices when serving ethnic minorities because for this population spirituality is a key component of their well-being. Ethnic minorities were prone to having some sort of spiritual practice; rather than viewing spirituality as a separate component of life independent of the physical, mental, and emotional, spiritual practice was seen as an interconnected part of the whole for their lives. Ethnic minorities viewed spiritual practice as a healing modality of life (Yeh et al., 2011).

When ethnic minorities are involved in religion or applying a spiritual practice in their lives, the outcomes may be far reaching and positive. As a result of spiritual practice, adolescents have a greater capacity for external control, emotional coping mechanisms, and may view life through different perspectives. The personification of spirituality had psychologically and physically positive effects on ethnic minorities, which led to lower symptoms of depression and stress for adolescents. Adolescents’ socioemotional competence and adjustment were positively affected. Spirituality had positive effects on self-esteem and psychological functioning (Yeh et al., 2011).

Close up of hands holding beads

With individual American counseling, counselors may not be prepared to address counseling from a spiritual standpoint as the counselor may see spirituality as separate from other elements of counseling. The human services provider may consider incorporating spirituality as part of the counseling process for ethnic minorities in order to fully embrace the multicultural considerations of this population. The research of Yeh et al. (2011) indicated that American counselors may embrace spiritual practice as a healing modality for disenfranchised ethnic minorities in urban settings. Human services providers may find it useful to incorporate conversation regarding spirituality and its impact on identity formation and scholastic well-being with ethnic minorities within the counseling setting. The research indicated spirituality as a positive component for delivering effective human services to disenfranchised adolescents (Yeh et al., 2011).

Further, religion and spirituality may play a significant role in positive mental health outcomes for ethnic minority and disenfranchised adolescents. Huculak and McLennan (2010) conducted research with three hundred twenty-five high-risk Brazilian adolescents, specifically incarcerated youth in Sao Paulo. The research concluded that spirituality and institutionalized religion had a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of these Brazilian adolescents. Spirituality and religion assisted in safe guarding the adolescents from the negative outcomes of exposure to daily stressors and violence. Huculak and McLennan’s (2010) research identified religion and spirituality as pertinent components for offering effective human services to disenfranchised adolescents, specifically those that are currently incarcerated or formerly incarcerated (Huculak & McLennan, 2010).

According to Huculak & McLennan’s (2010) research, most of the incarcerated Brazilian youth believed in God or spirituality. These adolescents experienced “strength, peace, harmony, protection, and closeness to God associated with their spirituality or religion” (Huculak & McLennan, 2010, p. 473). The experience of God’s spiritual qualities by the incarcerated youth may serve to protect and safeguard the disenfranchised adolescent’s mental health from stressful events and traumatic experiences. Spirituality may impact the mental health of adolescents positively because of its innate power for self-transcendence, which empowers the self to believe in something greater than self and place its attention on something sacred beyond the confines and limitations of the ego (Huculak & McLennan, 2010).

Two arms reaching together with sun.


Huculak, S., & McLennan, J. D. (2010). “The Lord is my Shepherd”: Examining spirituality as a protection against mental health problems in youth exposed to violence in Brazil.  Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 13(5), 467-484.doi:10.1080/13674670903406096

Yeh, C. J., Borrero, N. E., & Shea, M. (2011). Spirituality as a cultural asset for culturally diverse youth in urban schools. Counseling & Values, 55(2), 185- 198. Retrieved from