Ph.D. in Counselling and Spirituality

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  • General information
  • Teaching staff
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  • Program requirements
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The Faculty of Human Sciences at Saint Paul University offers graduate programs leading to a graduate diploma in Couple Counselling and Spirituality and to a master’s (MA) and doctoral (PhD) degrees in Counselling and Spirituality, all of which are conferred jointly by the Senates of Saint Paul University and the University of Ottawa under the terms of the federation agreement between them.

The goal of this program is to educate counsellors who are also researchers capable of independent and collaborative research. As researchers, they will be able to contribute to the knowledge base that informs counselling and spirituality.

Academic regulations.

Admission scholarships.

Applications to the PhD program are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • A master’s degree in Counselling or in a related discipline such as practical theology, health care, psychology, social work, pastoral studies or a discipline judged equivalent to these, with a minimum overall average of 75% (B+);
  • Completion of at least one course in each of the following: research methods, professional ethics, psychopathology and treatment, theory of counselling, spirituality and religion;
  • Completion of at least three undergraduate courses in the area of spirituality and religion and one graduate course such as IPA5134, or IPA5144. Depending on the candidate’s background the Admissions Committee may require additional courses prior to admission such as IPA6120, IPA6108, IPA5106, and IPA5131;
  • A good academic performance and research potential as shown by official transcripts, major research paper, master’s thesis, research reports, publications in peer-reviewed journals, abstracts, presentations, etc. The admission dossier must include a written description in the form of a basic outline of the proposed research project;
  • At least 120 hours of supervised direct, face-to-face, contact with clients;
  • Successful completion of an admission interview with the Admissions Committee - the factors evaluated at this interview will include the relevance of the candidate’s proposed research topic, the candidate’s previous experience, the capacity of the candidate to succeed in doctoral-level studies, personal aptitude and interpersonal skills, and the availability of appropriate core faculty to direct their research;
  • Three confidential letters of recommendation, including at least one addressing clinical skills and one addressing academic strengths from a professor who has known the applicant and is familiar with the candidate’s work;
  • A statement of purpose indicating the interests, career goals, research focus, and other factors relevant to the proposed research area;
  • Identification of two potential thesis supervisors, ranked in order of preference.

Language requirement

All applicants must be able to understand, speak and write proficiently in either English or French and must have a passive knowledge (ability to read and understand university level texts) of the other language. Applicants whose first language is neither English nor French must provide proof of proficiency in one or the other.

Transfer from Master’s to PhD Program

Students in a master’s program who have achieved an 80% (A-) average in their last two years of undergraduate studies may be allowed to transfer to the PhD program without being required to write a master’s thesis provided they meet the following conditions:

  • Completion of 5 graduate courses (15 units) with a grade of A- or better in each;
  • Satisfactory progress in the research program;
  • Written recommendation from the supervisor and the thesis advisory committee;
  • Approval by the graduate studies committee.

The transfer must take place within sixteen months of initial registration in the master’s. Following transfer, all the requirements of the doctoral program must be met.

Some additional documents, and in some cases specific forms, are required. For more information, please see the page Step 4: Gather the documents needed for the assessment of your application.

Compulsory Courses (12 units)

IPA8101 Spirituality and Counselling (3u)
IPA8104 Existential Issues in Counselling (3u)
IPA8105 Research Methods and Design Problems in Counselling and Spirituality (3u)
IPA8106 Doctoral Seminar (3u)

Professional Practice (6 units)

  • IPA8201 Internal Clinical Practicum (3u)
  • IPA8202 External Clinical Practicum (3u)

    * Completion of a minimum of 700 supervised direct clinical contact hours, with at least 200 hours at Saint Paul University Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre (IPA8201).

Comprehensive Examination and Thesis

IPA9998 Comprehensive examination / Examen de synthèse
IPA9999 Doctoral Thesis / Thèse de doctorat – the thesis can be either a monograph or a series of articles prepared for publication in scholarly journals.

The Thesis Committee is formed during the first term of registration in the program. It is composed of the thesis supervisor and two additional faculty members. At least two members of the Committee must be from the Faculty of Human Sciences.

The proposal must be approved by the Thesis Advisory Committee and Research Ethics Board must give its approval before data collection can commence.

IPA 8101 - Spirituality and Counselling

Study of qualitative and hermeneutical methods as these are used in the social sciences and in theological study of spirituality. Comparative study of one or more Christian spiritual traditions and one or more spiritual traditions within other religions and secular culture to increase understanding and practice of spirituality. The course is designed to highlight the role of spirituality in the emotional well-being and adjustment of individuals. This course will treat the question of personal and spiritual growth. The importance of spiritual practices and the overall relationship of spirituality to the counselling process will also be considered.

IPA 8104 - Existential Issues in Counselling

This course explores meaning-of-life issues often presented by clients in a variety of contexts, including, but not limited to, the quest for increased well-being, existential crises, life transitions, loss and death, end-of-life, and trauma. Qualitative methods of data collection and analysis are critically reviewed to gain insight into the meaning participants give to their lived experience, the meaning they place on events, processes, perceptions and into the ways in which they connect these meanings to the social world around them. A variety of religious, spiritual and secular humanist sources of and responses to existential issues are treated.

IPA 8105 - Research Methods and Design Problems in Counselling and Spirituality

The focus of this course is the critical analysis and discussion of the challenges that counsellors face in choosing and applying qualitative and quantitative methods to spirituality. In-depth study of design pitfalls that arise from the complexity and unpredictability of working with human subjects given the multi-cultural complexity of pluralistic societies. Potential topics include sampling issues, measurement issues, and special analytic techniques.

IPA 8106 - Doctoral Seminar

Guest lecturers will select readings and lead seminars related to relevant research topics such as proposal writing, conceptual frameworks, ethics, methods and procedures, and statistical analysis. Students must write an annotated bibliography and prepare a plan for their comprehensive exam. In addition, they must write a paper and do an oral presentation designed to facilitate their work around the thesis proposal. Evaluation by the seminar coordinator.

IPA 8201 - Internal Clinical Practicum

The internal clinical practicum takes place in the Saint Paul University Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre. The goal of the practicum is to put into practice the theoretical knowledge of Counselling and spirituality. The professor coordinating the doctoral program will specify the goals, objectives and syllabus of practicum along with the clinical supervisors. Minimum number of supervised direct clinical contact hours: 200. Graded P/F.

IPA 8202 - External Clinical Practicum

Clinical practice in an external location that must be approved by the program director. Graded P/F.

IPA 9998 - Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination, which has a written and an oral component, allows students to demonstrate the depth and breadth of knowledge gained from course work, and their ability to integrate concepts, principles and theories, and apply these to Counselling and spirituality. In addition, the comprehensive exam provides students with the opportunity to defend their written work orally. The evaluation of the written and oral exam is on a Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory basis.

IPA 9999 - Doctoral Thesis

Contact Us

Office of the Associate Vice-Rector, Strategic Enrolment Management
Room 148
Saint Paul University
223 Main Street
Ottawa, ON
K1S 1C4

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Telephone: 613-236-1393
Fax: 613-782-3014

Hours of Operation

Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Please leave your documents in the mailbox in front of room 148 when our offices are closed.

Information for future students

Saint Paul University

223 Main Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1S 1C4


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