Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education (MAE)



First Advisor

S. Marvin Rife


This study is an exploration of the perception of counselor role held by navy chaplains. The size of the Navy, its commitments as a power for peace, its concern for the individual as essential to the defense framework all impinge directly or indirectly upon the chaplain as counselor. How he views his role in the light of recent developments in psychological research and contemporary theories of psychotherapy is of utmost importance to the navy in terms of effective work with its personnel and its emphasis upon character and leadership education.

Some of the dynamic factors revelent to the chaplain’s role as counselor are examined in this study. He is viewed within the structure with which he works, the personnel with whom he serves, and is given a view of himself as he understands his function in this aspect of his naval ministry. While there are some similarities between civilian and military counseling, there are valid differences which warrant study and understanding. The strict authoritarian environment of the navy, its geographical diversity and mobility present many case loads quite different in number and scope from those encountered in civilian life.

This study of the value-structure of naval personnel reflects the present breakdown of absolute values as well as the dwindling influence of religion among today’s youth. This reveals a need for a deeper understanding and acceptance of those who are potential clients of the chaplains.

In developing this thesis, an objective-type survey questionnaire was prepared to gain insight into the feelings of the navy chaplains concerning many aspects of the counseling role. Items in the survey were concerned with understanding of counseling techniques, intensity of counseling problem areas, level of academic training, and understanding of the nature of the one-to-one relationship. After pretesting the questionnaire on graduate students engaged in counselor education at the University of Rhode Island and a group of reserve chaplains at attending a sensitivity seminar at the Chaplains School, Newport, it was sent to chaplains serving on navy and marine corps stations on the east coast. This sample represented thirty difference religious affiliations.

A high percentage of returns (85 per cent) were received from this survey. Results revealed: (a) a serious interest in the function of counseling evidenced by the high percentage of questionnaire returned; (b) the awareness of an increasing need for more in-service training both academic and clinical; (c) the higher rank and greater experience correlated directly with a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the helping relationship; (d) responses from chaplains of four religious bodies showed significant differences in practice; (e) the total response showed navy chaplains surveyed to be more “counselor-centered” that either the graduate students or reserve chaplains who served as a control group. Recommendations arising from this study are made for improvement of counselor preparation and practice in the navy chaplains corps.



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