Research suggests that having mental health needs and identifying as Muslim act as double stressors since some Muslims mistrust mental health providers out of fear of discrimination. Since its inception in 1981, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has strived to ensure higher education institutions prepare future professional counselors with the awareness, knowledge, and skills to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse clientele. In addition, CACREP’s adoption of the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCCs) indicates an educational commitment to addressing the oppression and inequities prevalent in counseling practice. In the United States, counseling agencies are seeing a steady increase in clients who identify as Muslim and are impacted by the daily stressors of being members of a marginalized and violently targeted religious group. Furthermore, the Association for the Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC), a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA), was formed in recognition of the importance and multicultural nature of a client’s religious and spiritual (RS) beliefs and practices. However, research suggests that most of the non-Muslim American population have negative perceptions of Muslims. In addition, research indicates that behavioral health counselors hold implicit biases that can negatively impact the therapeutic alliance. Furthermore, research suggests that professional counselors struggle to understand the cultural and religious practices of their Muslim clients. Since 911, several studies have examined the behavioral health impact of Islamophobia on Muslim-Americans. However, no research exists on the connection between CACREP multicultural counseling and Islamophobia awareness.

The purpose of this qualitative case study is to explore the perspectives and experiences toward cultural competency with Muslim clients of three counseling students in a CACREP program in a public university in the Midwestern United States. The rationale for this study comes from the researcher’s desire to eliminate barriers to behavioral healthcare for Muslim Americans. In addition, this research reflects the growing awareness of how marginalization, discrimination, power, and privilege can impact client treatment outcomes.

This study employed sociocultural theory informed by a social dominance lens. Both theoretical approaches used together enabled a thorough exploration of influencing mediators strengthened or weakened by group-based social hierarchies. The use of this theoretical framework guided and framed the research questions, literature review, and subsequent data analysis. This study was guided by five research questions, 1) How has the CACREAP program prepared counseling students to work with individuals of marginalized religious and spiritual (RS) groups, 2) How do students' experiences in the counseling education program inform their perspectives of individuals who identify as Muslim, 3) What perspectives do the counseling students have with regard to individuals who identify as Muslim, 4) What has informed counseling students' perceptions of those who identify as Muslim, and 5) To what extent are CACREP counseling students aware of Islamophobia and its meaning for Muslim clients' behavioral health?

The data for this study were collected and triangulated using individual interviews, a focus group, and the document analysis of a syllabus from a multicultural counseling course. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis, which yielded five major findings. Conclusions from the findings and recommendations for future research are provided.

Date Dissertation Completed


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Education


Education Studies

Dissertation Advisor

James Schul

Dissertation Committee Members

James Schul, Mitch Moore, Nicholas Wysocki


Winona, Minnesota

Available for download on Friday, May 16, 2025