Altruism–Self-Interest Archetypes: A Paradigmatic Narrative of Counseling Professionals

Stephen V. Flynn, Linda L. Black

The quality of the therapeutic relationship and the personal characteristics of professional counselors are key determinants of positive counseling outcomes and decision making, and they are believed to be influenced by conscious and unconscious processes. Beliefs about the unconscious nature of altruism and self-interest among 25 mental health professionals were examined through a paradigmatic narrative analysis. Data from 19 semi-structured individual interviews, one focus group, 19 artifacts and participant member checks were subjected to a secondary qualitative analysis. The results of the analysis generated three salient archetypes representative of the altruism–self-interest dynamic: exocentric altruist, endocentric altruist, and psychological egoist.

Keywords: professional counselors, altruism, self-interest, archetype, qualitative, paradigmatic narrative analysis

The constructs altruism and self-interest have long been described in dichotomous terms and as the sole motivators of human behavior (Holmes, Miller, & Lerner, 2002; Simpson, Irwin, & Lawrence, 2006). In 1851, Comte defined the term altruism as “self-sacrifice for the benefit of others” (1875/2001, p. 565). More than a century later, Sober (1993) defined self-interest as “the sole fixation on gaining pleasure and avoiding pain.” Because these two constructs typically have been associated with individuals’ actions and viewed through a polarized lens, there is a dearth of research examining the unified and unconscious nature of both altruism and self-interest (Bishop, 2000). The heretofore dichotomous and superficial understanding of these constructs has enabled individuals to maintain an inaccurate view of altruistic and self-interest oriented behaviors (Flynn & Black, 2011; Holmes, Miller, & Lerner, 2002), resulting in a value-based perspective that perpetuates under-informed over-generalizations of the phenomenon (e.g., people who give to others are “good” and those who take for themselves are “bad”).

Professional literature presents mixed messages regarding altruism and self-interest. To date, the concept of self-interest has seldom been explicitly examined within the counseling profession. Current literature largely describes professional counselors’ self-interest in terms of personal wellness, self-advocacy, positive beliefs, self-care and the development of self-regulatory systems (Hendricks, 2008; Hermon & Hazler, 1999; Myers & Sweeney, 2008; Myers, Sweeney, & White, 2002; Osborn, 2004). A smaller body of literature encourages professional counselors to maintain effective professional boundaries and to seek compensation commensurate with their level of training (Bernard, 2006; Myers et al., 2002). The literature on wellness, boundaries and monetary compensation sometimes conflicts with professional counseling’s altruistic foundation and has garnered less attention than professional literature that focuses almost exclusively on meeting the needs of clients. Although recent efforts have been made to address counselor impairment and burnout (e.g., Ohrt & Cunningham, 2012; Parker & Henfield, 2012), very little attention has centered on understanding counselor self-interest. For example, professional counselors are called to advocate for the underserved, to provide a percentage of their services pro bono, and to secure referrals for clients unable to pay the professional counselor’s rate (American Counseling Association, 2005; Osborn, West, Bubenzer, Duba, & Olson, 2003). Professional counseling is a service-oriented profession, yet the almost exclusive focus on altruistic acts (e.g., giving of oneself) without a concomitant discussion of professional counselor self-interest potentially creates a culture of professional self-sacrifice and martyrdom that places counselors at risk for burnout and clients at risk for negative outcomes.


Although the negative consequences of an exclusive focus on altruism in professional counseling are evident, there has been limited scholarly dialogue on the unconscious nature of altruism and self-interest. Classic literature postulates that acts of altruism are disguised expressions of greed, with self-interest seen as a form of greed that may be exhibited as acts of displacement or sublimation (Freud, 1974). Contemporary literature encourages professional counselors to recognize how their own unconscious material may be projected onto their clientele and thereby affect the therapeutic relationship (Hackney & Cormier, 2009). We, the authors, assert that professional counselors and their clients may benefit from a more transparent discussion and consideration of counselors’ altruism and self-interest. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the unconscious nature of the construct altruism–self-interest through a secondary supplemental analysis (Heaton, 2008), following the tenets of paradigmatic narrative analysis. Flynn’s (2009) existing data set was utilized to explore the emergence of unconscious phenomena within the various participants’ narratives. This analysis revealed three archetypal representations of the altruism–self-interest phenomenon expressed within the lived experiences of professional counselors. A brief review of archetypes is provided to set the context for the reader.




Carl Gustav Jung’s (1875–1961) heuristic insights into the collective unconscious and primordial archetypal images have implications for altruism–self-interest and the present research. According to Jung (1969), the collective unconscious could encompass certain inherited aspects of mental life. Jung viewed two aspects of the collective unconscious as essential: the non-dichotomous interconnectedness of mind and body and the principle of natural selection through which various patterns evolved over time (i.e., archetypes).


Jung (1969) defined archetype as “an unconscious representation from the collective unconscious.” Archetypes can be recognized only through situations in which they occur, thus making their existence ambiguous and non-dichotomous. Jung also recognized the confounding nature of this construct, as evidenced in this quotation from 1953: “I admit at once that [the concept of archetypes] is a controversial idea and more than a little perplexing” (p. 15). He asserted that the process of exploring archetypes was parallel to the examination of humankind’s inherited motifs regarding thoughts, feelings, dreams and religion. In other words, an archetype was and is a human universal that continues to emerge throughout history.


Jung (1969) described countless archetypes that he believed humans were compelled to act upon throughout their lives. In addition, he relied on interpreting symbols and dreams to access a client’s archetypes. Some of the most commonly referenced archetypes include the trickster, the lover, the divine child, the shadow, the magical animal, the nurturing mother, the witch, the law-giving father, the devil, mandalas, trinities, judgment, heaven, hell and atonement. Mother and father serve as basic archetypes that have governed humankind from the beginning of time and history (Jung, 1986). The mother archetype (also referred to as goddess and great mother) symbolically represents ruler of Earth, bearer of fertility, giver of life, exhibitor of tolerance and acceptance of strangers, nurturer of family, and dispenser of compassion or mercy in human relations. The father archetype (also referred to as son of the great mother and wise old man) symbolizes the bringer of discipline and order, and represents honor, glory, fame, social hierarchy, secret knowledge, and wisdom.


Jung never specifically addressed altruism and self-interest in relation to archetypes, yet the descriptive elements of the mother and father archetypes seem to be reflected in the altruism–self-interest concept described by Flynn and Black (2011). We, the authors, acknowledge the risk of reinforcing gender-role stereotypes (i.e., mothers as self-sacrificing nurturers [altruism] and males as self-focused loners [self-interest]), yet we believe these images persist because archetypes represent collectively inherited unconscious ideas, patterns of thought, and images universally present in individual psyches.


Recent research has provided an initial exploration of the depth and breadth of the constructs of altruism and self-interest in the daily lives of professional counselors (Flynn & Black, 2011). The results of Flynn & Black’s qualitative study provided initial evidence that altruism and self-interest could more accurately be viewed as a unified, self-sustaining construct entitled altruism–self-interest. Additionally, Flynn and Black found initial evidence consistent with unconscious aspects of the initiation, process, and sustainability of altruism–self-interest. They postulated that the altruism–self-interest construct promoted an unconscious view of oneself (archetype) as helpful to others (altruism) while simultaneously experiencing or seeking positive or beneficial feelings for oneself (self-interest). The existence and relevance of these archetypes, although noted in the original study, were not subjected to analysis, as they were beyond the scope of the original guiding research questions.




The authors hypothesized that the altruism–self-interest phenomenon described in Flynn’s (2009) original study potentially represented archetypal images for the participants. A secondary analysis of the original data was conducted through a paradigmatic narrative lens. In the paragraphs that follow, the authors briefly describe secondary supplemental analysis and paradigmatic narrative inquiry. For a more detailed depiction of each aspect, please see Heaton (2004) and Bruner (1985), respectively.


Secondary Supplemental Analysis

Beginning in the mid-1980s, secondary analysis of qualitative data has been conducted in the social sciences. Numerous authors (Corti, Witzel, & Bishop, 2005; Gladstone & Volpe, 2008; Hakim, 1982; Hays & Singh, 2012; Heaton, 2004; 2008) have documented sound rationale, procedures and protocols for the use of secondary analysis. For the purposes of the present study, the authors carefully considered the questions posed by Van den Berg (2005) and assessed and confirmed (a) our ethical responsibilities to the original participants, (b) our access to rich and abundant amounts of contextualized data (e.g., complete interview transcripts, focus group transcripts, artifacts, field notes, journals, and audit trails), and (c) the relevance, utility, and feasibility of the study. The authors opted to engage in a supplementary secondary analysis, as defined by Heaton (2008), in which we sought “a more in-depth analysis of an emergent issue or aspect of the data that was not addressed or was only partially addressed in the primary study” (p. 39).


Paradigmatic narrative analysis is a qualitative method that identifies instances of information and groups them into general concepts that share a common attribute (e.g., archetype) (Polkinghorne, 1995). Paradigmatic reasoning, which is similar to inductive reasoning, constitutes people’s experiences as consistent and ordered, producing cognitive networks of concepts that permit people to create experiences by putting emphasis on the repeating elements (Bruner, 1985; Lai, 2010). Our rationale for conducting this investigation centered on four points: (a) participants’ narratives collected in the original study were so dense and rich that they could not adequately be represented in one published work, so it was imperative that the participants’ voices be heard and honored with respect to this personal and value-ridden topic; (b) because participants provided recursive messages throughout the original interviews, the use of a paradigmatic structure allowed us to construct participants’ experiences in an organized manner; (c) the use of narrative inquiry allowed for the unconscious nature of altruism–self-interest to be reported in a comprehensible literary structure; and (d) the present study could potentially yield insights into latent categorical concepts.


Original Research Study

Flynn’s (2009) study provided a grounded theory that described the promotion, initiation, and maintenance of altruism–self-interest for professional counselors. The term professional counselor, as it is used here, describes individuals who engage in an active clinical practice and possess (or are seeking) at least a master’s degree in counseling or psychology. Participants in Flynn’s (2009) study were asked how they defined and experienced altruism; how they defined and experienced self-interest; and what, if any, synergy, tension, or conflict they experienced relative to these two constructs in their practice and the profession. Six data sources were utilized to address these questions: a measure of altruism, individual interviews, a focus group, participant artifacts, member-checking, and a topical analysis of subject matter published during the last decade in several major professional counseling journals.


Participants. Participants held or were seeking a graduate degree (master’s or doctorate) in counseling, psychology, or counselor education, and they were providing counseling services or were a recognized but retired scholar in counselor education. A total of 25 individuals participated without compensation.


The sample comprised 10 women (40%) and 15 men (60%) who ranged in age from 25 to 79 years (M = 49.76). The self-reported ethnicities of participants were Caucasian (80%), Hispanic (4%), Asian (4%), Native American (4%), Arabian (4%), and Jewish (4%). The professional identity of the sample of 25 participants included (a) seven professional counselors (28%), (b) 14 counselor educators (84%), (c) three marriage and family therapists (12%), (d) and one psychologist (4%) (Flynn & Black, 2011).


Narrative Analysis of Original Data

According to Weglowska-Rzepa, Kowal, Park, and Lee (2008), archetypes can be discovered when an individual processes certain information and stimuli. The authors utilized a combination of qualitative data sources to further distill participants’ experiences. By employing multiple qualitative data sources, the authors triangulated data to create a confluence of evidence that was designed to increase credibility (Denzin, 1970; Eisner, 1991) and to explore the latent experiences of the participants. Through paradigmatic narrative inquiry, the participants’ experiences were analyzed to uncover the unconscious nature of altruism–self-interest. Initially, a paradigmatic cross-analysis of the participants’ narratives and artifacts was conducted. The authors examined 19 individual interviews and the conversation of seven focus group members (25 total participants; one member participated in an interview and the focus group), which resulted in an initial group of emergent narratives/statements that were later grouped into 23 categories. A second level of analysis examined all non-dichotomous narratives and resulted in 12 categories. Next, an independent examination of the 37 artifacts was conducted to examine their relevance in light of the emerging narrative. This combined cross-analysis revealed three emergent archetypes involving altruism–self-interest: the exocentric altruist, the endocentric altruist, and the psychological egoist. The credibility and confirmation of the secondary supplemental analysis were explored through a participant member check. Specifically, the first author submitted the original transcript, descriptions of the three emergent archetypes, and samples of relevant quotations to each of the 19 individual interview participants for member-checking. Fourteen of the 19 individual interview participants confirmed the accuracy and relevance of archetypes, specific quotations, and the associated archetype.


To control for bias and group think, the results of the secondary and paradigmatic analyses were submitted to two independent auditors, unrelated to either original or secondary analysis. Each auditor, experienced in qualitative methodology, reviewed the interview transcript, initial codes, codes related to the emergent categories, and description of the archetypes with related quotations. The auditors confirmed the initial findings and sought clarification related to the description of three emergent archetypes. Subsequent to the completion of external auditing, the literature related to the intersections of altruism and self-interest was examined to determine whether the emergent categories had previously been described. The general descriptions did in fact exist (Bond, 1996; Karylowski, 1982); however, there was a dearth of research relating these categories to the unconscious.


The authors returned to Carl Jung’s (1969) theory that unconscious structures underlie human behavior and experiences, and can be represented by various archetypes. Jung described these archetypes as universal psychic structures and postulated that they were the representations of innate unconscious experience. Salient to Jung’s theory of archetypes are their fluidness throughout an individual’s life. For example, a person may demonstrate the shadow archetype one moment, and later the same person may demonstrate the trickster archetype. The authors noticed a similar fluidness in the participants’ demonstration and reporting of the three archetypes. Specifically, during a particular dialogue or interview, participants would demonstrate a particular archetype and then demonstrate another archetype within the same dialogue or interview.





Three categories of unconscious archetypes emerged from the paradigmatic analysis: exocentric altruist, endocentric altruist, and psychological egoist. The archetypes describe the unconscious nature of the emergent theory of altruism–self-interest. These categories were revised until they provided the best possible fit with a categorical scheme for the data set seeking to locate common categorization among the stories participants presented (Polkinghorne, 1995; Sexton, 2007). The process of data analysis yielded descriptions of each archetype.


According to Jung (1968), “A word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider ‘unconscious’ aspect…” (p. 4). The data demonstrate the introspection and dynamic conversation participants shared in relation to the constructs of altruism and self-interest. To preserve confidentiality, all participants’ quotations used in support of each archetype are represented by an unassociated letter. Additionally, quotations were organized around the various data collection methods to aid in a structured presentation.


Exocentric Altruist Archetype

The exocentric altruist archetype describes an individual who receives internal gratification from the act of giving, yet does not deliberately take part in charitable acts with the intention of receiving internal gratification. Participants who demonstrated the exocentric altruist archetype reported the desire to assist others personally or financially because of a personal belief in giving, with no preconceived expectation for self, for recognition or for personal gain.


     Individual interviews. Fifteen of 19 participants related stories of professionally oriented tasks that were completed for the good of humanity. Participant J reported on her personal and professional ethics regarding clients who could not continue paying for professional services:

I’ve had clients who have had insurance and then their benefits run out, so I’ve kept them as clients until we can figure out another…financial arrangement or I can make referrals to them to community resources.

Within this quotation, participant J demonstrated the exocentric altruist archetype by continuing to provide services for clients who could not pay. Exocentric altruists put the needs of others before self to achieve a higher moral principle consistent with their values. The content of this quotation represents the participant’s motivation to care for clients despite the client’s inability to immediately reciprocate in an equitable fashion (pay for services rendered); thus, this participant is willing to delay or even forgo equity in the professional relationship.


Ten of the 19 participants provided narratives involving natural disasters in which they volunteered to help those who had suffered. Participant B explained his process in responding to Hurricane Katrina:

And I think that was the case with Katrina. I think there it was just, you know, just ’cause you saw the sheer devastation. I don’t think it was a matter of self-interest, but to help keep you engaged. I think it was the altruism and knowing that…it was just…where I should be at the moment.

The content of this quotation demonstrates that participant B may have engaged in exocentric altruism because of a personal calling to aid victims of indescribable suffering and devastation associated with a natural disaster. The exocentric altruist describes feeling internally compelled to assist others while simultaneously limiting his or her focus on self.


     Focus group. All members of the focus group described incidents when they chose to give altruistically to the profession at a cost to their personal or professional life. Within the focus group setting, participants demonstrated a profound openness when discussing their altruistic acts and achievements. A counselor educator described exocentric altruism in his daily interactions with students. Participant B stated:

I’m thinking as a professor working with students. I do it because I care about them and I want to do it and if somebody’s overwhelmed and has some personal stuff going on and they’re taking three classes, and it’s just too much for them and they talk to me after class I could just say, ‘well you know I gotta get going. Shoot me an email.’ But I almost always say, ‘well let’s go up to my office and talk a little bit’ and then they vent, and we talk. Then I call my wife and say I’m late. Because, I had a student who had some difficulties and we tried to iron it out…

Exocentric altruists aid others because it appears to be something they must do. There does not seem to be any evaluation of mutuality or equity on the part of the participants.


Endocentric Altruist Archetype

The essence of the endocentric altruist archetype is centered on helping a person in need while concurrently feeling good about the self. Participants who demonstrated the endocentric altruist archetype reported a desire to assist others, with a preconceived or reported concern for self and some expectation of mutual benefit from the behavior.


     Individual interviews. Seventeen of the 19 participants noted the mutual reinforcement that both the giver and receiver of an altruistic act received. Participant K extended the mutual benefit of an altruistic act a step further when he acknowledged the benefit a witness received from an altruistic act:

People who perform an altruistic act[s] get…big benefits, persons receiving get a benefit …with a little less, and people watching the altruistic act benefit, so I think it’s good for us…and it’s very good for others.

Within this quotation, participant K described the endocentric altruist perceptions of the benefits of giving. Whether a person is attempting to give or is on the receiving end of an altruistic act, that person is attending to self-interest. The participant closes his statement by acknowledging that the benefits extend beyond the one-to-one interaction to encompass observers.


Eight participants focused on how the monetary compensation for services rendered encouraged excellence in client care. Participant L described how being paid well helps support the counselor’s personal happiness and promotes excellence in client care:

I think to value ourselves…treat ourselves well is also to treat it [counseling] as a business. I mean if you look at my three, the three core [business collaborators]…; we really treat it as a business…; we really make a good living and we really help a lot of people. And we really do a lot of good in the world. And I like that model.

Participant J demonstrated the endocentric altruist archetype by acknowledging the reciprocity of treating oneself well while effectively treating one’s clientele. In the words commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Participant J was “doing well by doing good.”


     Focus group. Six focus group participants described incidents representing the interplay of altruism and self-interest within human behavior. During the focus group in the original study, participants were asked to consider altruism and self-interest in the accomplishments of Mother Teresa. Participants identified Mother Teresa’s behavior as a blend of altruism and self-interest. The following discussion exemplifies participants’ perceptions of endocentric altruism in the spiritual leadership of Mother Teresa:

Participant C: When you said that [altruism does not exist], Mother Teresa popped into my mind. I mean did she give, get, give, get, give, get? [indicating a transactional approach]

Participant E (in response): I think she got tons. That may not have been her explicit reason for her, but I don’t think she would have continued if she wasn’t getting something…

Participant G: For me that question was a really good one. ’Cause when you think of the opposite to not do something, the contrast if you can’t live with that code right, then it just seems like it would be a natural part of your value system. Mother Teresa’s value system was…How could she not do what she did? Or accomplish all the things she chose and hoped to accomplish.

As evident within the above discussion, the endocentric altruist aids others and understands mutual interests of the giver (Mother Teresa) and receiver (those she touched).


Psychological Egoist Archetype

The psychological egoist archetype describes individuals who give solely to fulfill their own self-interest. Participants who demonstrated the psychological egoist archetype reported giving with the aim of meeting personal needs, wants or desires.


     Individual interviews. Ten of the 19 participants portrayed all human behavior as rooted in self-interest. Descriptions of this core self-interest perception included the words self-interest, greed, capitalist, and opportunist. Participant K noted humanity’s core self-interest value:

…you have needs and wants, and there are rewards and punishments. Let’s not fool ourselves. Human beings at our basis are…opportunists. We’re going to look for the best opportunity to fulfill what we think is fulfilling…and even when we have an ideal, our self-interest will kick in all the time, whether we think it’s there or not.

Within this quotation, participant K demonstrates the psychological egoist archetype by describing self-interest as the sole motivation of all human behavior. Participant K described altruism as an ideal and self-interest as inextricably intertwined with altruistic behavior.


Six of the 19 participants provided detailed information on their experiences of witnessing fellow professional counselors who exhibited psychological egoism in negative and inappropriate ways. Participant I provided the following narrative:

Oh…and, who’s that guy? [mental health professional who wrote a ‘pop’ psychology book for couples] Uh…they are just to me like used car salesmen. They just found a niche to describe themselves, you know, they’re just good at publishing and…I went to his workshop in Oregon as a therapy counselor when I was on internship and, um, he was introduced as the Moses of family therapy (laughter).

Within this quotation, participant I demonstrated the psychological egoist archetype through her belief in the overriding self-interest of a counselor who authored “pop” psychology books. Participant I went so far as to describe this author as “grandiose in his self-promotion.”


     Focus group. Four of the seven focus group participants described incidents in which the sole motivation of human behavior was self-interest. The following excerpt is a dialogue among several members of the focus group. The focus group members dismiss the existence of altruism and cite self-interest as the sole motivation of human behavior. This discussion exemplifies participants’ perceptions of psychological egoism as the motivation to help clients within the counseling relationship:

Participant A: I’ve been thinking this from the very beginning…is there such a thing as charity? I’ve             been thinking about it for the past hour. For me, that’s what this one comes down to because are we not taking care of ourselves through taking care of others. Because we would feel like shit about ourselves if we didn’t and I hate to be cynical, because there is something to be said for [the fact that] I do feel good if I do help this person…

Participant F: So, does true altruism actually exist?

Participant C: I actually don’t think it does.

The psychological egoist gives to others mainly for self-benefit. Participants did not report much, if any, recognition of mutuality, but they did describe humanitarian actions motivated by self-interest.


Artifact Analysis

All 19 individual interview participants were asked to provide two artifacts: one that represented their professional (versus personal) altruism, and a second that represented their professional self-interest. Eighteen of the 19 participants provided photographs of artifacts that represented their altruism and self-interest (Flynn & Black, 2011).


The aforementioned artifacts were reanalyzed and reconsidered in conjunction with the participant descriptions and the emerging descriptions of the three archetypes. Every participant’s altruistic artifact description demonstrated both endocentric and exocentric altruist archetypes; however, none of the descriptions included overt aspects of the psychological egoist archetype. For example, participant K elaborated on a heart-shaped business card holder:

…it’s a business card holder, but it’s really cool. It’s a set of hands, and then, so the hands look like they’re looking out and then there’s kind of like a heart shape in the middle…To me it was, I feel like the symbolism of hands, and reaching out, being able to hold someone up, being needed to give,…I will hold you, I will support you.

Participant K revealed the endocentric archetype with her comment, “being needed to give.” There is a mutual benefit to being needed and giving. The exocentric archetype came with the comment, “I will hold you, I will support you.”


Every participant’s description of his or her self-interest artifact included aspects of the endocentric altruist archetype, and five included the psychological egoist archetype. Interestingly, none of the participants’ descriptions of self-interest artifacts included aspects of exocentric altruism. For example, participant J described his wizard figurine artifact:

My self-interest artifact is, weirdly enough, this little wizard. I got it…it’s a wizard…on one level, I want to know everything. I want power! And not power that hurts others because a wizard…this is a quote from Lord of the Rings… ‘A wizard always shows up when you need him and never when you don’t.’ The wizard is all-seeing, but doesn’t take credit for what happens, and catalyzes major transformative events. And so, the wizard is also status, because a wizard is very renowned and nobody messes with the wizard.

Participant J revealed the endocentric altruist archetype with his comment, “A wizard always shows up when you need him.” The mutual benefit is exposed with the self-interest of being needed and the altruism of showing up. The psychological egoist archetype is made obvious with the comment “I want power.”




Three distinct archetypes emerged from the secondary data analysis. Given that the three archetypes emerged in interviews throughout the focus group, were verified by 14 participants’ member checks, and were confirmed by two outside auditors, professional counselors are urged to begin a more in-depth dialogue as well as theoretical and empirical investigations around the dynamic and systemic nature of altruism–self-interest among professional counselors and those in training. These archetypes relate back to the established theory of altruism–self-interest (Flynn & Black, 2011) and create five discussion points.


First, professional counselors need to consider adopting a less dichotomous assessment of human behavior (e.g., “He is wrong because he charged a high fee for his service.”). Although certain acts and behaviors by professional counselors require clear and unambiguous consequences (e.g., egregious boundary violations with clientele, etc.), other behaviors are quite likely the function of something much more in-depth and commonplace than commonly considered. In other words, professional counselors who embody psychological egoism are not at fault or less “normal” than those who exude exocentric altruism because both are normal aspects of human development. Indeed, classic psychological research has depicted individuals as motivated by healthy selfish desires (Maslow, 1950). Maslow described selfishness, within his participants, as a behavior within individuals who have reached levels of self-actualization and have fully satisfied their lower needs, thus self-actualization can be viewed as an antecedent for selfishness. Further, society creates both overt and covert norms, rules, laws, and mores around human behavior. Professional counselors and educators of counselors would benefit from a more critical view of this value-based depiction of human behavior instead of simply accepting it without question. The potential benefits resulting from a systemic change in society’s perception of human behavior could include increased humanism, optimal wellness, less social stigma attached to mental health services, improvement in clinical boundaries, increased levels of intentionality in one’s life, and a system-wide decrease in both burnout and impairment.


A second point of discussion centers on the potential consequences associated with over- or under-activation of a particular archetype. The present research demonstrated the fluid nature of the emergent archetypes in a professional counselor’s everyday life; however, none of the participants described a personal over- or under-adherence to a particular archetype. This finding mirrors Osborn’s (2004) warning that professional counselors should monitor any use of absolutism and Jung’s (1981) perspective that the conscious and unconscious contain temporally connected experiences that are related, as each carries the germ of the other. Many of the participants (n = 17) described colleagues who did, in fact, display over- or under-activation of one of the emergent archetypes. Professional counselors could experience burnout and impairment as a result of an over- or under-reliance on one of the emergent archetypes. For example, professional counselors who display an over-reliance on the psychological egoist archetype could be at higher risk for violating others (e.g., sexual relationship with clientele, overcharging clients). Similarly, those who demonstrate an over-reliance on the exocentric altruist archetype may display unnecessary sacrifice for the sake of others that is unrewarded and unacknowledged (e.g., all pro bono client caseload, overly forthright communication with untrustworthy colleagues).


Third, the authors were intrigued by the content and processes by which professional counselors met their personal needs through the therapeutic relationship. Participant S described this experience:

I think they [counselors] are…people motivated more to help others because it makes us feel good and powerful and so then we start to muddy up the definition of altruism…we all know we can try to look really altruistic and inside we’re gloating away…

Ethically, professional counselors are mandated to model and mentor the highest possible level of ethical and moral behavior (American Counseling Association (ACA), 2005; Stevens, 2000). In addition, Rogers (1959) described authenticity as central to self-growth. Given the mandate of moral behavior and benefits of authenticity, professional counselors should explore their personal needs and understand how the counseling of other human beings meets those needs. This exploration could generate optimal levels of acceptance, empathy, and congruence within a professional counselor’s self and compassion for the suffering of others.


A fourth implication centers on counselor educators and supervisors developing curriculum, internship, and coursework that would enhance students’ understanding of how to achieve appropriate self-interest (e.g., fee structure, implications for consulting, and marketing). Most of the participants admitted that they received very little information within their training that would help them understand a basic business structure, counseling’s place in the economy, and how to market and advertise a service (Flynn & Black, 2011). Counselors working in the field who do not pay attention to their own self-interest (i.e., exclusive focus on altruism) are in jeopardy of burnout and impairment. The consequences of a lack of attention to appropriate self-interest (e.g., wellness) are: ignoring one’s own stress level, low salaries, frustration, job dissatisfaction, stress-related health problems, lowered work productivity, inability to cope with occupational stress, interpersonal conflict, apathy, and poor boundaries (Baker & Baker, 1999; Ben-Dror, 1994; Flynn & Black, 2011; Osborn, 2004). Counselor education curriculum should resemble the multi-role conception of the field that counselor educators advocate for in many of their scholarly pursuits, including preparation to effectively fulfill multiple roles (e.g., advanced clinician; organizational leader; supervisor; program manager; private practitioner; director; researcher; teacher; and consultant; Sears & Davis, 2003). This could be completed through the creation of a student-friendly internship manual offering experiences in traditional settings (e.g., hospitals, agencies, and school) and settings that offer alternative options (e.g., private practice, adventure-based counseling, and organizational consultation).


Lastly, due to the difficulty of quantitatively exploring unconscious structures (e.g., archetypes), researchers should consider alternative methods that are congruent in exploring unconscious states, traits, and types that are part of the human experience (e.g., in-depth semi-structured interview techniques). Developing a unique research identity among professional counselors appears to be essential for designing research that expands the profession’s understanding of covert phenomena that does not lend itself easily to examination by empirical methods (e.g., quantitative methodology, surveys). For example, if a participant endorses a Likert scale point indicating “I somewhat agree” to a statement about altruism, the underlying meaning of that answer could be very different from another participant’s “I somewhat agree” response to the very same question. A strength of qualitative research is that it allows participants to describe just what they mean and for their voice to be present in the reporting of results.




Two potential limitations should be considered when examining the findings of this research. First, examining participants’ reported experiences of particular behaviors (e.g., self-interest) was a subjective experience. Although the author’s subjective interpretations were validated through participant member checks, audits, and triangulation, archetypes are subjective in nature and are not meant to be generalized to particular populations. Instead, readers might reflect on their own experience in regard to the emergent archetypes and associated quotations.


The second limitation of this research is the potential for participants to present socially desirable profiles due to the controversial nature of archetypes around the constructs of altruism and self-interest. Jung (1953) was overt about the contentious implications of creating unconscious collectives that describe a common human experience. Describing human universals around the construct of altruism–self-interest had the potential for creating an atmosphere in which participants might present their motivations in a socially desirable manner.


Areas for Future Research


This investigation into the unconscious archetypes that underlie the construct altruism–self-interest begins to provide some understanding for a new query into the unconscious motivating factors of all human behavior. Although qualitatively these constructs appear to be stable, future research should quantify their occurrence in the human experience. This analysis could be conducted through an experiment, survey or creation of an instrument.


A second area that warrants further empirical support is the impact of a person’s multicultural background on the emergence of particular archetypes. An investigation of this nature could increase understanding of multicultural issues related to the clients that counselors serve. In addition, this research would help professional counselors examine their own personal experience with the presented archetypes. This personal awareness could create a greater capacity for acceptance of the archetypes in a client’s life.


A final area for future research includes a closer examination of the norms and mores governing the occurrence of the emergent archetypes. Participants described the influence of societal values on the occurrence of particular behaviors. These societal values were often described as originating within institutions (e.g., postsecondary institutions), religion, social media, and clinical diagnosis. Understanding the manner in which individuals are influenced to think and act in a certain way could increase awareness of behavior and cognition.


In conclusion, this research represents an attempt to develop an initial understanding of unconscious archetypes that underlie the phenomenon of altruism–self-interest (Flynn & Black, 2011). The results of all four data collection points revealed three emergent archetypes that symbolize common human collectives. The three collectives are the endocentric altruist, the exocentric altruist, and the psychological egoist. These archetypes are unconscious structures that symbolize the underlying behavior related to the phenomenon of altruism–self-interest. Our hope was to encourage professional counselors to understand that all humans possess unconscious collectives that encourage a range of behavior within a particular context. This understanding holds promise for inspiring greater ranges of acceptance, genuineness and congruence.






American Counseling Association (ACA). (2005). ACA Code of ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Baker, J. G., & Baker, D. F. (1999). Perceived ideological, job satisfaction and organizational commitment among psychiatrists in a community mental health center. Community Mental Health Journal, 35, 85–95.

Bernard, J. M. (2006). Counselor education and counseling psychology: Where are the jobs? Counselor Education & Supervision, 46, 68–80.

Ben-Dror, R. (1994). Employee turnover in community mental health organization: A developmental stages study. Community Mental Health Journal, 30, 243–257.

Bishop, L. (2000). In defense of altruism: Inadequacies of Ayn Rand’s ethics and psychological egoism. New Orleans, LA: University Press of the South.

Bond, E. J. (1996). Ethics and human well-being. Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Bruner, J. (1985). Narrative and paradigmatic modes of thought. In E. Eisner (Ed.), Learning and teaching the ways of knowing (pp. 97–115). Chicago, IL: NSSE.

Comte, A. (2001). System of positive polity. In J. H. Bridges (Ed. & Trans.), System of positive polity (pp. 1–100). Bristol, England: Thoemmes. (Original work published 1875)

Corti, L., Witzel, A, & Bishop, L. (Eds.), (2005). Secondary analysis of qualitative data. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6. Retrieved from

Denzin, N. K. (1970). The research act: A theoretical introduction to sociological methods. New York, NY: Aldine.

Eisner, E. W. (1991). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. Toronto: Collier Macmillan Canada.

Flynn, S. V. (2009). A grounded theory of the altruism and self-interest phenomenon within the counseling profession (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database. (AAT 3378221)

Flynn, S. V., & Black, L. L. (2011). An emergent theory of altruism and self-interest. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89, 459–470.

Freud, S. (1974). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. J. Strachey (Ed.). London, England: Hogarth Press.

Gladstone, B. M., & Volpe, T. (2008, April). Qualitative secondary analysis: Asking “new” questions of “old” data. Paper presented at the Qualitative Research Interest Group, Athens, GA.

Hackney, H., & Cormier, S. (2009). The professional counselor: A process guide to helping (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Hakim, C. (1982). Secondary analysis in social research: A guide to data sources and methods with examples. London, England: George Allen & Unwin.

Hays, G. D., & Singh, A. A. (2012). Qualitative inquiry in clinical and educational settings. New York, NY: Guilford.

Heaton, J. (2004). Reworking qualitative data. London, England: Sage.

Heaton, J. (2008). Secondary analysis of qualitative data: An overview. Historical Social Research, 33, 33–45.

Hendricks, B. C. (2008). Introduction: Who are we? The role of ethics in shaping counselor identity. The Family Journal, 16, 258–260. doi:10.1177/1066480708317725

Hermon, D. A., & Hazler, R. J. (1999). Adherence to wellness model and perceptions of psychological well-being. Journal of Counseling and Development, 77, 339–343.

Holmes, J. G., Miller, D. T., & Lerner, M. J. (2002). Committing altruism under the cloak of self-interest: The exchange fiction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 144–151.

Jung, C. G. (1953). Two essays on analytical psychology: Collected works (Vol. 7). R. F. C. Hull, trans. Bollingen Series XX. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1968). Man and his symbols. New York: Laurel.

Jung, C. G. (1969). The archetypes and the collective unconscious (2nd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1981). The structure and dynamics of the psyche. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1986). Four archetypes: Mother, rebirth, spirit, trickster. New York, NY: Ark.

Karylowski, J. (1982): Two types of altruistic behavior: Doing good to feel good or to make the other feel good. In V. J. Derlega & J. Grzelak, (Eds.). Cooperation and helping behavior: Theories and research (pp. 398–419). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Lai, C.K.Y. (2010). Narrative and narrative enquiry in health and social sciences, Nurse Researcher, 17, 3, 72–84.

Maslow, A. H. (1950). Self-actualizing people: A study of psychological health. In W. Wolff (Ed.), Personality symposia: Symposium #1 on values (pp. 1134). New York, NY: Grune & Stratton.

Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2008). Wellness counseling: The evidence base for practice. Journal of Counseling and Development, 86, 482–493.

Myers, J. E., Sweeney, T. J., & White, V. E. (2002), Advocacy for counseling and counselors: A professional imperative. Journal of Counseling and Development, 80, 394–401.

Ohrt, J. H., & Cunningham, L. C. (2012). Wellness in mental health agencies. The Professional Counselor: Research and Practice, 2, 90–101.

Osborn, C. J. (2004). Seven salutary suggestions for counselor stamina. Journal of Counseling and Development, 82, 319–328.

Osborn, C. J., West, J. D., Bubenzer, D. L., Duba, J. D., & Olson, S. (2003). Dimensions and areas for leadership. In J. D. West, C. J. Osborn, & D. L. Bubenzer (Eds.), Leaders and legacies: Contributions to the profession of counseling (pp. 293–308). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis/Brunner-Routledge.

  1. Parker, M., & Henfield, M. S. (2012). Exploring school counselors’ perceptions of vicarious trauma: A qualitative study. The Professional Counselor: Research and Practice, 2, 134–142.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1995). Narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. In J. A. Hatch and R. Wisniewski (Eds.), Life history and narrative (pp. 5–23). London, England: Falmer.

Rogers, C. R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework. In S. Koch (Ed.), Psychology: A study of a science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the person and the social context. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Sears, J. S., & Davis, T. E. (2003). The doctorate in counselor education: Implications for leadership. In J. D. West, C. J. Osborn, & D. J. Bubenzer (Eds.), Leaders & legacies: Contributions to the profession of counseling (pp. 95-108). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

Sexton, S. (2007). Voices echoing the past: I decided to do teaching because of the teacher that I had. Thirteen female secondary entry-level teachers candidates teaching not only what but also how they were taught. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 32, 1–13.

Simpson, B., Irwin, K., & Lawrence, P. (2006). Does a “norm of self-interest” discourage prosocial behavior? Rationality and quid pro quo in charitable giving. Social Psychology Quarterly, 69, 296–306.

Sober, E. (1993). Evolutionary altruism, psychological egoism, and morality: Disentangling the phenotypes. In M. H. Nitecki & D. V. Nitecki (Eds.), Evolutionary ethics (pp. 199–216). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Stevens, P. (2000). The ethics of being ethical. The Family Journal, 8, 177–178. doi:10.1177/1066480700082011

Van den Berg, H. (2005) Reanalyzing qualitative interviews from different angles: The risk of decontextualization and other problems of sharing qualitative data. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(1). Retrieved from

Weglowska-Rzepa, K., Kowal, J., Park, L. H., & Lee, H. K. (2008). The presence of spiritual archetypes among representatives of eastern and western cultures. Jung Journal, 2, 58–72.



Stephen V. Flynn, NCC, is an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education in the Department of Counselor Education and School Psychology at Plymouth State University. Linda L. Black, NCC, is a Professor of Counselor Education and Supervision and Acting Dean of the Graduate School and International Admittance at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Correspondence can be addressed to Stephen V. Flynn, Plymouth State University, Department Counselor Education and School Psychology, 17 High Street MSC 11, Plymouth, NH 03264,


Using Two Different Self-Directed Search (SDS) Interpretive Materials: Implications for Career Assessment

V. Casey Dozier, James P. Sampson, Robert C. Reardon

John Holland’s Self-Directed Search (SDS) is a career assessment that consists of several booklets designed to be self-scored and self-administered. It simulates what a practitioner and an individual might do together in a career counseling session (e.g., review preferred activities and occupations; review competencies, abilities and possible career course; and consider RIASEC theory). This study examined how individuals used two different interpretive materials with the SDS assessment: (1) two paper booklets and (2) the computer-generated SDS Interpretive Report (SDS:IR). Participants receiving the SDS:IR were more likely to recall their SDS summary codes and expand their options than those receiving the two paper booklets.

Keywords: Self-Directed Search, SDS Interpretive Report, RIASEC theory, career course, John Holland, career assessment

The Self-Directed Search (SDS; Holland, 1994a) is a career intervention based on John Holland’s (1997) RIASEC theory (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional). The basic form of the SDS consists of several booklets designed to be self-scored and self-administered. It simulates what a practitioner and an individual might do together in a counseling session (e.g., review preferred activities and occupations, and review competencies and abilities). In this study, all students in two sections of a college career course completed the paper version of the SDS Form R Assessment booklet (Holland, 1994a) using the paper Occupations Finder (OF; Holland, 2000). Students in one section of the course received the SDS:IR generated by the SDS software system (IR; Reardon & PAR, 2001). Those in the other section received two paper booklets, You and Your Career (YYC; Holland, 1994b) and the Educational Opportunities Finder (EOF; Rosen, Holmberg, & Holland, 1997). These interpretive materials were both designed to answer common questions about the SDS assessment results and about how the findings might be used to improve college students’ career decision-making.

The YYC reusable booklet gives the practitioner a tool for interpreting the results of the SDS assessment activity, and for providing a more complete career intervention (Reardon & Lenz, 1998). Although the YYC booklet was designed to make the SDS a more self-directed activity and support the practitioner’s work, little research has investigated the usefulness of this booklet (Holland, Fritzsche, & Powell, 1994). The EOF is a listing of more than 700 educational programs at three degree levels according to three-letter Holland summary codes. The computer-generated interpretive report uses the SDS assessment results and includes content materials from the OF, YYC, and EOF booklets to produce a customized report based on an individual’s scores from the assessment booklet.

Holland’s work has been referenced in more than 1,600 citations, and the SDS is reported in hundreds of studies (Ruff, Reardon, & Bertoch, 2008). For example, Holland (1997) reported more than two dozen SDS studies with high school students, college students, and adults that demonstrated the psychometric properties of the inventory, examined the efficacy of the RIASEC typology, and investigated the relationship between the Big Five personality factors and RIASEC theory. Despite the popularity of the SDS, we were unable to locate any studies investigating the efficacy of the interpretive materials that support the SDS or the varied ways it might be used (e.g., in-person, booklet alone, personalized computer-generated report).

Whiston and James (2013) concluded that although Brown and Ryan Krane (2000) found that individualized interpretations and feedback were one of five key ingredients in successful career interventions, “there is little outcome research related to precisely how practitioners should interpret the results of career assessments” (p. 571). Moreover, they noted that in analyzing studies published between 1983 and 1995, no treatment/control comparison studies addressed individual test interpretation (Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998). We sought to address this gap in the literature with this study.

The authors wanted to learn more about the impact of these two different interpretive materials on SDS users. Did users remember their SDS results or codes? How much time did they spend with each of the materials? Did the materials help users expand their career options? Did users prefer one method over the other?



The sample consisted of 51 undergraduate students enrolled in two sections of a college career course. Common reasons for enrolling in the course were to explore career options and learn more about career decision-making. Participant ages ranged from 18 to 26 years (M = 21.14, SD = 1.16). The demographic breakdown of the sample was 52.9% Caucasian, 31.4% African-American, 9.8% Hispanic/Latino, 3.9% other, and 2% Asian. Academic class was 62.7% seniors, 19.6% juniors, 15.7% sophomores, and 2% freshmen.


After the university institutional review board (IRB) approved this study, each student in the course was given a folder during the first week of class containing an informed consent document, a demographic form, the paper-and-pencil version of the SDS Form R Assessment booklet, and the OF. Completion of the SDS was a basic course assignment, whereas participation in the study was optional. Those completing the forms were given five points of extra credit toward their grade for participating, which was 1% of the total points available in the course.

After the first week of classes, students in each section of the course were randomly assigned to receive either the client interpretive report (Group 1) generated by the SDS software portfolio computer system or the YYC and EOF booklets (Group 2). The Interpretive Reports were given after the SDS summary scores from each completed paper SDS assessment booklet were manually entered into the computer. Five days after students received the SDS results and interpretive materials, the SDS Feedback Form was administered to gather information about students’ satisfaction with the materials and their effectiveness.


The Self-Directed Search Form R. The original paper form of the SDS was first published in 1970 and revised in 1977, 1985, and 1994 (Reardon & Lenz, 1998). The assessment is based on Holland’s RIASEC theory, is self-administered, and takes 35–45 minutes to complete. The cost per administration (Assessment booklet, OF, YYC booklet) is about $4.04 (PAR, 2009). The SDS Assessment booklet includes a measure of expressed interests or vocational aspirations (the Daydreams Section) and a measure of assessed interests. The latter is obtained when users respond to SDS items in four sections: Activities (66 items endorsed like or dislike); Competencies (66 items endorsed yes or no to assess skills assess); Occupations (84 occupations that are endorsed yes or no to assess those of interest); and Self-Estimates (12 scale ratings [1 is low and 7 is high] to indicate self-estimates of skills and abilities as compared to those of a similar age across each RIASEC type). A three-letter summary code is derived by totaling the number of “yes” or “like” responses from the three sections (Activities, Competencies, Occupations) and two Self-Estimates ratings in the Assessment booklet.

Intercorrelations among the SDS: Form R and measures of vocational aspiration and college major indicate concurrent validity for male and female college students ranging from .32 to .39 (Holland et al., 1994). Substantial reliability for the summary scales on the SDS are indicated by the internal consistency coefficients (KR-20) ranging from .90 to .94, and test-retest reliability coefficients ranged from .76 to .89 (Holland et al., 1994). Overall, support exists for both the reliability and validity of the SDS.

You and Your Career. YYC is a seven-page booklet developed for use in conjunction with the SDS Form R Assessment booklet. YYC includes descriptions of the Holland codes and personality types, suggestions for engaging in career planning, and information on how to use Holland codes. This reusable booklet gives the practitioner a tool for interpreting the results of the SDS assessment activity, and for providing a more complete career intervention (Reardon & Lenz, 1998). Although the YYC booklet was designed to make the SDS a more self-directed activity and support the practitioner’s work, little research has investigated the usefulness of this booklet (Holland et al., 1994). The YYC costs about $1.28 per copy (PAR, 2009).

Educational Opportunities Finder. The EOF was first published in 1987 as the College Majors Finder and lists more than 750 technical and college-level fields of study, alphabetically and by three-letter Holland code and degree level (2 year, 4 year, and postgraduate). It is designed to help individuals connect Holland codes to varied educational and training options. It costs about $2.16 and may be reused (PAR, 2009).

SDS Interpretive Report. The SDS: IR produces a 10- to 12-page single-spaced Interpretive Report based on an individual’s SDS summary scores and provides a personalized list of occupations using five SDS Summary codes. Each occupation listed includes the DOT number, estimated education needed, and on-the-job training required. The IR also includes major fields of study and leisure options. The Interpretive Report is produced by the software portfolio system that costs $525 for unlimited use (PAR, 2009).

SDS Feedback Form. The items on the SDS Feedback Form were adapted from the Computer-Assisted Career Guidance (CACG) Evaluation Form (Peterson, Ryan-Jones, Sampson, & Reardon, 1988) used in studies of computer-based guidance systems (e.g., Discover, SIGI). The original CACG Evaluation Form had alpha reliabilities ranging from .77 to .87. The SDS Feedback Form included open-ended questions assessing how much time participants spent reading their materials, whether they accurately recalled their three-letter summary code, and the information learned by reading the materials. Four specific items from the Feedback Form were used to assess participants’ ability to expand or narrow their options.

Occupational Alternatives Question. The Occupational Alternatives Question (OAQ; Zener & Schnuelle, 1972, 1976; modified by Slaney, 1980) is a measure of occupational decidedness that asks respondents to list the number of occupations they are considering and the level of decidedness pertaining to these occupations. The OAQ includes two parts: (a) “List all of the occupations you are considering right now” and (b) “Which occupation is your first choice? If undecided, write undecided.” The OAQ is scored on a scale from one to four and is rated as follows: 1 = a first choice is given with no alternatives; 2 = a first choice is given with alternatives listed as well; 3 = no first choice is given, only alternatives; and, 4 = no choices or alternatives are given. The higher the OAQ score, the less decided the individual. The OAQ has been found to have convergent validity with other measures of career indecision, including the Satisfaction with Career Scale, the Vocational Decision Making Difficulties Scale, and the Career Decision Scale (Slaney, Stafford, & Russell, 1981; Walker & Peterson, 2012).

Satisfaction with Choice Question. The Satisfaction with Choice Question (SCQ; Zener & Schnuelle, 1972, 1976; modified by Holland, Gottfredson, & Nafziger, 1975) asks a single question, “How well satisfied are you with your first choice?” and is used to assess one’s level of satisfaction with career choice. This item is rated on a scale from one to six, and is scored as follows: 1 = well satisfied with choice; 2 = satisfied, but have a few doubts; 3 = not sure; 4 = dissatisfied and intend to remain; 5 = very dissatisfied and intend to change; and, 6 = undecided about my future career. Higher scores on the SCQ indicate greater dissatisfaction with career choice. Slaney et al. (1981) reported average correlations of .43, .53 and .44 between the SCQ and other measures of career decidedness, including the OAQ, Vocational Decision Making Difficulty Scale, and the Career Decision Scale.

Student Data Sheet. A demographic form was used to collect basic information on each participant, including gender, age, ethnicity, major, grade level, and career decision state. The latter was measured with the OAQ and SCQ as measures of participants’ career decision state according to the level of career decidedness and satisfaction assessment. Preliminary t-tests indicated that the groups did not vary across age or gender, but Group 2, which received the YYC and EOF booklets, included more seniors and ethnic diversity.


Several analyses were conducted to investigate participants’ ability to recall their SDS summary codes. For example, both 4 x 2 chi-square analyses and several 2 x 2 chi-square analyses were used to compare participants’ actual summary code and their recall of their summary code. Participants in Group 1 who received the computer-generated, individualized interpretive report were significantly more likely to accurately recall their overall summary code (84%), as compared with participants in Group 2 (YYC/EOF booklets) (61.5%, p < .05). Participants in Group 1 were significantly more likely to recall the first and third letters of their summary codes (84% and 88%), compared with participants in Group 2 (61.5% and 50%, p < .017), but there were no significant differences between the groups on the ability to recall the second letter of the summary code.

Using items from the SDS Feedback Form, a series of 3 x 2 chi-square analyses were conducted to determine participants’ ability to expand, elaborate, narrow or confirm their occupational alternatives. Participants in Group 1 (interpretive report) were significantly more likely to expand their career options than those in Group 2 (72% vs. 57.6%, p < .05). However, participants in the two groups showed no significant differences in their ability to elaborate, confirm or narrow their options.

A one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed to investigate group differences between two aspects of career decision state. The independent variable was treatment (Groups 1 and 2), and the dependent variable was career decision state, as measured by the OAQ level of decidedness and the response to the SCQ. There were no statistically significant differences noted between treatment groups with respect to career decision state (decidedness and satisfaction) following use of the SDS.

Finally, two independent-sampled t-test analyses were conducted to compare the impact of receiving different SDS:IR materials on the amount of time (calculated in minutes) participants spent with the interpretive materials and the number of times participants picked up the materials to review them. There were no significant differences between groups regarding either the amount of time or number of times spent reading the SDS interpretive materials. Although there were no differences between the two groups on the amount of time spent reading the interpretive materials, participants in both groups spent about 30 minutes reviewing the materials, with a range of 5 to 90 minutes and a standard deviation of nearly 20 minutes. The variability in the amount of time that participants spent examining the SDS interpretive materials is noteworthy and merits further research.


The findings in this study indicate that individuals receiving the SDS:IR generated by the SDS software portfolio computer system were more likely to recall their SDS overall three-letter summary code, as well as the first and third letters of their code, than those receiving the YYC and the EOF booklets. Because the SDS software portfolio generates a more customized and individualized interpretive report, the findings of this study are consistent with Brown and Ryan Krane’s (2000) recommendations for providing individualized interpretations and feedback regarding career development interventions. These results are also consistent with previous research, which demonstrated that the SDS increases self-understanding (Zener & Schuelle, 1976). In addition, Tinsley and Chu (1999) indicated that the recall of test results is one method of assessing the effects of a test interpretation.

Findings reveal that the interpretive materials used in this study enabled students to expand their options, but no significant relationships (p < .05) were found regarding their ability to narrow or confirm their options. The SDS results examine matches between the users’ three-letter code and the codes of more than 1,300 occupations in the OF, so it is reasonable that the SDS helped individuals expand their options (Holland, 1997).

Several limitations in this study may affect the generalizability of these findings. First, the sample was small (n = 51) and limited to two sections of an undergraduate career class in one university. The sample was dominated by Social and Enterprising types (64%). Another study with a sample composed of more varied RIASEC types might produce different results. Finally, t-tests were conducted to investigate the homogeneity of groups, and differences were found between class level and ethnicity, with Group 2 (OF/EOF printed booklets) having more seniors and more ethnic diversity. Given that members of this group were less likely to recall their code, it is possible that some seniors were not as focused on exploring their occupational interests and may have been primarily focused on resume writing and job searching.

These limitations notwithstanding, this study adds to the very limited research literature reported by Whiston and James (2013) regarding how practitioners might best interpret the results of career assessments. This study used two different interpretation materials for the SDS, two printed booklets and a computer-based individualized report. The computer-based interpretive report enabled users to recall their results more accurately in a follow-up survey after completing the SDS, and it led users to consider a more expanded list of career options for further consideration. Future studies might examine the efficacy of new interpretive materials now being developed for the SDS, as well as interpretive materials in varied media formats for other career assessments. Such studies would alleviate the paucity of research in this area noted by Whiston and James (2013).



Brown, S. D., & Ryan Krane, N. E. (2000). Four (or five) sessions and a cloud of dust: Old assumptions and new observations about career counseling. In S. D. Brown, & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology (3rd ed., pp. 740–766). New York, NY: Wiley.

Holland, J. L. (1994a). Self-Directed Search. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Holland, J. L. (1994b). You and your career. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments (3rd ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Holland, J. L. (2000). The occupations finder. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Holland, J. L., Fritzsche, B., & Powell, A. (1994). The self-directed search: Technical manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Holland, J., Gottfredson, G., & Nafziger, D. (1975). Testing the validity of some theoretical signs of vocational decision-making ability. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 22, 411–422.

Peterson, G. W., Ryan-Jones, R. E., Sampson, J. P., & Reardon, R. C. (1988). Computer-assisted career guidance evaluation form. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University.

Psychological Assessment Resources. (PAR; July 2009). Creating connections, changing lives. PAR catalog of professional testing resources, 32(3).

Reardon, R. (1987). Development of the computer-version of the Self-Directed Search. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 20, 62–67.

Reardon, R. C., & Lenz, J. G. (1998). The Self-Directed Search and related Holland career materials: A practitioner’s guide. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Reardon, R., & Psychological Assessment Resources Staff (2001). Self-Directed Search Software Portfolio (SDS-SP) for Windows[Computer program]. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Rosen, D., Holmberg, K., & Holland, J. (1997). Educational opportunities finder. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Ruff, E. A., Reardon, R. C., & Bertoch, S. C. (2008, June). Holland’s RIASEC theory and applications: Exploring a comprehensive bibliography. Career Convergence. Retrieved September 25, 2011 from

Slaney, R. (1980). Expressed vocational choice and vocational indecision. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 27, 122–129.

Slaney, R., Stafford, M., & Russell, J. (1981). Career indecision in adult women: A comparative and descriptive study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 19, 335–345.

Tinsley, H. E. A., & Chu, S. (1999). Research on test and interest inventory interpretation outcomes. In M. L. Savickas & A. R. Spokane (Eds.), Vocational interests: Meaning, measurement, and counseling use (pp. 257–276). Palo Alto, California: Davies-Black.

Walker, J. V., & Peterson, G.W. (2012). Career thoughts, indecision, and depression: Implications for mental health assessment in career counseling. Journal of Career Assessment, 20(4), 497–506.

Whiston, S. C., & James, B. N. (2013). Promotion of career choices. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (2nd ed., pp. 565–594). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Whiston, S. C., Sexton, T. L., & Lasoff, D. L. (1998). Career intervention and outcome: A replication and extension of Oliver and Spokane (1988). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45, 150–165. doi:10-1037/0022-0167.45.2.150

Zener, T., & Schnuelle, L. (1972). An evaluation of the Self-Directed Search. (Research Rep. 124). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Social Organization of Schools.

Zener, T., & Schnuelle, L. (1976). Effects of the Self-Directed Search on high school students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 23, 353–359.


V. Casey Dozier, NCC, is a post-doctoral fellow at the About Family and Youth Institute in Thomasville, Georgia. James P. Sampson, NCC, NCCC, is the Mode L. Stone Distinguished Professor of Counseling and Career Development, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Administration, and Co-Director, Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development, College of Education, Florida State University. Robert C. Reardon, NCC, is Professor Emeritus at Florida State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Robert C. Reardon, FSU Career Center, P.O. Box 3064162, 100 South Woodward Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4162,

Author Note: Robert C. Reardon is an author of the SDS software report used in this research.

Employment Preparation and Life Skill Development Initiatives for High School Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities

Jacqueline M. Swank, Peter Huber

Employment preparation and life skill development are crucial in assisting students identified as having emotional and behavioral disabilities with successfully transitioning to adulthood following high school. This article outlines four initiatives that a school counselor developed with other school personnel to promote work skills, life skills, and social and emotional development, which include (a) a school vegetable garden, (b) a raised worm bed, (c) a sewing group, and (d) community collaboration. The authors also discuss implications for school counselors and recommendations for future research.

Keywords: school counseling, life skills, transition, disabilities, adolescents


High school counselors, teachers and other school personnel are in the unique position of providing resources to help students transition from high school to early adulthood. This transition may involve preparation for college or development of employment skills for students who plan to enter the workforce rather than attend college. Life skill development (e.g., communication, problem-solving skills, financial management) is also crucial for young people as they transition out of high school.


The transition from high school to adulthood can be especially difficult for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) defines the term emotional disturbance as follows:


A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance: (a) an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; (b) an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; (c) inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; (d) a general pervasive mood     of unhappiness or depression; (e) a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.


Specifically in Florida, where the innovative program discussed in this article was developed, a student with an emotional or behavioral disability is defined as having “persistent (is not sufficiently responsive to implemented evidence-based interventions) and consistent emotional or behavioral responses that adversely affect performance in the educational environment that cannot be attributed to age, culture, gender, or ethnicity” (Exceptional Student Education Eligibility for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities, 2009, para.1). In 2000, researchers reported that approximately 230,081 children and adolescents in the United States were receiving services within the serious emotional disturbances category, with an estimated 1.15% within the age range of 13–16 years old (Cameto, Wagner, Newman, Blackorby, & Javitz, 2000). These students often have multiple obstacles to overcome including (a) social, (b) emotional, (c) academic, and (d) environmental challenges (Lehman, Clark, Bullis, Rinkin, & Castellanos, 2002). Therefore, it is crucial to create programs to assist these students in developing the knowledge and skills needed to make a successful transition to adulthood.


Transitioning to adulthood may involve continued education or full-time employment. However, young people in general are often ill-prepared to enter the workforce (Burgstahler, 2001); therefore, it is imperative that schools provide job training to help prepare students who plan to enter the workforce following high school. In regard to students with disabilities, the IDEA Amendments of 1997 and the IDEA of 2004 outline the responsibility of schools to help high school students transition to adulthood. Specifically, IDEA requires schools to begin transition planning for students with disabilities by age 14 and to have transition services specified within a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) by age 16 (Sabbatino & Macrine, 2007). However, the development of a transition plan alone does not necessarily lead to successful employment following high school (Sabbatino & Macrine, 2007); therefore, it is incumbent upon schools to focus on implementing programs designed to assist students with successfully transitioning to adulthood.


Employment Preparation and Life Skill Development


Researchers have examined factors that contribute to the success of students with disabilities following high school. Test et al. (2009) examined the literature and identified 16 in-school predictors of post-high school success: (a) career awareness, (b) community experiences, (c) exit exam requirements/diploma, (d) general education, (e) interagency collaboration, (f) occupational courses, (g) paid work experience, (h) parental involvement, (i) program of study, (j) self-determination and advocacy, (k) self-care/independent living, (l) social skills, (m) student support, (n) transition program, (o) vocational education, and (p) work-study. Additionally, Gore, Kadish, and Aseltine (2003) interviewed young adults who had graduated from high school two years prior to the study to examine how taking a career major in school affects early career work orientation and experience. The researchers found that participation in a program that bridges education to future employment was predictive of more optimistic views about future career aspirations two years later.


Researchers also have examined the relationship between career decisions following high school and mental health. Aseltine and Gore (2005) interviewed seniors and recent high school dropouts and then interviewed them again two years later to examine the psychosocial functioning of individuals following high school. The findings suggested that individuals who attended additional schooling or engaged in full-time employment following high school reported a more positive quality of life and had lower levels of depression, concluding that engagement in structured activities (schooling or employment) on a full-time basis following graduation contributed to greater psychological functioning. This research was not focused specifically on individuals with EBD; however, the findings suggest a relationship between successful post-high school transition and positive psychosocial functioning.


The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) was designed to examine the post-high school experiences of individuals with disabilities. Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Levine, and Garza (2006) reported that students within the emotional disturbances category had the lowest (56%) school completion rate, except for individuals within the categories of intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities. Additionally, approximately 60% of individuals within the emotional disturbances category were employed at some point; however, only about half (30%) were employed after two years. Also, approximately 20% were enrolled in postsecondary education. Furthermore, in regards to involvement with the legal system, 75% had been stopped by the police for a non-traffic related offense, 58% had been arrested at minimum one time, and 43% had been on probation or parole. The percentage of these students involved in programs designed to promote graduation and foster a successful transition to adulthood is unknown; however, the low graduation rate, low employment rate, and high incident of legal involvement constitutes a need for the establishment of interventions.


Zigmond (2006) examined the career decisions of individuals with severe emotional and behavioral disorders spanning a two-year period following graduation or dropping out of an alternative high school. About half of the participants were employed at each of the five data collection periods (3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months); however, only three of the 15 who had a job at the three-month point had the same job at the 24-month mark. These findings indicate a higher rate of employment when compared to the NLTS2 findings; however, due to the small sample size in this study, the findings should be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, Zigmond presents a need for future research to examine the effectiveness of alternative schooling programs on successful transition to adulthood for individuals with EBD. Additionally, Carran, Kerins and Murray (2005) examined the success of individuals who had a positive discharge (graduation) or negative discharge (dropping out) from an alternative school designed for students with EBD over a three-year period. Students who received a positive discharge were more likely to maintain employment and were less likely to be arrested; however, the employment rate declined by year three. The findings of Carran et al. (2005) indicate a positive correlation between successful completion of high school and transition to adulthood; however, further research is needed to determine the long-term benefits of high school training for individuals with EBD. Yet implementing programs in high schools focused on the needs of students with EBD appears to support these individuals in their successful transition to adulthood.


Employment preparation and life skill development are especially important for students with EBD because, in addition to experiencing multiple obstacles in transitioning to adulthood, these individuals may not meet eligibility requirements for vocational rehabilitation following graduation; therefore, students with EBD may lack the needed support and experience to be successful in seeking employment (Carter, Trainor, Ditchman, & Owens, 2011). Additionally, students with EBD may benefit from services designed to foster self-determination, a crucial skill in transitioning to adulthood (Carter, Lane, Pierson, & Glaeser, 2006). Self-determination includes the ability to identify strengths and interests, advocate for oneself (connected to the ability to interact with others [i.e., social skills]), set goals, and evaluate progress in achieving goals (Carter, Trainor, Owens, Swedeen, & Sun, 2010). Therefore, a comprehensive transition program for students with EBD would encompass the development of job skills, self-determination, and social and life skills.


School counselors are crucial in helping develop and implement programs that assist students with transitioning to adulthood. Counselors have an understanding of the developmental needs of students (Granello & Sears, 1999). This knowledge is essential in establishing a successful program. Additionally, school counselors develop and facilitate initiatives within comprehensive school counseling programs guided by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2012) National Model and the ASCA (2004) National Standards for Students, which emphasize academic, career, and social and personal development. Furthermore, in program development, the counselor is instrumental in coordinating school personnel (teachers, administrators and support staff) and community partners to work toward helping students transition successfully.


A clear need exists for the development of programs for high school students with EBD to facilitate skill development that assists them with successfully transitioning to adulthood. In this article, we, the authors, outline initiatives developed to address this need. We discuss program goals, sustainability, and some preliminary findings regarding program effectiveness.


An Innovative School Program


The second author is a school counselor at a Title I school serving K–12 students who are identified as ESE/EBD (Exceptional Student Education with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities). This tier three school offers special education interventions for the most severe students with ESE/EBD residing in the county. The student population is approximately 70% African American, 29% Caucasian and 1% Hispanic. Eighty-four percent of the students are male and 26% are female. Additionally, 95% of the students receive free or reduced lunch. Most students reside in single-parent homes and many have been “sheltered” as wards of the state, with several students having “relative caregivers.” Twelve percent of the students are currently in foster care or group homes and 13% have been adopted out of foster care. Approximately 4%– 9% of the students are considered homeless under the McKinnley-Vento Act.


During the past five years, the second author has observed the transitional difficulties of students. The observations mirror the research on the transition of students identified as ESE/EBD. The students lack social and vocational skills, and exhibit psychological symptoms consistent with their disabilities. The majority of students drop out of school, and many have arrest records and often reoffend after they leave school. A limited number of these students have jobs or are attending general education programs (GED), some are homeless, and some have reported suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. These transitional realities have motivated personnel to brainstorm strategies to address the educational, vocational and transitional needs of students, in hope of preventing current and future students from experiencing the same dismal transition.


The program initiatives were designed to help students (a) learn job skills and obtain vocational education, (b) promote social skills, (c) foster self-determination, and (d) develop life skills. Each of these goals is an in-school predictor of post-high school success identified by Test et al. (2009). After establishing the program goals, the school counselor identified areas of interest within the student body, in order to obtain the students’ interest in the program. Furthermore, the school counselor identified resources to obtain funding and support. Each component of the program was started with seed money provided through small grants. However, after each program component was initiated, it was necessary to develop a plan to sustain the project due to the lack of ongoing funding. Thus, a sustainability plan was integrated within the program initiatives.


The four program initiatives include (a) a school vegetable garden, (b) a raised worm bed, (c) sewing for success, and (d) community collaboration. The program is grounded within two established transitional models discussed by Rutkowski, Daston, VanKuiken, and Riehle (2006). Both models emphasize hands-on experience in developing job skills. The first three program components use the adapted career and technical model framework, which provides both a simulated and real worksite model. This model provides students with the opportunity to develop job skills and obtain work experience, while having the direct support of school personnel. The fourth program component is grounded within the work-study model. Within this framework, students receive instruction in the school and then enter the community to obtain work experience. The program encompasses both models to allow students to transition from the adapted career and technical model to the work-study model after they have developed the skills and experience to help them be successful in community employment.


Creating a program that encompasses both models has several advantages. First, students gradually increase their exposure to work. This approach may decrease anxiety and encourage students to try new things because they are initially surrounded by school personnel who are encouraging and supportive during this process. Additionally, the school establishes strong collaborations with community partners and increases the potential for student success by first training students in the school. Thus, the school establishes a system that promotes success for the students, the school and community partners.


Program Initiatives

School vegetable garden. The first initiative developed was the school vegetable garden. The garden is designed to provide high school students with experiences to develop immediate employment-related skills on campus through engagement in all aspects of planning, maintaining and harvesting a garden. Students develop skills in preparing the soil, planning for and selecting types of plants to grow, planting and caring for plants, and harvesting and selling the produce. The garden project allows school personnel to teach and reinforce several work-related skills. Students learn responsibility through their daily commitment to the garden, which has tangible consequences if not attended to on a regular basis (e.g., plants dying, garden becoming overgrown with weeds, produce rotting). The commitment required for the garden is directly related to employee responsibilities (e.g., arriving at work on time, completing tasks consistently to the best of one’s ability). Additionally, students develop social skills through collaboration to maintain the garden, working as team members as if for an employer. Students also obtain life skills (e.g., problem solving) by addressing various issues within the garden (e.g., insects eating the plants, weather conditions) and managing finances through the generation of funds (by selling produce) to sustain the garden. Furthermore, students learn customer service skills through interactions with customers when selling produce. Finally, students develop self-determination skills by identifying strengths in managing the garden and evaluating their progress. Thus, the garden initiative provides opportunities for students to develop skills in each of the areas outlined for the program: job skills and vocational education, social skills, life skills and self-determination.


The garden also provides a metaphor for students’ personal growth and development, as well as opportunities to promote students’ successes. For example, school counselors can discuss the importance of having nutrient-rich soil to build a foundation for growing healthy, hearty plants, and then connect this metaphor to specific areas within the students’ lives where they are developing a solid foundation for their lives. School personnel also encourage students and promote positive self-esteem by identifying students’ garden accomplishments. The garden produces tangible results through vegetable growth, and students are able to recognize concrete outcomes throughout their ongoing garden experience. Thus, the initiative provides opportunities for students to develop self-awareness and foster a healthy self-concept.


Raised worm bed. The worm bed was developed to provide direct benefits to the vegetable garden and the sustainability of the program. Additionally, students expressed interest in this project. The worm bed promotes sustainability of the garden by providing needed compost (casings). Additionally, students can sell the earthworms, providing financial assistance for the program. The costs of developing the worm garden are minimized by having students develop the beds, which support the development of job skills and vocational training through planning, designing and construction. Likewise, the construction of the worm beds fosters the development of social skills and life skills through teamwork, problem solving and financial management (e.g., maximizing the resources available).


 Sewing for success. The program experienced an increase in the number of female students, and efforts to have them work in the garden were often met with resistance. The sewing initiative was designed to capture the interest of female students. However, male students also showed an interest in the sewing initiative. This project was combined with a project to support the school’s clothing bank (sorting, laundering and repairing clothes), which was established by the school to provide clothing to students in need. The school accepts donations from the community and maintains the clothing bank for students.


Maintaining the clothing bank helps students develop life skills as they learn how to do laundry and repair clothes. Students also develop organizational skills. In addition to maintaining the clothing bank, students create sewing products that they sell (e.g., bags, purses, scarves), which supports the development of job skills (sewing) and life skills (customer service). The school staff reported that a majority of the students, both female and male, express enjoyment with this initiative. Some students reported that the program is more relevant for them, while others reported that it complements the garden, especially on days with inclement weather. Thus, the sewing initiative has enhanced the other initiatives encompassed within the program.


Community collaboration. Researchers emphasize the importance of community partnerships in developing transition programs (Lehman et al., 2002). Active engagement with community resources promotes opportunities to continue to learn pro-social behaviors and work skills, vocational education and aptitude beyond the school. This initiative—grounded within the work-study model—provides opportunities for community work experience while maintaining school support. Students also have the opportunity to pursue an Option 2 diploma, which requires work placement in an on-the-job training or community-based training experience for at least six months. Placement sites have included garden centers, fast-food restaurants and grocery stores.


Community partnerships provide great opportunities for students; however, establishing placements that are a good fit for the student and the business is a vital and crucial consideration. Employers are often not equipped to provide training and supervision to support the students’ needs, given the nature of their disabilities and the relative instability of their living situations. Other limiting issues include the number of work hours available and transportation needs for the students. Thus, these experiences require continuous efforts in locating, developing and maintaining work placements. Furthermore, the program must adequately prepare the students for placements and provide ongoing support for the students and their employers.


Implications for School Counselors


The on-campus experiences provide opportunities for school counselors and teachers to work together to support students in developing work aptitude, as well as emotional regulation and self-control. Successful program completion leads to eligibility for pursuit of an Option 2 diploma. The initiatives also foster patience and persistence since maintenance of the garden is required while the crops are growing and other projects must be completed. Through this experience, students learn that rewards are not always instant and that time and hard work is necessary if one is to accomplish goals. Such awareness may serve to support a successful transition to work in the community upon program completion. Developing general work skills, a strong work ethic and social skills may assist individuals with obtaining jobs in various areas following high school.


The program supports academic learning by providing a link between practical career preparation and education. Science and math lessons, in accordance with state educational standards, are developed for middle and high school students. These lessons emphasize real-life educational experiences. The lessons focus on career awareness while supporting education and the transitional goals of the program. Students also learn important sequencing skills working in the garden that carry over to classroom learning. Further, the program supports the development of social skills and self-determination skills. Students learn to work together cooperatively and practice interacting with others when selling the garden produce, sewing products and earthworms. Additionally, the students have the opportunity to identify their interests, recognize their strengths, and evaluate their goals. Opportunities to experience success in both an educational and work setting support the development of a healthy self-esteem. Finally, the program fosters life skill development through budget planning and use of available monies. Thus, the initiatives are integral to the work of both the school counselor in facilitating a comprehensive school counseling program (ASCA, 2012) and the teacher in teaching academic subjects.


In addition to the program students, the greater school community, including the student body and staff, benefit because the vegetable and worm gardens are visible for the entire school community. Teachers can use the garden as a reference point to educate all students about plant growth and biological systems. The clothing bank provides a service to help meet the basic needs of all students. It also offers the opportunity for increased empathy and the intrinsic satisfaction of helping others through civic involvement. Furthermore, the program promotes a positive atmosphere for growth and development, which may foster excitement about learning. The program, through a focus on a positive, collaborative learning atmosphere, has the potential to nurture excitement about active learning and dedicated participation in one’s own learning.


The community also benefits from the program. Most importantly, student success may lead to the future integration of productive citizens into the community. By producing products specifically for the immediate community market, students develop a sense of community ownership and support for the program. Likewise, community partners have the opportunity to expand their workforce without incurring tremendous training expenses, while receiving continued management support from school personnel.


Despite the program benefits, there are also challenges. Program sustainability is an ongoing challenge that has intensified with budget cuts. The program initiatives were initially grant funded; however, the grants did not provide funding for sustainability. To address the challenges, the program formed an advisory board composed of school personnel, students and community partners who defined the priorities of the program, provided oversight, and reported progress to the School Advisory Committee. The board was instrumental in brainstorming and implementing sustainability strategies. At the board’s suggestion, students began marketing products grown and created through the program as a way to generate program funds. Another strategy involved obtaining additional grant funding to construct a tool shed, irrigation system and greenhouse. A greenhouse allows for starter plant production and reduces vegetable garden costs. The starter plants, when sold as another program product, generate additional income. Furthermore, the board sought to develop strong collaborations within the community to obtain donations and support. As another way to develop strong community–program collaboration, the board opted to solicit funds from the surrounding community.


Students identified as ESE/EBD, by the nature of their disability, are presented with challenges. While on campus, the program uses the school’s behavioral supports and interventions such as point sheets and rewards for appropriate behaviors. In addition, students have opportunities to process their experiences with the school counselor and other staff. These interventions reinforce appropriate pro-social behavior supportive of job skill development and aptitude. Additionally, the point system provides data to measure a student’s readiness to transition to an Option 2 diploma, or postgraduation education and/or vocational training (e.g., Job Corp).


Conversely, the supports, rewards, and interventions are different within the community placement sites, creating a challenge for students transitioning to work outside the campus environment. However, students do experience job site support and reinforcement as they “prove” themselves at the worksites. This real-world treatment thus encourages development of transition strategies to use following the completion of high school.


A perennial challenge encompasses obtaining adequate funding to sustain the initiatives. Adequate financial support is needed in order to offer a stipend to students working on campus. This is an incentive for students and supports efforts to adequately prepare them for community work placements.  In spite of funding fluctuations, a dedicated effort is made for successful work placement and maintenance of incentives to reward appropriate skill development and job success.


Although the program has experienced challenges and is relatively small (enrolling 10–15 students each year), some preliminary success has been identified within the program. Within the past school year, the program doubled the number of graduates. Additionally, the program had three students re-enroll who had previously withdrawn, one of the three graduating at the end of the school year. No students withdrew from the program during the year, and behavioral referrals were down 50% while students’ grade point average (GPA) increased by 0.17 points. Furthermore, students reported that they enjoyed the program and the job training experience. Some students stated that they would have dropped out of school if it were not for the program initiatives. Thus, the program appears to be promising in addressing counseling and academic goals. However, future research is needed to further examine the effectiveness of the program. Future research may include collecting pre/post data, further exploring perceptions (e.g., students, parents, school staff, community employers) about the program, and examining the longitudinal effects of the program.


In conclusion, IDEA (2004) requires schools to create transition plans for students with disabilities; however, Sabbatino and Macrine (2007) emphasize that this is not sufficient to promote a successful transition to adulthood. Therefore, programs are needed to promote the success of students with ESE/EBD. The design and implementation of programs requires collaboration between school counselors, teachers, administrators, support staff, students, families and community stakeholders. Additionally, program implementation requires time, funding and other resources. Despite these challenges, researchers have indicated that focusing on crucial in-school predictors may lead to success following high school (Test et al., 2009). Thus, this article presents a promising program for working with students with ESE/EBD. However, future research is needed to examine the initiatives presented in this article and determine how they might be used to help students become productive citizens.





American School Counselor Association. (2004). ASCA National Standards for Students. Alexandria, VA: Author.

American School Counselor Association. (2012). The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling   

            programs (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.

Aseltine, R. H. Jr., & Gore, S. (2005). Work, postsecondary education, and psychological functioning following the

transition from high school. Journal of Adolescent Research. 20(6), 615–639. doi: 10.1177/0743558405279360

Burgstahler, S. (2001). A collaborative model to promote career success for students with  disabilities. Journal of                Vocational Rehabilitation, 16, 209–215.

Cameto, R., Wagner, M., Newman, L., Blackorby, J., & Javitz, H. (2000). National Longitudinal Transition Study II              (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retrieved from

Carran, D., Kerins, M., & Murray, S. (2005). Three-year outcomes from positively and  negatively discharged EDB students from nonpublic special education facilities. Behavioral Disorders, 30, 119–134. Retrieved


Carter, E. W., Lane, K. L., Pierson, M. R., & Glaeser, B. (2006). Self-determination skills and opportunities of transition-age youth with emotional disturbance and learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 72, 333–346.

Carter, E. W., Trainor, A. A., Ditchman, N., & Owens, L. (2011). A pilot study connecting youth with emotional or behavioral difficulties to summer work experiences. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals,

            34(2), 95–106. doi: 10.1177/0885728810395745

Carter, E. W., Trainor, A. A., Owens, L., Swedeen, B., & Sun, Y. (2010). Self-determination prospects of youth with high-incidence disabilities: Divergent perspectives and related factors. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 18(2), 67–81. doi: 10.1177/1063426609332605

Exceptional Student Education Eligibility for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities, F.A.C. §§ 6A-6.03016              (2009).

Gore, S., Kadish, S., & Aseltine, R. H. Jr. (2003). Career centered high school education and post-high school career adaptation. American Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 77–88.

Granello, D., & Sears, S. (1999). The School to Work Opportunities Act and the role of the school counselor. Professional School Counseling, 3, 108–115.

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (1997).

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq. (2004).

Lehman, C. M., Clark, H. B., Bullis, M., Rinkin, J., & Castellanos, L. A. (2002). Transition from  school to adult life: Empowering youth through community ownership and accountability. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 11(1), 127–141. doi:10.1023/A:1014727930549

Rutkowski, S., Daston, M., Van Kuiken, D., & Riehle, E. (2006). Project SEARCH: A demand-side model of high school transition. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 25, 85–96. Retrieved from:

Sabbatino, E. D., & Macrine, S. L. (2007). Start on success: A model transition program for high school students with disabilities. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 52, 33–39. doi:10.3200/PSFL.52.1.33-40

Test, D. W., Mazzotti, V. L., Mustian, A. L., Fowler, C. H., Kortering, L., & Kohler, P. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32(3), 160–181. doi: 10.1177/0885728809346960

Wagner, M., Newman, L., Cameto, R., Levine, P., & Garza, N. (2006). An overview of findings from wave 2 of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retrieved from

Zigmond, N. (2006). Twenty-four months after high school: Paths taken by youth diagnosed with severe emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 14(2), 99–107. doi:10.1177/10634266060140020601


Jacqueline M. Swank is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Florida. Peter Huber is a school counselor at the A. Quinn Jones Exceptional Student Center, Alachua County Public Schools, Gainesville, FL. Correspondence can be addressed to Jacqueline M. Swank, University of Florida, College of Education, SHDOSE, 1215 Norman Hall, P.O. Box 117049, Gainesville, FL 32611,


Using Pair Counseling to Improve the Cost-Effectiveness of College Career Counseling

Mary-Catherine McClain, James P. Sampson

As the demand for career counseling services grows, the need for accountability rises, and the availability of funding decreases, it becomes more critical that practitioners utilize cost-effective interventions and alternative forms of treatment. One option for improving access to all clients while concurrently reducing costs involves using approaches based on collaboration between clients. Pair counseling, a brief intervention based on pairing two individuals of opposing orientations, can be implemented to improve access, promote social justice, and enhance the overall delivery of career services. This article further examines how career theory can be translated into actual practice. Implications for program development and future research are addressed.

Keywords: career counseling, pair counseling, cost-effective interventions, alternative treatments, brief intervention, social justice, program development


Career counselors are struggling to find more cost-effective, accessible interventions while simultaneously dealing with budget cuts and demands for accountability. As noted by Sampson, Dozier, and Colvin (2011), the nature of interventions (e.g., group counseling, workshops) and practitioners (e.g., teachers, counselors) are two key factors associated with cost. While specialized resources and individual counseling may be necessary for clients lacking readiness for decision-making, it is important to consider alternatives when assisting clients with higher levels of readiness or proficient decision-making skills. When level of client readiness is assessed and the appropriate service delivery option identified (e.g., individual, group, self-help), accessibility will be maximized, costs will be minimized, and practitioners will be better prepared to meet the heightened demand for services.


The purpose of this article is to provide a rationale for implementing pair counseling to maximize the number of individuals who can receive career assistance, while concurrently enhancing the cost-effectiveness and overall quality of career service delivery. This article examines career counseling and how career theory has been translated into practice, the effectiveness and relative costs of interventions utilized in career counseling, and suggestions for using pair counseling and evaluating its efficacy.


Career Development, Theory and Practice

Career counseling provides individuals with critical tools for improving self-understanding, occupational knowledge and career exploration behavior in order to set appropriate vocational goals. It also helps individuals meet their aspirations by identifying a sense of life purpose and direction. The practice of career counseling includes a unique history of more than 90 years, which incorporates principles related to counseling and career theory (Super, 1992).


Career theory plays an important role in improving the overall practice of career counseling. For example, the theory provides a basis for selecting interventions and information to effectively deliver services (Brown, 2002). Research conducted by Parsons (1909) during his work with adolescents serves as one factor that increased support for career development and interventions among school educators. Parsons emphasized the importance of self-knowledge (e.g., abilities) and knowledge about the world of work. Similarly, Strong (1927) highlighted the importance of connecting student interests to occupations, and Holland (1973) advocated finding occupational environments that were congruent with individual personality types.


Since the early 1980s, career theories and counseling roles have expanded from a strictly vocational emphasis toward a more holistic picture to meet the diverse and cultural needs of all clientele (Lee & Johnston, 2001; Parmer & Rush, 2003). Due to the rapid transformation of social and economic structures in the 21st century, career counselors have recognized the importance of utilizing dynamic interventions and new service delivery models that have emerged in response to this challenging context (Amundson, 2006). While the field of career theory has experienced considerable growth, research suggests the translation of theory into practice remains inadequate and inconsistent (Miller & Brown, 2005). Pair counseling (discussed in depth later in this article) represents one dynamic, holistic and brief-service delivery approach that could be used to help college students make more effective career decisions through the development of enhanced self-knowledge and occupational knowledge.


Interventions, Efficacy and Costs

In light of recent accountability requirements and reductions in state funding, practitioners are experiencing increased pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness of their services on client outcomes (Wampold, Lichtenberg, & Waehler, 2002). Furthermore, continued funding is highly associated with providing data on the efficacy of career interventions. The current literature suggests that career counseling interventions are effective and promote career development in clients receiving services (Whiston, 2002). Similarly, a meta-analysis performed by Hughes and Gration (2006) found that career decision-making behaviors, career-related knowledge and career maturity improved following exposure to career services. To continue examining the effectiveness of career counseling interventions, it is critical that policies are implemented in which practitioners are allocated adequate financial resources and time for evaluation purposes. Equally important is developing and testing more cost-effective models of service delivery, which ultimately promotes social justice.


Social Justice

Common themes within social justice include advocating for equal access and distribution of resources in society for both underprivileged and more fortunate individuals (Sampson et al., 2011). As mentioned above, the costs related to providing interventions may serve as one factor limiting the accessibility of services—making such costs a social justice issue. For example, individual counseling is more expensive and time consuming than other modalities, yet it appears to be the most widely accepted and used practice (Sampson et al., 2011). As the demand for services grows and the need for accountability rises, it becomes even more critical that practitioners are proactive and utilize alternative forms of treatment. One option for improving access while concurrently reducing costs involves using approaches based on collaboration between clients (Sampson et al., 2011). The following section explores the effectiveness of utilizing two nontraditional forms of counseling within the field of higher education as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the approach.


Counseling Modalities

Some career counselors have shifted focus to helping clients through collaborative techniques rather than implementing interventions that assist individuals independently (Thrift & Amundson, 2005). For instance, Lee and Johnston (2001) argued that the future success of career services and work performance is dependent upon effective collaboration, interdependence and relationships skills in which clients function as co-learners. In order to create more flexible interpersonal arrangements and reduced time constraints when providing support, guidance and information to clients, researchers in a variety of fields have developed creative treatment alternatives.


Peer Tutoring

Over the past two decades, research (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002) in peer tutoring has increased dramatically due to the method’s economic advantages (e.g., teaching larger numbers of students), political benefits (e.g., facilitating egalitarian thinking), social gains (e.g., improving interpersonal skills), and positive outcomes (e.g., promoting empowerment). Furthermore, students become active learners, receive immediate feedback, achieve greater commitment, and experience increased motivation (Schunk, 1987). For example, Maxwell (1990) showed that peer tutoring and counseling improved academic achievement, increased confidence, and lowered student anxiety levels among tutees. Likewise, Topping, Watson, Jarvis, and Hill (1996) found that students in dyadic reciprocal tutoring groups reported less stress, higher learning and more positive self-concepts when compared to a randomly assigned control group. The mentoring or tutoring relationship also allows for direct assistance with career and professional development, while it concurrently supports emotional and psychological growth (Jacobi, 1991). On the other hand, peer tutoring does have disadvantages: training students to serve as teachers consumes extensive time, and the quality of interaction may be poor if students are not matched appropriately (McDonnell, 1994). Additionally, students may give incorrect information when not under the supervision of a professional.


Collaborative Learning

One form of instructional design typically utilized within university contexts is collaborative learning (Yang, 2006). Specifically, students actively work together in groups of two or more to complete learning tasks and solve problems. More recently, dyads or pairs of students have served as the primary functional unit for collaborative learning. Slavin (1996) advocated that individuals learn better as other peers prompt metacognition, facilitate participation in cognitive activities, and provide validation. Additionally, diffusion of responsibility is minimized because only two students are working together. Improving access to interventions and reducing costs are further benefits of implementing collaborative-based approaches. On the other hand, without the role of a more advanced facilitator, students may experience difficulty completing complex tasks or have insufficient resources to solve problems.


In summary, peer tutoring and collaborative learning represent different modalities with similar underlying theoretical foundations that can be applied when assisting college students with career decisions. However, one must consider a number of significant limitations prior to use. For example, one shortcoming of each approach is the failure to directly consider developmental levels and cognitive abilities of respective clients (Horton, 2008). Pair counseling could be considered as a more cost-effective approach that incorporates strengths found in the above two modalities as well as includes interventions fostering developmental and cognitive growth under the supervision of a trained practitioner.


Pair Counseling

Pair counseling is a structured, short-term developmental intervention in which two persons of opposing intrapersonal orientations (e.g., shy versus aggressive) are matched in a counseling relationship and experience dyadic interactions within a secure environment, guided by a trained practitioner (Karcher, 2002). Pair counseling also incorporates principles of developmental psychology, play therapy and social psychology. Additionally, it is holistic, contextual, and serves as a potential preventive framework for college students seeking career counseling services and resources. Finally, it includes assumptions found in the above modalities (e.g., learning is active, depends on rich contexts, and is inherently social) and allows pairs to function under the guidance, structure and supervision of a trained counselor. However, pair counseling has not been empirically tested within a career center setting or with college/adult populations. Instead, the majority of research investigating the effectiveness of pair counseling has been conducted using children and adolescents in residential or juvenile settings (e.g., middle schools, prisons) (Selman & Schultz, 1990). In the subsequent paragraphs, the theoretical foundation and respective evaluation outcomes are addressed followed by a description of core techniques, roles of the counselor, and assessment measures used in practice. It also should be noted that this article first examines pair counseling with children, and later explores how it can be used when serving adult populations seeking career services.


Theoretical Orientation       

The mechanisms of change by which pair counseling occurs can be broken down into three theoretical categories: social perspective taking, interpersonal negotiation and interpersonal orientation. More than 50 years ago, Piaget (1965) proposed that peers and supportive relationships are critical for appropriate development. Additionally, researchers suggest that parents, educators and professionals cannot provide these friendships in the same manner or quality that peers are able to achieve (Selman, Levitt, & Schultz, 1997). Selman (1980) and his colleagues developed a model of interpersonal understanding based on the above rationale, defined as the ability to “understand social situations in terms of the multiple perspectives of the individuals involved” (Selman, 1980, p. 302). Egocentric thinking, second-person perspective, perspective coordination (e.g., capacity for abstraction) and negotiation strategies represent the four levels described in Selman’s perspective-taking development model. Persons develop this sequence of social perspective-taking over time. Successful resolution of all levels suggests that individuals can identify and understand what is best for the overall social relationship as well as resolve relationship conflict (Selman, 1980).


Each of the above perspective-taking abilities further correlates with a specific type of interpersonal negotiation strategy (often utilized to resolve interpersonal conflicts). Additionally, these strategies can be described in terms of orientation and maturity (Selman & Schultz, 1990).  For example, individuals who vaguely identify perspectives different from their own and focus only on their own wants are likely engaging in unilateral (level 1) actions while individuals operating at a second-person perspective use reciprocal (level 2) negotiation strategies (e.g., cooperation, deal making). A third-person perspective relates to demonstrating collaborative actions (level 3) that accommodate one’s own needs as well as the partner’s (Karcher, 2002). A final component of Selman’s (1980) model relates to specific interpersonal orientations, or how individuals approach relationships. Specifically, some students “give in” during peer interactions (other-transforming) while others manipulate and threaten peers to meet their own needs (self-transforming).


Research suggests that aggressive and withdrawn individuals have immature negotiation strategies and poor perspective-taking abilities when compared to age-related peers (Selman, 1980). As a result, one purpose of pair counseling is helping persons adaptively use both self- and other-transforming strategies to create perspectives that satisfy each student’s needs. Related goals include increasing social-cognitive skills (e.g., perspective taking and problem solving), promoting interpersonal understanding and fostering social maturity (Schultz & Selman, 1998). Finally, working in collaborative pairs can significantly enhance student learning while simultaneously increasing the opportunity for corrective/constructive feedback (Slavin, 1996). For example, students working in dyads can increase the opportunity for cognitive disequilibrium—with the ultimate outcome of promoting perspective-taking ability, intellectual growth, deeper perspectives and reasoning.


Previous Findings and Outcomes

How does an individual benefit from pair counseling, and to what extent can this approach facilitate psychological, social, emotional, vocational and overall well-being? Over the past two decades, several researchers have explored these questions in residential and outpatient contexts, and most recently in academic settings. Qualitative reports—largely based on case studies and quantitative research typically using empirical designs—demonstrate pair counseling as a powerful intervention that significantly contributes to positive youth outcomes (Schultz, 1997).


Youth exhibiting severe aggression, withdrawal or other disruptive behavioral patterns (e.g., ADHD) are commonly referred for treatment, whether in outpatient or residential settings.  Research also suggests that troubled children experience difficulty interacting with peers, exhibit low social competence, and lack psychological resilience (McCullough, Wilkins, & Selman, 1997).  Based on this premise, Karcher & Lewis (2002) conducted a pilot study examining the effects of pair counseling with patients receiving inpatient hospitalization services. Results demonstrated significant reductions in aggressive and delinquent behaviors as well as increases in cognitive development.  In essence, persons diagnosed with externalizing disorders (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder) learned how to make better decisions, resolve conflicts, and achieve higher interpersonal understanding when treated within a pair counseling context because it provided an avenue for self-reflection and peer interaction. Advantages of pair counseling also are effective for individuals experiencing internalizing symptoms such as depression, immaturity or social anxiety.


Schultz (1997) investigated the use of pair counseling among two adolescent girls—one more dominating and forceful, and the other more withdrawn and shy. The context of pair counseling appeared to enable the girls to identify, share and normalize feelings for one another. Furthermore, pair counseling served as a primary vehicle for allowing these youth to develop assertiveness and feel acceptance. Pairing also facilitated the acquisition of appropriate social skills among children diagnosed with ADHD as it promoted goal setting and a context in which self-control could be established. Finally, research indicates that pair counseling fosters understanding between individuals from diverse cultural or ethnic backgrounds.


Schneider, Karcher, and Schlapkohl (1999) published a case study that illustrated the benefits of implementing pair counseling when treating individuals from two different racial backgrounds. Specifically, this modality was utilized when two students of varying ethnic backgrounds were referred for counseling due to awkward and immature social skills. Over the course of treatment, the pair reflected and discussed shared experiences—eventually leading to decreased social isolation and stress experienced at school. It also was reported that the benefits extended beyond the school setting and further enhanced the students’ relationships with their respective families. Although the current research supports the use of pair counseling to treat externalizing and internalizing symptoms, no research has empirically investigated the use of pair counseling as an intervention for college students seeking career services. A potentially promising approach would be to adapt the technique of pair counseling for college students engaging in the career decision-making process.


Matching in Pair Counseling

How does one optimally match persons in pair counseling? For counseling to be most effective, individuals with opposing interpersonal orientations and developmental needs should be matched (Kane, Raya, & Ayoub, 2002). It also becomes easier to facilitate problem solving when persons exhibit divergent styles. Base pairs are typically matched in terms of different negotiation preferences—one student who is forceful or demanding may be matched with another student who expresses timid or shy behavior. Research further suggests that the weaknesses and strengths of each individual can complement the other person’s area of strength or weakness (Karcher, 2002). For example, a college student who is easily distracted may learn to relate and work better with others after being matched with a student who is attentive and detailed oriented; or, a more cautious student could be matched with an impulsive individual. Based on these examples, it seems that incorporating pair counseling and matching pairs can foster collaboration, active learning, and new ways of thinking about resolving career concerns. Also, from a social justice perspective, this type of counseling allows more clients to receive services.


Pair Counseling Techniques

While matching students serves as the foundation for progress and relationship formation, a secure environment must be established for these relationships to flourish. To improve the accuracy and overall effectiveness of pair counseling, Karcher (2002) prepared a comprehensive manual to standardize specific pair techniques and procedures. For example, counseling sessions should be conducted in the same place and at the same time each week—for 50 minutes. Equally important is establishing rules, discussing goals and describing the outline of each session (Barr, Karcher, & Selman, 1997). It also is common for pair partners to choose which activities to perform during the session using negotiation strategies.


In the beginning of each session, the practitioner reviews successes and failures of previous meetings in order to foster reflections and improve session discussions. Next, matched pairs engage in the agreed upon activity or game while the counselor remains nondirective, purposely focusing on the interaction between the pair. Throughout this time, the counselor also helps negotiate conflicts, encourages the articulation of different points of view, and assists in developing solutions to problems. During the last 15 minutes of the session, the counselor becomes more directive to facilitate reflections and to discuss how conflicts could be handled differently in the future (Karcher, 2002). Finally, examples of cooperation and assertiveness occurring within the meeting are described and pairs are typically asked to discuss feelings, thoughts or behaviors that contributed to the success of the session.


In order to promote perspective-taking and foster developmental maturity for both individuals in the pair, the practitioner can employ empowering, linking and enabling during specific interactions, as conflict arises or at the conclusion of each session (Karcher, 2002). Empowering is often utilized for impulsive persons who experience difficulty articulating feelings or identifying beliefs, goals and desires. A person gains a sense of self-efficacy as the counselor reflects needs and subsequently empowers the person to achieve a more differentiated point of view. After a person recognizes and acknowledges personal interests, linking helps the pair coordinate different social perspectives. Additionally, the counselor may need to model or break down the conflict into smaller pieces so that a goal is identified and subsequently agreed upon. Next, the pair strives to generate alternative solutions with the ultimate goal of implementing a mutual strategy. In essence, the pair works together to solve a conflict that is satisfying for both parties. Enabling serves as a final intervention that encourages the matched pair to recognize long-term consequences of individual actions on their mutual relationship. For example, reviewing disagreements, processing interactions, and resolving differences serves as one technique for increasing collaboration, support and respect between the pairs.


Pair Counselor Roles

Fostering relationship development between two individuals and maintaining relationship functions such as autonomy and intimacy represent important counselor roles (Karcher, 2002). Another role relates to enhancing social skills. In other words, a pair counselor offers support during peer interactions and uses opportunities occurring within the session, peer play and guided reflection to promote perspective taking, encourage negotiation, resolve conflict, and enhance social skills.


After establishing a secure atmosphere and explaining the specific goals of pair counseling to each partner, the counselor devotes significant effort to promoting perspective taking and interpersonal understanding. Counselors employ specific techniques in order to accomplish this goal, such as empowering, linking and enabling, as discussed previously. It should be noted that each technique corresponds to levels of perspective taking that are just above the pair’s current social and maturity level (Selman & Schultz, 1990). Other guidelines for ensuring a successful session include incorporating directive and nondirective techniques, accentuating positive interactions, and promoting connectedness between sessions.


Assessment in Pair Counseling

Assessing and evaluating pairs serves as a final function for pair counselors. A variety of evaluation measures have been developed and tested to determine the efficacy of pair counseling. Furthermore, researchers and practitioners recognize that assessment should be comprehensive, incorporating multiple points of view and several measures (Schultz, 1997). Commonly used measures to assess social skill competence and interpersonal understanding include self-reports, interviews, observational checklists, school performance data and empirically-based questionnaires. For example, the Friends’ Dilemma Interview (Selman, 1980) measures perspective-taking ability, conflict resolution and interpersonal understanding, while the Interpersonal Negotiation Strategies Interview (INS; Schultz, Yeates, & Selman, 1989) measures interpersonal autonomy. In terms of questionnaires, the Relationship Questionnaire (Schultz & Selman, 1998) presents 12 scenarios that assess personal meaning of relationships and self-reported action, while the Persons-in-Pairs Questionnaire (Schultz, 1997) explores the experience of pair counseling, feelings about being a pair partner, and things learned as a result of participating in pair counseling. Other scales include the Pair Therapy Process Scale (Selman, Watts, & Schultz, 1997) and the Community-Oriented Programs Environment Scale (Moos, 1996).


An Application of Pair Counseling in College Career Counseling

As noted by Karcher (1997), specific goals of pair counseling are a function of the context in which treatment is employed. Pair counseling has demonstrated its effectiveness with children, and the present authors propose that pair counseling could similarly be employed and be equally effective within a college career center to support freshmen and upperclassmen coping with academic or psychosocial transitions.


A Proposal for Adapting Pair Counseling at the University Level

Pair counseling serves as one intervention tool career counselors can utilize when assisting college students during stressful transitions, whether for the purpose of decreasing commitment anxiety and decision-making confusion when choosing a major, researching jobs, or applying to graduate programs. As research suggests that psychosocial development is necessary for successful performance in academic and vocational contexts, it seems that one advantage of pair counseling is fostering psychosocial development in college students (Deptula & Cohen, 2004; Hinkelman & Luzzo, 2007). For example, relationships formed during the pair counseling process are likely to result in students learning how to share feelings, resolve differences, develop identities, gain feelings of autonomy, and manage thoughts on a deeper level. Likewise, based on Schultheiss’s (2000) relational career counseling model, the facilitative nature of attachment relationships between students can be used for connecting personal, career and social domains—ultimately enhancing adjustment and overall development. This technique also fits well with more recent career theories that have emphasized a more holistic perspective when serving clients. Pair counseling further represents an avenue for translating theory into practice.


A second strength of pair counseling is its ability to help college students identify and learn the perspective of other college students from all cultural, ethnic, social, academic, class and religious backgrounds. As a result, students are likely to receive exposure to alternative points of view, develop diverse problem-solving strategies, and exhibit advanced decision-making skills. However, differences exist between pair counseling and approaches based on individual and group counseling.


Although individual counseling is effective for treating numerous problems and disorders, it does not provide students with direct social functioning with peers. This serves as one limitation for career counselors assisting students seeking interviewing tips or guidelines for resume writing. For example, students working in pairs on these tasks are likely to benefit because of the increased opportunity for reflection and development of interpersonal competence. Similarly, group counseling may not provide students with a direct opportunity to learn or interact with one another. For example, conflicts or disagreements may affect an entire group, but not a specific relationship. Alternatively, the structure of pair counseling protects against the opportunity for students to become overwhelmed or overstimulated by group processes while simultaneously providing clients with resources for support and coping (Karcher, 1997). Third, the approach of pair counseling addresses the developmental level of each pair member and has specific interventions to further facilitate cognitive growth. A final rationale for implementing pair counseling within a college career setting relates to cost-effectiveness. Specifically, as the number of students seeking career services continues to grow and as the number of staff and other resources remains the same or declines, it becomes critical to implement interventions that meet or fulfill this need.


Matching Pairs, Sessions and Techniques

Several factors should be considered when determining pairs. Based on the current literature, the most effective pairing typically occurs among same-gender partners and individuals sharing similar academic or cognitive abilities. These similarities likely increase collaboration, communication and comfort between individuals because the individuals are seen as equal partners. Furthermore, clients are often matched according to opposing interpersonal orientations as it fosters more effective problem solving and discussion. Similarly, clients sharing similar interests, work experiences and occupational goals are generally appropriate pairs. Pairing also is a function of the career service requested; clients selecting a college major have different needs than clients applying for employment or creating a portfolio. It should be noted that the above represent hypotheses, and because no research has empirically investigated pair counseling in a career setting or used content related to vocational decision-making, these suggestions should be experimentally tested. Furthermore, researchers should consider alternative pairings (e.g., cross-age pairs) to identify which factors are most important when matching clients. Following the matching process, how are sessions conducted, techniques implemented and goals achieved?


Increased attention and research efforts are needed for answering the above questions because minimal research has examined pair counseling using brief interventions or drop-in advising services for career counseling. As the majority of clients seeking career services rarely “drop by” more than three or four times in a semester, and often spend less than one hour per session, it seems that one option is intervening early and specifically targeting students who are at-risk for dropping out of college early (e.g., undecided major, first-time-in-college students) or who are already experiencing difficulty in their academic programs. After identifying at-risk students, similar techniques of empowering, linking and enabling should be employed.


Stumbling Blocks and Potential Ethical Issues

While pair counseling has demonstrated efficacy in treating a variety of disorders and across a range of clinical settings, several potential problems have been noted within the literature. First, mismatching among partners may decrease treatment effectiveness; opportunities for conflict increase when interpersonal orientations, levels of maturity and perspective-taking abilities differ significantly between partners (Karcher, 1997). Furthermore, without an adequate level of rapport and security, pairs may find it difficult to communicate, interact and be honest with one another. Based on these findings, it becomes critical that career counselors develop strategies for matching pairs. For example, the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI; Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996) could be utilized to match students of varying levels of anxiety, decision-making confusion and external conflict, or it may be more appropriate to match pairs based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types. The CTI could also be used as an outcome measure to evaluate the effectiveness of pair counseling. Similarly, educators and researchers should consider how they might pair students who are enrolled in an undergraduate career development course and thus already have pre-existing relationships. Alternatively, how might it work for two members of an organization (e.g., Greeks) to engage in pair counseling?


Disclosing too much information (e.g., making the other partner uncomfortable), breaking confidentiality, and prematurely terminating the sessions represent additional concerns. For example, if an individual shares information outside of the counseling relationship, the other individual may develop mistrust issues or be reluctant to reveal feelings or opinions in future sessions. In order to reduce the likelihood of these ethical problems occurring, it is important for counselors to maintain structure, develop rules, and take notes following each session. When facing complex situations, counselors should consult with others, seek supervision, and use resources.


Future Directions

An important first step for researchers is to conduct studies beyond externalizing disorders and internalizing problems to more cognitively advanced and psychosocial issues encountered by college students and young adults. For example, the influence and potentially positive impact pair counseling has when assisting clients making career decisions and selecting educational options based on vocational goals represents a cognitive example that could be explored more closely by future researchers. Alternatively, researchers could examine how social support between pairs fosters career readiness and autonomy; would an individual feeling discriminated against or afraid to “come out” experience more comfort in making decisions when involved in a positive social relationship? Similarly, the literature and methodology of collaborative learning can be incorporated when assisting clients under a pair counseling approach. Whether pairs work together to explore a significant question (e.g., what college major should I choose?), resolve a problem (e.g., how to write a resume) or complete an activity on the Internet (e.g., research occupations) to make a more informed career choice, the principle components and methodology used for collaborative learning will be essential as researchers move forward in better understanding and implementing pair counseling. As with collaborative learning, these activities should be clearly defined, and individuals must feel supported and validated, but also challenged (Yang, 2006).


Another area for future research concerns the issue of social justice. Researchers could evaluate the cost-effectiveness of pair counseling over an academic year by comparing the number of clients served, the duration of each session, and specific outcomes associated with participating in the pair counseling process (e.g., career satisfaction, career readiness, reduction in dysfunctional thoughts).


Formal quantitative and qualitative research designs are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of pair counseling (Horton, 2008). Specifically, researchers should focus on employing true experiments or at least quasi-experimental designs that incorporate random assignment and comparison groups. Similarly, it is important to collect information over a longer intervention period that includes multiple data collection dates and assessment instruments measuring self-esteem, career readiness, and anxiety. In addition to these areas for future research, it would be beneficial to have a larger number of pairs across a variety of ethnicities, genders, academic levels (freshman through graduate student), and college majors (Horton, 2008). Third, it would be beneficial to explore outcomes of pair counseling for different disorders and across different levels of perspective taking/negotiation to determine which pairings are most effective. Finally, it is important to explore the effectiveness of pair counseling using a variety of total sessions. Researchers could evaluate whether paired students benefit from 1–3 sessions, which is typical practice at career centers advocating brief-staff assisted services, or whether a more traditional 10–13 sessions is necessary for positive treatment results.




Pair counseling could assume an important role in the area of career intervention, as it represents an approach that facilitates dyadic, positive social interactions between two clients. Through collaborative discussions among matched pairs, and under the guidance of a professional counselor, students could identify transferrable skills, select majors, and learn how to make more effective career decisions. Similarly, pairs could provide emotional support to one another while implementing career choices and/or discussing options for reducing career barriers and feelings of anxiety. In addition to bridging the gap between theory and practice, pair counseling represents a cost-effective approach that would enable more college students seeking career services to be served. Future research is needed to determine what types of clients benefit the most and for what career problems this approach is most effective.






Amundson, N. (2006). Challenges for career interventions in changing contexts. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 6, 3–14. doi:10.1007/s10775-006-0002-4

Barr, D., Karcher, J., & Selman, R. (1998).  Pair therapy: Promoting psychosocial development in troubled children. In J. D. Noshpitz, N. E. Alessi, J. T. Coyle, S. Harrison, & S. Eth (Eds.), Handbook of child and adolescent psychiatry. New York, NY: Wiley.

Brown, C. (2002). Career counseling practitioners: Reflection on theory, research, and practice. Journal of Career Development, 29, 109–127.

Deptula, D. P., & Cohen, R. (2004). Aggressive, rejected, and delinquent children and adolescents: A comparison of their friendships. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 75–104. doi:10.1016/S1359-1789(02)00117-9

Hinkelman, J.M., & Luzzo, D.A. (2007). Mental health and career development of college students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 85, 143–147.

Holland, J. (1973). Making vocational choices: A theory of careers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Horton, J. (2008). Pair counseling for high school students: Improving friendship skills, interpersonal relationships, and behavior among aggressive and withdrawn adolescents (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. (3318937)

Hughes, D., & Gration, G. (2006). Performance indicators and benchmarks in career guidance in the United Kingdom (Occasional Paper). Retrieved from University of Derby, Centre for Guidance Studies Web site:

Jacobi, M. (1991). Mentoring and undergraduate academic success: A literature review. Review of Educational Research, 61, 505–532. doi:10.2307/1170575

Jekielek, S. M., Moore, K. A., & Hair, E. C. (2002). Mentoring programs and youth development. Washington, DC: Child Trends. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED465457).

Kane, S., Raya, P., & Ayoub, C. (1997). Pair play therapy with toddlers and preschoolers. In R. L. Selman, C. L. Watts, & L. H. Schultz (Eds.), Fostering friendship: Pair therapy for treatment and prevention (pp. 185–206). Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Karcher, M. J. (1996). Pairing for the prevention of prejudice: Pair counseling to promote intergroup understanding. Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, 11, 119–143.

Karcher, J. (2002). The principles and practice of pair counseling: A dyadic developmental play therapy for aggressive, withdrawn, and socially immature youth. International Journal of Play Therapy, 11(2), 121–147. doi:10.1037/h0088868

Karcher, J., & Lewis, S. (2002). Pair counseling: The effects of a dyadic developmental play therapy on interpersonal understanding and externalizing behaviors. International Journal of Play Therapy, 11(1), 19–41. doi:10.1037/h0088855

Lee, F., & Johnston, J. (2001). Innovations in career counseling. Journal of Career Development, 27(3), 177–185. doi:10.1177/089484530102700304

Maxwell, M. (1990). Does tutoring help? A look at the literature. Review of Research in Developmental Education, 7, 3–7.

McCullough, A., Wilkins, G., Selman, R. (1997). Pair therapy in residential treatment center for children and adolescents. In R. L. Selman, C. L. Watts, & L. H. Schultz (Eds.), Fostering friendship: Pair therapy for treatment and prevention (pp. 101–120). Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

McDonnell, J. (1994). Peer tutoring: A pilot scheme among computer science undergraduates. Mentoring and Tutoring, 2(2), 3–10.

Miller, M., & Brown, S. (2005). Counseling for career choice: Implications for improving interventions and working with diverse populations. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 441–465). New York, NY: Wiley & Sons.

Moos, R. H. (1996). Community Oriented Program Environment Scale: Sampler Set Manual, Test Booklets, and Scoring Key, 3rd ed. Redwood City, CA: Mind Garden.

Parmer, T., & Rush, L. (2003). The next decade in career counseling: Cocoon maintenance or metamorphosis? The Career Development Quarterly, 52, 26–34.

Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. New York, NY: Free Press.

Sampson, J. P., Dozier, V. C., & Colvin, G. P. (2011). Translating career theory to practice: The risk of unintentional social injustice. Journal of Counseling and Development, 89, 326–337.

Sampson, J. P., Peterson, G. W., Lenz, J. G., Reardon, R. C., & Saunders, D. (1996). Career Thoughts Inventory: Professional Manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Schneider, B., Karcher, M., & Schlapkohl, W. (1999). Relationship counseling across cultures: Cultural sensitivity and beyond. In P. Pederson (Ed.)., Multiculturalism: A fourth force in psychological interventions? (pp. 167–190). Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.

Schultheiss, D. (2000). Emotional-social issues in the provision of career counseling. In D. A. Luzzo (Ed.), Career counseling of college students: An empirical guide to strategies that work (pp. 43–62). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Schultz, L. H. (1997). A comprehensive framework for evaluating pairs. In R. L. Selman, C. L. Watts, & L. H. Schultz (Eds.), Fostering friendship: Pair therapy for treatment and prevention (pp. 231–250). New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Schultz, L. H. & Selman, R. L. (1989). Bridging the gap between interpersonal thought and action in early adolescence: The role of psychodynamic processes. Development and Psychopathology, 1, 133–152.

Schultz, L., Yeates, K. & Selman, R. (1989). The interpersonal negotiation strategies interview manual. Unpublished manual, Harvard University.

Schunk, D. (1987). Self-efficacy and motivated learning. In N. Hastings & J. Schwieso (Eds.), New directions in educational psychology: Behavior and motivation in the classroom (pp. 233–252). East Sussex, England: The Falmer Press.

Selman, R. L. (1980). The growth of interpersonal understanding: Developmental and clinical analyses. New York, NY: Academic Press.

Selman, R. L., & Schultz, L. H. (1990). Making a friend in youth: Developmental theory and pair therapy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Selman, R. L., Levitt, M., & Schultz, L. (1997). The friendship framework: Tools for the assessment of psychosocial development. In R. L. Selman, C. L. Watts, & L. H. Schultz (Eds.), Fostering friendship: Pair therapy for treatment and prevention (pp. 31–52). New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Selman, R., Watts, C., & Schultz, L. (1997). Fostering friendship: Pair therapy for treatment and prevention. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Slavin, R. (1996). Research on cooperative learning and achievement: What we know, what we need to know. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21, 43–69. doi:10.1006/ceps.1996.0004

Strong, E. (1927). Vocational interest blank. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Super, D. E. (1992). Toward a comprehensive theory of career development. In D. H. Montross & C. J. Shinkman (Eds.), Career development: Theory and practice (pp. 35–64). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Thrift, E., & Amundson, N. (2005). Hermeneutic-narrative approach to career counseling: An alternative to postmodernism. Perspectives in Education, 23, 9–20.

Topping, K., Watson, G., Jarvis, R., & Hill, S. (1996). Same-year paired peer tutoring in

undergraduate mathematics. Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 341–356. doi:10.1080/1356251960010305

Wampold, B. E., Lichtenberg, J. W., & Waehler, C. A. (2002). Principles of empirically supported interventions in counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 30, 197–217.

Whiston, S. C. (2002). Application of principles: Career counseling and interventions. The Counseling Psychologist, 30, 218–237. doi:10.1177/0011000002302002

Yang, S. J. H. (2006). Context aware ubiquitous learning environments for peer-to-peer collaborative learning. Educational Technology & Society, 9(1), 188–201.


Mary-Catherine McClain is a predoctoral intern at Johns Hopkins University Counseling Center. James P. Sampson, NCC, NCCC, is the Mode L. Stone Distinguished Professor of Counseling and Career Development, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Administration, and Co-Director, Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development, College of Education at Florida State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Mary-Catherine McClain, 3003 North Charles Street, Suite S-200, Baltimore, MD 21218,




Millennial Counselors and the Ethical Use of Facebook

Leah Brew, Joseph M. Cervantes, David Shepard

The use of social networking sites (SNS), and Facebook in particular, seems to be on the rise (Salaway, Nelson, & Ellison, 2008). The majority of users tend to be from the millennial generation (Hazlett, 2008), as are the majority of graduate counseling students. This discussion explores several areas regarding the use of Facebook. First, we review the literature on why students from the millennial generation are such avid users of Facebook. Second, we explore privacy settings: how Millennials establish privacy settings and what demographic factors may be correlated with the level of privacy settings they establish. Results from an online descriptive survey of counseling students are compared with and found in many ways to be inconsistent with the literature on the risk factors associated with limited use of privacy settings. Implications of and recommendations for using Facebook for counselors and counselor educators are provided.

Keywords: millennial generation, Generation Y, social networking sites, Facebook, ethics, boundaries


The use of social networking sites (SNS) is increasing in popularity with college students (Hazlett, 2008), and Facebook is one of the most popular sites (Salaway, Nelson, & Ellison, 2008; Fogel & Nehmad, 2009; Hazlett, 2008; Lehavot, Barnett, & Powers, 2010; MacDonald, Sohn, & Ellis, 2010). As of March 2013, Facebook had over 1.11 billion users overall (Facebook, 2013), but the more relevant statistic for this article is the evidence of the site’s widespread use by college students. Data collected in 2006 and 2007 from several studies found that about 60–65% of college students were using Facebook (Fogel & Nehmad, 2009; Lehavot et al., 2010; MacDonald et al., 2010). Recent research conducted on college students found that more than 85% of students who responded to the survey use SNS, and 89% of those who used SNS had a Facebook page (Salaway et al., 2008). Thus, the use of SNS and Facebook is officially part of the college student culture. The fact that so many college students have incorporated Facebook into their lives is highly relevant to the field of counselor education. The majority of students in both masters and doctoral level training programs will have come from this culture, with a strong likelihood that they enter college programs with an existing Facebook page, and anticipate a continued interaction with friends, families and classmates via Facebook. Yet, the use of Facebook raises challenging ethical and clinical issues for both students and counselor educators. These include boundary issues: most importantly, the risks associated with a student’s private information being accessible to clients; issues related to enhancing the integrity of the profession; and the ethical responsibilities of counselor preparation programs in admitting and preparing students for counseling careers. The purpose of this article is to examine the relevant literature on Facebook as it pertains to counselor education, and specifically literature that deepens an understanding of both why students use Facebook and how they use Facebook. Additionally, we will describe the results of a survey of Facebook use at our own master’s in counseling program at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), which has a large student body, most of whom are members of the millennial generation. The nature of this survey is purely exploratory, with the goal of assessing whether Facebook use in one program supports or challenges the findings in the extant literature. The degree to which those findings are challenged will help clarify the need for and direction of future research. Finally, we will discuss the ethical dilemmas posed by Facebook, make recommendations on how counselor educators can prepare students to use Facebook ethically, and ensure that programmatic use of Facebook maintains the highest ethical standards.


Privacy Settings on Facebook


Before examining the literature, it is important to review the concept of privacy and privacy settings in Facebook, since the way Facebook users deal with privacy is critical to ethically-sound counseling practice. Personal information can be displayed on Facebook including name, address, e-mail, phone number, alma mater (high school and college), current employer and marital status (Facebook, 2013). In addition, questions about spiritual and political beliefs, interests and hobbies can be shared. Finally, the wall, a kind of virtual poster board, offers an opportunity to display any comments one wants to make about a particular topic (such as current events and topics, or a personal story) and has a platform to upload pictures. With each of these primary areas, users can determine whether the public, friends-of-friends, or friends only can see the information. Establishing privacy is usually done at one of these three levels, and Facebook defaults to public; so if a user does not know how to set privacy, most everything will be available for the public to view. This last point is especially salient for counseling students, since their familiarity with the technology of privacy settings directly bears on protecting their boundaries of privacy and keeping clients from accessing personal information.


Why Counseling Students Use Facebook: The Millennial Generation


Within the business profession, the concept of each generation holding its own sets of values is well documented (see Bergman, Fearrington, Davenport, & Bergman, 2011; Howe & Strauss, 2003; Mehdizadeh, 2010; Reith, 2005; Sandfort & Haworth, 2002; Steward & Bernhardt, 2010; Twenge, 2010; Twenge, Campbell, Hoffman, & Lance, 2010). For instance, several comparisons are made between the Silent Generation, baby boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials comparing work values, school values, and marketing strategies (Twenge, 2010).


A starting point for understanding why the millennial generation of counseling students would be frequent users of Facebook is the role technology has played throughout these students’ development. As Reith (2005) has observed, the millennial generation is more technologically savvy than previous generations. The term researchers used to describe a generation born into the world of current technology is digital natives, as opposed to previous generations, termed digital immigrants, because they developed familiarity with technology as the technology emerged (Prensky, 2001). Additionally, the millennial generation came of age at a time when digital communication was crucial to maintain ties. Reith (2005) observed that many Millennials had parents who involved them in a variety of organized activities, which required highly structured schedules. He proposed that because of limited free time to socialize with friends, perhaps using technology such as texting and social networking provided them with an avenue to informally connect with others in their otherwise busy schedules. Ultimately, the use of SNS and especially Facebook became an integral part of millennial culture (Hazlett, 2008; Salaway et al., 2008).


Howe and Strauss (2003) and Reith (2005) reported that the millennial generation is more conventional than previous generations. They tend to have positive experiences with their parents who enforce rules and, consequently, seem to be trusting of authority and institutions. Perhaps this perception of trusting institutions such as Facebook increases the perception of Millennials that their information is private and safe.


Another possible cultural characteristic is related to the frequent description of Millennials as being narcissistic. One study, using a national sample of 15,000 high school seniors, was able to link narcissism with this generation (Twenge, 2010). Twenge deduced that the experiences of being wanted and therefore feeling special, and of being overprotected and given less responsibility, all may contribute to the higher scores on narcissism by Millennials (Twenge, 2010). Stewart and Bernhardt (2010), after administering the California Psychological Inventories (CPI) to 588 undergraduate students, also found that Millennials scored high on narcissism compared to students from previous generations. They suspected that one possible explanation for these results might be that Millennials are launched into adulthood much later as compared to previous generations. Mehdizadeh (2010) used the Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI)-16 to assess the level of narcissism of 100 students who were Facebook users at York University. Strong correlations were found between higher scores on narcissism and self-promotional information displayed on the wall. The author asserted that the venue used to post one’s status on Facebook established an acceptable culture of boasting in this forum, which was a criterion used to establish the level of self-promotion.


Thus, the research suggests that Millennials may use Facebook more than previous generations (Hazlett, 2008; Salaway et al., 2008) because of several factors such as the experience of being digital natives; the convenience of connecting with friends through SNS to compensate for busy schedules; trust in institutions; and the correlations found between Millennials and higher scores on narcissism. At the same time, the research is limited, and it would be prudent not to stereotype a generation as narcissistic without more compelling evidence. It also is important to note that the measures used in the above-cited students did not ascribe pathological value to the construct of narcissism, as opposed to how clinicians tend to use the term.


How Millennials use Facebook: The Issue of Privacy Settings

While there is no literature on privacy settings and counseling students or novice counselors, a number of studies have looked at how the millennial generation tends to use privacy settings on Facebook. For the purpose of this article, the most important research involves Millennials involved in health care of some form. MacDonald et al. (2010) looked at the Facebook pages of young doctors in Australia and found that just over a third did not use any privacy options at all. Most of the doctors’ Facebook pages revealed personal information like spiritual or political beliefs, but withheld information such as home address and phone number. Very few of these pages demonstrated inappropriate behaviors such as drinking or using foul language when posting on the wall. However, many doctors had photos that were revealing and perhaps inappropriate for patients to view.


Lehavot et al. (2010) surveyed psychology students and found that about 60% allowed only friends to view their page, while 34% allowed the public to have full access to their Facebook page. The remaining 6% were unsure about privacy settings. Despite the high percentage of users who limited access to friends, they still posted questionable information or photos. When asked, about 3% of respondents had photos and 6% had information that they would not want classmates to see. Those percentages increased when asked about information or photos they did not want faculty (11%) and clients (29%) to see. Taylor, McMinn, Bufford, and Chang (2010) surveyed psychology students and psychologists and found that 85% of those with a Facebook page used at least some level of privacy. However, it is possible that this figure is so high because the sample included licensed psychologists, who may be older than Millennials and more conscientious of potentially crossing boundaries with clients who might gain access.


Other studies, not with health providers, but with Millennials in general, seem to indicate who among this generation would be most likely to disclose personal information; these findings may be relevant to counselor educators if they help identify which students are most likely to need instruction on protecting their Facebook privacy. What the literature suggests is that those individuals who are most likely to allow personal information to be seen are male and people not involved in romantic relationships (Fogel & Nehmad, 2009; Mehdizadeh, 2010; Nosko, Wood, & Molema, 2010; Salaway et al., 2008). The fact that young men tend to use Facebook for self-disclosure may relate to findings in other studies that Facebook disclosure is associated with the trait of risk-taking (Fogel & Nehmad, 2009). The one exception to the finding that men tend to disclose more than women relate to the display of photos, which appears to be a behavior associated with female Millennials (Mehdizadeh, 2010; Salaway et al., 2008).


Consequently, since the research found that about 15%–30% of users in the health professions do not use any privacy settings at all in Facebook, counselors-in-training also may be at risk (Lehavot et al., 2010; MacDonald et al., 2010; Taylor et al., 2010). For individuals who did establish some level of privacy, many men posted information and women posted photos that they would not want clients, professors, or supervisors to see (Fogel & Nehmad, 2009; Lehavot et al., 2010; Mehdizadeh, 2010; Nosko et al., 2010; Salaway et al., 2008). In addition, individuals who posted their relationship status as single seemed to reveal more information, and many Millennials in counseling programs are likely to be single (Nosko et al., 2010). However, no research has been conducted to determine if these results resonate with the counseling profession.


Graduate Student Assessment of Facebook Use

Given the growing awareness of the graduate counseling student population at CSUF and the characteristically large number of students classified as Millennials, we, the authors, wanted to evaluate the level of disclosure with our own sample of students. The purpose of this survey was to evaluate whether millennial students in our graduate program used Facebook more than older generations. Secondly, we wanted to explore the risk factors associated with decreased use of privacy settings, such as being male, single and from the millennial generation as the literature seemed to indicate. Finally, we wanted to assess the impact of discussing the ethical challenges and uses of Facebook in each section of our law and ethics classes on privacy settings given the results obtained from the survey. This survey was meant to provide a descriptive understanding of our students to compare with the extant research.


Social Networking Survey


A brief survey was created based upon questions that arose from the literature regarding usage and privacy settings. The survey was approved by the Institutional Review Board at our university and was organized into four distinct areas that could be easily completed online. These areas included student consent to complete the survey, demographic information, social networking information and Facebook questions. The social networking information dimension asked questions about student involvement in SNS and knowledge about privacy settings. The Facebook questions addressed issues related to one’s profile and the public or private display of personal information.


The online survey was completed at two time intervals: late January 2012 (admin. 1) and early November 2012 (admin. 2). Prior to disseminating the survey in January 2012, the faculty had not yet incorporated any discussion about social networking or Facebook with students. During spring, summer and fall all sections of the law and ethics class included at least some discussion about social networking, using Facebook as an example. Each faculty member presented the information informally and without uniformity. Despite the differences in addressing this area in class with each of the instructors, who also are authors of this paper, the possibility of clients making friend requests on Facebook was presented, and students were encouraged to brainstorm ways in which they might handle this situation.



Students for this online survey were recruited from approximately 220 current matriculating students in the graduate program in counseling at a public university on the West Coast. They were invited via e-mail to participate, were guaranteed confidentiality, and had no negative consequences for refusing to participate. However, in both administrations they were provided with an incentive in a random drawing to win a $25 gift card from iTunes.


In late January 2012, we obtained 56 responses, and in early November 2012, we received 63 responses (24% and 29% of the students, respectively). In the initial administration, 92.9% of respondents reported using SNS, and 100% of those who used sites participated on Facebook. The second administration indicated that 90.3% of the respondents used SNS with 98.2% of this group participating on Facebook. These results are consistent with the literature about the popularity of Facebook among SNS (Salaway et al., 2008). Primary demographic information on each respective survey is found in Table 1. Note that slightly more than half of the respondents in both administrations were from the millennial generation.


Table 1


Demographic Information





First Administration

The first set of results extrapolated from the survey included a review of risk factors for using few or no privacy settings on Facebook including being male (Fogel & Nehmad, 2009), having a relationship status of single (Nosko et al., 2010), and being from the millennial generation (Nosko et al., 2010). The first survey supported the literature with regard to gender. In our initial survey, 50% of the male students (4 of 8 men) used privacy settings for less than half of their information whereas only 14.6% of the female students (6 of 41 women) used privacy settings for less than half of their information. Regarding photos or videos that students would not want clients to see, 50% of men and women surveyed had such photos or videos. However, nearly all male students (6 out of 7) had information they would not want clients to see; the eighth male student did not specify. In contrast, 50% of female students had information they would not want a client to see.


The trends Nosko et al. (2010) found regarding the relationship between being single and using lower privacy settings did not hold true in our first sample of students. Of the fifteen students who identified as being single on the first survey, only one student did not have the highest levels of privacy established. In contrast, 9 of the 38 students who reported being in a relationship had set less than 50% of their information with some level of privacy. Therefore, in our graduate counseling student population, being single did not seem to correlate with lower levels of established privacy.


Finally, Nosko et al. (2010) found that younger individuals tended to have more information displayed on their Facebook page. When evaluating the reported levels of privacy established by our students in the first survey, this trend did not hold. The majority (86%) of students from the millennial generation reported establishing privacy settings for at least 50% of their information. Students from older generations were slightly less likely to establish privacy for at least 50% of their information. In our sample, 71% reported establishing this level of privacy. Therefore, our data did not support the trends found in the literature for establishing levels of privacy relating to age or relationship status, but we did find that male students seemed to display more information.


Differences Between Administrations

Next, we had a comparison made between the first and second administrations of the survey to determine if teaching about the ethical challenges of using Facebook would impact privacy settings. In the first administration, about 48% reported establishing the maximum privacy allowed, and another 30.8% reported that more than half their information was private. The second administration showed an increase in the maximum privacy allowed at 63.2%. Another 26.3% of students reported having over half their information private. These results indicated an increase in privacy settings from the first to the second administration.


We wanted to explore some possible explanations for this change. First, we had a third party compare the two lists of names and found that 11 students completed the survey a second time: seven already had the highest level of privacy set in the first survey and did not change their settings; three increased their level of privacy; and one did not have the highest level and did not increase the level of privacy. Some students made comments in the first survey stating that participating in the survey made them more aware of privacy settings, and consequently they wanted to establish more rigorous privacy settings; it appears that three students did, in fact, make this change. These results imply that at least part of the increase may have simply been due to completing the initial survey. Next, we had a third party review the names of all students who were currently in or had taken the ethics course between the two administration times. The results indicated that 10 students who took the second survey had completed an ethics course between administrations, and we know that during this time all instructors who taught ethics discussed the ethical challenges of using Facebook. In reviewing the results of the second administration, we found six had established the highest level of privacy; two had 50% or more of their information set as private; and two had less than 50% of their information set as private despite having been exposed to the risks associated with limited privacy. We hope that these students are simply less active users of Facebook and therefore do not feel the need to establish more rigorous settings, but we do not know for certain.


Several articles noted that a few individuals seem to establish some privacy settings, but still had photos that can be seen by the public (Lehavot et al., 2010; MacDonald et al., 2010; Salaway et al., 2008). Much like the rigor of privacy settings, the results of photos displayed to the public shifted between each administration (see Table 2).


Table 2


Photo Visibility Privacy Level on Facebook


Lehavot et al. (2010) found that 3% of respondents had photos and 6% had information they would not want their classmates to see. These numbers increased when asked about faculty (11%) and clients (29%). Our results showed this same trend with both administrations of the survey. Table 3 shows the trend for pictures or videos that students would not want classmates, professors, supervisors or clients to see. Table 4 reveals a similar trend about information posted that students would not want others to see. These trends did not change substantially between administrations as we had hoped. We suspect that even though some students increased their levels of privacy, they did not remove information or photos assuming that the improved privacy settings would protect them. This may be explained by the assertion from Howe and Strauss (2003) and Reith (2005), who believe the millennial generation is more trusting of institutions since they had positive experiences with their parents.



Table 3


Picture and Video Visibility Privacy Level


Table 4


Information Posted Privacy Level


We wanted to examine the implications for the current generation of counseling students, as well as for counselor educators on the use of SNS, and specifically Facebook. The potential ethical minefields Facebook presents for students at every level of counselor development persuaded us that both a perusal of the literature and a survey of our own students’ Facebook use would yield important information. In particular, we looked at the prevalence of Facebook use, its possible roots in the culture of Millennials, and the extent to which Millennials expose their private lives on this particular SNS. The results of our two surveys helped us understand Facebook use in our own program, informing us as faculty about retooling ethics education for our students. The surveys also lent support to previous research findings in some areas and raised questions regarding the generalizability of others. However, our survey results are only descriptive and may not be representative of all of our students or of counseling students across the country.


Facebook Risks for Counselors-in-Training

Millennials are the most prolific generation of users of social networking sites (Hazlett, 2008) and therefore, compared to previous generations, have been found in the literature to be more likely to have posted personal information on a SNS. Our data did not support this assertion; the reasons for this phenomenon remain unclear and require further research. It has been suggested that this generation is particularly self-absorbed, and there is some empirical evidence supporting this notion (Mehdizadeh, 2010; Steward & Bernhardt, 2010; and Twenge, 2010), but a less pathologically-tinged explanation may be that self-disclosure on Facebook and other SNS is a cultural norm for them. Regardless, the critical issue is the extent to which counseling students are employing Facebook privacy settings. If, indeed, Millennials tend to use fewer privacy options and are likely to post more information on the wall as compared to other generations (Nosko et al., 2010), their increased use of SNS places this group at a higher risk for crossing boundaries between their personal and professional lives as they enter the counseling profession (Allen & Roberts, 2011). Our survey of students supported the concern that counseling students had created boundary issues for themselves with Facebook use previous to entering the program, and continued to place themselves at risk for further crossings while in the program. Over 90% of our students who responded to our survey used Facebook, and over half had posted information they would not want clients to see. It should be noted that almost half of the students in our first sample and a somewhat higher percentage in the second survey had established maximum levels of Facebook privacy. But that still meant a significant number of our counseling students had recently posted photos, videos and personal information that might compromise a professional relationship if clients were to discover them, and many of these students were using less than maximum privacy settings. Even those using maximum settings continued to post revealing personal information, but with the expectation that no client could access it.


In fact, even with the use of privacy options, counseling students may not be aware of the challenges of controlling access to their Facebook content. Privacy settings do not guarantee that information will remain private. For instance, when using the friend-of-a-friend level of privacy, it is possible that students have unknown common acquaintances with professors or clients; this might inadvertently give a client or faculty access to their information. Consequently, the unintentional dissemination of information remains a possibility and an ethical dilemma. Furthermore, Facebook friends may not use privacy settings, and they may pull an inappropriate picture from a user’s wall and “tag” it, making it available for clients or faculty to view. Consequently, the unintentional dissemination of information remains both a possibility and an ethical dilemma, and requires further study to have a clearer understanding of these risks.


What are the actual ethical consequences raised by Facebook use? Initially, potential damage to clients if they discover revealing information about their counselors could be a serious risk. The credibility of the counselor can be impaired, clients may become tantalized by the counselors’ personal life, and the counselor’s often challenging efforts to maintain clinically helpful boundaries in sessions may be compromised. For psychologically fragile clients who need to temporarily perceive their counselors as authority figures while they recover and develop new coping skills, the discovery of their counselors’ private life might undermine their recovery.


A related issue, as described in The American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, is the counselor’s ethical role in making a distinction between one’s roles personally and professionally (ACA, 2005). Using SNS is where the line between one’s professional world and private world could mingle (Birky & Collins, 2011). Judd and Johnston (2012), addressing related issues for social work training programs, make observations that seem equally relevant to the counseling profession. For example, they note the importance of impression management and the development of an identity that reflects a level of professional dignity consonant with the mission and ethics codes of the particular mental health discipline. When personal information such as a student’s romantic life or photographs of a student in informal situations becomes available, dignity can be compromised, affecting not only the student-counselor, but the profession itself. If that material is seen by a client, the counseling relationship may be damaged, and if seen by a fieldwork agency clinical director or potential employer, the student risks losing a work opportunity.


Myers, Endres, Ruddy, and Zelikovsky (2012) noted an additional concern when they raised the issue of what happens when a client may want to befriend the counselor on Facebook. Agreeing to the request may expose the counselor’s private life, while refusing the request risks wounding the client. In either case, handling the issue requires careful ethical decision-making and skilled intervention with the client. Perhaps one of the most troubling risks associated with self-disclosure on Facebook or other SNS is the increased risk of counselors-in-training being stalked by psychologically disturbed clients (MacDonald et al., 2010). These potential boundary consequences are assertions, though, and merit the need for further research.


Some have argued that Facebook boundary crossings could be therapeutic and appropriate under the right circumstances. Taylor et al. (2010) asserted that younger clients and professional counselors may believe that the use of SNS is an appropriate method of communication or even a therapeutic tool. The millennial generation and perhaps even the current zeitgeist values transparency more than ever before (as seen on television shows such as Oprah or Dr. Phil), which intentionally blurs the boundaries between personal and professional roles in the interest of a more authentic relationship (Zur, Williams, Lehavot, & Knapp, 2009). Birky and Collins (2011) considered context when using SNS between counselor and client. They suggested that the use of SNS might be appropriate under certain circumstances such as theoretical orientation, length of relationship, and both the client’s and counselor’s culture. Nevertheless, while there might be therapeutically valuable uses of SNS in some cases, the risks of Facebook exposure resulting in negative consequences for both counseling students and clients may be high.


Facebook Risks with Admissions and Advising

Prospective and current counseling students may not realize their risks of participating on SNS (Harris & Younggren, 2011) with regard to their education and training. Lehavot (2009) published an article exploring the ethical use of doing Internet searches by faculty members in admissions and advising capacities. Many individuals reported a belief that their blogs or what they posted on SNS was private (Lehavot, 2009). However, Lehavot (2009) argued that in some ways, the Internet is seen as a public domain; therefore, providing an informed consent to prospective students or students entering into a counseling program may be a way to ameliorate the perception by students that this information is private. Even with informed consent, there may be complications. Faculty members may risk discovering information that negatively biases them if they conducted Internet searches on problem students. Students may feel betrayed by this course of action, and documentation could be complicated if they would need to be counseled out of the program. Finally, Lehavot (2009) asserted that completing Internet searches may inadvertently be discriminatory because not all students have equal access. In the admissions process, for instance, one student may have significant positive information on the Internet, while another does not because of lack of resources, despite having similar accomplishments. In contrast, one student may have made a poor judgment in which a photo was taken and subsequently posted online unbeknownst to him or her, while another student may not have had the misfortune of a photo being posted despite making the same poor decisions. Prospective and current students may not consider how much information could be available to faculty or others when using SNS, which could be problematic. More research is needed to assess the desire of counselor education programs seeking to utilize Internet searches for admissions and advising and how this might impact the admissions and advising process.




To recommend that one avoid the use of Facebook or SNS in general would certainly eliminate any ethical hazards of boundary crossings in counseling, supervision and counselor education. However, this solution is unrealistic, if not impossible. SNS are increasingly becoming embedded in the culture as a way to connect with others, both near and far (Reith, 2005). Therefore, the counseling field should aspire to identify methods to reduce rather than eliminate risks associated with using Facebook. Since the Internet is an integral part of students’ and faculty members’ lives, discussing the impact of using Facebook or other SNS is imperative (Lehavot, 2009). Students should be informed as soon as they begin the program about how social networking culture tends to blur personal, social and professional boundaries. Consequently, counseling students should be made aware of the impact that using Facebook could have on socializing with each other and on the development of professional behavior, especially as they begin seeing clients. Students also can be advised to do an Internet search on their own name to discover what personal information is available online to clients (Zur et al., 2009).


Counselor educators can encourage students to make better decisions about their use of Facebook. For instance, privacy settings on Facebook are dynamic and have become increasingly complex. Students should become educated about this complexity and the risks associated with each level. Students should be aware of risky behavior online, such as publishing photos of themselves in compromising situations. In addition, students should refrain from making inappropriate YouTube videos or communicating in ways that display unprofessional behavior. Counseling students should be advised to maintain all client discussions or references of client information within a context of face-to-face clinical supervision meetings, meetings with peer counselors, or prescribed dialogues with faculty members, and should not reference anything related to clients on Facebook. Furthermore, communicating with clients on Facebook, or any other social media outlet, should be discouraged in most cases; professional boundaries can be too easily crossed.


One encouraging implication that emerged from the administration of both surveys in our graduate counseling program was that it might be fairly easy to change students’ attitudes about Facebook privacy. Discussion of Facebook issues in an ethics class that occurred between the two surveys may explain why more students were using maximum privacy settings in the second administration sample. It also is possible that some students increased their privacy as a result of having participated in the first administration, suggesting that just making students aware of these issues impacts their Facebook practices. Students in the second administration increased privacy levels for photos, videos and information. Moreover, their primary goal was in preventing access by clients, suggesting their chief concern was in accordance of the ethical principle of “do no harm.” Further research is needed to determine how much exposure to Facebook issues, both ethical and technological, is necessary to help students ensure maximum privacy protection. Introducing discussion into a program’s ethics class and, as noted above, addressing the issue at the beginning of the program, would seem to be natural methods for achieving this goal. However, graduate counseling program leaders may choose a variety of learning experiences to help students deal with the Facebook privacy dilemmas, including ethics classes, introductory courses, practicums or special workshops, or they may infuse options throughout the curriculum.


One way to start enhancing student self-awareness is by exploring the meaning of transparency and how this language may be interpreted among the millennial generation as compared with other generations. Dialogues about the levels of self-disclosure revealed on Facebook as compared with face-to-face interactions could enhance students’ awareness. Students can brainstorm potential dilemmas that may emerge when participating on Facebook that may cross boundaries with other students, faculty or clients. Developing a proactive strategy when private information becomes unfortunately disclosed is another important topic to discuss with counseling students to enhance awareness. As Levahot (2009) has noted, the discovery by a student trainee that a client has accessed the trainee’s personal information can lead to a therapeutically valuable conversation with the client during treatment.


Counseling program leaders should carefully evaluate and establish a policy about investigating clients on Facebook without their informed consent. Viewing this information can place counseling students in very difficult dilemmas about appropriate professional behavior, particularly if a search reveals the potential or expectation of clients to cause harm to self or others. Students should be advised to remain up-to-date with emerging technologies their clients may use.


Counselor educators should be literate about Facebook and other technological advances that students may be using. Students are often more competent in these areas, and learning about how students engage on Facebook may open more productive communication about how to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. Counselor education program leaders have an additional responsibility of training agency supervisors on the potential benefits and risks of using SNS. Lehavot et al. (2010) and Taylor et al. (2010) noted that if supervisors seem dated and technologically challenged to supervisees, then supervisees will be less inclined to bring up the conversation when challenges arise. Consequently, supervisees may make poor decisions leading to unintentional boundary crossings with clients. Therefore, it is critical for supervisors to also be prepared to initiate a conversation about the use of Facebook.


Finally, counselor educator program leaders should develop policies regarding investigation of students’ Facebook pages by instructors, supervisors and admissions committees. Instructors and supervisors should initiate conversations with students about mutually participating on SNS such as Facebook. SNS sharing may lead to inappropriate disclosures of personal information that could compromise the faculty-student or supervisor-supervisee relationship. If admission committees intend to look at applicants’ Facebook pages, this policy must be included in departmental Web pages and printed materials describing admissions criteria. The most desirable approach is probably that admissions committees should refrain from using the Internet in general to examine a student’s fitness for a program.


The use of SNS has increased in the last three years, even among the baby-boom generation and Generation X (Hazlett, 2008). Counselor educators have an opportunity and responsibility to become familiar with this technology to protect counselors-in-training and the clients they serve. Additional research should be conducted on the current use of both SNS and privacy settings by counseling students. Our survey suggested that most of our millennial generation counseling students used Facebook; posted photos, videos and information they would not want clients to see; used various levels of privacy settings; and readily increased their privacy settings once exposed to information about Facebook risks. However, this was preliminary information with two small samples; more thorough research is needed in assessing the extent of Facebook use among counseling students, their familiarity and use of privacy settings, and best practices for teaching appropriate use of Facebook for counselors. In addition, determining the types of students who are less likely to establish appropriate privacy settings could be evaluated in order to target those students and reduce negative outcomes. Research could be conducted to evaluate the efficacy and inherent risks of using SNS in counselor education programs and in counseling as well.


Though the basic foundation of counseling has not changed drastically in recent years, current technologies have the potential to enhance or diminish therapy. The setting of counselor education programs is an excellent environment to explore benefits and risks associated with integrating new technologies. By doing so, counselors can remain informed about evolving technology to enhance their work with clients.






Allen, J. V., & Roberts, M. C. (2011). Critical incidents in the marriage of psychology and technology: A discussion of potential ethical issues in practice, education, and policy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(6), 433–439. doi:10.1037/a0025278

American Counseling Association (2005). ACA code of ethics. Retrieved from

Bergman, S. M., Fearrington, M. E., Davenport, S. W., & Bergman, J. Z. (2011). Millennials, narcissism, and social networking: What narcissists do on social networking sites and why. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(5) 706–711. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.12.022

Birky, I., & Collins, W. (2011). Facebook: Maintaining ethical practice in the cyberspace age. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 25(3), 193–203. doi:10.1080/87568225.2011.581922

Facebook (2013, July 16). Key facts [Newsroom]. Retrieved from

Fogel, J., & Nehmad, E. (2009). Internet social network communities: Risk taking, trust, and privacy concerns. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(1), 153–160. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.08.006

Harris, E., & Younggren, J. N. (2011). Risk management in the digital world. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(6), 412–418. doi:10.1037/a0025139.

Hazlett, B. (2008, June). Social networking statistics & trends [Slidshare]. Retrieved from

Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to college [Executive Summary]. Retrieved from American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Offices and Life Course Associates website:

Judd, R. G., & Johnston, L. B. (2012). Ethical consequences of using social network sites for students in professional social work programs. Journal of Social Work Values & Ethics, 9, 5–12.

Lehavot, K. (2009). “MySpace” or yours? The ethical dilemma of graduate students’ personal lives on the Internet. Ethics & Behavior, 19(2), 129–141. doi:10.1080/10508420902772728

Lehavot, K., Barnett, J. E., & Powers, D. (2010). Psychotherapy, professional relationships, and ethical considerations in the MySpace generation. Professional Psychology, Research and Practice, 41(2), 160–166. doi: 10.1037/a0018709

MacDonald, J., Sohn, S., & Ellis, P. (2010). Privacy, professionalism and Facebook: A dilemma for young doctors. Medical Education, 44(8), 805–813. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03720.x

Mehdizadeh, S. (2010). Self-presentation 2.0: Narcissism and self-esteem on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13(4), 357–364. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0257

Myers, S., Endres, M., Ruddy, M., & Zelikovsky, N. (2012). Psychology graduate training in the era of online social networking. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(1), 28–36. doi:10.1037/a0026388

Nosko, A., Wood, E., & Molema, S. (2010). All about me: Disclosure in online social networking profiles: The case of Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(3), 406–418. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2009.11.012

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Reith, J. (2005). Understanding and appreciating the communication styles of the millennial generation. In Compelling Perspectives on Counseling: Vistas (pp. 321–324). Retrieved from

Salaway, G., Nelson, M. R., & Ellison, N. (2008). Social networking sites. In The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008. EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 8, 81–98. Retrieved from

Sandfort, M. H., & Haworth, J. G. (2002). Whassup? A glimpse into the attitudes and beliefs of the millennial generation. Journal of College and Character, 3(3). Retrieved from

Stewart, K. D., & Bernhardt, P. C. (2010). Comparing millennials to pre-1987 students and with one another. North American Journal of Psychology, 12, 579–602.

Taylor, L., McMinn, M. R., Bufford, R. K., & Chang, K. B. T. (2010). Psychologists’ attitudes and ethical concerns regarding the use of social networking web sites. Professional Psychology, Research and Practice, 41(2), 153–159. doi:10.1037/a0017996

Twenge, J. M. (2010). A review of empirical evidence on generational differences in work attitudes. Journal of Business Psychology, 25(2), 201–210. doi:10.1007/s10869-010-9165-6

Twenge, J. M., Campbell, S. M., Hoffman, B. J., & Lance, C. E. (2010). Generational differences in work values: Leisure and extrinsic values increasing, social and intrinsic values decreasing. Journal of Management, 36(5), 1117–1142. doi: 10.1177/0149206309352246

Zur, O., Williams, M. H., Lehavot, K., & Knapp, S. (2009). Psychotherapist self-disclosure and transparency in the Internet age. Professional Psychology, Research and Practice, 40(1), 22–30. doi:10.1037/a0014745



Leah Brew, NCC, is Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). Joseph M. Cervantes is a Professor and David Shepard is an Associate Professor, both in the Department of Counseling at CSUF. Correspondence can be addressed to Leah Brew, Department of Counseling, P.O. Box 6868, Fullerton, CA 92834-6868,