Researchers, scholars and counseling practitioners note the differences in help-seeking behaviors among racial and ethnic minority clients. With African Americans in particular, researchers attribute some of these differences to African Americans’ preference for relying on their spiritual and religious communities (i.e., the Black Church) for support in dealing with mental health issues rather than seeking help from professional mental health counseling resources. However, less articulated in the literature are the rationales behind this preference. Because of the salience of spirituality and religion in the African-American community, it behooves counselors to increase their knowledge of the African-American religious experience. This article provides an overview of the history of the Black Church, its theological foundations, implications for culturally competent counseling and recommendations for counselors in practice.
Keywords: African American, religion, spirituality, Black Church, mental health counseling
Kuczewski (2007) asserted that helping professionals often are charged to care for “vulnerable persons facing difficult situations and tragic choices” (p. 9). Often, within the counseling context, client spirituality is an important part of the healing process. There is substantial evidence that one’s religious life is a critical feature of the developmental process and can serve to improve one’s overall well-being (Cashwell & Young, 2011). Further, researchers have found positive benefits to incorporating spirituality and faith into one’s life, including improved physical (Matthews et al., 1998) and psychological (Joubert, 2010) health. Therefore, counselors are expected to assess the impact of a client’s spirituality and religion on his or her mental health and overall well-being (Cashwell & Watts, 2010). Moreover, attending to the spiritual needs of clients is an essential part of developing culturally sensitive treatment plans and recommendations (Kuczewski, 2007).
Not unlike other racial groups, African-American families rely on spirituality as a source of support as they face various challenges. These challenges include both systemic oppressions (e.g., overt racism) and familial stressors (e.g., parenting). Given these life stressors, perhaps spirituality and religion offer some explanation as to why African Americans are better adjusted and more psychologically well than some experts expect and predict (Bell-Tolliver & Wilkerson, 2011).
Nearly 80% of African Americans identify religion as important compared to only 50% of the general population (Pew Research Center, 2009). Further, a majority of African Americans identify as Christian, and 50% of African Americans attend church services weekly. The majority of African Americans attend a predominantly African-American church (Pew Research Center, 2009). Many African Americans identify God as a core aspect of their coping, and rely on their religion and spirituality during difficult life transitions (Bell-Tolliver & Wilkerson, 2011; Whitley, 2012). Additionally, African Americans assert that attending worship services and Bible study, being involved in their churches, having devotion time, and listening to religious sermons and gospel music allow them to conceptualize their struggles within the larger struggle between good and evil, or God and the devil (Whitley, 2012).
Because of the salience of spirituality and religion in the experience of African Americans, it behooves professional counselors to increase their knowledge and awareness of the African-American religious experience, particularly as it relates to psychological health. Several researchers (Ayalon & Young, 2005; Woodward, 2011) have found that African Americans tend to seek professional counseling at a much lower rate than other racial and ethnic populations. Further, African Americans often choose their spiritual leaders and churches as resources for their mental health needs instead of professional counselors (Ayalon & Young, 2005). Thus, one area of the African-American religious experience that needs further attention from counselors is the Black Church. The Black Church is the term used in popular culture and scholarly literature to refer to the overall institution that encompasses individual, predominantly African-American Christian congregations (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990).
In order to understand the Black Church and the people who worship therein, counselors must familiarize themselves with the historical context and theological underpinnings that frame the Black Church and likely influence individual parishioners’ help-seeking behaviors. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of the history and development of the Black Church, built upon unique theological foundations. These elements of history and theology have important implications for counselors working with religious African-American clients.
History of the Black Church
Similar to African-American communities, the Black Church has experienced change, progression, challenges, struggle and resilience. Counselors must understand the historical role and relevance of the Black Church in African-American communities in order to better understand African-American mental health help-seeking behaviors. This section will provide an overview of the Black Church’s inception during slavery, its role in the Civil Rights Era and its relevance in the lives of many African Americans in the 21st century. This history will provide counselors with a context for understanding the Church’s salience in the lives of many of their religious African-American clients.
The Black Church and Slavery
During slavery, many plantation owners forbade more than five slaves to gather at a time without supervision by a White overseer. Although slaves possessed a desire for religious and spiritual expression, this rule complicated their ability to assemble for worship services and stifled their sense of community and opportunities for fellowship. Thus, in fear of repercussions for breaking these rules, slaves resorted to informal worship gatherings in secret locations (e.g., swamps and wooded areas; see Frazier, 1963; Lincoln, 1973). Eventually, during the mid-1700s, these informal gatherings became less secretive and more visible (Pinn, 2011), laying the foundation for the institution that would be become known as the Black Church. The churches became the epicenter of the slaves’ community and a place of education and fellowship that slaves lacked elsewhere on the plantation.
During the genesis of the Black Church, plantation owners feared that if slaves were able to read the Bible, their proclivity to defer hopes of freedom until after death would decrease, and a surge of strength and demand for emancipation would emerge. Slave masters feared that slaves would acquire a comprehensive knowledge of Scripture that would illuminate the flaws and Biblical inconsistencies of a despotic slave system. With a comprehensive knowledge of Scripture, slaves would have an increasingly difficult time reconciling a Biblically based system that would capture and enslave innocent people (Taylor, Thornton, & Chatters, 1987). As predicted, slaves became discontented with their situation and used the Church as a means to bring about change. As slaves’ Scriptural knowledge grew, so did their frustration with organized religion, particularly Christianity. Slaves viewed Christianity as another vehicle used by Whites to advance oppression (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990).
Slave masters and their families treated slaves poorly even though they worshipped together in the same buildings. Instead of church being a sacred haven away from maltreatment, it was another opportunity for Whites to exert their power, which became overwhelming for many Blacks (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). Thus, slaves incepted their own churches out of a desire to have their own worship places on Southern plantations and escape discrimination on Sunday mornings (Lincoln, 1973). Richard Allen inaugurated the first Black church of the Methodist denomination in 1807 (Wilmore, 1998). The formation of the Black Methodist churches was considered a visceral response to the Methodist tradition of having segregated churches for Blacks and Whites. This departure of Blacks from the Methodist Church was one of the first major civil rights protests by African Americans (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). Subsequently, African Americans formed predominantly African-American congregations of Baptist, Presbyterian and Episcopal denominations (DuBois, 1903), setting the stage for the prominent emergence of the Black Church during the Civil Rights Era. Slaves felt that they could be themselves and their status as slaves did not subsume their identity in these churches. These services provided therapeutic relief and a departure from the pressures and brutality experienced on the plantation (Wilmore, 1998).
In essence, church services and religious and spiritual resources operated much like counseling sessions. Slaves found hope in the Scriptural promises of a future void of oppression. They looked forward to death as a transition from suffering on earth to a promise of reward and deliverance in Heaven (Johnston, 1954; Wilmore, 1998). Slaves especially could relate to the persecution and torment of Jesus Christ, the pivotal figure of Christianity. In fact, slaves even likened the crucifixion experienced by Christ to the popularized practice of lynching Black men (Pinn, 2010; Terrell, 1998). Terrell (1998) further elaborated that the connection between Jesus and slaves also was related to the Bible story of Judas betraying Jesus for economic compensation. Slaves knew that White plantation owners betrayed, captured and brought them to America for others’ economic gain (Pinn, 2011; Terrell, 1998).
Although slaves faced horrendous conditions on plantations, counseling services obviously were not available as a support and therapeutic release. During this time, the Church was the primary resource for support and change during life challenges. It is likely that this proclivity to seek support from the Church began during slavery and continues today. This historical precedent could help explain why African Americans are less likely than many other racial/ethnic groups to seek support from professional counselors (Ayalon & Young, 2005).
The Black Church and Civil Rights
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Black Church became increasingly more autonomous as it began expanding doctrinal beliefs, electing leaders and even creating seminary institutions to educate its leaders (Lincoln, 1973). Further, the Black Church offered a platform for activists to promote messages of equal rights for African Americans (Chandler, 2010). The Black Church worked at both the macro and micro levels of society. For example, on the macro level, large institutions such as the NAACP garnered support (e.g., financial, emotional) from the Black Church (Chandler, 2010). At a more micro level, individuals with difficulty fulfilling financial obligations received economic assistance. The Black Church’s growing financial independence initiated the self-help doctrine, as African Americans could not rely on support from outside sources. African Americans learned that in order to survive they had to support themselves financially, mentally, emotionally and socially (Littlefield, 2005). It is possible that African Americans may still maintain this perspective, and therefore may be less likely to seek support from resources such as professional counselors.
Particularly during the Civil Rights Era, the Black Church was a place that Blacks could experience prestige, rank and authority otherwise denied them by outside institutions, which were typically dominated by the majority culture (Douglas & Hopson, 2001). Thus, many African Americans may be distrustful of the counseling relationship, as it may reflect the larger dominant culture from which they have experienced exclusion and oppression (Sue & Sue, 2013).
The Black Church in the 21st Century
While the Black Church of past decades struggled with achieving equal rights in the community, the contemporary Black Church faces its own set of unique challenges. These challenges are related to health (e.g., HIV/AIDS) and social issues (e.g., welfare reform, disproportionately high unemployment rates for African Americans; Billingsley & Caldwell, 1994). Nonetheless, African Americans have certainly made considerable strides in advancement compared to previous decades, notably in the areas of education. Many argue that these strides should be attributed, at least in large part, to the efforts of the Black Church (Byrd, 2001). These strides are particularly important as the African-American community faces issues such as disproportionate rates of physical illness, financial strains, anxiety, depression and familial concerns (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001; 2011). Although these challenges may seem daunting for African-American communities and the Black Church in particular, scholars encourage the Black Church to draw on the strength that brought it through turbulent times such as slavery and the Civil Rights Era (Billingsley & Caldwell, 1994). Given the historical involvement of the Black Church in all aspects of the individual lives of African Americans, it is understandable that many African Americans may view their local churches as a viable alternative resource to professional counselors. Therefore, counselors should involve themselves in African-American communities and familiarize themselves with local churches. Counselors have a unique opportunity to partner with Black churches in their communities to build trust, decrease stigma around help seeking, assist in combating concerns facing many African Americans and learning about the impact of Black Church theology.
Black Church Theology
Just as it is important to understand the historical context of the Black Church, it is imperative to understand the Black Church’s foundational belief systems in order to thoroughly understand its roles and functions. Theology unites the collective Black Church, but also differentiates between local congregations. Often, individual churches and denominations vary in theological principles, and therefore differ in how they execute beliefs about their purpose, roles and responsibilities (Barber, 2011; Lincoln, 1974). Often, the Black Church is mistaken as a homogenous grouping of individual churches. However, theological differences make this a false pretense (Barber, 2011). These theological positions can serve as overarching guiding principles and influences for parishioners’ individual lives and their choices, including decisions about seeking help from professional counselors.
Although theological differences exist, most Black churches unite in the theological belief that during worship services their members experience a personal visitation from Jesus. Typically, this theological notion guides the way services are conducted. This visitation could be manifested through rituals and practices such as shouting, singing gospel songs and hymns, or speaking in tongues. To that end, Moore (2003) noted these behaviors as examples of the liberal and animated worship that often is indicative of the Black Church. Other practices that are common to the Black Church and reflective of its theology may befuddle those unfamiliar with the structure of the Black Church service. For example, members of the Black Church may be more likely to reference God and Jesus interchangeably in spiritual practices, such as prayer, which could be confusing to some outside observers (Johnson, 2010).
These complexities could confuse counselors not immersed in Black Church culture. Moreover, many observers question the variations in theology and the often ambivalent character of an institution that can be so progressive on one hand, yet quite rooted in traditional theology on the other hand. This apparent ambiguity gives many observers pause (Douglas & Hopson, 2001). The religious theology that guides the Black Church can provide helpful insight for counselors interested in increasing their multicultural competence and understanding of African-American clients. Often, this theology can influence individual congregation members’ personal lives, including how they make choices regarding whether to seek professional counseling. The following section elaborates on various theologies and how they may manifest in African-American clients.
James Cone’s liberation theology is one of the most prevailing schools of thought in the Black Church (McBeth, 1981). According to liberation theology, African Americans took Christianity, traditionally perceived as a White man’s religion, and adapted it to the plights and triumphs of African Americans. Compared to other theologies, liberation theology is seen as a comprehensive theology because it considers how individuals view God and how they interact with one another. According to liberation theology, the Black Church offered oppressed Blacks a sense of freedom rarely experienced in their day-to-day lives. The Black Church was a place where African Americans had the opportunity to gather and vent about their problems as a community. Additionally, the Black Church was a place where change could be created and enacted (McBeth, 1981). While other theologies focus on Caucasians as oppressors, churches whose members ascribe to liberation theology tend to focus less on the oppression and more on the freedom that is felt when congregation members experience fellowship with one another (Burrow, 1994). Because slaves viewed the master–slave relationship as the epitome of evil, African Americans placed a significant emphasis on forming and preserving healthy relationships (Burrow, 1994; Douglas & Hopson, 2001). Liberation theology values addressing people holistically, emphasizing the connection of the body and the mind (Burrow, 1994).
Alternate Society Theology
Frazier’s idea of the alternate society is somewhat similar to liberation theology, in that he proposed that the Black Church should operate as a sovereign society where African Americans would be able to fully express their authentic selves (see McBeth, 1981). Frazier founded this theology upon the belief that Caucasians did not understand African Americans, and therefore could not adequately meet their needs (Frazier, 1963). Frazier endorsed the idea that the Black Church would be a separate nation within the United States and would meet the needs of African-American communities in ways beyond just the spiritual. Optimally, the Black Church would be able to produce education centers, financial institutions, housing and a social outlet (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). Ironically, Frazier acknowledged that this alternate society would further inhibit Blacks from successfully acculturating in the majority culture in which they were expected to live and function (Frazier, 1963). It is likely that churches ascribing to this theology believe they will be able to meet both the psychological and spiritual needs of congregation members. In fact, in churches where this philosophy is predominant, it is possible that members who seek guidance from church leaders may be discouraged from seeking services such as professional counseling outside the Black Church.
Other-Worldly and This-Worldly Theology
Other-worldly churches are those whose members believe in deferring freedom and reward until after death. In other words, these churches’ members are more accepting of present pain and suffering since they believe they will experience relief posthumously in Heaven. Spiritual songs birthed to comfort, direct and relieve Black slaves became a critical part of other-worldly theology. These songs have served as a reminder that earthly suffering is temporary and an eternal promise of heavenly peace awaits upon death (Cashwell & Young, 2011). Also, pastors serve as an important mouthpiece for other-worldly theology. During slavery, preachers often delivered sermons reminding listeners of life after death, a life that contrasted with the current reality of enslavement. Today, although some of the challenges facing African Americans may be different, some pastors continue to uphold messages of enduring present suffering and awaiting the promises that accompany death (Wilmore, 1998). Attendees of other-worldly churches may be less likely to present in counseling, but when they do, it is critical for the counselor to understand that the client may be less oriented to solving his or her problem and more oriented to focusing on life after death. Failing to understand and embrace this perspective might lead some counselors to focus prematurely on problem-solving tasks that might damage the therapeutic relationship.
Conversely, this-worldly churches typically advocate explicitly for Blacks to experience earthly freedom and happiness. For example, whereas a member of an other-worldly church may be satisfied with receiving physical healing through death, a member of a this-worldly church may pursue other avenues to minimize pain and suffering and delay death as much as possible (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). These ideas about suffering also could manifest in one’s attitudes about psychological health and needs for counseling. Clients from this-worldly churches may possess a greater sense of urgency to seek counseling during times of psychological discomfort compared to clients from other-worldly churches, who may be less inclined to alleviate emotional distress.
Recommendations for Counselors
Sue and Sue (2013) challenged culturally competent counselors to appreciate and incorporate clients’ history, worldviews and life experiences into the counseling relationship. One critical dimension of those considerations is clients’ religious and spiritual backgrounds (Cashwell & Young, 2011). Specifically, for religious African-American clients, this process involves examining the intersection of at least two social identities (i.e., what it means to the client to be religious and what it means to be African American; Roccas & Brewer, 2002). One essential aspect of many African Americans’ identity is the Black Church and the expression of its various theological perspectives. Thus, it is important that counseling practitioners, counselor educators and clinical supervisors are aware of the nuances of the Black Church and African-American religion and spirituality. Additionally, counseling professionals should be aware of the theology of each individual client’s local church, which could influence communal beliefs about symptomology and counseling. Counselors should use this information to increase understanding and inform accurate diagnoses, as well as competent treatment plans and recommendations (Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling [ASERVC], 2009; Cashwell & Watts, 2010). To that end, counselors can incorporate the following strategies in recruiting and retaining African-American clients who identify as religious and as members of the Black Church.
African-American clients active in churches with particular theologies (e.g., alternate society theology and other-worldly theology) may be disinclined to seek counseling services outside the church. Congregants may receive messages that the church can take care of all of their concerns, including mental health issues. Moreover, many churches (particularly within the alternate society theological tradition) may offer programs (e.g., financial seminars to address income-related stress) that attend to many of the needs of church members. In these cases, members may not feel a need to go outside to professional counselors. These clients may not voluntarily seek services from professional counselors even when their presenting concerns may warrant intervention. Thus, it is important for counselors to contact local Black Church congregations to establish relationships, form trust and increase visibility. Rather than depending on African Americans to initiate communication with mental health professionals, counselors can volunteer outreach services and host programs at local churches in an effort to increase access to African Americans. Counselors are expected to operate as advocates and proponents of change for their clients (Sue & Sue, 2013); often the Black Church is a hub of social justice advocacy efforts within African-American communities (Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). Traditionally, programs in the Black Church have provided clothing, substance abuse services, tutoring, mentoring and nonreligious education services (Tsitsos, 2003). Counselors can partner with the advocacy efforts of the Black Church to help church members in need. These needs range from issues within the family to more systemic issues that affect a large number of African Americans (e.g., unemployment, poverty, AIDS/HIV, incarceration, anxiety, depression). These efforts may increase church members’ comfort level with counseling and decrease stigma associated with seeking help.
Specifically, counselors can connect with local pastors, since pastors are very influential in the Black Church and African-American communities in general (Billingsley & Caldwell, 1994; Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990; Mattis et al., 2007; Roberts, 1994). Often, the pastoral role extends beyond spiritual responsibilities, as the majority of African Americans prefer to seek psychological help from their pastors rather than professional counselors (Ayalon & Young, 2005; Chatters et al., 2011). Pastors may be more likely to refer congregation members to trusted counselors who are visible in their community. Counselors likewise have the opportunity to learn more about the pastors’ approaches to responding to mental health needs in their congregations.
In addition, theology is important for counselors in formulating client conceptualizations and treatment recommendations. In particular, counselors should be aware of when the client’s beliefs about healing juxtapose with the professional’s knowledge of science (Kuczeweski, 2007), and where counselor biases might be imposed on the client. For example, it is important that counselors are cautious in labeling presenting concerns as problematic when working with a client from a church that focuses on liberation theology. Such clients may choose to focus less on the presenting concern and instead take a more strength-based, optimistic perspective. Clients who attend churches that emphasize liberation theology may be open to more holistic treatment recommendations and reluctant to rely on psychotropic medications to alleviate symptoms. Thus, counselors should be aware of this preference when referring clients to a psychiatrist and suggesting medication as a part of the treatment plan.
Counselors are encouraged to work from theoretical orientations that are sensitive and inclusive of clients’ religious and spiritual identities (ASERVC, 2009). Since theology is an important part of many religious African Americans’ identities, the counselor should be careful not to approach the counseling relationship from a theoretical orientation that contradicts the client’s theological orientation. The biopsychosocial-spiritual model (Cairns, 2011: Engel, 1977) is a culturally sensitive theoretical framework that allows for a client to be holistically assessed from a biological, psychological, social and spiritual perspective. With the addition of the spirituality component to the traditional biopsychosocial model, the religious coping strategies of many African-American clients have been considered, addressed and appreciated (Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999). Further, the importance of addressing people holistically, emphasizing the connection of the body and the mind, is rooted in liberation theology (Burrow, 1994). In this regard, it appears that the spiritually founded liberation theology of the Church and the biopsychosocial-spiritual model may complement one another well. Leaders of the Black Church may not automatically articulate views using the language of the biopsychosocial-spiritual, but are likely to be able to do so using the language of liberation theology. Thus, it is incumbent upon counseling professionals to probe deeper into the intersections of Black Church theology and counseling models.
Counselors should educate themselves on current events and issues that may be affecting the African-American community in general (e.g., recent events in Ferguson, Missouri) and their clients in particular. Although many of these issues could be disheartening (e.g., disproportionate representation of African Americans in many vulnerable populations), counselors also should be aware of advancements made within the African-American community and work from a strength-based developmental approach that honors the uniqueness of the African-American community in general, and in particular, the Black Church. This perspective is vital, as many references to African Americans are negative, given their disproportionate representation in many vulnerable populations. It could be tempting for counselors to focus on the negative; however, focusing on the positive and acknowledging advancements could serve as a corrective experience for many African Americans.
Because of the centrality of relationships within the Black community, counselors should consider social supports, such as church members, who could serve as great resources for clients during and after the counseling process. For example, counselors should be open to consulting with spiritual advisors and referring clients to their pastors if deemed appropriate. Historically, church members have served as an extended family for many African Americans (Ellison, Musick, & Henderson, 2008; Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990). Therefore, fellow church members also could be included in the counseling process, both within and outside counseling sessions as resources and support systems.
Counselors should invite clients to talk about recent worship services and spiritual experiences in counseling sessions. It is important that this encouragement is made from a curious stance that is noncritical and nonjudgmental. This invitation not only allows the client to integrate his or her spirituality into counseling, but also allows the counselor to learn more about the client’s religious background and preferences, as well as his or her specific church culture.
A counselor also can incorporate creative interventions that integrate a client’s religious and spiritual influences. For example, the counselor could invite the client to compile a list of his or her favorite gospel songs as a musical chronology and emerging life song. This process allows client and counselor to extrapolate themes and values that are important to the client (Cashwell & Young, 2011; Duffey, 2005). Given the historical importance of spirituals, the client could write songs or use existing songs to help articulate presenting concerns to his or her counselor. Additionally, the counselor becomes privy to the client’s spiritual values and theological beliefs by listening to song lyrics. Similar interventions might include asking the client to create a list of favorite Biblical stories or specific scriptures. Additionally, the counselor can ask the client to construct a spirituality genogram, which can provide invaluable information about the role of the Church in the client’s family and its influence on their individual lives (Cashwell & Young, 2011).
Researchers, scholars and counseling practitioners have noted the differences in help-seeking behaviors among racial and ethnic minority clients. With African Americans in particular, researchers have attributed some of these differences to African Americans’ preference for seeking help from spiritual resources rather than professional counseling resources. When exploring the mental health help-seeking behaviors of African Americans, it is imperative to pay particularly close attention to the role of religion, the Black Church and theology in the counseling experiences of many African-American clients. Learning more about various theological traditions and working from a culture-centered framework can substantively increase the quality of counseling services.
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of
interest or funding contributions for
the development of this manuscript.
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Janeé R. Avent, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Craig S. Cashwell, NCC, is a Professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Correspondence can be addressed to Janeé R. Avent, 501 César E. Chávez Blvd. DB 4.344, San Antonio, TX 78207, email@example.com.
This study aimed to determine the psychosocial health status of women artisanal miners in the Philippines. Their socio-demographic characteristics and psychosocial health status are described to formulate a self-efficacy enhancement program to respond to their needs. This study utilized a descriptive multiple case study design. Primary data were gathered via a simple questionnaire regarding the respondents’ socio-demographic profile and psychosocial health status. Other primary data sources included key informant interviews, respondents’ journal entries, observations and outputs during the structured learning exercises, focus group discussion transcripts, and a researcher’s log. Documentary reviews also were utilized to obtain additional facts. The respondents were selected through a fishbowl method. Results show that the participants’ coping process, attitude of perseverance and stress management have a moderate impact on their ability to manage life experiences. The study resulted in a proposal for a self-efficacy enhancement program to improve the psychosocial health of women artisanal miners.
Keywords: women miners, psychosocial health, coping process, stress management, self-efficacy
In March 2008, the theme “Babae, Yaman Ka Ng Bayan” [Woman, You Are a Treasure of the Nation], emphasizing the worth of women in nation building, was bannered to celebrate Women’s Month in the Philippines. In Barangay Puntalinao, Banaybanay, Davao Oriental, Philippines, active artisanal and small-scale magnesite mining activities are visible to the community and visitors. Banaybanay is the last municipality of Davao Oriental, bordering the municipality of the Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province. Women join men at tilling and extracting minerals from steep mountains. This site was visited in October 2007 for an environmental scanning and initial investigation. The idea of conducting a study was discussed with the artisanal miners and they showed interest in the benefits of the study.
The southern part of Mindanao is rich in mineral resources. Nickel reserves are worth $215 billion (USD), copper reserves are worth $6.49 billion and gold reserves are worth $2.01 billion. Mindanao accounts for 48% of the country’s gold and 83% of the nickel reserves. According to Ambassador Li Jinjun, investors believe that the mining industry is the “ace” of Mindanao. In agreement, former resident of the Republic and current congresswoman of the province of Pampanga, the Honorable Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has made the revival of the mining industry one of her key tools in sustaining the country’s economic growth (Bautista, 2005).
According to the United Nations Development Program (1999), women involved in mining are more likely to be family-centered than men and spend their earnings on food, clothing, education and agriculture. In the Philippines, women artisanal miners’ daily routine involves direct exposure to sunlight, climbing difficult mountains, tilling and extracting minerals, and carrying heavy sacks of rocks, in addition to household chores and family obligations after work. Moreover, some women are undergoing the physiological discomforts of menopause.
In a focus group discussion (FGD) on perseverance, the women artisanal miners reported that they can bear the heat of the sun, the hazards at work and the workload at home in order to preserve their families and provide what is needed. Their husbands’ incomes are not enough for their families’ basic needs, typical of the life conditions of the rural poor in the Philippines. According to the Barangay Captain [Puntalinao community leader], these women persist at low-paying quarrying activities to subsist. Women artisanal miners manifest the spirit to persevere in life through their backbreaking work hours. This labor includes quarrying the rocks with a hammer and wedge, hitting the rocks in succession to break them into small pieces, packing them in a sack (which generally weighs no less than 110 pounds), and carrying the sacks to the buyer’s loading area. Workers aim to fill 25 sacks per day on average, which are sold to a local buyer for 10 pesos each in order to sustain daily family needs.
According to Greenspan (1992), households ideally spend up to 10% of total income to raise one child, 18% for two children and 26% for four children. Since many families lack the resources to raise children, the per-child share drops dramatically with each child. A household with four children spends 25% less per child than a household with two children. This information suggests that the sufficiency of the family economy depends on the number of children in the household, and thus establishes the need to work harder to ensure family survival as the number of children in the family increases. It is not surprising to find an extended family system among Filipino families (Mercado, 1974) and to see children helping their parents at income-generating endeavors.
The miners’ common statement, “Maayo na lang ning pagpamato, bisan ginagmay kaysa wala jud sapi” [Even if mining gives us insufficient income, it is better than having nothing at all], reveals the working poor perspective that is important in considering ways to improve the miners’ psychosocial well-being. These women, ranging from young adults to elders, are vulnerable to stress; their self-efficacy is a powerful personal resource in the coping process (see Lazarus & Folkman, 1987).
While studies have explored the experiences of miners, these studies have failed to grasp fully the psychosocial health situation of women artisanal miners in Philippine rural communities. Since mining is a major contributor to the country’s economy, artisanal mining is expected to spread soon to other rural communities. Therefore, the experiences of community women require attention in order to better anticipate their emerging psychosocial health issues. The theoretical frameworks utilized in developing this study included Erikson’s (1963) psychosocial development theory, which posits that each person experiences psychosocial crises or internal conflicts linked to life’s key stages, which define growth and personality. Social-cognitive and self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1992, 1997), defined as beliefs about one’s capabilities to produce levels of performance that influence one’s life, also was utilized to formulate this study.
The author utilized a descriptive multiple case study design. Primary data were gathered using a researcher-constructed questionnaire that investigated each respondent’s socio-economic profile and psychosocial health status. Other primary data sources included key informant interviews, respondents’ journal entries, observations and outputs during the structured learning exercises (SLEs), FGD transcripts, and the researcher’s log. Documents provided by the barangay [community] secretary also were reviewed.
Twenty-six women ages 26–70 volunteered. Eight were between 35 and 43 years old and eight were within the ages of 53–61. Five of the respondents were between ages 44 and 52 and two respondents were 26–34 years old. The artisanal miners participating in the study were identified from the barangay list and via the assistance of the barangay secretary. Based on the socio-demographic data drawn from the selected women miners of Barangay Puntalinao, Banaybanay, Davao Oriental, the respondents generally belonged among the rural poor migrant settlers and had low levels of educational attainment. Most participants were mothers responsible for large families and obliged to participate in mining to sustain daily family needs. Most participants owned their homes; however, the houses were located on rental lots, causing some degree of insecurity in terms of permanence of residence.
A 21-item survey, translated from English to Cebuano, provided a socio-demographic profile and psychosocial health status of each respondent, covering perseverance, stress management and coping processes. It was clustered into three areas: personal data, family structure and housing arrangement. Items 1–6 aimed to determine level of perseverance. Items 7–16 covered the impact of stress management styles, and items 17–21 determined the impact of coping processes on managing life circumstances. Responses were tallied using the following scale: 1.00–1.99 indicating that the given life experience had a high impact on psychosocial health status over the past month, 2.00–2.99 indicating moderate impact on psychosocial health and 3.00–4.00 indicating low impact.
Other primary sources of data included key informant interviews, respondents’ journal entries, observations and outputs during SLEs, transcripts from the FGD, and the researcher’s observation logs from her 3-day community immersion. The key informants included the Barangay Captain, the Barangay Health Worker and a sari-sari [small grocery] store owner, all of whom were interviewed during the researcher’s community immersion. A formal approval to conduct a study in the area was requested from the Barangay Captain. The Barangay Health Worker was interviewed about health conditions among the women miners and the barangay’s health programs for women. An interview also was conducted with a sari-sari store owner who had firsthand knowledge of the women residents’ consumer behavior and lived in a house located at the mining compound. Daily logs recorded what was witnessed and experienced during the immersion. The Barangay Puntalinao Development Plan (2000) also was used to gather basic community information such as the history, demography and topography of the barangay.
SLEs were conducted after the baseline data on psychosocial health status were obtained. The SLEs focused on coping processes, perseverance and stress management. During each SLE, a lecture was conducted and an assignment given for follow-up discussion with the group before the activity concluded. Outputs from the SLEs formed part of the data for the multiple case studies. A FGD with 14 randomly selected miners was conducted after the last SLE, focusing on coping processes, stress management and perseverance. Outputs from the FGD were utilized to validate and expand on the data extracted from the survey questionnaires and SLEs. The psychosocial health status of the respondents was monitored three months after the conclusion of the last SLEs. It provided feedback on the sessions’ lasting effects on the psychosocial health management of the respondents, despite the assessment of medium-term effectiveness, not included in the objectives of the study.
Socio-Demographic Profile and Psychosocial Health Status
The general conditions of poverty resulted in multiple burdens, including reproduction. The high numbers of respondents’ children may have indicated that respondents spent much of their childbearing years within marriage. Six of the artisanal miners had four offspring. One of the respondents had nine and another had 14 children. Eighteen miners had children aged at least 22 years old. Three respondents had children 1 year old or younger, which suggests that more time and effort were needed to exert in mining to provide the needs of these children in the early stages of human development. Aside from economic needs, data implied that the women miners lived with their husbands and managed time for child care, despite long days at the mines.
Coping processes. The results showed that Filipino women artisanal miners’ coping processes had a moderate impact on recent life experiences for which they employed these coping strategies. The respondents had the ability to handle different trials in life, but the ability to use common coping strategies had a fair influence on being able to manage life circumstances well. It was evident from the women’s disclosures that multiple workloads consumed their being. However, the coping processes they employed had a low impact on solving family problems.
“Lisod kaayo ang among kahimtang labi na og mag-abot ang mga problema sa pamilya” [Our situation is very difficult most especially when the entire family encounters problems at the same time]. Because the women miners were responsible and accountable for problems encountered by the entire family, they became concerned when the family experienced difficulty. This finding was similar to findings from the United Nations Development Program (1999), which reported that women were more likely than men to devote resources for family upkeep, food and children’s education. Furthermore, prioritizing the needs of the family demonstrates adherence to the traditional Filipino value of kagandahang loob [compassion] (Miranda, 1992).
Among the 14 respondents who participated in the SLEs, coping behavior was utilized regarding problematic circumstances with their husbands’ vices and behaviors such as drinking, infidelity, physical abuse and financial neglect. Marital cases brought to the barangay office are usually reconciled through forgiveness and for economic reasons. Problems related to their children included participants’ daily absence from home, no contact while away from their children, early marriage and inability to support their children. According to the key informant, mining is considered a survival strategy despite its health risks, low compensation and daily starting time, as early as 5:00 a.m. (see Table 1).
According to one informant, a Barangay Health Worker who happened to be a neighbor of the miners, the miners often channeled time and effort into their mining in order to regain a sense of self-worth and focus on caring for their families, despite health risks and low compensation. During the FGD, the women miners mentioned using prayer as a coping strategy. Some Filipino women miners join religious organizations in order to express their feelings with fellow members. Miners’ journal entries indicated that they believed their present situation was their destiny.
Psychosocial Health of Women Artisanal Miners at Barangay Puntalinao, Davao Oriental in Terms of Coping Processes
Coping Processes Indicator
Coping strategies employed
Conflicts with in-laws or household members
Conflicts with immediate family members
Conflicts with friends
Being taken advantage of
Lots of responsibilities
Note. LI = low impact, MI = moderate impact, HI = high impact.
Perseverance. The women miners’ attitude of perseverance had a high impact on their effective socializing with their neighbors. During FGDs, participants shared that the community had not encountered cultural problems because of respect for one another; in addition, most participants belonged to the Cebuano tribe. Based on the observation log, the women artisanal miners cared for each other and showed respect to everyone by treating each other without bias. Jocano (1999) wrote that the Filipino value delicadeza [being proper], is manifested, for instance, when one does not abuse a friendship by doing something that would be hurtful or embarrassing to a friend. This value is apparent in the practice of sabot that allows women to express and meet their needs for help without sacrificing their pride and dignity. Enriquez (1978) discussed kapwa as a mode of Filipino social interaction which he defined as “recognition of shared identities as well as the compassionate generosity to others in need.”
Based on the statement of the sari-sari store owner who was a neighbor of the respondents, the women miners usually incurred credit for food to be paid the following day. This practice of sabot [agreement] maintains social relations based on asal [consideration] as discussed by Jocano (1999) and kagandahang loob [compassion] as depicted by Miranda (1992). The moral undertone of these terms is best expressed by the Filipino concept of pakikiramay, or going out of one’s way in order to share the sorrow of others in times of crisis (Miranda, 1992). The practice of sabot, therefore, addresses the survival needs of the women in a manner that does not compromise their self-esteem, kindness and generosity.
It is evident that the women artisanal miners are insecure in terms of their housing, because most of their homes are built on property owned by other people. The participants’ attitude of perseverance had a moderate impact on dealing with the knowledge that the lot their houses were on could be revoked at any time. At the time the study was conducted, most of the houses had to be relocated to accommodate a road-widening project by the provincial government. Houses were uprooted and moved at least 10 meters from the road, causing the miners uncertainty about where to locate, or how far a potential relocation might be from the workplace.
Individual case studies showed that the women artisanal miners performed multiple roles including mother, wife, grandmother and household manager, as well as miner. Since these women were willing to sacrifice for their family, it was important for them to nurture their attitude to persist. Though they had the determination to continue with their various roles, they also needed to recharge from time to time. Their ability to manage the toll of their physical and psychological loads led them to a greater sense of self-efficacy. Such a sense allowed them to select challenging settings, explore their environments or create new ones (see Table 2).
Psychosocial Health of Women Artisanal Miners at Barangay Puntalinao, Davao Oriental in Terms of Perseverance
Having your contributions overlooked
Hard work to look after and maintain house
Gossip about yourself
Findings your work too demanding
Financial conflicts with family members
Experiencing high levels of heat
Ethnic or tribal conflict
Dissatisfaction with your physical fitness
Dissatisfaction with your physical appearance
Disliking your daily activities
Note. LI = low impact, MI = moderate impact, HI = high impact.
Stress management. The women miners’ stress management styles had a moderate impact on their management of the stressors they encountered. Thus, there was room for improvement in their repertoire of stress management techniques to help prevent exhaustion or burnout. The data, moreover, showed that the miners did not harbor insecurities regarding their physical appearance and fitness. In addition, because of the forgiving attitude of the participants, violent family conflicts were avoided and rarely compounded their difficulties. Instead of borrowing trouble, the women generally opted to forgive.
Data showed that the stress management styles of the women miners had high impact with regard to viewing the future and remaining optimistic and hopeful. As for techniques employed, one participant stated that watching teleseryes, or television series, was a common means of relaxation among the women in the community. Women often finished doing household chores in the evening and watched television. Based on the study log, the miners and their children and grandchildren typically gathered inside the house around 7:30 p.m. to watch television. Teleseryes provided a medium for sympathetic catharsis. For instance, when the women witnessed someone’s misfortune, they compared it with their own and felt better afterward. When they viewed someone being oppressed on television, they tended to feel better about their own situation. When the oppressed character fought back, the viewer identified with the character’s desire to oppose malevolent forces. More importantly, sympathetic catharsis brought stress to a manageable level (see Table 3).
Psychosocial Health of Women Artisanal Miners at Barangay Puntalinao, Davao Oriental in Terms of Stress Management
Stress Management Indicator
Stress management techniques
Unsatisfactory housing and conditions
Trying to secure loans
Too many things to do at once
Take on the burdens of the entire family
Note. LI = low impact, MI = moderate impact, HI = high impact.
The Barangay Health Worker who was interviewed for the study happened to own a karaoke machine and stated that the women miners sometimes came over and sang whenever they had extra money (each song costs one peso on the videoke machine).These were occasions for the miners to bond and socialize as they sang, danced and laughed. During the FGD on stress management, it was mentioned that playing bingo also was one of the miners’ common pastimes, providing another social activity and an opportunity to connect with others and meet a very basic human need for the women.
Based on the survey of psychosocial health status, stress management strategies had a low impact on addressing stressful daily activities. According to one participant, “Usahay kapuyon ko og makabati og sakit sa lawastungod kay dili lalim ang akong trabaho” [I get tired sometimes and do not feel good physically because my work is not that easy].
The participants in this study indicated a need to enhance their coping strategies to cope with adversities in their lives. While they have the fighting spirit, their coping strategies could be improved further. A sense of self-worth must be further developed for the participants to be aware of their respective capabilities to exercise control over stressful situations. If this need was met further and more positive self-efficacy achieved, the miners would be better able to enhance their psychosocial health status.
Most of the women artisanal miners married at an early age and were financially unable to finish school. They were driven to engage in mining for many years to sustain the basic needs of their families. Most of the respondents have husbands and children who mine as well. More often than not, children are forced to discontinue school and begin work to help support the family. Despite being poor, the women have not surrendered to the trials of life, holding on to aspirations and possessing the following self-related cognition: “I can do it.” This attitude allows them to overcome the lack of opportunities by mining as a way to earn income and sustain the needs of their families.
Mining is perceived as God-sent and affords the women an opportunity to be self-reliant and gain a measure of control over their daily experience. Most of the respondents have persevered for the sake of their children and grandchildren. In addition to their labor, physical and emotional abuse from their husbands increases their suffering; yet they tend to be forgiving. Coleman (1998) advocated the therapeutic value of forgiveness as follows: “Forgiveness is a must in any family problem where there has been deep hurt, betrayal, or disloyalty” (p. 78). If there can be no reconciliation, forgiveness is the process that enables the forgiver to move on with life unencumbered with the pain of betrayal. Madanes (1991) further asserted, “The only way we can survive from day to day without emotional breakdown is by forgiving and forgetting” (p. 416). This study did not explore why the women miners forgive the wrongs done to them. It was found, however, that the women tend to forgive their husbands, although some still nurse hurts and resentment.
For the women, mining plays a major role in survival. The activity is described as a means of livelihood, a family bonding activity and source of hope for life. Furthermore, it also is seen as a chance to establish good relationships with colleagues, or pakikipagkapwa, and to enjoy work despite discomfort and hard work.
Most participants aim to build a semi-concrete house with comfortable rooms in a lot that they would own. In addition, the security of their residence is questionable when affected by the road-widening project of the provincial government. Still, the respondents expressed optimism as symbolized by the blooming flowers and abundant trees in their drawings (their output during their SLE), depicting joy and love in their households (see Appendix for an example).
Women artisanal miners in the Philippines would benefit from learning strategies to effectively address problems they encounter. They need to develop a sense of personal efficacy for approaching threatening situations with assurance that they can exercise control over these threats. The miners are hopeful and optimistic; therefore, it would be worthwhile to engage them cognitively and affectively and to facilitate decision-making that would allow them to gain insight into how to better manage resources and improve psychosocial health.
Given the socio-demographic characteristics, as well as the presentation of different life experiences, aspirations and psychosocial health status of the women artisanal miners, this study discovered that the miners would benefit from an intervention that revitalizes them, despite day-to-day stressors. Although the women are able to cope with various life difficulties, there is a need to enhance their coping strategies for managing stress. The miners should be more aware of their capabilities to exercise control over their own functioning and over the events that affect their lives, and thereby develop a stronger sense of personal efficacy. If these needs are met and self-efficacy achieved, the women miners will be able to enhance their psychosocial health status.
Optimism is commonly manifested in the stories told by the women artisanal miners. According to Bandura (1992), people with high assurance of their own capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than threats to be avoided. Such an efficacious outlook fosters interest and engrossment in activities. A person who believes in being able to cause events can conduct a more active and self-determined life course. This can-do cognition mirrors a sense of control over one’s environment, and reflects the belief of being able to master challenging demands by means of adaptive action. This attitude also can be regarded as an optimistic view of one’s capacity to deal with stress (Bandura, 1992; Maddux, 1995; Wallston, 1994). This study reveals the importance of helping women miners enhance self-efficacy to maintain psychosocial health.
After the exploration of the women miners’ psychosocial health status, the researcher discovered that the miners need an intervention in order to be revitalized despite the various obstacles they encounter from day to day. They need training on how to maintain a positive outlook on life and how to believe in their potential to endure as a mother, wife, grandmother and daughter, as well as person. Considering the lifestyle and psychosocial health status of the women miners in terms of perseverance, coping processes and stress management, the self-efficacy enhancement program focuses on effective ways of creating a strong sense of efficacy among the miners in order to sustain the perseverance needed to succeed.
The stories of the women artisanal miners suggest that their coping processes, attitude of perseverance and stress management strategies have a moderate impact on their ability to manage their respective life experiences. As the 14 individual case studies were examined further for their psychosocial health status, the author found that most of the women artisanal miners face economic crises as well as maternal and marital problems. Despite these challenges, they manifest a forgiving attitude, which reflects the notion that such sacrifice is necessary for the sake of the family’s survival.
The miners also are optimistic about the future, an attitude that was manifested during the sharing of their aspirations in life through drawings. All participants mentioned positive life visions and goals. Flowers and trees were commonly drawn, which symbolized the participants’ desires to have happy and harmonious families. Children wearing togas and parents pinning ribbons on a graduation day also depict the participants’ yearning for the education and advancement of the next generation. Semi-concrete houses with comfortable rooms are illustrated to show longing for comfort and security in living conditions. All these aspects of the drawings (see Appendix) demonstrate that the women artisanal miners have plans and hopes in life that give them the determination to persist. Optimistic processes are an essential key to gaining a sense of self-efficacy.
The women miners possess the optimistic attitude to carry on, but there is room for them to discover more about how to control their functioning and manage their psychosocial health status more effectively. Therefore, it is necessary to help them enhance their coping strategies and stress management techniques.
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of interest or funding contributions for the development of this manuscript.
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A Miner’s Drawing of Life Aspirations
Rose Anelyn Visaya-Ceniza is the Head of the Guidance Counseling and Testing Center of the Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology, Guang-Guang, Dahican, and a practicing psychologist at St. Camillus Hospital of Mati, Inc. Correspondence can be addressed to Rose Anelyn Visaya-Ceniza, DOSCST, Dahican, 8200 Mati City, Davao Oriental, Philippines, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author previously published portions of this article: “An Exploration of the Psychosocial Health Status of Women Artisanal Miners in Mindanao, Philippines” in Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, 91, 505–514.
Supervision is an integral component of counselor development with the objective of ensuring safe and effective counseling for clients. Wellness also is an important element of counseling and often labeled as the cornerstone of the counseling profession. Literature on supervision contains few models that have a wellness focus or component; however, wellness is fundamental to counseling and the training of counselors, and is primary in developmental, strengths-based counseling. The purpose of this article is to introduce an integrative wellness model for counseling supervision that incorporates existing models of supervision, matching the developmental needs of counselors-in-training and theoretical tenets of wellness.
The practice of counseling is rich with challenges that impact counselor wellness (Kottler, 2010; Maslach, 2003). Consequently, counselors with poor wellness may not produce optimal services for the clients they serve (Lawson, 2007). Furthermore, wellness is regarded as a cornerstone in developmental, strengths-based approaches to counseling (Lawson, 2007; Lawson & Myers, 2011; Myers & Sweeney, 2005, 2008; Witmer, 1985; Witmer & Young, 1996) and is an important consideration when training counselors (Lenz & Smith, 2010; Roach & Young, 2007). Therefore, a focus on methods by which counselor educators can prepare counseling trainees to obtain and maintain wellness is necessary.
Clinical supervision is an integral component of counselor training and involves a relationship in which an expert (e.g., supervisor) facilitates the development of counseling competence in a trainee (Loganbill, Hardy, & Delworth, 1982). Supervision is a requirement of master’s-level counseling training programs and is a part of developing and evaluating counseling students’ skills (Borders, 1992), level of wellness (Lenz, Sangganjanavanich, Balkin, Oliver, & Smith, 2012), readiness for change (Aten, Strain, & Gillespie, 2008; Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982) and overall development into effective counselors (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). Supervisors use pedagogical methods and theories of supervision to assess and evaluate trainees with the goal of enhancing their counseling competence (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2014; Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). The method or theory of supervision relates to the interaction between counselor educators and counseling trainees and is isomorphic to a counselor using a theory with a client.
The number of supervision theories and methods has increased over recent years. In addition, integrated supervision models have been established with a focus on specific trainee groups (e.g., Carlson & Lambie, 2012; Lambie & Sias, 2009) or specific purposes (e.g., Luke & Bernard, 2006; Ober, Granello, & Henfield, 2009). These integrated models combine the theoretical tenets of key models with the goal of formulating a new perspective for clinical training that adapts to the needs of the supervisee or context. Lenz and Smith (2010) and Roscoe (2009) suggested that the construct of wellness needs further clarification and articulation as a method of supervision. Currently, a single model of supervision with a wellness perspective is available (see Lenz & Smith, 2010). However, it does not specifically apply to master’s-level counselors-in-training (CITs) or focus on the wellness constructs highlighted in the proposed integrative wellness model (IWM). Therefore, this manuscript serves to review relevant literature on supervision and wellness, introduce the IWM, and present implications regarding its implementation and evaluation.
ACA (2014), the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2009), and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES; 2011) have articulated standards for best practices in supervision. For example, ACES’ (2011) Standards for Best Practices Guidelines highlights 12 categories as integral components of the supervision process. The categories include responsibilities of supervisors and suggestions for actions to be taken in order to ensure best practices in supervision. The ACA Code of Ethics (2014) states that supervision involves a process of monitoring “client welfare and supervisee performance and professional development” (Standard F.1.a). Furthermore, supervision can be used as a tool to provide supervisees with necessary knowledge, skills and ethical guidelines to provide safe and effective counseling services (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014).
Supervision has two central purposes: to foster supervisees’ personal and professional development and to protect clients (Vespia, Heckman-Stone, & Delworth, 2002). Supervisors work to ensure client welfare by monitoring and evaluating supervisee behavior, which serves as a gatekeeping tool for the counseling profession (Robiner, Fuhrman, Ristvedt, Bobbit, & Schirvar, 1994). Thus, supervisors protect the counseling profession and clients receiving counseling services by providing psychoeducation, modeling appropriate counselor behavior, and evaluating supervisees’ counseling skills and other professional behaviors. In order to do this, supervisors and supervisees must have a strong supervisory relationship that supports positive supervision outcomes (Rønnestad & Skovholt, 2003).
Supervision is a distinct intervention (Borders, 1992) that is separate from teaching, counseling and consultation. Supervision is unique in that it is comprised of multifaceted (e.g., teacher, counselor and consultant) roles that occur at different times throughout the supervision process (Bernard, 1997). Bernard’s (1979, 1997) discrimination model (DM) of supervision is an educational perspective positing that supervisors can match the needs of supervisees with a supervisor role and supervision focus. The DM is situation specific, meaning that supervisors can change roles throughout the supervision session based on their goal for supervisee interaction (Bernard, 1997). Therefore, supervisees require different roles and levels of support from their supervisors at different times throughout the supervision process, which can be determined by a process of assessment and matching of supervisee needs.
According to Worthen and McNeill (1996), supervision varies according to the developmental level of trainees. Beginning supervisees need more support and structure than intermediate or advanced supervisees (Borders, 1990). Additionally, supervisors working with beginning supervisees must pay more attention to student skills and aid in the development of self-awareness. With intermediate supervisees, supervision may focus on personal development, more advanced case conceptualizations of clients and operating within a specific counseling theory (McNeill, Stoltenberg, & Pierce, 1985). Advanced supervisees work on more complex issues of personal development, parallel processes or a replication of the therapeutic relationship in a variety of settings (e.g., counseling, supervision; Ekstein & Wallerstein, 1972), and advanced responses and reactions to clients (Williams, Judge, Hill, & Hoffman, 1997). Consequently, supervision progresses from beginning stages to advanced stages for supervisees, with a developmental framework central to the process. Supervision is tailored to the specific developmental level of a supervisee, and tasks are personalized for needs at specific times throughout the supervision process. Developmental stages in supervision have been identified as key processes that counselor trainees undergo (e.g., Rønnestad & Skovholt, 2003; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2012), a conceptualization that necessitates a supervision model that aids supervisees in a developmental fashion.
Recent models of supervision represent trends toward integrative and empirically based supervision modalities (e.g., Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Lambie & Sias, 2009). The current integrated model of supervision draws from the theoretical tenets of the DM (Bernard, 1979, 1997), matching supervisee developmental needs (Lambie & Sias, 2009; Loganbill et al., 1982; Stoltenberg, 1981) and wellness constructs (Lenz et al., 2012; Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 1998). Wellness is a conscious, thoughtful process that requires increased awareness of choices that are being made toward optimal human functioning and a more satisfying lifestyle (Johnson, 1986; Swarbrick, 1997). As such, the IWM includes wellness undertones in order to support optimal supervisee functioning. This article presents the IWM’s theoretical tenets, implementation and methods for supervisee evaluation. In addition, a case study is presented to demonstrate the IWM’s application in clinical supervision.
Theoretical Tenets Integrated Into the IWM of Supervision
The DM (Bernard, 1979, 1997) is considered “one of the most accessible models of clinical supervision” (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014, p. 52) and includes the following three supervisor roles: teacher, counselor and consultant. In the teacher role, the supervisor imparts knowledge to the supervisee and serves an educational function. The counselor role involves the supervisor aiding the supervisee in increasing self-awareness, enhancing reflectivity, and working through interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts. Lastly, the consultant role provides opportunities for supervisors and supervisees to have discussions on a balanced level (Bernard, 1979). The three roles are used throughout the supervision process to promote supervisee learning, growth and development.
The DM of supervision is situation specific in that supervisors enact different roles throughout the supervision session based on the observed need of the supervisee (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014). As needs arise in supervision, the supervisor decides which role is best suited for the issue or concern. This process requires the supervisor to identify or assess a need and to make a decision regarding the appropriate role (i.e., teacher, counselor or consultant) to facilitate appropriate supervision. Furthermore, the use of supervisory roles is fluid, with its ebb and flow contingent upon the supervisee needs or issues. For example, if a supervisee is struggling with how to review informed consent, a supervisor can use the teacher role to educate the student on how to proceed, and then address the supervisee’s anxiety about seeing his or her first client using the counseling role. The DM roles are integrated into the IWM, and supervisors alternate between roles to match supervisee needs throughout the supervision process.
The authors of developmental models have suggested that counseling trainees progress in a structured and sequential fashion through stages of development that increase in complexity and integration (e.g., Blocher, 1983; Loganbill et al., 1982; Stoltenberg, 1981; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2010). In early experiences, supervisees engage in rigid thinking, have high anxiety and dependence on the supervisor, and express low confidence in their abilities (Borders & Brown, 2005; Rønnestad, & Skovholt, 2003; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2012). Moreover, supervisees have limited understanding of their own abilities and view their supervisor as an expert (Borders & Brown, 2005; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2010). Struggles between independency and autonomy, as well as bouts of self-doubt, occur during the middle stages of counselor development (Borders & Brown, 2005; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2010). In addition, counselors experience decreased anxiety paired with an increase in case conceptualization, skill development and crystallization of theoretical orientation (Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2010). Thinking becomes more flexible and there is an increased understanding of unique client qualities and traits (Borders & Brown, 2005). The later stages of counselor development are marked by increased stability and focus on clinical skill development and professional growth, which promotes a flexibility and adaptability that allows for trainees to overcome setbacks with minimal discouragement (Stoltenberg & McNeill, 1997). Furthermore, supervisees focus on more complex information and diverse perspectives as they learn to conceptualize clients more effectively (Borders & Brown, 2005).
In summary, supervisees’ movement through the developmental stages is marked by individualized supervision needs. Structured, concrete feedback and information are desired in early supervision experiences (Bernard, 1997; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2010). The middle stages have a general focus on processing the interpersonal reactions in which supervisees engage, and supervisors provide support to help supervisees increase their awareness of transference and countertransference (Borders & Brown, 2005; Stoltenberg, 1981). Toward the later stages of supervision, supervisees seek collaborative relationships with supervisors. This collaboration provides supervisees with more freedom and autonomy, which allows them to progress through the stages as they begin to self-identify the focus of their supervision (Borders & Brown, 2005).
Similar to the IWM, models of supervision that are development-focused derive from Hunt’s (1971) matching model that suggests a person–environment fit (Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Crethar, 1994). The matching model advocates that the developmental level of supervisees should be matched with environmental or contextual structures to enhance the opportunity for learning (Lambie & Sias, 2009). Specifically, the developmental models account for trainees’ needs specific to their experience level and contextual environment, with the goal of matching interventions to support movement into more advanced developmental levels (Bernard & Goodyear, 2014; Stoltenberg & McNeill, 2012). The IWM derives its developmental perspective from the unique levels trainees experience during supervision and the cycling and recycling of stages that occurs (Loganbill et al., 1982).
Wellness and Unwellness
Wellness is a topic that has received much attention in counseling literature (Hattie, Myers, & Sweeney, 2004), including several perspectives on how to define wellness (Keyes, 1998). Dunn (1967) is considered the architect of the wellness crusade and described wellness as an integration of spirit, body and mind. The World Health Organization (1968) defined health as more than the absence of disease and emphasized a wellness quality, which includes mental, social and physical well-being. Cohen (1991) described wellness as an idealistic state that individuals strive to attain, and as something that is situated along a continuum (i.e., people experience bouts of wellness and unwellness). Witmer and Sweeney (1992) depicted wellness as interconnectedness between health characteristics, life tasks (spirituality, love, work, friendship, self), and life forces (family, community, religion, education). Additionally, Roscoe (2009) depicted wellness as a holistic paradigm that includes physical, emotional, social, occupational, spiritual, intellectual and environmental components. Witmer and Granello (2005) stated that the counseling profession is distinctively suited to promoting health and wellness with a developmental approach and, coincidentally, supervision could serve as a tool to promote wellness in supervisees as well as in clients receiving counseling services.
Smith, Robinson, and Young (2007) found that counselor wellness is negatively influenced by increased exposure to psychological distress. Furthermore, research has shown that counselors face stress because of the nature of their job (Cummins, Massey, & Jones, 2007). Increased stress and anxiety associated with counseling may have deleterious effects on counselor wellness, and supervisors and supervisees who are unwell may adversely impact their clients. In addition, Lawson and Myers (2011) suggested that increasing counselors’ wellness could lead to increased compassion satisfaction and aid counselors in avoiding compassion fatigue and burnout. Thus, supervisee and supervisor wellness should be an important component of counselor training and supervision. The IWM makes counselor wellness a focus of the supervision process.
Supervision literature contains few supervision models that include wellness components and/or focus on wellness as a key aspect of the supervision experience (e.g., Lenz et al., 2012; Lenz & Smith, 2010). Nevertheless, the paradigm of wellness has emerged in the field of counseling and is primary in developmental, strengths-based counseling (Lenz & Smith, 2010; Myers & Sweeney, 2005). The CACREP 2009 Standards note the importance of wellness for counseling students and counselor educators by promoting human functioning, wellness and health through advocacy, prevention and education. To illustrate, the CACREP 2009 Standards include suggestions of facilitating optimal development and wellness, incorporating orientations to wellness in counseling goals, and using wellness approaches to work with a plethora of populations. The overall goal of wellness counseling is to support wellness in clients (Granello & Witmer, 2013). However, if supervisees seeing clients are unwell, how efficient are they in promoting wellness in others? In order to support development of wellness in supervisees, the IWM incorporates the five wellness domains of creative, coping, physical, essential and social (Myers, Luecht, & Sweeney, 2004) by implementing the use of the Five Factor Wellness Evaluation of Lifestyle (5F-Wel; Myers et al., 2004). In addition, supervisees can use a starfish template (Echterling et al., 2002) to gauge their own wellness and prioritize the constructs that influence their personal and professional levels of wellness and unwellness, as well as create plans to increase their overall wellness.
Implementing the IWM
The IWM was created to offer an integrative method of supervision that is concise and easy to facilitate. Specifically, the IWM consists of several processes, including supervisory relationship development, evaluation of developmental phase, allocation of supervision need, and assessment and matching of wellness intervention. The following section outlines each process.
Supervisory Relationship Development
Rapport building and relationship development between supervisor and supervisee constitute a critical step in supervision (Hird, Cavalieri, Dulko, Felice, & Ho, 2001). Similar to counseling, establishing a strong, trusting supervisory relationship is essential because the relationship is an integral component of the supervision experience (Borders & Brown, 2005; Rønnestad & Skovholt, 1993). During initial sessions, supervisors describe the process of the IWM to supervisees in order to maintain open, transparent communication and to promote a safe environment for supervisees to learn, share emotions and feelings, and develop counseling skills. It is hoped that modeling appropriate professional behaviors and setting up supervision sessions to promote a trusting environment will aid in the overall development of counseling supervisees and matriculate into their normal routines as professional counselors. As with counseling, supervisors can promote a strong relationship with supervisees by focusing on the core conditions of empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1957). Open communication and supervisor authenticity are just two examples of processes that help develop a sound supervisor–supervisee relationship.
Evaluation of Developmental Phase
Supervisee development is an important consideration in the IWM. The IWM divides supervisee development into three phases that consist of distinct developmental characteristics. Similar to Stoltenberg and McNeill’s (2010) suggestion and other integrative models (e.g., Carlson & Lambie, 2012; Young, Lambie, Hutchinson, & Thurston-Dyer, 2011), the phases in the IWM are hierarchical in nature, with the highest phase (phase three) being ideal for developed supervisees. In addition, the IWM acknowledges the preclinical experiences (e.g., lay helper; Rønnestad, & Skovholt, 2003) of supervisees as valuable and relevant to their development. In the IWM, it is important to acknowledge and address the experiences that supervisees have had prior to their work as counselors because they may impact perceptions and expectations.
For example, supervisors can facilitate activities to promote awareness of how supervisees influence counseling sessions. To illustrate, supervisees may participate in activities highlighting culture, family-of-origin, character strengths and bias, and evaluate how those factors may influence their counseling skills, views of clients and interactions with clients, peers and supervisors. One example of a technique that can generate conversation on the aforementioned areas is the genogram (Lim & Nakamoto, 2008). Supervisees can use the genogram to map out their family history, life influences and path to becoming a counselor during a supervision session. Ultimately, the genogram can be used as a tool to assess where supervisees are developmentally and what might have contributed to their worldview and presence as counselors. With any technique used during the supervision process, the goal of increasing awareness is emphasized. Furthermore, supervisees can implement these activities for use with their own clients. Ultimately, supervisors work to facilitate supervisee progression toward being more self-actualized, self-aware counselors. Table 1 provides descriptions of awareness of well-being, developmental characteristics, supervisory descriptors and supervision considerations for each developmental phase.
IWM Phases of Supervisee Development
Awareness of Well-being
Low independenceIncreased anxietyFollows the lead of others
Pursuit of awareness
Seeking independenceModerate anxietyMakes attempts to lead
One way supervisors seek to assess supervisees’ developmental phase is through active inquiry. Similar to Young and colleagues’ (2011) recommendations, the assessment of supervisees’ developmental phase is achieved through the use of questioning, reflecting, active listening and challenging incongruences. In addition, direct and intentional questions are used to target specific topics. For example, a supervisor seeking to assess the wellness of a supervisee might ask, “How are you feeling?” and then if there is incongruence, the supervisor might state, “You’re saying that you feel ‘fine,’ but you appear to be anxious tonight.” Based on supervisee reaction, the supervisor can judge the level of awareness the trainee has into his or her own well-being. Additionally, supervisors might want to ask about specific issues such as planned interventions, diagnostic interpretations or theoretical orientation. For example, a supervisor might ask, “How do you plan to assess for suicide?” Then, based on the trainee’s reaction (e.g., asking for help, giving a tentative answer or giving a confident answer) the supervisor can determine his or her developmental phase.
Supervisors also can assess supervisee developmental phase through evaluation. By observing a supervisee in a number of settings (e.g., counseling, triadic supervision, group supervision), supervisors can gauge where he or she is developmentally. Furthermore, observing the supervisee’s counseling skills, professional behaviors and dispositions (Swank, Lambie, & Witta, 2012) can provide increased insight into what phase the supervisee is experiencing at that particular point in time.
Allocation of Supervision Need
The allocation of supervision need is the next process in the IWM of supervision. The supervisor assesses the developmental phase of the supervisee and then provides a supervision intervention (contextual or educational) with the goal of supporting and/or challenging the supervisee (Lambie & Sias, 2009). Phase one of supervisee development is marked by high anxiety, low self-efficacy, decreased awareness of wellness and poor initiative. The supervision environment is one of structure with prescribed activities. Activities to support growth in phase one include live supervision, critical feedback, education on relevant issues, and modeling of behavior and skill.
Gaining insight into trainee wellness also is critical. Supervisors can use insight-oriented activities such as scrapbook journaling, which allows supervisees to gain awareness through the use of multiple media such as photos, music, quotes and poems in the journaling process (Bradley, Whisenhunt, Adamson, & Kress, 2013), or openly discussing the supervisee’s current state of wellness to help foster an increased awareness of it. Supervisees in this developmental phase can be encouraged to explore the five wellness domains (creative self, coping self, social self, essential self, physical self) and begin increasing awareness of their current level of wellness. An example of an activity for assessing supervisee wellness is the starfish technique, which is adapted from Echterling and colleagues’ (2002) sea star balancing exercise. Within this technique, supervisees receive a picture of a five-armed starfish marked with the five wellness constructs (creative, coping, physical, essential, social; Hattie et al., 2004; Myers et al., 2004) and are asked to evaluate the areas that influence or contribute to their overall wellness. Following this, supervisors and supervisees can pursue a discussion regarding the constructs. After the discussion, supervisees redraw the starfish with arm lengths representing the amount of influence that each construct has on their overall wellness or change the constructs into things that they feel better represent their personal wellness. Figure 1 is an example of a supervisee’s initial starfish. Figure 2 is the redrawn wellness starfish based on prioritizing or changing the wellness constructs; this supervisee’s redrawn starfish prioritizes social, physical and creative aspects. In contrast, nutritional and emotional constructs are depicted as smaller arms, indicating areas for growth or a potential imbalance.
Supervisees’ progression to higher levels of development is facilitated through educational and reflective interventions that their supervisors deliver. Phase two of supervisee development is marked by increased autonomy and self-efficacy, decreased anxiety, and attempts to lead or take initiatives. The context of supervision is less concrete and structured but still supportive and encouraging. Supervisees may seek independence, as well as reassurance that they are correct when working through challenges (Borders & Brown, 2005). Supervisors can provide feedback on advanced skills, challenge supervisee awareness and foster opportunities for supervisees to take risks (i.e., challenge, support; Lambie & Sias, 2009). Supervisees in phase two have an increased awareness of their well-being but may be reluctant to integrate support strategies. Therefore, supervisors may integrate activities, assignments or challenges to enhance supervisees’ wellness. For example, supervisors can have supervisees create wellness plans or discuss current wellness plans. Thus, the supervisor can hold the supervisee accountable for personal well-being.
Supervisees in phase three exhibit high autonomy and self-efficacy, low anxiety, and greater efforts to lead (Borders & Brown, 2005). The supervision environment is less structured and the supervisor assumes a consultative role. In addition, the supervisee may serve as a leader by supporting less developed peers. Interventions at this level take the form of consulting on tough cases, working through unresolved issues and providing guidance on advanced skills. Furthermore, supervisees have higher awareness of their wellness and its implications on their work with clients. Finally, supervisees in this phase seek to minimize negative well-being and may need encouragement to overcome this challenge.
Assessment and Matching of Wellness Interventions
Evaluation is a key component of the supervision process (Borders & Brown, 2005) and therefore, wellness, supervisee skill level and supervisor role are assessed in the IWM. A key feature of the IWM is the emphasis on promoting supervisee wellness. Therefore, the IWM emphasizes the evaluation of supervisees and matching of wellness interventions. Furthermore, it is important to assess supervisees’ counseling skills throughout the supervision process to provide formative and summative feedback.
The IWM utilizes the five factors of the indivisible self model (Myers & Sweeney, 2004, 2005) as points of assessment. Furthermore, the development of personal well-being is dependent upon education of wellness, self-assessment, goal planning and progress evaluation (Granello, 2000; Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000). Therefore, the IWM utilizes these aspects of wellness development as a modality for enhancing supervisee well-being. Supervisees are viewed from a positive, strengths-based perspective in the IWM and thus, activities in supervision should highlight positive attributes, increase understanding of supervisees’ level of wellness and promote knowledge of holistic wellness. Wellness plans (WPs) and the starfish activity are used to assess supervisee wellness by promoting communication and self-awareness in the supervision session. Furthermore, both evaluations are valuable self-assessment measures for supervisees and allow for initial wellness goal setting. WPs should be developed during early supervision sessions and used as a check-in mechanism for formative wellness feedback. Concurrently, the starfish assessment can be used early on to gauge initial wellness and areas for wellness growth.
Progress evaluation is assessed with the 5F-Wel (Myers et al., 2004), a model used to consider factors contributing to healthy lifestyles. The 5F-Wel is a frequently used assessment of wellness and is based on the creative, coping, essential, physical and spiritual self components of the indivisible self model (Myers et al., 2004; Myers & Sweeney, 2005). Supervisees take this assessment during the initial and final sessions to assess their wellness. Myers and Sweeney (2005) have reported the internal consistency of the 5F-Wel as ranging from .89 to .96.
Supervisee counseling skills should be evaluated using a standardized assessment tool. For example, the Counselor Competency Scale (CCS; Swank et al., 2012) can be used as a formative (e.g., midterm or weekly) and summative (e.g., end of semester) assessment of supervisee competencies. In addition, the CCS examines whether supervisees have the knowledge, self-awareness and counseling skills to progress to additional advanced clinical practicum or internship experiences. The CCS assesses supervisee development of skill, professional behavior and professional disposition (Swank et al., 2012). Therefore, supervisors can utilize the CCS to match and support supervisees’ growth by taking on appropriate roles (i.e., teacher, counselor, consultant) to enhance work on specific developmental issues.
Evaluation allows supervisors to monitor supervisee development of career-sustaining mechanisms that enhance well-being, as well as counseling skills, dispositions and professional behaviors. Specifically, the goals of supervisee development are to increase or maintain level of wellness and increase or maintain counseling skills by the end of the supervision process. However, if a supervisee does not improve well-being, the WP should be reevaluated and a remediation plan set so that the supervisee continues to work toward increased wellness. Similarly, if a student does not meet the minimal counseling skill requirements, a remediation plan can be created to support the student’s continued development.
Matching. Supervisors gain a picture of where counseling trainees are developmentally based on the assessment and evaluation process. Then supervisors can match supervisee developmental levels (of skill and wellness) by assuming the appropriate role (i.e., counselor, teacher, consultant) and using the role to provide the appropriate level of support for each trainee. This process allows for individualization of the supervision process and for supervisors to tailor specific events, techniques and learning experiences to the needs of their supervisees. Furthermore, matching supervisee developmental needs and gauging levels of awareness and anxiety allows for appropriate discussions during supervision. Discussing wellness during the latter part of supervision is appropriate for beginning counselors who may be anxious about their skills and work with clients (Borders, 1990) and may not absorb information about their wellness. Each supervisee is an individual, and as a result, it is important to make sure that the supervisee is ready to hear wellness feedback during the supervision session.
IWM: Goals, Strengths and Limitations
The overall goals of the IWM of supervision are for supervisees to increase their wellness, progress through developmental stages and gain counseling skills required to be effective counselors. Additionally, supervisors using the IWM can aid supervisees in increasing wellness awareness via completion of wellness-related assessments (e.g., WPs and starfish technique). Furthermore, supervisors can work to increase supervisees’ self-awareness and professional awareness of counseling issues such as multicultural wellness concerns, the therapeutic alliance, becoming a reflective practitioner, and positive, strengths-based approaches of counseling under the IWM framework.
The IWM is innovative in that it is one of a few supervision models to contain a wellness component. Additionally, the IWM tenets (i.e., wellness, discrimination, development) are empirically supported on individual levels. Furthermore, the IWM includes techniques and assessments for promoting open communication relating to supervisee wellness and counseling skills, and therefore supports supervisory relationships and greater self-awareness, and ultimately allows supervisors to encourage and promote wellness.
As with all models of supervision, the IWM has limitations. Specifically, the IWM may not be applicable to advanced counselors and supervisees. The IWM includes three developmental phases, which are applicable to CITs. In addition, the model may not be as beneficial to supervisees who already have a balanced wellness plan or practice wellness, because the wellness component may be repetitive for such individuals. Additionally, all aspects of the IWM might not be effective or appropriate across all multicultural groups (i.e., races, ethnicities, genders, religions). For example, in relation to wellness, supervisees may not adhere to a holistic paradigm or believe in certain wellness constructs. Lastly, the IWM is in its infancy and empirical evidence directly associated with the integrative prototype does not exist. Nevertheless, supervisors using the IWM can tailor the wellness, developmental and role-matching components to meet specific supervisee needs. The following case study depicts the use of the IWM with a counseling supervisee.
Kayla is a 25-year-old female master’s-level counseling student taking her first practicum course. She is excited about the idea of putting the skills she has learned during her program into practice with clients. However, Kayla also is anxious about seeing her first clients and often questions whether she will be able to remember everything she is supposed to do. People tell her she will be fine; however, Kayla questions whether she will actually be able to help her clients.
In addition to the practicum course, Kayla is taking three other graduate courses. She has a full-time job and is in a steady relationship. Family is very important to her, but since beginning her graduate program, she has been unable to find enough time to spend with friends and family. Kayla feels the pull between these areas of her life and struggles to find a balance between family, school, work and her partner.
Kayla is in phase one (i.e., high anxiety); therefore, her supervisor assumes the counselor and teacher roles most often, to match Kayla developmentally. This choice of roles allows Kayla to receive appropriate levels of support and structure to help ease anxiety. During this phase, the supervisor introduces a WP to Kayla and has her complete the 5F-Wel and starfish activity. After discussing the supervisory process and explaining the IWM, Kayla and the supervisor have a conversation about the areas influencing her overall wellness. Based on her starfish results, Kayla is encouraged to develop a WP that coincides with the areas depicted on the starfish, emphasizing those that she wishes to develop further. Additionally, the 5F-Wel provides a baseline of well-being to use in future sessions. Along with the wellness focus, the supervisor explains how imbalance or unwellness influences counselors and, in turn, how it can influence clients.
Initial supervision sessions will continue to provide Kayla with appropriate levels of support and psychoeducation so that she will be able to transition from low awareness to a greater sense of counseling skill awareness and increased mindfulness regarding her overall wellness. If the supervisor and supervisee are able to establish a strong working relationship, it is expected that Kayla will eventually move developmentally into phase two, where she will continue to gain insight into her counseling and wellness, begin to increase her autonomy, and work on increasing self-efficacy.
Implications for Counseling
The IWM integrates developmental and DM supervision tenets with domains of wellness. A supervision model that incorporates wellness is a logical fit in counseling and counselor education, where programs can and should address personal development through wellness strategies for CITs (Roach & Young, 2007). Furthermore, the IWM supports the idea that wellness is important. According to White and Franzoni (1990), CITs often show higher psychological disturbances than the general population. Cummins, Massey, and Jones (2007) highlighted the fact that counselors and CITs often struggle to take their own advice about wellness in their personal lives. Thus, while counseling is theoretically and historically a wellness-oriented field, many counselors are unwell and failing to practice what they preach (Lawson, Venart, Hazler, & Kottler, 2007; Myers & Sweeney, 2005). Implementing the IWM can aid in supporting overall wellness in supervisees as well as educating CITs to practice wellness with their clients and with themselves.
In relation to developmental matching and DM roles, counseling supervisors using the IWM have the following theoretical issues (e.g., Bernard, 1997; Myers et al., 2004; Myers & Sweeney, 2005) to facilitate: supervisee change, skill development, increased self-awareness and increased professional development. The IWM is a holistic, strengths-based model that focuses on supervisee development, matching supervisee needs through supervisor role changing, and wellness to promote knowledgeable, well and effective counseling supervisees.
The IWM is designed to integrate wellness, developmental stages and role matching to allow supervisors to encourage holistic wellness through supervision. Wellness has a positive relationship with counselors’ increased use of career-sustaining mechanisms and increased professional quality of life (Lawson, 2007; Lawson & Myers, 2011). Likewise, increased professional quality of life has been shown to make a positive contribution to counselors’ self-efficacy and counseling service delivery (Mullen, 2014). Therefore, it is logical to promote wellness and career-sustaining behaviors throughout the supervision process.
In summary, the IWM offers a new, integrated model of supervision for use with CITs. Supervisors using the IWM have the unique opportunity to operate from a wellness paradigm, familiarize their supervisees with wellness practices, and monitor supervisees’ wellness and how their wellness influences their client outcomes, while simultaneously supporting supervisee growth, counseling skill development and awareness of professional dispositions.
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of
interest or funding contributions for
the development of this manuscript.
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Ashley J. Blount, NCC, is a doctoral student at the University of Central Florida. Patrick R. Mullen, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University. Correspondence can be addressed to Ashley J. Blount, The Department of Child, Family, and Community Sciences, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 161250, Orlando, Florida, 32816-1250, email@example.com.
Teaching basic skills to beginning counseling students can be an overwhelming experience. In each therapy session, students bring their own human qualities and life experiences that have shaped them as individuals. Trainees must understand that their needs, motivations, values and personality traits can either enhance or interfere with their counselor effectiveness. Cognitive mapping can help expand students’ awareness while building the foundation of their counseling skills because it involves practical integration of learning attributes and prior knowledge into a new situation. Through the use of simple graphic visual learning tools, students can successfully incorporate basic skills into their development as counselors in an attempt to enable a positive initial learning experience that does not overwhelm them with the nuances and complexities of advanced counselor development.
Why does change occur in therapy? Theorists have attempted to answer this question over the decades. Certainly the starting place is to focus on the importance of the therapeutic relationship, which is “central and foundational to therapeutic growth” (Slattery & Park, 2011, p. 235). Specifically, the outcome of counseling involves a connection between the counselor and client that begins with warmth, empathy, respect and genuineness (Chang, Scott, & Decker, 2009; Flaskas, 2004; McClam & Woodside, 2010; Smith, Thomas, & Jackson, 2004).
Rogers (1951, 1957, 1958) discussed his ideas about unconditional positive regard, congruence and empathy as basic key factors in the development of a therapeutic relationship. Moursund and Kenny (2002) summarized Lazarus’ perspective and proposed that establishing the therapeutic relationship is the most important skill for clinicians, and involves a connection between the counselor and the client. Each influences the other by bringing individual strengths, knowledge of the situation, life experiences, as well as their own personal values and beliefs. “The therapeutic relationship is viewed as both a precondition of change and a process of change” (Prochaska & Norcross, 2003, p. 492). The purpose of this article is to explore one method of breaking down basic counseling skills into a manageable counseling formula in order to enable a positive initial learning experience for students without overwhelming them with the nuances and complexities of advanced counselor development.
Challenges of Mastering Basic Skills
Initially, when introduced to counseling basic skills from a written textbook, students can find acquiring this knowledge to be challenging. Without prior experience, the challenge may intensify and become daunting when successful academic progress becomes an expectation defined by mastery of clearly defined basic skills. Counseling students struggle to appropriately apply these skills, while linked with timing and delivery.
Counseling is a unique experience that is different from daily communications in social interactions. As counselors-in-training learn the art of counseling, they become aware of the necessity of using their skills to empower their clients to set appropriate goals. Often empowerment, a concept that focuses on clients’ ability to choose their own solutions in life situations and issues, is a lofty ideal that is difficult to define. Even the definition of empowerment is ever-evolving (Asimakopoulou, Gilbert, Newton, & Scrambler, 2012). Empowerment’s overarching theme further contributes to the complexities of the learning process for beginning students (Hill, 2005).
While no one would argue the importance of empowerment or the significance of the therapeutic relationship, it also is critical that beginning students master many interpersonal skills while learning to observe, effectively attend to, and play an interpersonal role in shaping and guiding the counseling session (Ackerman & Hilsenroth, 2001; Chang et al., 2009; Jacobs, 1994; Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, & Schimmel, 2012; Meier & Davis, 2011). In fact, the second belief of Jacob’s impact therapy is that “people don’t mind being led if they are led well” (1994, p. 8). Therefore, it becomes imperative that educators incorporate logical process teaching methods in order to simplify this initial learning process, and cognitive mapping pedagogy provides that logical process.
Cognitive Mapping Pedagogy
A concept map is “a schematic device for representing a set of concepts and meanings embedded in a framework of propositions” (Novak & Gowin, 1984, p. 15). According to Akinsanya & Williams (2004), cognitive mapping provides an interactive teaching environment incorporating communication, group dynamics and motivation. Concept maps promote awareness of the roles of relationships within the categories and are ideal for the measurement of students’ learning (Akinsanya & Williams, 2004). Nurses have been successful in the utilization of cognitive mapping in order to build upon new concepts and incorporate these new concepts into their working framework. The cognitive mapping strategy ensures that both the curriculum and learning processes align with the nurses’ practical application of patient care (Akinsanya & Williams, 2004).
Counselor educators, in an initial basic skills course, focus on improving how students understand their basic counseling skills and navigate their individual learning styles. The counselor educator’s goal is for students to become successful counselors. Creating a classroom of trust filled with simplistic, graphic learning tools can generate a safe learning environment and reduce anxiety. “The reduction of anxiety removes unnecessary barriers to learning and to performing complex, multidimensional, and multisensory tasks, of which counseling is a prime example” (McAuliffe & Eriksen, 2002, p. 50).
Furthermore, by using graphic learning tools, the counselor educator links what is in his or her mind with what is in the student counselor’s mind in order to enable the student counselor to effectively utilize past experiences with new knowledge. In other words, cognitive mapping helps graphically relate a foreign concept to prior learning experience by using experiential links between old knowledge and new learning. These experiential links create a deeper level of learning (Akinsanya & Williams, 2004). By using cognitive mapping in this research, the counselor educator forms a visual representation of the links of communication between student counselor and client. The cognitive mapping visual representation can track student counselor awareness with the communication of the client.
Cognitive mapping helps the student understand the structure of knowledge by providing a process for acquiring, storing and using information. This process helps students think more effectively by creating a pictorial view of their ideas and concepts and how these are interrelated (Kostovich, Poradzisz, Wood, & O’Brien, 2007). Svinicki and McKeachie (2011) explained that visual cues serve as points of reference. Using a diagram or other graphic representative, in addition to an oral presentation, serves as a point of reference for visual cues to enhance learning opportunities within cognitive mapping, which in turn gives the students a visual representation that supports learning. According to Veletsianos (2010), students have learning expectations before the learning process begins. Both learning preferences and personality style are incorporated into the students’ learning process. As Veletsianos discovered, when given a graphic such as a cognitive map, the material is organized in a way that influences students’ “expectations, impressions, and learning” (2010, p. 583). The combination of human interaction with a visual graphic as part of the classroom experience allows the student to expect that learning is about to occur.
Concept mapping helps the counselor educator track the progress of student learning by allowing the professor to track what the student does not understand. The role that the common language plays in concept mapping allows the counselor educator to correct the links that might confuse the student. Cognitive mapping is not only a visual tool, but also adds verbal and kinesthetic tools to role playing in initial counselor training courses.
According to Henriksen and Trusty (2005), development of specific counselor education pedagogy also must incorporate diversity. Cognitive mapping is a schematic tool that appeals to the diverse learner since it provides a progressive visual that counseling students can follow and understand (Hill, 2005). Cognitive mapping is diverse in itself, as it appeals to a variety of learning styles, culturally diverse students and adult learners. Students have consistently given feedback that this method of teaching has simplified both learning and understanding how the map fits together within the therapeutic process. The following examples provide a reflection of students’ perspective.
Example 1. Typical students learn systematically as they acquire practice and understand how to apply the counseling formula to what is happening in their sessions. One of the current authors was taught the counseling formula during her first clinical graduate course and describes her experience this way:
For me, I could plug in where my parts were and back off on parts where the client needs to do his or her work. It made me feel more confident as I entered my second tape recording and verbatim assignment because I knew that my basic skills of reflection of content, feelings, and meaning would get me where I needed to go with my client. This is where he or she could begin to gain insight into their experience, and begin to have the option to make optimal changes in life.
Example 2. Struggling students are those trying to connect the dots until they apply the cognitive mapping formula to what is happening when working through their second tape. This student defines his experience and the insights he gained as follows:
When I was introduced to the counseling formula, I thought it was definitely something useful, but not something I fully grasped at the time. Before that point, everything I had learned had been more complex, and the formula seemed almost too simple. How could reflection of feeling and content lead to reflection of meaning? Also, how is the client able to know or receive the response the way the counselor wants him or her to? I was confused because the formula seemed so black and white—or at least that is how I made it out to be.
After our second counseling tape was recorded, our transcription was scored. To my surprise, I did not do well. I met with my professor who had taught me the formula at the beginning of the semester. Instead of her telling me exactly where in the formula I had gone wrong, we discussed what elements I was missing during the session and what I focused on too much. As we discussed my struggles, I kept the formula in mind. As we talked, I realized I had forgotten one of my key formula elements; I was stricken by the realization that I did not understand how to make meaning of this seemingly simplified equation. In no way is the equation simple as it is up to the counselor to do his or her part so the client can do theirs. This light bulb moment was a key part of my learning experience during my first basic clinical course.
A counselor educator developing a counselor training program that is culturally diverse can use cognitive mapping as a teaching tool to meet the needs of culturally diverse learners. Cognitive mapping provides counselor educators with a multicultural pedagogy which incorporates the race and ethnicity of their students during counselor training (Henriksen & Trusty, 2005). As a multicultural pedagogy, it further reduces cultural clashing by providing common, visual language (Dansereau & Dees, 2002). The cognitive map becomes the students’ tool for spoken language, as it parallels verbal thought and expression by breaking down complex thoughts into visual expression. Cognitive mapping, although an effective tool, is more likely to be effective with African Americans and Mexican Americans than Caucasians (Van Velsor & Cox, 2000). The cognitive map represents knowledge graphically; therefore, students whose initial language is not English can pictorially grasp the concepts with more ease.
Just as culturally diverse students can learn using cognitive mapping, adult learners also can benefit from using this schematic tool. According to Hill (2005), cognitive mapping or concept mapping (as she refers to it) is a learning tool that is well suited to the adult learner due to greater accumulation of experiences. Adult students find cognitive mapping useful in organizing their ideas, retaining information and relating content material to other knowledge. When processing content material using cognitive mapping, meaningful learning occurs; the adult student learner engages complex cognitive structures within the brain integrating it with existing knowledge.
Example 3. A student who is a mature adult learner and whose second language is English shared that she learns better visually and that cognitive mapping helped her comprehend the content as she followed graphically what the counselor educator was explaining. She stated the following:
I am an older Hispanic student and English is my second language. Although I have excellent command of the English language, I still find myself translating from English to Spanish to better understand what the professor is saying. When the professor taught us the counseling formula in class, the methodology of how the counseling process works made sense to me. I was able to visualize in my head how the counseling process functions. From that point on, I was able to grasp the concept of what I need to do as a counselor to get clients to move toward change.
Theory & Basic Skills
The counseling process influences the outcome of counseling. This simple statement can easily lead to a developmental crisis as counseling students struggle with skill acquisition. According to Meier and Davis (2011), “To master process, beginning counselors must develop a repertoire of helping skills as well as a theory of counseling that directs their application” (p. 1). Most counseling programs separate acquisition of basic skills from theoretical knowledge. Gaining these skills can be like learning a foreign language—learned patterns of human interaction change as students assume their counselor identity and acquire new counseling skills.
Certain critical skills are absent from this formula because, due to prior knowledge and experience, students easily understand them. For example, when given the opportunity to talk about attending skills, most students can easily identify basic posture, facial expressions and space limitations with reasonable accuracy. Minimal encouragers and questioning are both necessary skills that have a useful purpose in the counseling session; nevertheless, students usually have mastered these in normal daily conversation. Therefore, both minimal encouragers and questioning must receive great attention in order to substantially reduce and manage their utilization and avoid hindering or distracting from the effectiveness of a counseling session.
A Cognitive Mapping Formula
The creation of a cognitive mapping formula for counseling was designed to graphically depict the counseling process utilized in the therapeutic process. The formula and the inclusion of certain basic skills illustrate the concept of client empowerment so that clients can take personal responsibility for their actions and make desired changes. The counseling formula works as follows: Cognition (C) plus feelings (F) equals meaning (M), which leads to awareness (A), which promotes insights (I), which facilitates change (see Figure 1).
Through reflections of cognition, feeling and meaning, counselors help clients explore their world and determine what will be effective and ineffective. These reflections encourage exploration on multiple levels. Deeper levels of exploration are achieved through reflection of feeling and meaning so that clients connect what is happening in their heads (cognitions) and what is happening emotionally (feelings), therefore ultimately understanding their experience (meaning). Through counselors’ proper application of the top line of the cognitive mapping equation, clients begin to understand that their situation is solvable if they are willing to take personal responsibility for the change, as reflected in the bottom line of the equation. In other words, change occurs as a result of clients’ personal commitment. The concept of universality and the inclusion of all basic skills are part of all theoretical applications.
The didactic application of the cognitive mapping, as seen in Figure 1, tracks how the counselor shapes the session in classroom role plays. The equation shows how the session crosslinks and builds. The counselor influences the session through the choices the counselor makes to reflect feeling, meaning or cognition. Each counseling session looks different, but all sessions need balance in order for sessions to flow.
Subsumed within this simplistic graphic are additional important counseling skills. Paraphrasing and summarization contain elements of cognition, feeling and meaning, and tend to center the client in the content of these elements. While using content elements is not negative, doing so sparingly prevents clients from intellectualizing their issues and avoiding taking responsibility for their desired change. Silence is located between the elements of cognition, feeling and meaning on the first line of the formula as a counseling skill, but is not represented in the graphic because of the invisible nature of this skill. The absence of spoken words can have a significant impact on the session if used appropriately, allowing clients the opportunity to think about, process and often discover insight related to their personal struggle.
A concept map can be applied to learning basic skills; it also can be applied to connect theory application and theoretical interventions with basic skills. An open umbrella is an excellent graphic that unites these disjointed pieces and crystallizes them into a working concept. The metal ribs of the umbrella are basic skills. The ribs provide the structure of the session and are the tools counselors use to work with their clients. The fabric of the umbrella is the theory imagery application. Theory and basic skills work together to determine how counselors do their job, just as the metal frame and umbrella fabric work together to do their job, which is to keep the user protected from the elements. Umbrella fabric comes in different colors and patterns, and so do counseling theories. Each counselor must find one that fits his or her style, personality, and perspective or viewpoint on how clients are best helped (Evans, Hearn, Uhlemann, & Ivey, 2011; MacCluskie, 2010).
The handle of the umbrella is important since it provides something to hold on to, and comes in various shapes and sizes. Some handles collapse so that the umbrella will fold up and can be carried easily in a briefcase or purse. Some handles are rigid, and can serve another purpose such as providing walking assistance. Counseling techniques, or therapeutic interventions, are the equivalent of the umbrella handle, since it is possible to utilize a variety of techniques with more than one theoretical orientation. Techniques are versatile and can be a significant part of the session, just as the handle is a significant part of the umbrella. However, students must understand the importance of establishing the framework structure first (basic skills illustrated in the counseling formula) before they can move toward conceptualizing a client with their theory of choice (see Figure 2). After counseling students have mastered basic skills, they can move to more advanced intervention techniques (e.g., empty chair, genogram). Mastery allows students to develop a new understanding through building upon different concepts to fit with the open umbrella graphic; this strategy also is known as concept management (Akinsanya & Williams, 2004).
The counselor’s job is not to make clients change; that is the client’s responsibility. Clients are the experts of their situations or issues, and it is up to them to determine what they are willing and capable to change. Before they can make decisions about change (Chg), they must first have insight (I) to understand that they have choices (see Figure 1). Before they develop insight (I), they initially must have an awareness (A) of what is creating their struggle. The counselor’s timing with active listening skills, appropriate confrontation and silence facilitates client awareness (A) and insight (I).
Clients work on the second line (A à I = Change), but the second line is ultimately facilitated by the first line (C + F = M), which is similar to the five stages of change presented by Evans et al. (2011, p. 292). Therefore, this formula indicates that the counselor’s work focuses on the first line and the client’s work focuses on the second.
The second line of the concept map formula also serves as a crosslink in one’s development from student to counselor. In making this transition in the professor–student relationship, the professor explores the student’s understanding by focusing on the first line of the formula, and the student struggles with personal and professional change in the second line of the formula. As student counselors map out their progress in a counseling session, they are simultaneously developing awareness (A) through the growth and practice of basic skills, which leads to insight (I) related to development of professional effectiveness in shaping the session. This process gives beginning counselors a sense of professional identity development and the ability to track progression at the top of the equation. Just as clients are ready for change when they develop awareness and insight, student counselors cannot include their theoretical orientation and techniques until they develop their own awareness in the therapy room and grasp the application of skills employed in the therapeutic session. Therefore, the client’s role in counseling also is the student’s role in professional development; and caution must be exercised not to initiate change too quickly with either the student or client, depending on how the formula is applied.
Counseling students often have heard from family and friends that they are great listeners; however, their sense of homeostasis is challenged when they sit across from clients while trying to master basic skills. They are anxious to jump ahead and learn to use techniques that are appropriate for their counseling theory of choice. Because counseling students jump ahead, they tend to overlook the importance of mastering fundamental skills. Since students have not mastered basic skills, they struggle to understand how theory and techniques work together to help clients. This situation can lead to ineffective use of both theories and techniques.
When the counselor moves too quickly, the client’s sense of balance is thrown off and resistance may occur because of low commitment or discomfort with change (Reiter, 2008; Wachtel, 1999). Resistance is the client’s attempt to return to a sense of homeostasis, even if homeostasis is not effectively meeting the client’s needs. MacCluskie (2010) posited that “the concept of homeostasis, borrowed from physiology, refers to the process by which an organism regulates its internal environment to maintain a stable, constant condition” (p. 212).
According to the formula, when the counseling process focuses on the cognitive content, resistance surfaces through the initial “storytelling” that clients offer. Beginning counselors often jump from hearing clients’ stories (cognition) to problem solving or advice giving (change) and encounter polarity or the yes, but type of resistance. Clients may agree with their counselors’ reflections, but respond with multiple excuses for why the suggestions or advice will not work (MacCluskie, 2010; Reiter, 2008; Wachtel, 1999). However, resistance or excuse making is the clients’ means of protection or attempt to return to a state of homeostasis when the counseling process threatens to push them to abandon their familiar life patterns or concepts of themselves, or push them too quickly to embrace change (Omer, 2000; Patterson & Welfel, 2000).
Basically, counselors forget to take their clients with them through the therapeutic process and must return to the beginning of the first line of the equation (C + F = M). As counselors work here, they must learn to trust the therapeutic process enough to allow clients to do their work on the second line (A promotes I, which facilitates Chg). Through clients’ responses and explorations, their awareness is raised, they gain insight and they are then empowered to make choices related to their personal change comfort level.
Two skills not included as part of the formula are confrontation and immediacy, because these advanced skills come later in the training process. Beginning counselors must first develop mastery of initial skills before they are ready to tackle confrontation and immediacy. While confrontation and immediacy may be powerful methods of intensifying emotions, they also may result in significant disengagement of the client if misused or if the timing is inappropriate (Cormier & Hackney, 2012; Evans et al., 2011; Smaby & Maddux, 2011).
Implications for Future Research
This counseling formula study supports the conclusion that a complex learning strategy, such as cognitive mapping, can be effective for counseling students of varied learning styles and cultures. In addition, evidence suggests that forcing students to use strategies that challenge their learning style preferences can be a beneficial attempt to increase their problem-solving skills (Kostovich et al., 2007). Further investigation of the influence of the counseling formula with beginning counseling students could provide counselor educators insight as to how their students are learning the counseling process using cognitive mapping. It is an organized method of teaching basic skills so that students do not find themselves overwhelmed with too much new learning to master at one time. Future research would be helpful to validate the general application of this formula and the umbrella concept when introducing beginning students to the basic tools of their future profession.
The simple images of a counseling formula and a symbolic umbrella help beginning counselors initially understand the interconnectedness of the different counseling skills of their new profession. However, this article is not suggesting that counseling is simplistic or that it does not utilize higher order skills and concepts. Counselor educators can use these symbolic representations as cognitive schemas to build upon students’ knowledge as they integrate practical application into their counseling sessions. Cognitive maps provide a way for counselor educators to see where students get stuck in the beginning counselor process, and provide a tool that allows a way of learning that is visual and communicative. This visual representation outlines and crosslinks the critical roles of the therapy process by connecting the communication and experiences of the student counselor to those of the client.
The student counselor stays at the top of the equation, while the client remains at the bottom. As student counselors become more seasoned, they also begin to experience personal and professional growth that results in their own awareness, insight and change; therefore, they experience crosslinking at the bottom of the equation that is similar to how clients begin to change. As clinicians gain experience, they move to a deeper understanding of how to use basic skills with theory, incorporated with existing intentional therapeutic interventions and techniques, in order to facilitate change for their clients. Through this process, clinicians come to fully appreciate both the therapeutic relationship and the counseling process.
Initial learning experiences in kindergarten are designed to help beginning students master simple, repetitive writing tasks. This initial learning experience can be compared to beginning experiences for master’s-level counselors through the effective utilization of initial basic skills linked in the counseling session. The formula and umbrella graphics can provide valuable visual tools to lay a solid foundation for the beginning counselor.
Utilizing the formula and umbrella graphics to gain an understanding of the application of basic skills is a valuable tool on the clinician’s lifelong learning journey to become a more effective counselor. When clinicians are “stuck” with a client, what better tools are within our grasp than to return to basic skills and use the formula? Basic skills are an integral part of the clinician’s toolbox, regardless of theoretical orientation or therapeutic interventions. These tools open clients’ awareness (A), promote insight (I), and unlock a myriad of options for clients to embrace (Chg) change (Asimakopoulou et al., 2012; Jacobs, 1994; Jacobs et al., 2012; Meier & Davis, 2011).
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of
interest or funding contributions for
the development of this manuscript.
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A purposeful sample of 359 graduate counseling students completed a survey assessing factors influencing program enrollment decisions with particular attention to students’ awareness of and importance ascribed to accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) prior to and following enrollment. Results indicated that accreditation was the second most influential factor in one half of the students’ enrollment decisions; nearly half of participants were unaware of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment. Accreditation was a top factor that students attending non-CACREP-accredited programs wished they had considered more in their enrollment decisions. Findings from the survey indicate that prospective counseling students often lack necessary information regarding accreditation that may influence enrollment decisions. Implications for counseling students and their graduate preparation programs, CACREP and the broader counseling profession are discussed.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) provides specialized accreditation for counselor education programs. Within higher education, accreditation is a “quality assurance and enhancement mechanism” premised on self-regulation through intensive self-study and external program review (Urofsky, 2013, p. 6). Accreditation has been reported to be particularly relevant to prospective counseling students, given increases in both the number of programs seeking CACREP accreditation (Ritchie & Bobby, 2011) and implications of program accreditation status for students’ postgraduation opportunities. Research to date has not surveyed counseling students about their knowledge of CACREP accreditation prior to or following enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs.
Graduate Program Enrollment Decisions
For prospective counseling students, selecting an appropriate counselor preparation program for graduate-level study is an exceedingly complex task. Prospective students must choose from a myriad of options across mental health fields, areas of specialization and program delivery formats (i.e., traditional, virtual and hybrid classrooms). Those prospective students who are unfamiliar with CACREP accreditation and potential implications of program accreditation status for postgraduation opportunities may not sufficiently consider accreditation a relevant criterion during selection of a graduate-level counselor education program.
To date, the majority of higher education enrollment research has focused on undergraduate students. Hossler and Gallager (1987) outlined a three-stage college selection model that integrates econometric, sociologic and information-processing concerns of prospective enrollees. The first stage, predisposition, culminates with a decision to attend college or not. Past student achievement, ability and level of educational aspiration, along with parental income, education and encouragement, are important influences at this stage. The second stage, search, includes gathering information about prospective institutions, submitting applications and receiving admission decision(s). Finally, choice, describes the selection of a college or university. Factors influencing enrollment decisions include a variety of personal and institutional characteristics including socioeconomic status, financial costs and aid, academic qualities, location, and recruitment correspondence (Hossler & Gallager, 1987).
Academic reputation, job prospects for graduates, campus visits, campus size and financial aid offerings have been identified as critical factors influencing undergraduate student enrollment decisions (Hilston, 2006). Research also has underscored the weight of parental opinions in shaping undergraduate student enrollment decisions. More limited research has examined factors influencing graduate student enrollment decisions, but appears necessary given differences across contexts of individuals making undergraduate versus graduate-level enrollment decisions.
Within a non-field-specific survey of 2,834 admitted graduate students, Kallio (1995) found the following factors to be most influential in participants’ program selection and enrollment decisions: (a) residency status, (b) quality and other academic environment characteristics, (c) work-related concerns, (d) spouse considerations, (e) financial aid, and (f) campus social environment. A more recent examination of doctoral-level students within higher education administration programs (Poock & Love, 2001) indicated similar influential factors with location, flexibility of accommodations for work–school–life balance, reputation and friendliness of faculty of highest importance. Flexibility of program requirements and delivery format also were indicated. Ivy and Naude (2004) surveyed 507 MBA students and identified a seven-factor model of variables influencing graduate student enrollment decisions. The seven factors were the following: program, prominence, price, prospectus, people, promotion and premium. Students indicated elements of the program, including range of electives and choice of majors; prominence, including staff reputation and program ratings; and price, including tuition fees and payment flexibility, as the most salient factors.
Accreditation and Graduate Program Enrollment Decisions
In a review of the status of accreditation within higher education, Bardo (2009) delineated major trends with implications for both current and prospective students. First, across higher education fields, there is heightened emphasis on accountability through documented student learning outcomes that transcend individual course grades. Second, there are calls for greater transparency around accreditation procedures and statuses. Parallel attention also is given to ethical obligations of institutions and accrediting bodies to provide clearer information to students, not only about the requirements of enrollment in accredited institutions, but also about the significance of accreditation to postgraduation outcomes (Bardo, 2009).
Accreditation is a critical institutional factor that appears to have both a direct and an indirect impact on graduate program enrollment decisions. Most directly, accreditation may be a specific selection criterion used by prospective students when exploring programs for application or when making an enrollment decision among multiple offers. Indirectly, the accreditation status of an institution likely influences each of the seven p’s identified by Ivy and Naude (2004) as informing graduate student enrollment decisions. For example, accreditation may dictate minimum credit requirements, required coursework, program delivery methods and acceptable faculty-to-student ratios. Thus, the need emerges to examine factors informing counseling students’ decisions regarding enrollment in graduate-level programs, with specific attention to students’ levels of awareness and importance ascribed to CACREP accreditation. To contextualize the current study, a brief history of CACREP and perceived benefits and challenges of accreditation are provided.
CACREP held its first board meeting in 1981 and was founded in part as a response to the development of accreditation standards in other helping professions, such as the American Psychological Association, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council on Rehabilitation Education. In its history of over 30 years, a primary goal of CACREP has been to assist in the development and growth of the counseling profession by promoting and administrating a quality assurance process for graduate programs in the field of counseling (Urofsky, Bobby, & Ritchie, 2013). Currently, just over 63% of programs falling under CACREP’s jurisdiction hold this accreditation; specifically, by the end of 2013, CACREP had accredited 634 programs at 279 institutions within the United States (CACREP, 2014). In the 2012–2013 school year alone, CACREP-accredited programs enrolled 39,502 students and graduated 11,099 students (CACREP, 2014).
As described by Urofsky and colleagues (2013), some revisions to the CACREP standards represent intentional efforts toward growth, self-sufficiency and effectiveness. Such modifications reflected in the 2009 CACREP standards include greater emphases on unified counselor professional identity through specifications for core faculty members and increased focus on documented student learning outcomes in response to larger trends of accountability in higher education. In contrast to these CACREP-directed modifications, Urofsky and colleagues (2013) highlighted that some historical revisions to CACREP standards have been influenced by the larger context of the counseling field. Pertinent contextual issues include licensure portability and recognition from larger federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Defense and TRICARE, a government-funded insurance company for military personnel. Following the passing of House Bill 232 (License as a Professional Counselor, 2014), Ohio became the first state to require graduation from a CACREP-accredited program (clinical mental health, rehabilitation or addictions counseling) for licensure beginning in 2018. More than 50% of states accept graduation from a CACREP-accredited program as one path for meeting licensure educational requirements (CACREP, 2013). Further, while not directly advocated for by CACREP, graduation from a CACREP-accredited program is required for counselors seeking employment consideration in the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense, and for TRICARE reimbursement (TRICARE, 2014).
Perceived Benefits of CACREP Accreditation
Specific benefits of CACREP accreditation have been identified in the literature at both the individual student and institutional levels, which may inform prospective students’ decisions regarding enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs. Perceived benefits of CACREP accreditation identified by entry-level counseling students include increased internship and job opportunities, improved student quality, increased faculty professional involvement and publishing, and increased acceptance into doctoral-level programs in counselor education and supervision (Mascari & Webber, 2013). Doctoral students are assured training that will qualify them to serve as identified core faculty members in CACREP-accredited counseling programs (CACREP, 2009).
Counseling students’ graduate program enrollment decisions also might be influenced by differential benefits afforded to graduates of CACREP-accredited programs who are pursuing professional licensure. Though licensure requirements vary from state to state, a growing number of states place heavier emphasis on the applicant’s receipt of a counseling degree from an accredited program (CACREP, 2013). Some states associate “graduation from a CACREP-accredited program as evidence of meeting most or all of the educational requirements for licensure eligibility” (Ritchie & Bobby, 2011. p. 52). Licensure applicants graduating from non-CACREP-accredited programs may need to provide supplemental documentation to substantiate their training program’s adherence to licensing criteria. In some instances, applicants graduating from non-CACREP-accredited programs may need additional coursework to meet criteria for licensure, which incurs additional costs and delays application processes.
Graduate programs’ CACREP accreditation status might impact counseling students’ enrollment decisions relative to postgraduation insurance reimbursement and qualification for certain job placements (TRICARE, 2014). Specifically, following intensive professional advocacy initiatives, TRICARE began recognizing and reimbursing counseling professionals as mental health service providers without the need for physician referral. However, as of now, counselors graduating from non-CACREP-accredited training programs after January 1, 2015 will be unable to receive approval to practice independently within the TRICARE system. Considering the estimated 9.5 million people insured by TRICARE (TRICARE, 2014), this contingency may present serious implications for counseling professionals who have graduated or will graduate from non-CACREP-accredited training programs. Johnson, Epp, Culp, Williams, and McAllister (2013) noted that thousands of both currently licensed mental health professionals and counseling students will be affected as they “cannot and will not ever be able to join the TRICARE network” (p. 64).
Existing literature also highlights benefits of CACREP accreditation at the program and institutional levels, which may impact counseling students’ graduate program enrollment decisions. Achievement and maintenance of CACREP accreditation entails exhaustive processes of self-study and external peer review. Self- and peer-review processes contribute to shared quality standards among accredited counselor preparation programs and demonstrated student learning outcomes based on standards established by the profession itself (Mascari & Webber, 2013). Faculty members employed by CACREP-accredited counselor education programs also appear to differentially interface with the counseling profession. Specifically, a statistically significant relationship has been found between CACREP accreditation and professionalism for school counselor educators, as reflected by contributions to the profession (i.e., journal publications and conference presentations), leadership in professional organizations and pursuit of counseling credentials (Milsom & Akos, 2005).
Perceived Challenges of CACREP Accreditation
In addition to highlighting potential benefits of CACREP accreditation, extant literature delineates potential challenges associated with CACREP accreditation, which may directly or indirectly impact counseling students’ graduate program enrollment decisions. Primary among identified challenges are time and financial resources related to the attainment and maintenance of CACREP accreditation (Paradise et al., 2011). Financial requirements associated with CACREP accreditation include application expenses and annual fees, the costs of hiring faculty to meet core faculty requirements and student-to-faculty ratios, and labor costs associated with compiling self-studies.
Considering that the 2009 CACREP standards identify 165 core standards and approximately 60 standards per specialty area (Urofsky, 2013), attaining accreditation can be a cumbersome process. Curricular attention given to each standard can vary widely across programs. In response to significant and longstanding calls for increased accountability in higher education, CACREP-accredited programs are required to identify and provide evidence of student learning outcomes (Barrio Minton & Gibson, 2012). To address this requirement, it may be necessary for some programs to reorganize curricular elements, as well as to integrate assessment software and procedures to support this data collection within their programs.
An additional challenge of CACREP accreditation surrounds perceived limitations placed on program flexibility and innovation. Paradise and colleagues (2011) found that of the counseling program coordinators they interviewed (N = 135), 49% believed that the 2009 CACREP standards “would require all programs to be ‘essentially the same” (p. 50). Among changes ushered in by the 2009 CACREP standards, education and training requirements of core faculty and the designated student-to-faculty ratios have received critical attention (Paradise et al., 2011). Clinical experience beyond the requirements of graduate-level internship is not specifically considered within requisites for identified core faculty members (CACREP, 2009, I.W.). While adopted largely to foster counselors’-in-training internalization of a clear counselor professional identity (Davis & Gressard, 2011), these standard requirements may influence program hiring decisions and curriculum content and sequencing (CACREP, 2009; Paradise et al., 2011).
Over CACREP’s history of more than 30 years, the landscape of the accrediting body, as well as the larger counseling profession it serves, has dramatically shifted. Bobby (2013) called for greater research examining the effects of CACREP accreditation on programs and student knowledge, skill development and graduate performance. A specific gap exists in the literature related to factors influencing counseling students’ graduate program enrollment decisions, including the potential relevance of students’ knowledge of CACREP prior to and following enrollment. Research in this area not only would illuminate counseling students’ propensities for making informed choices as consumers of higher education, but might also reveal critical implications for and ethical obligations of students, programs and CACREP itself within contemporary and complex accreditation climates. Consequently, the current study examined the following research questions: (a) What factors influence students’ decisions regarding enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs? (b) How aware are students of CACREP accreditation prior to and following program enrollment? (c) How important is CACREP accreditation to students prior to and following program enrollment? (d) Is there a difference in CACREP accreditation awareness between students in CACREP- and non-CACREP-accredited programs prior to program enrollment? (e) Does students’ awareness of CACREP-accreditation increase after program enrollment?
In total, 40 graduate-level counseling programs were contacted to participate in this study. A purposeful sample was chosen, seeking participation from four CACREP-accredited and four non-CACREP-accredited programs from each of the five geographic regions within the United States (i.e., Western, Southern, North Atlantic, North Central, Rocky Mountain). For each geographic region, CACREP-accredited and non-CACREP-accredited programs were selected based on the criteria of student body size and status as a public versus private institution. Specifically, within each of the five geographic regions, four institutions (one small [n < 10,000], one large [n > 10,000], one private, one public) were purposefully selected for each accreditation status (CACREP, non-CACREP). Selection criteria did not include cognate focus; however, participants included students within clinical mental health; school; marriage, couple and family; counselor education and supervision; and addictions counseling programs.
A request for participation was made to the counseling department chairs of the 40 purposefully selected programs via e-mail. In total, representatives from 25 of the 40 contacted programs (62.5%) agreed that their programs would participate in this study. The participation rate of CACREP-accredited programs was higher than that of non-CACREP-accredited programs; the overall participants included 15 of the 20 contacted CACREP-accredited programs (75%) and 10 of the 20 contacted non-CACREP-accredited programs (50%). At the institutional level, counseling program participation across the five regions was representative of national program distribution. Following attainment of consent from the counseling department chairs, an electronic survey was provided to each of the 25 participating programs for direct dissemination to students meeting the selection criteria.
A total of 359 master’s and doctoral students currently enrolled in counseling programs nationwide responded to the survey. The exact response rate at the individual student level is unknown, as the number of students receiving the survey at each participating institution was not collected. Of the 359 participants surveyed, 22 surveys were deemed unusable (e.g., sampling parameter not met, blank survey response) and were not included in analyses. Of the remaining 337 participants, missing data were addressed by providing sample sizes contingent on the specific research question.
Participants’ ages (n = 332) ranged from 20–63, with a median age of 28. Gender within the sample (n = 335) consisted of 14.3% male, 85.1% female and 0.3% transgender; the remaining 0.3% of participants preferred not to answer. In regards to race/ethnicity (n = 334), 84.1% of the sample identified as Caucasian, 7.2% as African-American, 2.7% as Latino/a, 1.8% as Asian, 1.5% as biracial, 0.3% as Pacific Islander and 0.3% as Hawaiian; the remaining 2.1% preferred not to answer. The reported educational levels (n = 331) included 90.4% of participants in a master’s program and 9% in a doctoral program; the remaining 0.9% participants were postdoctoral and postgraduate students taking additional coursework. Participants reported enrollment in the following cognate areas (n = 331): mental health and community counseling (48.8%), school counseling (27.7%), marriage and family counseling (5.4%), counselor education and supervision (5.1%), other (4.0%), rehabilitation counseling (3.0%), addictions counseling (2.1%), multitrack (1.8%), assessment (1.2%), and career counseling (0.9%).
In order to obtain program demographic information based on the aforementioned purposeful sampling design, participants were asked to identify the university attended. However, as 15.5% of participants provided an unusable response (e.g., preferred not to answer), self-reported program descriptive demographic data were analyzed instead. Participants classified their institution as public or private (n = 332) as follows: 68.7% reported attending a public university and 31.3% a private university. Student population of the university also was self-reported (n = 326) as follows: 38.7% of the participants attended universities with a student population of fewer than 10,000, 23.3% with a student population of 10,000–15,000 and 38% with a student population of over 15,000. The program accreditation status per participants’ self-report (n = 307) indicated that 56.7% were enrolled in CACREP-accredited programs, 34.9% were enrolled in non-CACREP-accredited programs and 8.5% were uncertain about program accreditation status.
The researchers implemented Qualtrics to house and distribute the electronic survey. Survey items included participant and counseling program demographics, factors influencing decisions on enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs, awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to and following enrollment, and importance ascribed to CACREP accreditation prior to and following enrollment. Relative to factors influencing decisions on enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs, participants first were asked to list the top three factors influencing their enrollment decision. Participants then were asked to select the most important factor among their top three. Additionally, participants responded to the following question: “When choosing your graduate program, is there a factor you now wish had been more influential in your decision?” Questions pertaining to participants’ awareness of and ascribed importance to CACREP accreditation included the following: (a) “When first applying to graduate school, how familiar were you with CACREP accreditation?” (b) “When first applying to graduate school, how important was CACREP accreditation for you?” (c) “Currently, how familiar are you with CACREP accreditation?” (d) “Currently, how important is CACREP accreditation for you?” Participants used a four-point Likert scale for their responses, which ranged from “very familiar/very important” to “not familiar/not important.” The category of “I was/am not aware of accreditation” also was provided where appropriate.
Research question one examined the top factors participants considered and wished they had considered more when making a counseling program enrollment decision (n = 328). As shown in Table 1, results indicated the following rank order for the top 10 factors that influenced participants’ enrollment decisions: (a) location at 33.6%, (b) program accreditation at 14.0%, (c) funding/scholarships at 12.2%, (d) program prestige at 8.6%, (e) faculty at 7.7%, (f) program/course philosophy at 4.2%, (g) program acceptance at 3.9%, (h) faith at 3.9%, (i) schedule/flexibility at 3.6% and (j) research interests at 2.4%. The top 10 factors that participants wished they had considered more when making their enrollment decisions included the following: (a) “none” at 42.3%, (b) funding/scholarships at 15.2%, (c) program accreditation at 12.8%, (d) faculty at 6.8%, (e) research interests at 5.1%, (f) program prestige at 4.5%, (g) networking opportunities at 3.6%, (h) location at 2.4%, (i) schedule/flexibility at 1.5% and (j) personal career goals at 1.2%. Further analysis indicated the following three factors that participants at non-CACREP-accredited programs (n = 106) wished they had considered more when making an enrollment decision: (a) program accreditation at 31.8%, (b) “none” at 30.8% and (c) funding/scholarships at 9.3%.
Counseling Students’ Enrollment Decision Factors
Factors Participants Considered
Factors Participants Wished They Had Considered More
Factor ranked order
% of n
Factor ranked order
% of n
Note.n = 328
Research question two explored participants’ awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to (n = 308) and following enrollment (n = 309) in graduate-level counseling programs. Before enrollment, only one quarter (24.7%) of the sample indicated being “familiar” (n = 49) or “very familiar” (n = 27) with CACREP accreditation. The remaining 75.3% of the sample reported less awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment, with these participants reporting only being “somewhat familiar” (n = 93) or “not familiar” (n = 139) with CACREP accreditation. In contrast, following enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs, nearly three quarters (73.1%) of the sample noted either being “familiar” (n = 124) or “very familiar” (n = 102) with CACREP accreditation. The remaining 26.9% of participants reported being “somewhat familiar” (n = 66) or “not familiar” (n = 17). Overall, the percentage of all students reporting that they were either “familiar” or “very familiar” with CACREP accreditation increased by 48.4% following enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs.
Consideration was given to potential differences in familiarity with CACREP accreditation among (a) doctoral- and master’s-level students and (b) students attending CACREP- and non-CACREP programs. For those students enrolled in a master’s-level program (n = 276), regardless of program accreditation status, 21% reported being either “familiar” or “very familiar” with CACREP accreditation pre-enrollment. For doctoral-level students (n = 27), 63% indicated familiarity with CACREP accreditation prior to enrolling in a graduate program. These results indicated that doctoral-level students appeared to show more awareness of CACREP accreditation pre-enrollment, as a 42% difference in familiarity level existed. Post-enrollment, familiarity levels increased for both groups, as evidenced by 72.8% of master’s-level students (n = 201) and 81.5% of doctoral-level students (n = 22) reporting either being “familiar” or “very familiar” with CACREP accreditation. The difference between the two groups was now 8.7%, with doctoral students exhibiting more familiarity with CACREP post-enrollment.
Students’ familiarity with CACREP prior to and following enrollment also were considered between students in accredited (n = 173) and non-CACREP-accredited (n = 107) programs, as well as among students who reported being unsure of their program’s accreditation status (n = 26). Prior to enrollment, the following percentages of students reported being either “familiar” or “very familiar” with CACREP accreditation: 31.8% in CACREP-accredited programs, 18.7% in non-CACREP-accredited programs and 0.0% among those unaware of program accreditation status. Post-enrollment, 78.2% of students in a CACREP-accredited program, 77.4% of students in a non-CACREP-accredited program and 23.1% of those unaware of their program’s accreditation status reported being either “familiar” or “very familiar” with CACREP accreditation. Overall, the results indicated that higher percentage levels of CACREP familiarity existed both pre-enrollment and post-enrollment for students in CACREP-accredited programs when compared to students in either non-CACREP programs or who were unaware of their program’s accreditation status.
Research question three explored the level of importance participants placed on CACREP accreditation prior to (n = 309) and following enrollment (n = 308) in graduate-level counseling programs. Before enrollment, 39.5% of the sample noted that CACREP accreditation was either “important” (n = 50) or “very important” (n = 73). The remaining 60.5% of participants reported the following levels of importance ascribed to CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment: “somewhat important” (n = 51) or “not important” (n = 34), or indicated they were “not aware” (n = 102) of accreditation. After enrollment, participants’ levels of importance ascribed to CACREP accreditation increased, with 79.6% of the sample describing CACREP accreditation as “important” (n = 80) or “very important” (n = 165). Approximately one fifth (20.4%) of the sample reported low levels of importance ascribed to CACREP post-enrollment, rating CACREP accreditation as “somewhat important” (n = 33) or “not important” (n = 22), or indicated they were “not aware” (n = 8) of accreditation. From pre-enrollment to post-enrollment, the percentage of students identifying CACREP as “important” or “very important” increased by 40.1%.
Potential differences in the results as a function of program accreditation status also were examined. The following percentages of students believed CACREP accreditation was either “important” or “very important” prior to graduate school enrollment: 58% if the program was reported to be accredited (n = 101), 17.8% if not CACREP accredited (n = 19), and 3.8% if the participant was unsure of the program’s accreditation status (n = 1). Post-enrollment, ascribed levels of importance increased for all students regardless of program accreditation status, as follows: 89.7% of students in CACREP-accredited programs (n = 156), 72.6% of students in non-CACREP-accredited programs (n = 77) and 38.5% of students unaware of their program’s accreditation status (n = 10) indicated that CACREP accreditation was either “important” or “very important” to them.
Research question four explored potential differences in levels of awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs between participants in CACREP-accredited programs, those in non-CACREP-accredited programs and those unaware of program accreditation status. Descriptive results indicated that a difference existed between CACREP accreditation awareness levels prior to enrollment contingent on self-reported program accreditation status; to determine whether a significant statistical difference existed, a one-way ANOVA was used. The omnibus F statistic was interpreted, which is robust even when sample sizes within the different levels are small or unequal (Norman, 2010). The results indicated that self-reported CACREP accreditation statuses (i.e., accredited, non-accredited, unaware of accreditation status) were found to have a significant effect on participants’ awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment into a graduate-level counseling program, F(2,303) = 15.378, MSE = 0.861, p < 0.001. The Levine’s test was significant, indicating nonhomogeneity of variance. To account for the unequal variance, post hoc analyses using Tamhane’s T2 criterion for significance were run to determine between which accreditation levels the significant difference in the mean scores existed. The post hoc analyses indicated that prior to graduate school enrollment, participants who self-reported attendance in accredited programs were significantly more aware of CACREP accreditation (n = 173, M = 2.88, SD = 0.976) than the following: (a) participants who self-reported attending non-accredited programs (n = 107, M = 3.36, SD = 0.934; p < 0.001) and (b) participants who reported uncertainty of their program’s current accreditation status (n = 26, M = 3.77, SD = 0.430; p < 0.001). Additionally, the analysis indicated that participants who self-reported enrollment in non-CACREP-accredited programs were significantly more aware of CACREP accreditation compared to participants who were uncertain of their program’s current accreditation status, p = 0.004. Overall, the results for research question four suggested the following information regarding awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment for all students: (a) those enrolled in CACREP-accredited programs indicated the most awareness, (b) those enrolled in non-CACREP-accredited programs exhibited the second most awareness and (c) those unaware of their program’s accreditation status reported the least awareness.
The omnibus F test for research question four was re-run, looking at only students currently enrolled in a master’s-level program, teasing out potential outlier effects produced by doctoral students’ knowledge base; descriptive statistics had indicated that doctoral-level students exhibited more awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment. When examining only master’s-level students (n = 274), the results indicated that self-reported CACREP accreditation statuses (i.e., accredited, non-accredited, unaware of accreditation status) were found to have a significant effect on these students’ awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment in a graduate-level counseling program, F(2,274) = 14.470, MSE = 0.724, p < 0.001. Tamhane’s T2 post hoc analyses suggested similar results for master’s-level students’ CACREP awareness contingent on the program’s accreditation status when compared to results found for all participants (i.e., both master’s- and doctoral-level students). For master’s-level students, the following results were found: (a) those enrolled in CACREP-accredited programs indicated the most awareness, (b) those enrolled in non-CACREP-accredited programs exhibited the second most awareness and (c) those unaware of their program’s accreditation status reported the least awareness.
Research question five assessed whether participants’ levels of CACREP accreditation awareness increased after enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs. Overall, the descriptive results indicated that participants’ awareness of CACREP accreditation increased after enrolling in a counseling program regardless of other factors (e.g., grade level, program accreditation status). The two-tailed dependent t test indicated that the mean score for CACREP accreditation awareness significantly increased for all students after enrollment in a graduate-level counseling program (M = 1.130, SD = 1.046, t(306) = 18.934; p < .001), with the following mean scores reported: prior to enrollment (n = 307), M = 3.11, SD = 0.975, and following enrollment (n = 307), M = 1.98, SD = 0.869.
The purpose of this research was to examine factors that influence students’ decisions regarding enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs, with specific attention to students’ knowledge of CACREP accreditation prior to and following enrollment. The findings of this study were congruent with previous research, indicating that counseling students deemed program location to be the most influential factor in their enrollment decision-making process (Poock & Love, 2001). A dearth of previous research existed on the role of program accreditation in enrollment decisions; the current study suggests that program accreditation status signifies the second most influential factor, reported by 14% of the participants surveyed. Across the sample, program accreditation ranked third among factors participants wished they had considered more prior to making an enrollment decision. For participants attending non-CACREP-accredited programs, the ranking of accreditation increased to the number one factor these students wished they had considered more (31.8%), closely followed by no other factors (30.8%). Results of this study suggest that while CACREP accreditation is important to some students when choosing a program, ultimately, enrollment decisions are influenced by a number of factors whose weight varies from student to student.
A critical finding emerging from this research is that nearly half of participants (45.1%) were not familiar with CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment in a graduate-level counseling program. In contrast, only 8.8% of students reported being very familiar with CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment. These results support the assertion that counseling students may lack information necessary to make an informed program enrollment choice. Specifically, if prospective students are not aware of the existence of accrediting bodies or the potential implications of CACREP accreditation for postgraduation opportunities, they may omit accreditation as a decision-making criterion for enrollment. The ranking of CACREP accreditation as the first and third most important factors that students in non-CACREP and CACREP programs, respectively, wished they had considered more appears to reflect this omission.
Relatedly, one third of participants reported being unaware of the importance of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment in a graduate-level counseling program. Drastically, post-enrollment, less than 3% of participants reported lacking awareness of the importance of CACREP accreditation. Post-enrollment, the participants appeared to perceive CACREP accreditation as very important, with over half of the participants (53.6%) reporting this perception. Significant differences existed in participants’ awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment between participants enrolled in CACREP- and non-CACREP-accredited programs. A possible grounding for this finding may be that participants who were aware of CACREP accreditation prioritized this factor differently when making an enrollment decision. Regardless of the CACREP accreditation status of their graduate-level counseling programs, participants’ knowledge of CACREP accreditation increased significantly following program enrollment. This result suggests that accreditation is an effectively shared domain of professional socialization within counselor preparation programs, but largely not communicated to students outside formal entry into the field.
Overall, the results of this study provide a valuable window to the varied factors that prospective counseling students consider when making graduate program enrollment decisions. Interestingly, while accreditation signified an important factor in this decision-making process, many students lacked awareness of accreditation and subsequent implications of attending a CACREP-accredited program prior to enrollment. Post-enrollment, awareness of and importance ascribed to program accreditation increased for students, indicating that some students’ selection priorities changed with increased knowledge about accreditation. Ultimately, though enrollment decisions are personal choices in which students consider a number of factors, this study’s findings suggest that unfamiliarity with accreditation might impact the subsequent decisions.
Limitations and Recommendations for Further Research
Several limitations to this study must be noted. First, the results might have been biased by the use of a purposeful volunteer sample, with counseling program representatives electing whether to participate based on unknown motivations. Additionally, while the participation rate was ascertainable at the institutional level, the participation rate at the individual student level was unknown, as the number of students receiving the instrument at each participating institution was not collected. Second, the binary designation of CACREP-accredited and non-CACREP-accredited programs is broad and may not sufficiently account for rich variation across and within programs. For example, the research design did not account for programs working toward accreditation. Further, the use of self-reported program demographic information (e.g., accreditation status, institution name) may have impacted findings, as over 15% of participants preferred not to answer or gave incorrect data. Finally, data analysis did not address potential differences in participants’ responses across program cognate areas, full- and part-time enrollment statuses, or traditional and virtual program delivery formats. Future research may be informed by consideration of these demographic variables, as well as the possible relationship of students’ gender, age and race/ethnicity on graduate program enrollment decisions. Additionally, given that many participants lacked awareness of CACREP accreditation prior to enrollment, but ascertained this knowledge while enrolled, future research should examine specific educative venues through which students learn about CACREP accreditation prior to and following enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs. Results of research examining how counseling students become, or fail to become, knowledgeable about CACREP accreditation can inform outreach efforts. Qualitative examination of these questions, as well as of students’ lived experiences within and outside CACREP-accredited programs, would be particularly helpful. Examination of counselor educators’ levels of awareness of and importance ascribed to CACREP, within both accredited and non-accredited programs, also is suggested.
Implications for Counselor Preparation Programs and the Broader Profession
Results of this study suggest critical disparities among counseling students’ awareness and perceptions of CACREP accreditation prior to and following enrollment in graduate-level counseling programs. Considering the increased implications of accreditation within the counseling profession, this study’s findings substantiate a professional need to assist individuals in making optimally informed decisions about graduate school. Such an intervention moves beyond the individual student level, bringing renewed attention to the obligations of counselor preparation programs and professional associations. Though prospective students bear the responsibility of the enrollment decision, such an argument becomes confounded (and circular) when one considers that about 50% of students surveyed were unfamiliar with CACREP accreditation prior to graduate school enrollment.
This study supports Bardo’s (2009) assertion of the responsibility of programs to educate students about the benefits, challenges and rationale of accreditation. Transparent and educative dissemination of facts relative to the significance of accreditation is becoming paramount, particularly in light of new state-level requirements for licensure (License as a Professional Counselor, 2014) and continued movements toward portability, which may introduce new liabilities for programs not accredited by CACREP. Programs may wish to integrate such information about CACREP accreditation into recruitment processes and application materials, such as program websites, on-campus visits and open houses, and prospective student communications. The intention is to assist students in making well-informed decisions when choosing a counseling graduate program related to individual preferences and goals. For non-accredited programs, such transparent discussions may pose additional implications, considering that participants of this study deemed accreditation an important enrollment decision factor. However, because students prioritize enrollment decision factors differently, non-accredited programs still have the potential to attract students through their program’s prestige, philosophy, faculty, location and other factors that individuals prioritize.
Broader Professional Level
Among contemporary influences on the counseling profession, the TRICARE resolution is a particularly significant event. Graduation from a CACREP-accredited counselor preparation program increasingly differentiates students’ postgraduation employment and licensure opportunities. It is essential to recognize the differing, and potentially incongruent, contexts emerging for CACREP-accredited and non-CACREP-accredited programs. While complex, there is a clear need for proactive and inclusive dialogue across the profession that both minimizes potential collateral damage and maximizes the power of unified preparation standards for achievement of broader goals of professional recognition and licensure portability.
Results of this study lend support to the assertion that CACREP and other professional associations must find new ways of reaching out to non-accredited programs in order to assist them in recognizing the benefits and importance of accreditation, not only for their graduating students and individual institutions, but also for the counseling profession as a whole (Bobby, 2013). It also is essential that both financial support and mentorship continue to be provided to counselor preparation programs seeking and maintaining CACREP accreditation. Directed professional advocacy efforts to inform various stakeholders about the importance of CACREP accreditation as a national preparation standard also are recommended (Mascari & Webber, 2013).
The history of CACREP as an accrediting body has been and continues to be inextricably connected to broader movements of the counseling profession. Ultimately, the credibility and importance of CACREP accreditation remains grounded in the larger profession it serves. Ongoing respectful and critical dialogue related to CACREP is imperative within the general profession, and more specifically, with potential students of graduate-level counseling programs. Such transparent discussions are grounded by this study’s findings—although many students considered accreditation an influential factor when making enrollment decisions, nearly half of the participants sampled were unaware of accreditation prior to enrollment in a counseling graduate program. Assisting vested stakeholders, including institutions and students, in making informed decisions is an important part of the dialogue that is introduced through this research and invites subsequent conversation.
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported receiving a grant contribution
from CACREP for the development of this manuscript.
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Eleni M. Honderich, NCC, MAC, is an Adjunct Professor at the College of William and Mary. Jessica Lloyd-Hazlett, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Correspondence can be addressed to Eleni M. Honderich, College of William & Mary, School of Education, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, email@example.com.
The purpose of this study was to identify perceptions about a school counseling internship program at a university in Adana, Turkey by determining counseling interns’ perspectives on the effects of the internship program and supervisors’ perspectives on interns’ professional development. Data were collected from nine school counseling supervisors, 11 school counseling interns, 11 guidance teachers and 34 students who attended group guidance activities during counseling students’ internships. Data were analyzed using content analysis, and findings suggested that counseling interns have the opportunity to perform activities that school counselors normally perform, and that interns become competent in performing these activities. The internship program helped interns become competent at applying professional knowledge and skills. Additionally, with the assistance of interns, school counselors were able to provide proactive counseling services to students. The study suggests that positive, constructive feedback and advice from supervisors are essential for interns to be successful in completing internship activities in a positive and confident manner.
Keywords: school counseling, school counseling internship, professional development, counselors-in-training, Turkey
Professional school counselor identity is defined as an integration of professional training with personal attributes in the context of the profession (Nugent & Jones, 2009). Brott and Myers (1999) stated that the development of professional school counselor identity can serve as a frame of reference for implementing work roles and making important decisions. Professional identity develops as part of the experiential maturation process over time, which begins in training and continues throughout a person’s career. A school counselor’s professional development starts during training, evolves during entry into the profession and continues to develop as the school counselor identifies with the profession (Brott & Myers, 1999).
Professional identity has internal as well as external aspects (Auxier, Hughes, & Kline, 2003). Internal aspects are defined as an individuation process derived from a cycle of dependence and autonomy as counselors-in-training (CITs) gain counseling skills (Brott & Myers, 1999). During training, students rely on guidance and support provided by supervisors as external authorities. Gibson, Dollarhide, and Moss (2010) found that CITs needed external validation and assurance from experts, especially at the beginning of their training. Alternatively, counseling students felt much stronger, more confident and more positive toward counseling at the end of their internship and practice, with anxiety levels decreased and feelings of personal accomplishment increased (Nelson & Jackson, 2003). Researchers in Turkey found that the sense of efficacy increased among counseling students who conducted group guidance activities (Atici, Özyürek & Çam, 2005), while their counseling skills evolved throughout the school counseling internship program (Atici & Ulusoy, 2010). Both an increase in positive feelings and a decrease in negative feelings were observed from the beginning to the end of the term (Atici et al., 2005; Atici & Ulusoy, 2010).
The interpersonal aspect of professional identity development involves the role of the professional community in shaping the new professional (Auxier et al., 2003; Gibson et al., 2010). In the context of counseling, new professionals are socialized in the language of counseling, learn professional expectations, and learn to become a counselor through observation, supervision, consultation and practice (Gibson et al., 2010; O’Byrne & Rosenberg, 1998). This process also is conceptualized as entering a professional culture in which CITs learn appropriate attitudes, values, thinking styles and problem-solving strategies (Dollarhide & Miller, 2006).
It can be concluded that school counseling training programs can contribute to the professional development of CITs. For instance, in the United States, school CITs learn and apply the standards and models of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2003, 2005, 2012) and practice counseling activities under supervision via practicum and internship. School counseling interns at some universities in Turkey (e.g., Çukurova University) perform classroom guidance activities at primary and secondary schools, putting into practice what they have learned. In addition to classroom guidance, these students conduct activities such as small group guidance, individual counseling and consultation; apply individual assessment techniques and psychological measurement tools; and observe school counselor practices. Conducting these activities as CITs can result in a contribution to interns’ professional development, in which being prepared as a school counselor and establishing confidence are preeminent. Other factors that contribute to students developing a sense of competency during their internship include observing school counselors’ collaborative skills, engaging in the profession, perceiving their activities as successful and acknowledging their own professional development (Atici & Çam, 2013). Studer (2005) found that internship experience can provide opportunities for school counseling interns to engage in a number of activities concerning school counseling, while Nelson and Jackson (2003) indicated that internship experiences had positive effects on interns by giving them the opportunity to apply what they had learned and develop a sense of being a counselor. Similarly, Jett and Delgado-Romero (2009) found that prepracticum service learning and internship programs at schools and community agencies facilitated counseling students’ professional development.
Henderson (1994) reported that supervision provided learning opportunities within a school context for counseling students. Furthermore, Sutton and Page (1994) suggested that supervision can function as a bridge between competencies in counselor education programs and the skills required in an actual work context. Receiving feedback from supervisors, along with having varied experiences during internship, appears to positively affect professional identity development. Findings from several studies have shown that support and assurance from university tutors and school counselors as supervisors also have a positive effect on professional identity (Nelson & Jackson, 2003); especially when school counseling students receive constructive, nourishing and encouraging feedback (Özyürek, 2009). Receiving feedback and advice from university professors, having a relaxed supervisory atmosphere in which counseling students can express themselves comfortably, and observing and modeling themselves after working school counselors all lead to improvement and motivation as a counselor (Atici & Çam, 2013).
However, Portman’s study (2002) revealed that a group of CITs had not received supervision at their assigned schools, but had received clinical supervision from university supervisors during practicum and internship. Some student counselors found this supervision helpful, while others thought that they did not have a real supervisory experience. Accordingly, Özyürek (2009) found that supervisory courses and supervision were insufficient in school counseling internship programs.
Coker and Schrader (2004) developed a comprehensive, collaborative and integrative school-based practice in order to prepare students to better fulfill the demands of the school counselor’s role and to help students learn to work at schools as leaders and advocates. In this school-based internship, in addition to individual and group counseling, students consulted with teachers and parents, attended team meetings, and advocated for the personal, social and academic development of students. During internship at a primary school, students were able to perform the required number of hours for practicum, counsel real clients in an actual school context, and develop a clear counseling approach and orientation for working with young people at school under the guidance and supervision of researchers. They also experienced the various roles of a school counselor including advocate, consultant, collaborator and leader.
School counseling internship programs can facilitate the development of specific skills required for school counseling and general preparation for the profession. In addition, it can be concluded that during school counseling practice sessions, the support provided by the supervisor and role model at the school is influential in teaching school counselor roles and encouraging professional identity development.
Several studies have shown that counseling interns experience positive emotions such as confidence, success and efficaciousness by the end of the internship (Atici & Ulusoy, 2010; Nelson & Jackson, 2003), and their counseling skills and professional and personal development evolve (Atici & Çam, 2013; Atici et al., 2005; Atici & Ulusoy, 2010; Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009). Additionally, researchers have found that counseling interns have opportunities to experience several activities (Studer, 2005); to obtain their supervisor’s help, support (Nelson & Jackson, 2003) and feedback (Atici & Çam, 2013); and to develop their own personal counseling approach (Coker & Schrader, 2004). However, since these studies focused on counseling interns or counseling students, there is a need to investigate the impressions of working school counselors (who also function as supervisors at school) about school counseling internship programs, as well as to explore counseling students’ perspectives on the contributions of school counseling internship programs, supervisors and supervision to their professional development.
The present study focuses on school counseling supervisors’ perspectives on school counseling internship programs, their assistance and contribution to school counseling interns, and their recommendations for solving problems and conducting internships more effectively, as well as on counseling students’ opinions about the effects of their internship experiences and supervision on their professional development. The aims of this study were the following: (a) to identify school counseling supervisors’ views on the effectiveness of school counseling internship programs, (b) to assess the assistance provided to school counseling interns, (c) to gather school counseling supervisors’ recommendations for effective internship methods, (d) to investigate counseling students’ perceptions about the effects of internship programs and the process of supervision on their own professional development, and (e) to examine the views of secondary school students and their teachers on the effectiveness of group guidance activities conducted by counseling interns.
Participants included nine professional school counseling site supervisors and 11 school counseling interns. A purposeful sampling strategy (Patton, 1990) was used to collect data from information-rich cases. Specific school counseling supervisors were invited to participate in the study because they were identified as effective models for interns. Six female and three male counseling supervisors working in different schools voluntarily participated in the study. Five counselors had a master’s degree in counseling, and the remainder held degrees at the undergraduate level. Of the professional participants, three worked at a high school, five worked at a middle school, and one worked at a primary school in Adana, Turkey. Their experience ranged from 9–22 years, while the number of years spent supervising counseling students ranged from 2–10 years. Eleven school counseling interns enrolled in school counseling internship courses at one university in Adana also participated in the study. These interns were selected because they provided written data from both the students who participated in their group guidance activities in the schools and from these students’ teachers regarding their views on the effects of group guidance activities. An agreement of consent regarding the purpose of the study, the research procedure and confidentiality was obtained from each of the participants. All participants voluntarily accepted participation in the study.
Description of Course Process
Counseling students in this study each attended a course for school counseling internship, taking place at three schools and at one university in Adana, Turkey. They went to their respective schools for half a day each week during the autumn and spring terms in their fourth year of undergraduate study. During internship, counseling students conducted group and classroom guidance activities, consulted with teachers and parents, applied assessment techniques and measurement tools, interviewed individual students, and observed other school counselors working. One group guidance session was observed by a university supervisor and/or a professional school counselor site supervisor, who provided feedback about the intern’s activity.
Supervision at the university was 3 hours per week; all students and the university supervisors attended this session. During this session, counseling students discussed their activities and difficulties, and received feedback from supervisors and other students in the group. At the end of the term, students submitted a portfolio of all of their activities during the internship, with a general evaluation of the supervisory course and supervision; the school, school personnel and school counselor; and the contribution of the supervisory course to their professional and personal development.
Interviews and data from documents were used as qualitative data-collecting tools. The researcher interviewed nine school counseling supervisors individually using a semistructured interview guide. Open-ended questions were used to elicit supervisors’ views on the effectiveness of the school counseling internship program, problems encountered during internship, their recommendations and the assistance they provided. Interviews were recorded digitally and transcribed.
Three different documents were used in this study. Counseling interns were asked to evaluate their school counseling internship programs, supervisors and supervision in terms of their professional development at the end of the term. Interns wrote about their internship programs and submitted these written texts to their supervisors as part of their final portfolio. High school students who attended group guidance activities and their teachers provided their ideas about the effects of group guidance activities on participating students’ behavior by responding to an open-ended question. These written forms of data were collected from 11 counseling students, 11 teachers and 34 students who attended group activities conducted by six counseling students.
Analysis of Data
The researcher analyzed qualitative data by using content analysis. To begin with, an open coding procedure was followed (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Interview transcripts and written documents were examined by line, sentence and paragraph, and a code or a name representing a particular idea, activity or event was given. Then the researcher combined related codes into categories. For example, in coding data regarding influential factors in conducting group guidance activities, the codes of enthusiasm, not feeling anxious and feeling efficacious were grouped under the heading emotional state. Axial coding was carried out to identify main categories, their subcategories, and relationships between main and subcategories. For example, one of the categories that identified influential factors in conducting successful group guidance activities was titled counseling student–related. Emotional state and professional skills were placed under the counseling student-related category as subcategories. Finally, in the selective coding stage, the main categories and their subcategories were grouped together.
Credibility and Trustworthiness
Activities performed to ensure validity included data and method triangulations by collecting in-depth data in face-to-face interviews with school counseling supervisors, and examining and analyzing documents produced by counseling interns, teachers and students who attended group guidance activities (Denzin, 1994). Next, the researcher presented direct quotations from counselors and examined research results in terms of meaningfulness and consistency, comparing his findings to those from different data sources in the literature (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2008).
The researcher kept a detailed explanation of the data collection and analysis procedure and raw data for reexamination by others. In order to enhance trustworthiness, the researcher attempted to acknowledge personal assumptions and prejudgments and prevent those biases from interfering with the data analysis and interpretation process (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2008). Since a single researcher conducted the study, he tested for consistency (Robson, 1993) by comparing the codes derived from the initial coding process with those obtained from a second process. The researcher computed the proportion of agreement by dividing the number of agreements by the sum of the number of agreements and number of disagreements, resulting in a consistency value of 0.84.
Results are presented in three categories as follows: (1) results derived from the analysis of interviews with school counselors, (2) counseling students’ views on the roles of school counseling internship programs and supervisors impact on their professional development, and (3) school students and their teachers’ views on the contributions of group guidance activities to participating students. Throughout the Results section, direct quotations from school counseling supervisors are labeled with a C, quotes from teachers are labeled with a T and quotes from counseling student interns are labeled with an S.
Results from Interviews with School Counseling Supervisors
School counseling supervisors’ perspectives on counseling students’ practices and effectiveness. According to the results of the interviews, the counseling students carried out group and classroom guidance activities during their school counseling internships. Counseling individuals, leading seminars with students and their parents, applying individual assessment techniques and measurement tools, and consulting with teachers and parents were among other activities. Examples of the supervisors’ views on school counseling internship programs are presented below:
They did nine group guidance activities with their own group and three classroom guidance activities . . . [they also provided] consultation and applied an individual assessment technique. I encouraged them to interview students and their families. I have talked with them and asked what they think about the [client’s] problem, which questions they can ask, and what they can do about the problem. (C8)
They did group guidance activities, . . . applied individual assessment techniques, evaluated the results, and consulted with teachers about the interpretation of the results. They did classroom guidance activities, for example conflict resolution, anger management, study skills, and career guidance, that must be carried out by school counselors. They also did individual interviews with students. (C9)
All of the supervisors surveyed acknowledged the positive work outcomes of the counseling interns. The school counselors emphasized the positive effects of the school counseling internship program by using terms like “significant contribution” and “very helpful.” They also shared their impressions that the interns’ work was reflected in the behavior of students, parents and school personnel. They also witnessed the students’ understanding of their activities, counseling concepts and topics, and expressed positive feelings regarding the interns.
Supervisors stated that the effects of the counseling internship program could be seen more specifically in personal and social areas such as self-awareness, self-acceptance, behavior change, interpersonal skills, awareness and control of emotions among school students. Additionally, school students improved in the areas of career decision and coping with career indecision during career counseling; and in areas of education such as study skills, exam anxiety and academic achievement. According to the supervisors, the counseling students benefitted from gaining experience in classroom management and individual counseling, improving communication skills, expressing themselves, and enhancing efficacy feelings. At the same time, the interns helped school counselors carry out their work plans and lessened their workload, providing counseling services to many more students and presenting proactive counseling services. Professional school counselors themselves benefitted from the internship experience by learning new ideas from the counseling students and enhancing their own motivation levels. For example, a counselor summarized the counseling students’ motivating effect in the following quote: “They helped me renew myself. . . . [When counseling interns] came to my school, my enthusiasm and excitement increased. I learned new . . . warm-up activities when I observed them” (C3).
The following quote demonstrates how the counseling students’ work was helpful for the supervisors, the school students and the counseling interns themselves: “They definitely made a contribution. I got positive feedback from teachers and students in terms of their contribution” (C6). Another school counselor made the following remarks:
They contributed a lot. . . . My interns were very active in working with me. In particular, some of them worked . . . as a second counselor in the school. They made . . . classroom presentations. They improved themselves, as well as benefit[ted] the students. . . . Their practices lessened my workload. (C2)
A third school counselor stated, “As I said before, I am trying to reach many students. . . . Interns contributed a lot. They also gained experience in classroom management, communication with students and getting feedback from students to increase their efficacy” (C4).
According to the school counseling supervisors, counseling interns learned the most during group work. Interns improved their overall effectiveness, which included emotional comfortableness, readiness, eager communication, leadership, group management and counseling skills. One school counselor explained, “Counseling students’ skills of communication, group management and leadership greatly affected conducting successful activities” (C1). In the following quotes, two counselors explained how they used observation and feedback in the process of evaluating activities:
I go to a classroom guidance activity with [interns], especially when they have classroom management problems. They probably feel anxious during the first one or two activities, and then become relaxed. For this reason, after each activity we make an assessment for 5–10 minutes: How was the day? What did they do? What difficulties did they come across? They shared all sorts of things they would like to talk about. Furthermore . . . if there [is] something which I do not like, if they are reluctant to do activities or do something against school rules, I talk to them and express my concerns. (C2)
When they have difficulties I try to help them. Upon completion of their activities, we make a general evaluation of the day, focusing on topics like: How was the activity? What was the difficulty? What did they do to cope with it? (C5)
School counselors’ assistance to counseling interns. Interview data regarding professional school counselors assisting counseling internship students revealed four themes: (a) observation, evaluation and feedback; (b) giving information and advice; (c) organizing counseling activities; and (d) being a model.
One counselor explained how she helped by observing group guidance activities and giving feedback and advice about reference books: “I prepared an observation form [for interns]. Then we sit and talk all together as a group. Thus, I create an atmosphere in which they benefit from each other. I advise them on books to be read and give information about the counseling approaches I prefer.” (C3) Another counselor explained that she gave individual feedback after classroom guidance, as follows:
I observe [an intern] twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the term, while they are conducting a classroom guidance activity. I give feedback about their deficiencies as a school counselor and advice on how they can rectify these. . . . I find this way of giving feedback is positive and useful. (C4)
Problems in internship programs and recommendations. When school counseling supervisors were asked about problems they encountered during school counseling internship programs, four said there were no problems and they liked the way the internship program was carried out. On the other hand, five counselors mentioned a few problems related to counseling students, such as school student nonattendance, coming as a large group to internship sessions, being unmotivated toward the internship program and disobeying some rules. There also were a few problems arising from the school, school personnel and students, such as difficulty organizing groups of students; complications in scheduling appropriate days, times and places for classroom, group and individual work; school personnel’s negative attitudes and behavior toward counseling interns; and students’ reluctance to engage in group work.
One counselor expressed her ideas about the negative effects of nonattendance and the difficulty in observing counseling interns when they came in a large group to internship sessions in the following quote:
When a group of interns is too large, it is difficult for me to help them as I had planned. For example, they are not able to observe while I am interviewing students. Of course, I get permission from students for the presence of . . . counseling interns during interviews . . . it is a big problem for me when . . . interns do not come to counseling sessions on the assigned day. . . . All of the students in that group come to me one by one and ask whether . . . interns will come to the group activity, or why she/he is not coming. I am responsible to the principal, since the teacher leaves the class with me for a group guidance activity at a certain time. So, if the interns don’t come, I have to do the activity by myself, meaning extra work for me. (C2)
The school counseling supervisors made recommendations for enhancing the quality of school counseling practices rather than solving problems. Although these recommendations were mainly for counseling interns and counseling activities, school personnel, students and university supervisors also were subjects of these recommendations. In particular, the school counselors suggested that certain activities should occur more frequently, such as consultations, seminars and classroom guidance sessions. Other suggestions for contributing to the school counseling internship programs were the following: learning legislative procedures and the tasks of the board of counselors at the school, keeping interview and council records, learning to solve specific problems like abuse and enuresis, presenting case studies about specific problems, observing school counselors’ work, planning warm-up activities to precede group work, and not using old-fashioned individual assessment techniques which lead to labeling students.
In terms of duration and timing of the internship programs, suggestions were as follows: school counseling internship should start during the intern’s second or third year of school, junior students should observe senior students during their internships at school, and time assigned for internship should increase. Regarding observation and evaluation, it was recommended that both site supervisors and university supervisors observe and evaluate counseling interns, and that school counselors meet at the university to revise the internship program from time to time. To this end, a school counselor expressed her ideas in the following quote:
There should be a meeting with school counselors, who accept counseling interns at their school, at the beginning and end of the year to talk about what they are going to do and to assess how the term went, what they did, was it useful? Coming together and making an overall assessment would be helpful once or twice a year. (C1)
Furthermore, another school counselor emphasized the necessity of adding consultations, seminars and case presentations to the practices currently being carried out, as follows:
I think the internship program should be revised in the light of a school counselor’s actual duties at school. For example, seminars for parents and students, case examinations and presentations should be required from . . . interns. They should work on a specific case example and present this case study to the program supervisor. For instance, the interns may work with a student with exam anxiety and prepare a report on this case. They must work with specific problems that they will meet when they begin to work as a school counselor. There is a lack of practical experience in case work and consultation in the internship program currently operating. However, we do mostly consultation at school. (C2)
The Role of Supervisors and Internship in Interns’ Professional Development
Interns’ evaluation of university supervisors and supervision. When counseling students’ evaluations regarding supervision and supervisors at the university were analyzed, the following three categories emerged: contribution to the practice process, gaining experience and preparing for professional life, and feedback and advice. In the contribution to practice process, students pointed out that the supervisory course was productive and helpful. Counseling students learned a lot from the course that enabled them to create solutions to problems, recognize their mistakes, and share their activities and difficulties, thus making school counseling activities much more functional. Interns watched video recordings of group activities conducted by themselves or their peers in the supervisory course. The students stated that watching these recordings was beneficial, giving them a chance to see their mistakes, find solutions to problems and benefit from feedback. One counseling intern explained as follows:
Due to time limitations our supervisor could not come to observe our work at the school. But, by watching video recordings of the activities we did, and giving detailed feedback in supervisory sessions, our supervisor helped us to see our mistakes. I was lucky to be in her group. (S5)
According to the interns, school counseling internship programs contributed to their professional development and professional life by providing the opportunity to apply counseling knowledge and skills. These internship programs, which are considered indispensable for professional development, enabled counseling students to establish their own approaches and prepare themselves for future difficulties.
A main distinctive theme that emerged regarding university supervisors was the giving of feedback and advice. Feedback was considered helpful and efficient for solving problems that occurred during the program, selecting and organizing activities, conducting productive group activities, correcting mistakes, overcoming obstacles, coping with anxiety, and creating opportunities for self-evaluation. Advice provided by supervisors was seen as helpful enabling students to find solutions to problems and difficulties, to achieve desired results from group activities, and to feel pleased with their progress. Counseling interns also received feedback and advice from their peers; one stated, “I think sharing our experiences, and giving and taking feedback from each other contributed to our development. The school counseling internship course was effective for gaining experience, getting practice and improving professionally.” (S1)
Interns’ evaluation of school supervisors and supervision. Two themes in this section were assistance to the practice process and negative impressions of supervisors at schools. Regarding assistance to the practice process, counseling interns explained that school counselors coordinated counseling practice for them by organizing groups of students and scheduling appropriate days, times and places for activities during the internship program. The supervisors also shared their experiences and knowledge, and provided opportunities for counseling students to observe some of their interviews with students and parents. The counselors demonstrated various methods of communicating with students, interviewing parents and other aspects of school counseling, and presented an example for which to learn the job. School counselors gave feedback and advice to assist counseling interns in learning how to be school counselors, provided professional information and prepared them for professional life (e.g., files, meetings, reports, minutes of meetings).
Regarding negative impressions, interns reported that some site supervisors, although relatively few in number, were reluctant to share their experiences or communicate with the interns because of time limits. For this reason, these supervisors did not organize individual counseling sessions or time for consultation, application and interpretation of measurement tools, and did not give any feedback. One counseling student said, “I think we did not get enough feedback from our site supervisors/school counselor due to their being busy. This was a negative aspect of our internship at school” (S9). Another intern said the following: I wish I had done more activities like individual counseling, learned more techniques and that the school counselor had shared her experiences more with us. Due to time limitations we didn’t have a chance to do some of the activities. (S1)
Roles of School Counseling Internship Programs in Interns’ Professional Development
Self-improvement in counseling skills. School counseling internship programs enabled counseling students to build their skills and become productive in the areas of group guidance, classroom guidance, individual counseling, seminars and consultation. These activities were followed by improvements in counseling skills, application of theoretical knowledge, management of behavioral problems and group management skills.
Other contributions that counseling students mentioned included gaining professional knowledge, achieving milestones of the profession, preparing for the profession, discovering coherence between their personalities and the profession, and gaining insight into the ways that working with students of different ages and social backgrounds contributed to their professional development. The following quote may be taken as an example of counseling students’ ideas about the internship program:
It was full of experience and learning for me. Both the help of supervision and my own efforts have given me good preparation for my career. I believe that the things I learned this year will facilitate my future education and will be milestones in my professional career. (S7)
Positive feelings during internship. Being happy (n = 9) was the most common positive feeling that counseling students experienced during internship. It was followed, in order, by feeling efficacious (n = 6), confident (n = 5), eager (n = 5), proud (n = 2), and relaxed and good (n = 1), both personally and professionally. Interns used words such as “like” and “enjoy” to describe their experience. Counseling students expressed that they were happy when they were successful and helped students, received supervisors’ support and feedback, and worked with certain supervisors at the university. They also emphasized that their efficacy and confidence had increased as they did successful work, attended supervision sessions and received feedback from supervisors. Similarly, with the support of the supervisors, they became eager about counseling activities and exercises, taking pride in positive feedback, enjoying the profession through their internship experiences and showing positive emotions such as feeling relaxed. One student expressed the positive effects of feedback as follows: “Having constructive feedback and advice, and our supervisor giving importance to everybody’s work, made me feel happy. Due to her feedback, I felt little anxiety while I was doing activities. This course enhanced my confidence in doing school counseling work.” (S5)
Teachers’ and Students’ Views on Group Guidance Activities
Students’ gains from activities. Ninth graders attended group guidance activities on communication, assertiveness, social skills and career counseling, and produced written documents acknowledging what they had gained from the activities. When the documents were analyzed, it was clear that students had positive results and acquisitions such as self-awareness, getting to know people, introducing themselves to others and skills of communication, assertiveness and relationships. Students also expressed positive feelings and comments regarding group activities, such as happy, relaxed, enjoyable, peaceful, eager and responsible. Students who attended career counseling group activities reported that at the end of these activities, they had learned about several occupations; identified majors and occupations they would choose in the future; recognized their abilities and interests; understood relationships and consistencies between occupation and ability, occupation and interest, and occupation and personality; and acknowledged factors that affect pursuing a career.
Data suggested that students had positive views of the counseling interns. In order, these positive adjectives were as follows: understanding, being good, good listener, respectful, gentle, being confidential, sympathetic, patient, reliable, optimistic and cheerful. Furthermore, the students also thought that the counseling interns produced solutions to problems. However, in contrast to these positive features, school students also mentioned a few negative aspects of the activities, like hesitating to tell their secrets to the group, not understanding how to fill in forms or finding solutions offered to the group as useless.
Teachers’ ideas about classroom guidance activities. When teachers’ views about the effects of these activities with students were analyzed, three themes emerged as follows: interpersonal relationships, communication skills, and behavioral and motional changes. Teachers pointed out that they observed development mostly in interpersonal relationships and communication skills such as active listening, being respectful and getting to know each other, enhancing group transactions, attachment and cooperation, and sharing. The teachers also brought attention to behavioral development and changes in problem-solving skills, participation in lessons, assertiveness and protection of their rights, taking responsibility, and correcting mistaken goals. According to teachers, students showed positive emotional changes, meaning that they enjoyed, were enthusiastic about and were satisfied with the activities, which enhanced self-confidence and motivation toward their lessons. Two teachers expressed the positive effects of the activities in the following quotes:
Some of my students in particular began to come to school with positive feelings such as happy, eager and ready. Others of my students who have had problems in expressing themselves and participating in the lessons started to cope with shyness/timid[ity] and participated in the lessons with confidence. (T1)
There are positive changes in students’ behavior like problem solving and communicating with their peers. They used to fight to solve their problems, but now they have learned to stop, wait and listen to each other to work things out. I assume that group guidance activities are very useful in teaching students how to work out their problems. (T2)
According to findings derived from interviews with counseling supervisors, counseling interns gained experience in classroom guidance, group guidance, individual counseling, seminars, consultation, and application of individual assessment and measurement techniques during school counseling practices. It can be said that these are the essential parts of a school counselor’s work, and having had these experiences, interns are more likely to be prepared for the school counselor role. Similarly, interns’ evaluations of the supervisory course in the internship program showed that through the program, counseling students both developed and enhanced their counseling skills through conducting school counseling-related activities. Coker and Schrader (2004) also found that in school-based practice, counseling interns did individual and group counseling and consultations, attended team meetings, and advocated for the personal, social and academic achievement of students. The findings of the present study parallel those of Brott and Myers (1999), who concluded that professional identity development begins in training and continues throughout a person’s career life. Additionally, the current results are considered consistent with Studer’s (2005) findings, that internship provides opportunities to do school counseling activities; with Nelson and Jackson’s (2003) findings, indicating that internship has positive effects on application of knowledge, skills and development of insight; and Jett and Delgado-Romero’s (2009) study, showing that doing internship at a school or hospital facilitates counseling students’ professional development.
All school counseling supervisors in the present study noticed the positive outcomes of the school counseling internship programs, for the school students who attended the counseling activities, for the interns and for the school counseling supervisors themselves. These school counselors witnessed school students’ cognitive, emotional and behavioral changes as a result of attending counseling activities, and received positive feedback from teachers and parents regarding counseling interns’ work. School counseling supervisors’ impressions and observations regarding the benefits of counseling practices, in terms of personal–social, educational and career development of students, were consistent with teachers and students’ evaluations of the effects of the activities. For example, classroom guidance teachers pointed out that they observed changes in students who attended group guidance activities with regard to interpersonal relationships, communication skills, and emotional and behavioral changes. Furthermore, students who attended these activities also said that they acquired skills in the areas of communicating, building relationships, practicing assertiveness, and making decisions about majors and careers, and that they gained positive feelings toward the activities. It should be emphasized that there were similarities in students’ and teachers’ perceptions about the effects of counseling practices. These similarities were especially apparent in personal–social changes and positive emotions regarding activities. School counselors emphasized that counseling students assisted them in carrying out their work plans and lessening their workloads; thus, they were able to provide preventative counseling services to many more students.
According to school counseling supervisors surveyed, counseling students benefitted from counseling internship by gaining experience in classroom management and individual counseling, improving communication skills, and enhancing self-efficacy. Similarly, counseling students mentioned their acquisitions in the application and development of school counseling knowledge and skills, feeling happy and efficacious as a result of the successful internship activities they completed. These findings parallel the findings of studies carried out by Atici et al. (2005), Atici and Ulusoy (2010), and Atici and Çam (2013).
The professional school counselors indicated that they were able to help counseling interns by observing them and giving feedback, providing information and advice, organizing counseling practice sessions, and being role models. The counseling interns mentioned the same kinds of help provided by their school counseling supervisors. These results parallel the findings of Atici and Çam’s (2013) study, which indicated that school counselors help counseling interns by coordinating school counseling practice sessions, being role models, and sharing materials and resources. Coker and Schrader’s (2004) findings indicated that counseling interns develop a clear counseling approach with the guidance of supervisors, and are able to experience the school counselors’ roles of collaboration, advocacy, leadership and consulting with the guidance of professional school counselors.
A few counseling interns in the current study had negative impressions of school counseling supervisors who were reluctant to share their experiences, organize practice sessions and give feedback. As a result, counseling students could not benefit from the experiences and skills of some school counselors. This finding is supported by the results of a study by Atici and Çam (2013). Similarly, some CITs in Portman’s (2002) study did not receive supervision at schools, and although they found that clinical supervision from the university supervisors was useful, there were deficits in the internship program, and they did not receive a real supervised experience. According to these results, it can be concluded that school counselors’ inability to create an environment in which they function as role models and provide feedback may affect the professional identity development of some counseling interns in a negative way.
According to school counselors surveyed in the present study, counseling interns’ readiness, desire, comfort, self-efficacy, communication, leadership, group management and professional skills played roles in the effectiveness of group activities. This finding is consistent with the opinions of counseling interns regarding the contributions of the school counseling internship program to their professional development. Counseling interns reported that as a result of successful work they did, and during successful work, they felt happy, relaxed, eager and efficacious; thus, they acknowledged self-development in conducting group guidance activities and building counseling skills and group management skills. These findings parallel results from other studies, such as that CITs experience positive feelings like confidence, achievement and efficacy (Atici & Ulusoy, 2010; Nelson & Jackson, 2003) and develop their counseling skills, and that school counseling activities contribute to professional and personal development (Atici & Çam, 2013; Atici et al., 2005; Atici & Ulusoy, 2010; Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009) and provide opportunities to do various activities (Studer, 2005).
It is clear that feedback and advice from university supervisors were useful and effective in planning and carrying out successful activities, finding solutions to problems and assessing of activities. Watching video recordings of sessions enabled students to receive feedback from professional school counseling supervisors and their peers, which was very helpful and improved the conducting of group guidance activities. Similarly, in interviews, school counseling supervisors pointed out that their feedback for counseling students impacted the success of group activities. Counseling interns also reported that their feelings of happiness, pride, efficacy, confidence and love for the profession increased as they did successful work and received feedback from supervisors. These findings shared similarities with results in the literature, indicating that assurance and support from university supervisors and site supervisors in schools positively affect professional identity (Nelson & Jackson, 2003), that counseling students find feedback constructive, encouraging and helpful for improving their professional development (Özyürek, 2009). The literature also shows that nurturing feedback and advice from university supervisors and a relaxed supervision atmosphere have motivating effects (Atici & Çam, 2013), and supervision functions as a bridge between competencies in the counselor education program and the skills required in workplaces (Sutton & Page, 1994).
School counseling supervisors reported that they met few problems during internship, and they solved these problems by talking with counseling students and expressing their expectations. The fact that school counselors encountered few problems emphasizes that they liked and were satisfied with the internship program, although they made recommendations in order to further develop the internship programs and counseling exercises. These recommendations were mainly to increase some activities and to start school counseling internship programs earlier than the last or fourth year of study.
From the results of the study, it is apparent that school counseling internship programs not only contribute to the professional development of counseling students, but also help professional school counselors and school students in several aspects. As a result, school counseling coordinators and school principals should organize school counseling internship programs, so as to benefit from counseling interns’ assistance in providing counseling services to as many students as possible.
Since feedback and advice given by university supervisors were considered useful and effective in planning and carrying out successful activities, university supervisors should provide feedback by either observing counseling students or monitoring their activity records from the internship program. This feedback is vital for counseling interns, especially when they need to see and correct their mistakes and assess their professional skills with the guidance of an external authority.
Although there were only a few complaints about school counseling supervisors’ reluctance to assist counseling students during internship, their disinclination is still an obstacle to the professional development of counseling students. Therefore, the university counseling educators should consider this issue when deciding to which school and school counselors they will send their counseling interns, and they should discuss this potential problem with the school counselors and express their expectations and concerns. In light of school counselors’ recommendations for enhancing activities to better prepare counseling students for the duties and roles of future school counselors and to contribute to professional identity development, revising school counseling internship programs should be considered.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
Interviews with professional counselors and document data from counseling internship students, classroom guidance teachers and school students who attended group activities were used in this study. Although the triangulation method was used, collection of data from multiple participants was limited since this study was conducted by only one researcher. In the future, if more than one researcher were involved in a study, it would be possible to collect data from a greater number of school counselors, counseling interns, school students participating in group or classroom guidance activities, and teachers at schools. There also was the limitation of not involving a university supervisor in the study. If this level of university supervisor could be involved in a similar study, it would be possible to explore the issue from the different perspectives of relevant parties. Similar studies might be conducted by including counselor education programs from several different universities.
This study showed that school counseling internship programs provide opportunities for counseling students to experience many school counselor activities and to become competent in carrying out these activities. It is clear that school counseling internship programs and activities give counseling students a chance to apply counseling skills, make contributions to students attending counseling activities, lessen the workloads of school counselors, provide proactive counseling services to many more students and contribute to their own professional development. Furthermore, once again it evident that positive and constructive feedback and advice, along with help from university supervisors and site supervisors, were fundamental for counseling interns in conducting activities, feeling positive emotions and establishing confidence.
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The author reported no conflict of
interest or funding contributions for
the development of this manuscript.
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Meral Atici is an Associate Professor at Çukurova University. Correspondence can be addressed to Meral Atici, Çukurova University, Education Faculty, 01330, Balcalı, Adana, Turkey, firstname.lastname@example.org