Infusing Service Learning Into the Counselor Education Curriculum

Kristen Arla Langellier, Randall L. Astramovich, Elizabeth A. Doughty Horn


Counselors are frequently called upon to be advocates for their clients and, more broadly, to advocate for the counseling profession. However, many new counselors struggle with integrating advocacy work in their counseling practice. This article provides an overview of service learning and identifies ways counselor educators may foster advocacy skills among counselors-in-training through the use of planned service learning experiences in the counselor education curriculum. The authors then provide examples of service learning activities for use within the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 2016 core curricular areas, including professional orientation and ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, career development, helping relationships, and group work. 

Keywords: advocacy, service learning, counselor education, ACA, CACREP


University faculty members frequently include service learning experiences in the undergraduate curriculum as a means for helping prepare students to develop as community members through meaningful civic engagement experiences that are augmented with classroom education (Servaty-Seib & Tedrick Parikh, 2014; Stanton & Wagner, 2006). Unfortunately, service learning assignments tend to diminish significantly as students make the transition from undergraduate to graduate education (Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009; Servaty-Seib & Tedrick Parikh, 2014; Stanton & Wagner, 2006). Much of the existing scholarly literature centers around the impact of service learning on students who are at a traditional undergraduate age (Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009; Servaty-Seib & Tedrick Parikh, 2014). The lack of service learning opportunities in the graduate curriculum is surprising, given that service learning may help students develop a deeper sense of community, appreciate others’ perspectives, and identify avenues for contributing to social change (Cipolle, 2010).

Within graduate counselor training programs, counselor educators could more frequently utilize service learning projects (SLPs) in order to enhance knowledge of diverse community cultures among counselors-in-training (CITs) as well as provide CITs with opportunities to assess community needs and implement advocacy efforts. The counseling profession’s Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC), revised in 2016, states the importance of “integrating social justice advocacy into the various modalities of counseling” (Ratts et al., 2016, p. 31). In addition, the MSJCC posits that counselors and counselor educators conceptualize clients through a socioecological lens so as to understand the social structures affecting their world. Service learning curricula often include a social justice focus, which has been demonstrated to help students understand the structures in place that oppress others (Tinkler et al., 2015). With these guidelines in mind, the purpose of this article is to provide practical suggestions to help counselor educators infuse service learning into their curriculum, thus offering CITs more opportunities for personal and professional development.

Service Learning

Service learning was first introduced in the early 1900s as a method for fostering academic and social learning and advancements for students via community involvement (Barbee et al., 2003). Bringle and Hatcher (1995) defined service learning as

a credit-bearing, educational experience in which students a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs, and b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility. (p. 112)

Since its inception, many disciplines have found service learning useful as a method of merging the academic with the practical; it has become popular with disciplines such as nursing (Backer Condon et al., 2015), teacher education (Tinkler et al., 2015), and public health (Sabo et al., 2015).

With respect to counselor education, there has been a diminutive amount of research related to the implementation and effectiveness of service learning. In 2009, Jett and Delgado-Romero described service learning as an area of developing research in counselor education, and this could still be said today. There is a paucity of literature regarding service learning in graduate education (Servaty-Seib & Tedrick Parikh, 2014) and, more specifically, within counselor education. Yet university faculty, particularly counselor educators, are tasked with the challenge of bridging academic theory and research with “real-world” experiences. Therefore, SLPs may serve as a method for students and faculty to connect with the community in which they live and beyond (Nikels et al., 2007).

After reviewing service learning literature, Dotson-Blake et al. (2010) determined successful SLPs contain five essential characteristics that contribute to the overall intention of service learning. They contended successful SLPs should be developed in concert with a community or professional partner, contain coherent and well-defined expectations, incorporate stakeholder support, consider students’ developmental levels, allow ample opportunity for reflective practices, and broaden or expand because of the impact of the project (Dotson-Blake et al., 2010). Focusing on the above underpinnings of successful SLPs could potentially assist counselor educators in the planning and implementation stages of these sorts of projects, as they can take time and considerable effort to develop.

Service Learning and Social Justice

According to Cipolle (2010), social justice and service learning are interrelated. She asserted that service learning and social justice need to be considered together so as to accomplish a larger goal of connection with the community. An additional component to service learning is the development of critical consciousness. Students engaging in service learning as a means of social justice may gain compassion and understanding from their participation (Cipolle, 2010). A by-product of service learning with a social justice focus may be the development of self-awareness through students’ opportunities to see for themselves how others live their lives; perhaps students will also see the impact of the dominant culture (Cipolle, 2010). Self-awareness is a key component of the 2016 MSJCC (Ratts et al., 2016) and is found throughout the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 2016 Standards (CACREP, 2015). Additionally, the ACA Code of Ethics asserts that counselors should ascribe to self-awareness to maintain ethical practice and reflection (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2014).

Service Learning Versus Community Service

An important distinction between community service and service learning lies within the beneficiaries of each. Within community service, the beneficiaries are those receiving the service. Service learning posits a reciprocal model, with both the recipient of service and student benefitting from the project (Blankson et al., 2015). Thus, SLPs provide students with opportunities to be exposed to issues of social justice that may foster empathy and cultural self-awareness. Students can benefit from service learning as it may assist them in developing increased compassion for others (George, 2015). With the continued focus on social justice within many disciplines, SLPs may provide another avenue for counselor educators to help students more fully understand the diverse needs of their communities and advocate for the underserved.

Throughout participation in an SLP, and at the completion, students are encouraged to apply critical thinking to their efforts and reflect on progress, barriers, and benefits (Blankson et al., 2015). For successful service learning to occur, projects should be connected to specific course objectives. Such a curricular emphasis is not generally a component of community service initiatives. By combining student projects and course material, instructors are able to help students solidify course material into practical applications (McDonald & Dominguez, 2015). This experiential avenue may appeal to non-traditional learners and provide more integration of material than didactic coursework alone (Currie-Mueller & Littlefield, 2018).

Effects of Service Learning

     Cipolle (2010) reported that students participating in early service learning received numerous benefits, including having higher self-confidence, feeling empowered, gaining self-awareness, developing patience and compassion, recognizing their privilege, and developing a connection and commitment to their community. All of these outcomes are consistent with the aims and goals of standards, competencies, and codes of ethics within the counseling profession (ACA, 2014; CACREP, 2015; Ratts et al., 2016).

Scott and Graham (2015) reported an increase in empathy and community engagement for school-age children when participating in service learning. They also reported that several previous works measured similar favorable effects among high school– and college-age individuals. Because of these overlapping desired effects and the need to incorporate social justice throughout the curriculum, service learning would fit well into current models of counselor education.

Service Learning Efforts in Counselor Education

The ACA Code of Ethics (2014) calls upon professional counselors to donate their time to services for which they receive little to no financial compensation. The incorporation of SLPs could provide an opportunity to fulfill this ethical obligation while training students and connecting with the community. A dearth of literature exists as to specific counselor education service learning efforts. Of the few results, many are focused on pre-practicum level SLPs (Barbee et al., 2003; Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009), pedagogical tools woven into the multicultural and diversity-based courses (Burnett et al., 2004; Nikels et al., 2007), and group leadership training (Bjornestad et al., 2016; Midgett et al., 2016). Alvarado and Gonzalez (2013) studied the impact of an SLP on pre-practicum–level counseling students and found that students reported an increase in their confidence in using the core counseling skills and a deeper connection with the community outside of the university setting. Havlik et al. (2016) explored the effect SLPs had on CITs and found similar themes to Alvarado and Gonzalez, particularly that of raised levels of confidence in the ability to use the core counseling skills.

In other counselor education–related studies, researchers also reported positive impacts of service learning. One such impact was that of raised student self-efficacy (Barbee et al., 2003; Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009; Murray et al., 2006). An added and practical benefit for students has also been a greater understanding and familiarity of the roles and settings of professional counselors and a deepened understanding of counselors’ roles within professional agencies. Students were able to examine their own professional interests prior to practicum work and participate in valuable networking experiences with other professionals (Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009).

An increased compassion for the population with whom they work has been reported (Arnold & McMurtery, 2011) as a result of service learning. Burnett et al. (2005) reported increased counselor self-awareness, which is an important component of counselor education, regardless of delivery method, program accreditation, or instructor pedagogy. They also reported a component of a successful service learning course to be peer-learning. Peer-learning involves the giving and receiving of feedback, and this provides a foundation for experiences of group supervision feedback later in counseling programs (Burnett et al., 2005). A frequent reported result of participation in service learning has been increased multicultural competence and social justice awareness on the part of the student (Burnett et al., 2004; Lee & Kelley Petersen, 2018; Lee & McAdams, 2019; Shannonhouse et al., 2018). In short, the incorporation of SLPs would benefit counselor educators in developing desired qualities in beginning counselors while giving them opportunities to network and more fully integrate material.

Integrating Service Learning Into Counselor Education

Freire (2000) espoused that education should inspire students to become active and engaged members of the classroom in order to develop a deeper critical consciousness of society. Keeping Freire’s goal in mind, counselor educators could utilize service learning to bridge the divide that exists between the “ivory tower” and communities outside of academia. Counselors are called to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world clients and to be advocates for those whose voices are silenced because of various forms of oppression (ACA, 2014; CACREP, 2015; Ratts et al., 2016). Through participation in SLPs, students are able to see firsthand the effects of oppression and assist with creating solutions; often, the projects chosen contain an element of social justice (George, 2015). Furthermore, SLPs woven into coursework may provide the opportunity for students to begin finding their voices as advocates and activists in a supportive environment, where peers are available to assist with potential problems that may arise.

By encouraging CITs to participate in SLPs earlier and often within their graduate education, students may have more opportunities to engage with diverse populations and to experience community environments and sociopolitical influences faced by different groups. The focus of clinical work during the practicum and internship phases of counselor education typically emphasizes counselor skill development and client progress rather than community-focused perspectives (Barbee et al., 2003; Jett & Delgado-Romero, 2009). Thus, by incorporating SLPs into regular coursework, students may feel freer to engage holistically in a community system rather than focus narrowly on their own counseling skill development and individual client progress. For all SLPs, there is the potential for students to experience the project components as challenging to complete. In this situation, students may be redirected to identify and analyze barriers to the success of the project and to identify strategies for eliminating those barriers.

Gehlert et al. (2014) argued that SLPs can also serve as potential gatekeeping tools. They posited that by engaging with individuals outside of the classroom experience, especially earlier than the practicum stage, students might decide for themselves that the counseling profession is not the right choice for their career (Gehlert et al., 2014). They further contended that utilizing SLPs early in students’ programs of study will allow the opportunity for faculty to identify students who might be in need of remediation plans before they are working with clients (Gehlert et al., 2014).

Counselors are urged to be advocates for the profession and for clients (ACA, 2014). Service learning may function as a natural initiation into that identity (Manis, 2012; Toporek & Worthington, 2014) and could possibly provide a bridge between an identity as a counselor and that of a counselor advocate. Another potential benefit of service learning is that students may be able to gain knowledge as to the realities of the profession beyond specific contact hour requirements to satisfy internship and licensure requirements. This could prove helpful as a gatekeeping tool as well. Students who find themselves disliking significant aspects of the profession might choose to leave the program without requiring faculty intervention.

Experiences of SLPs can be distilled into poster presentations or conference presentations. In this context, SLPs benefit both CITs and counselor educators, as professional development can occur for both. For students, conferences can be valuable networking opportunities, and for counselor educators, conference-related activities fall under required professional development (ACA, 2014; CACREP, 2015). Experiences could also serve as the foundation for manuscripts and research projects, both of which are considered professional development.

Service Learning Opportunities Within Specific Counseling Content Areas

CACREP (2015) provides counselor educators with standards for training that can be used to facilitate course development, learning objectives, and class assignments. Several core content areas within a CACREP-aligned counseling curriculum may offer instructors and students the chance to engage in SLPs. Because little information currently exists regarding best practices for service learning within counselor education, the authors created example SLPs that are based on CACREP standards and rooted in the relevant content area literature. These are designed to facilitate the development of advocacy skills in a variety of environments. It should be noted that with any SLP, it is important for counselor educators to engage in continued monitoring of projects and student placements. Given that SLPs provide a reciprocal benefit for both students and the community, it is important to ensure everyone involved is experiencing ongoing added value. Therefore, counselor educators are encouraged to create and maintain relationships with stakeholders for feedback throughout the SLP and to make adjustments as necessary.

Professional Orientation and Ethical Practice

Licensure remains an important topic within the counseling profession (Bergman, 2013; Bobby, 2013) and professional counselors are now able to obtain licensure in all states (Bergman, 2013; Urofsky, 2013). In order to become more familiar with state licensure policies and procedures, an SLP might involve student interviews with a member of the state licensure board and reflection upon that experience through a written journal entry. Questions posed to the board member could range from the practical aspects of obtaining a license in their state to the broader implications of ethical issues the board encounters. Student findings could then be utilized to develop a project involving the entire class in which students brainstorm ideas about what assistance the board might need in terms of outreach or advocacy. Examples could include barriers to licensure because of cost or English as a second language (making the testing aspect of obtaining licensure difficult). Students and faculty could use class time deciding what action to take and then implement and assess their plan.

Another example of an SLP that falls under this core content area is for students to volunteer time (e.g., 6 hours or more over a semester) assisting their state branch of ACA. An important aspect of the profession of counseling is involvement with relevant policy and legislation (Bergman, 2013). Students interested in getting involved in this area could spend time working with the lobbyist for their state’s ACA branch (provided the state has retained a lobbyist) in order to assist them in advocating for the profession. Simple tasks such as assisting with office work can be of significant help to one working in a high-stress position and can prepare students for the realities of clinical work. State and federal government have a significant role in shaping the profession (Bergman, 2013), and because of this, counselor educators can utilize service learning in order to inspire students to become involved early in their careers.

Should the state ACA branch not have retained a lobbyist, students can work with branch leadership in order to determine barriers. Perhaps costs are prohibitive, in which case students could help with fundraising efforts and outreach. Encouraging master’s students to take interest in policy and legislation pertaining to the profession will give them the foundation for making meaningful change and assisting with social justice efforts (Cipolle, 2010; Bergman, 2013).

Social and Cultural Diversity

Much of the existing literature regarding service learning and counselor education focuses on social and cultural diversity with regards to SLPs (Burnett et al., 2004). Philosophically, SLPs align with the aims and scope of the MSJCC (Ratts et al., 2016). Frequently, course assignments contain a cultural immersion project in order for counselors to encounter experiences in which their personal values might cause a conflict when working with clients (Burnett et al., 2004; Canfield et al., 2009). Service learning experiences could easily augment the student learning process within multicultural or diversity courses by helping students experience cultural immersion, which may foster greater compassion, empathy, and cultural sensitivity (Cipolle, 2010; Burnett et al., 2004).

One possibility for a social and cultural diversity–focused SLP would involve students working at a shelter for homeless populations or a center for refugees. Students could also find an organization that serves a minority or oppressed population and partner with them to help fill a need they are experiencing. Students would therefore gain experience working with people from groups with whom they may have limited prior experience. This can assist with students identifying their own privileges prior to working in the counseling setting. Ideally, students would contact the shelter or center at the start of the semester in order to ascertain the exact needs of the agency.

An additional SLP could focus on assisting an organization that advocates for minority or oppressed populations. This also emphasizes gaining experience with diverse populations; however, students would have more freedom in choosing the specific population and could gain more experience in understanding the systems involved in advocacy work. Ideally, the instructor would encourage students to choose organizations in which the student is challenged by their privileges (e.g., not being identified as a member of the population served). Through this project, students have the opportunity to work with a wider variety of individuals and help to bring about social change via their specific project goals. For instance, students could choose a women’s health center that has experienced a decline in attendance. The students might investigate and discover a particular city bus route was discontinued, making transportation to the health center difficult for residents. Students might then partner with various organizations with van access (such as churches) and raise money for weekly transportation in and out of the area.

Career Development

Within the career development area of the CACREP core curriculum, students have the possibility of learning about their own careers and the impact careers have on the lives of clients. Examples of SLPs can include opportunities for students to immerse themselves within various aspects of career development. Several SLPs could come from partnering with a local employment agency. Students could discover barriers to employment for members of the local community and implement a project to alleviate some of those barriers. For example, students might discover a lack of late-night childcare in their community, which affects those working during the evening and night. They might implement a project in which university students provide childcare for a reasonable cost to the parents, making finding employment easier. If liability issues make this too difficult, students could focus their attention on fundraising to hire more qualified individuals to provide the childcare.

As mental health and wellness are primary foci of professional counselors (ACA, 2014; CACREP, 2015), a second potential SLP assignment related to career development could be for students to partner with a local business and provide mental health and wellness screenings, and education via seminars or workshops. Ideally, students would familiarize themselves with the company insurance (or lack thereof) and prepare referrals and resources accordingly. Workshops and seminars could be an avenue for educating employees and the community at large about wellness, prevention, and good mental health. These could be delivered via “brown bag lunches” or more formal trainings for employees.

Helping Relationships

As CITs progress though counselor education programs, it might be helpful for them to discover new ways to employ their skills in helping relationships outside of counseling sessions. Much of the aforementioned scholarship exploring service learning within counselor education discovered an increase in self-efficacy with respect to core counseling skills as a result of participating in SLPs (Alvarado & Gonzalez, 2013; Havlik et al., 2016). An SLP suitable for this core curriculum could be to partner with a suicide prevention agency and provide assistance where needed. For example, students might work on a suicide hotline or provide referrals for people in distress, utilizing their relationship-building skills and reflective listening while learning about suicide assessment or prevention efforts within the community. Of course, it is important to consider students’ level of development and readiness to work with individuals who are suicidal. Counselor educators should ensure there are appropriate supports and supervision for students in these settings. A related project could be for school counseling students to partner with such an organization to create a developmentally appropriate suicide education presentation for high school–age children and deliver it to area schools.

Another SLP focused on the helping relationship might involve students seeking non-counseling placements at local counseling agencies or private practice settings. Ideally, students would have the opportunity to immerse themselves in many elements of practice without having a focus on accruing direct client contact hours. Spending time at an agency before practice might provide students with opportunities to learn many aspects of the profession and the operations of the agency, which in turn could help students decide within which settings they would like to work. This project might also help inform students about potential barriers clients might face in accessing services. They could develop a plan for removing the barriers, which might include identifying potential sources of funding for the project (e.g., grants, scholarships, community donations) and providing an outline of how to access this funding. Another potential benefit to this project is that it could provide students with the opportunity to network within the local counseling community and connect agencies with potential interns.

Group Work

SLPs that correspond to group work can be similar to those under the helping relationships core curriculum. For example, students could partner with a local counseling agency that provides group counseling services. Students could determine if clients encounter any barriers to receiving group counseling and implement a plan for eliminating the barrier(s). A further example is perhaps if the agency has a group in which they would like to see more culturally relevant topics used in order to attract a more diverse group of clients. Students partnering with this agency could perform outreach to discover what clients would like to see at the group and any barriers, such as transportation, to attending this group. Another possibility for an SLP is for students to facilitate a group counseling experience for an agency or shelter for no cost to those participating in the group.


SLPs have the potential to enhance the learning experiences of students within graduate counselor education programs. Although not previously emphasized within counselor training, SLPs may be developed and implemented within a variety of core counseling content areas as suggested by CACREP (2015). From an advocacy and social justice perspective, SLPs also may provide students with multiple opportunities to experience the needs of clients and identify barriers to providing counseling services with diverse client populations. Ultimately, by utilizing SLPs, counselor educators can help foster CITs’ advocacy and social justice identities, preparing them for work as responsible citizens and effective counselors.


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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Kristen Arla Langellier, PhD, NCC, is an assistant professor at the University of South Dakota. Randall L. Astramovich, PhD, LCPC, is an associate professor at Idaho State University. Elizabeth A. Doughty Horn, PhD, LCPC, is a professor at Idaho State University. Correspondence may be addressed to Kristen Langellier, Division of Counseling and Psychology in Education, University of South Dakota, 414 E. Clark St., Vermillion, SD 57069,

Addictions Content Published in Counseling Journals: A 10-Year Content Analysis to Inform Research and Practice

Edward Wahesh, S. Elizabeth Likis-Werle, Regina R. Moro

This content analysis includes 210 articles that focused on addictions topics published between January 2005 and December 2014 in the journals of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), the American Counseling Association (ACA), and ACA member divisions. Results include the types of addictions content and behaviors studied as well as the populations and data analytic techniques used in the addictions research articles. Whereas most articles discussed addictions counseling techniques, addictions issues among non-clinical populations, and professional practice issues, fewer articles addressed clients in treatment, utilized clinical populations, or analyzed intervention outcomes. Implications for addictive behaviors and addictions counseling scholarship in professional counseling are discussed.

Keywords: addictive behaviors, addictions counseling, content analysis, NBCC, ACA

Professional counselors have an ethical obligation to be actively involved in continuing education in order to remain current on relevant professional issues and scientific information related to their client population and setting (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2014). Continuing education also is required by licensing and certification bodies for credential renewal. One way continuing education is achieved is through reading and contributing to peer-reviewed journal articles. Publications can expose professional counselors, counselor educators and counselors-in-training to new and innovative practices grounded in empirical research.

Professional journals represent “the repository of the accumulated knowledge of a field” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 9). A number of journals are produced by the major counseling certification and professional organizations, including The Professional Counselor, published by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy, published by Chi Sigma Iota International (CSI); and the Journal of Counseling & Development (JCD), which is the flagship journal of ACA. In addition to JCD, there are 20 journals published by ACA member divisions. ACA member division-sponsored journals publish articles that inform counseling practices and contribute to the body of research on topics that are salient to the particular settings, populations, interest areas, and issues associated with the division. An area that is relevant to most professional counselors, regardless of specialty area or setting, is addiction.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2014 there were an estimated 21.5 million Americans (8% of the population aged 12 or older) living with a substance use disorder (SUD; SAMHSA, 2015). It is likely that many individuals with SUDs also have other co-occurring mental health conditions. In fact, 2014 estimates suggest 7.9 million adults (i.e., 18 years and older) in the United States had both a past-year SUD and a mental illness diagnosis. Among adolescents, approximately 1.3 million reported a past-year SUD; 28.4% of these (over 300,000) had experienced a major depressive episode in the past year (SAMHSA, 2015).

While not all professional counselors will specialize in addictions counseling, given this prevalence it is likely counselors will need to provide services to individuals with an SUD (Chandler, Balkin, & Perepiczka, 2011; Harwood, Kowalski, & Ameen, 2004; Salyers, Ritchie, Cochrane, & Roseman, 2006). In addition, professional counselors are more than likely to come into contact with clients of any age who are impacted by someone else’s addiction (e.g., friend, family member). This may explain why the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2016) requires that all counselors-in-training, regardless of counseling specialty, learn about the theories and etiology of addictions. Salyers et al. (2006) found little consensus among CACREP-accredited programs in how addictions issues were addressed; in fact, when asked where substance abuse was covered in the curriculum, more than 25 different courses were listed by CACREP program representatives. Counselors-in-training learn about addictions in a variety of ways, such as by taking a course in addictions, encountering clients with addictive behaviors in practicum or internship, or learning about addictions in other courses. Since addictions-related training seems to occur throughout the counseling curriculum, all counselor educators, regardless of their particular area of specialty, should maintain an awareness of current trends in addictions science and theory.

Given that knowledge of addictive behaviors is an important aspect of professional counselor identity (CACREP, 2009; 2016), it is necessary that professional counselors have access to scientific information and practice-oriented resources on addiction that are consistent with the philosophical orientation of the profession. Whereas related professions, such as psychology, public health and social work, produce peer-reviewed publications on addictions and addictions treatment that can be utilized by professional counselors, these resources may not reflect the qualities that make professional counseling unique. Examining the state of the counseling literature on addictive behaviors and additions counseling can inform efforts to improve access to scientific information and evidence-based practices that represent the core philosophy of the counseling profession. Further, an assessment of available addictions research can help to shed light on the state of the counseling profession, as production of original research has been regarded as a standard for measuring the identity development of a profession (Mate & Kelly, 1997).

Research on trends in addictions publications in professional counseling is scarce. Moro, Wahesh, Likis-Werle, and Smith (2016) utilized content analysis to investigate the frequency and type of addictions content within a sample of Association for Counselor Education and Supervision  conference programs and four ACA-sponsored journals (JCD, Counselor Education and Supervision, Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation [CORE], and Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development) that appeal to counselor educators. These authors found that about 2% of conference sessions and articles between 2007 and 2011 addressed addictions counseling. Most of the articles identified in this analysis focused on treatment strategies, particularly among diverse populations. Although the study by Moro et al. is informative, it is limited in that it comprised a 5-year time period and included only a small subset of professional counseling journals. Examining all professional counseling journals during a lengthier time frame would provide professional counselors and researchers with a more comprehensive snapshot of what aspects of addictions theory, prevention, intervention and treatment have been discussed within the counseling literature. This information can be used to inform efforts to promote the production of research and publications that address specific areas of addiction that are currently lacking.

The purpose of the present study was to provide an overview of available literature on addictions topics in professional counseling journals published between January 2005 and December 2014. Moreover, the types of addictions content, addictive behaviors and addictions-related research were examined. The research questions that guided this study were: (1) To what extent do counseling journals address addictions topics? (2) What addictive behaviors and types of content were addressed? (3) How much addictions research was published in counseling journals? and (4) What types of populations and data analytic techniques were represented in this research?


Content analysis was utilized to address the research questions. This methodology was selected because content analysis is a systematic approach to summarize and make valid and replicable inferences from written communication (Krippendorff, 2013). A review of the literature shows that content analysis has served as a valuable methodology to identify publication trends over time and highlight attention on specific topics within the counseling profession. Content analysis has been used in the counseling literature to examine topics such as multicultural counseling (Arredondo, Rosen, Rice, Perez, & Tovar-Gamero, 2005), pedagogy in counselor education (Barrio Minton, Wachter Morris, & Yaites, 2014), and research in counseling (Ray et al., 2011). Studies by Barrio Minton et al. (2014), Arrendondo et al. (2005), and Ray et al. (2011) were of journal articles during a similar time frame as the present study (i.e., 10 years). Content analysis procedures used in this study include identifying articles, generating and refining the content analysis protocol, conducting a pretest, data collection, assessment of reliability and validity, and reporting the results.

The research team consisted of three professors and two master’s-level graduate students. The professors each possess a doctoral degree in counselor education and specialize in addictions counseling. Two professors identify as White females and one professor is a White male. The graduate assistants, both White females, hold bachelor’s degrees in psychology, completed a course in counseling research methods, and participated in a workshop on content analysis facilitated by the first author before joining the research team. The graduate assistants were responsible for searching for applicable articles using predetermined keywords and identifying the total number of articles for each journal during the time period; the three assistant professors (first, second, and third authors) participated in the search for articles as well as in the development of the content analysis protocol and coding process.

The Professional Counselor, published by NBCC, the Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy, published by CSI, and 21 ACA and ACA member division peer-reviewed journals (Table 1) were identified as having published articles on addictions between the years 2005 and 2014. Because the purpose of the study was to present a survey of all available articles on addictions content in professional counseling journals between 2005 and 2014, all journals were included in the analysis even if they were not in press during the entire 10-year period under analysis.

A set of keywords was generated to identify relevant articles to be used in the study. These keywords included: (a) general terms taken from the literature on addiction and addictions treatment (e.g., addiction, prevention, relapse, recovery, abstinence, co-morbidity, behavioral and process addictions, and mutual support groups); (b) terminology drawn from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), such as substance use disorders, dependence, intoxication, withdrawal, substance abuse and opioid maintenance; and (c) a list of drug classifications (and common pseudonyms) from the DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5, including alcohol (drinking), amphetamine, cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, hallucinogen, opioid, stimulant, gambling, inhalant, sedative, caffeine and nicotine (tobacco, smoking).

Two graduate assistants independently conducted electronic searches using PsycINFO, EBSCO and ERIC of the keywords, titles and abstracts of all articles (editorial statements, book reviews, errata and advertisements excluded) during the specified time period to identify relevant articles and provide the total number of articles published for each journal. Journals not indexed within these electronic databases were searched by reading the electronic version of each issue’s table of contents and article abstracts and keywords. Following this process, the first author met with the graduate assistants in order to reconcile any differences between their lists of applicable texts and total number of journal articles found. A preliminary list of 226 articles was identified and reviewed by each author to determine suitability for the study. Fifteen articles were removed from the analysis because they did not discuss addictions or addictions treatment; for example, two articles included the keyword “substance abuse” in the abstract, but not in the article itself. To maintain independence, one article was removed because it had been published twice.

The authors developed a content analysis protocol that included definitions and categories for each coding variable. To address research questions 1–3, the following variables were developed: (a) addiction-related content topic, (b) addictive behavior and (c) type of research article. In order to assess research question 4, (d) data analytic technique and (e) research population also were included as variables. Categories of each variable were initially developed by the authors based on their knowledge of the addictions literature as well as past content analysis research of counseling journals. The authors then pretested the protocol by coding 40 randomly selected articles within the sample (approximately 20%) to purify the coding scheme and conduct a preliminary assessment of coder agreement. Following this process, the authors met to refine existent category definitions, agree on the inclusion of additional variable categories and determine which variables would be single versus multiple classification. High inter-rater agreement (85% or higher) across all five study variables was observed among the three coders during the pilot phase. A pattern was not observed in the disagreements among the coders, suggesting that the framework possessed acceptable construct validity (Insch, Moore, & Murphy, 1997).

Once the protocol was refined, all articles were coded independently by two members of the research team (first, second, and third authors). Krippendorff’s alpha (Krippendorff, 2013), with a minimum acceptable value set at α = .80, was utilized to assess agreement among the coders. This coefficient was selected to capture inter-rater reliability because it estimates error in observed agreement attributable to chance and accounts for small sample sizes. Using a reliability measure designed for small samples was an important consideration because research question 4 relates only to a smaller subset of the sample used in the study. Further, the use of two coders for each article was to ensure that the total number of observations for each variable in this study exceeded the minimum number recommended by Krippendorff (2013) for an alpha value greater than .80 at the .01 level of significance (i.e., according to Krippendorff [2013] two coders would have to code at least 103 units). The “odd-man-out” procedure recommended by Insch et al. (1997), in which a third coder determined the final category when differences emerged, was used to reconcile disagreements between coders.

Coding Variables

Five variables were identified by coders in the study. All articles (N = 210) were coded utilizing three of the variables: addiction-related content topic, addictive behavior and type of research. Two variables were used to code research articles identified within the sample. Percentage of agreement (observed agreement [OA]) and Krippendorff’s alpha (α) were calculated for each variable.

Addiction-related content topic. The purpose of this variable was to identify the area of addictions counseling and research that the article addressed. Categories were initially drawn from content analyses by Ray et al. (2011) and Moro et al. (2016) and modified for the present study. Because the purpose of this variable was to identify the main content focus of the articles, a single classification system was used, which meant that coders were required to assign each article to one category. The use of a single classification system is recommended when coding variables that represent latent meaning and require greater interpretation by the coder (Insch et al., 1997). The variable included the following categories: approaches to counseling, professional practice, population variables, client variables, counselor variables, measurement, and effectiveness of counseling and preventative interventions (OA = 87.6%; α = .85). Approaches to counseling included articles that presented specific addictions-related counseling techniques, models or treatment programs. The professional practice issues category contained articles that described addiction-related counselor training, credentialing, ethics, diagnosis or trends in the field. Population variables included articles that described characteristics of a non-clinical population; the client variables category contained articles that addressed addictions or addictions counseling within a clinical population. Articles on the characteristics or perceptions of professional counselors were assigned to the counselor variables category. The measurement category included any article with a focus on instrument development, formal assessment or psychometrics. Effectiveness of counseling and preventative interventions represented articles that focused on evaluating an intervention or prevention program or technique.

Addictive behavior. This variable represented the types of addictive behavior addressed in the articles. Coders were instructed to record all addictive behaviors and substances described in each article (i.e., multiple classification) using a list of categories that included relevant keywords developed by the researchers for the text search. If a specific type of behavior or substance was not discussed, coders labeled the article as general substance use. Categories representing specific behaviors and substances included: general substance use, alcohol, nicotine, opioids, cannabis, stimulants, ecstasy and behavioral addictions (OA = 95%; α = .90).

Type of research. Each article was coded as non-research, qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods (OA = 98.5%; α = .98). Classifications were based on past content analysis research of counseling journals (Moro et al., 2016; Ray et al., 2011), and coders were required to assign each article to one category. Articles that were assigned to the three research categories (i.e., qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods) were used to address research question 4.

Data analysis. All research articles were coded in order to determine the types of data analytics used by the authors. The coding variable included 15 categories (i.e., descriptive statistics, regression analysis, theme analysis and coding, chi-square test, multivariate analysis of variance/multivariate analysis of covariance, correlation, analysis of variance/analysis of covariance, structural equation modeling, t-test, confirmatory factor analysis, exploratory factor analysis, other nonparametric test, discriminant analysis, canonical analysis, and cluster analysis), and coders were instructed to assign each article to multiple categories when appropriate (e.g., case where a single research article included multiple types of analysis; multiple classification). The scheme for grouping different types of data analysis was based on a framework by Erford et al. (2011) in their content analysis of articles published in JCD. Percentage of agreement among coders in the present study was 82.4% and α = .79. Because inter-rater reliability is slightly below the recommended minimum of .80 (Krippendorff, 2013), readers are encouraged to interpret these results with caution.

Research population. The various populations examined in the research articles were recorded using this variable (OA = 91%; α = .88). Because an article could potentially include multiple populations (e.g., African American, male, college students), coders were instructed to code each article with as many categories as necessary (i.e., multiple classification). When coding, research team members used a preliminary list of possible categories derived from several previous content analysis studies of counseling journals (Byrd, Crockett, & Erford, 2012; Smith, Ng, Brinson, & Mityagin, 2008). This resulted in 11 discrete categories: undergraduates, children and adolescents, adults (non-college, 18 years and older), families, men only, women only, clients in addictions treatment, addictions professionals, counseling students, multicultural populations and LGBT populations. To improve the conciseness of the findings, several smaller categories were combined to create the multicultural populations category. A twelfth category was designated for articles that did not include a research sample.


Research Question 1: To What Extent Do Counseling Journals Address Addictions Topics?

Table 1 provides a listing of counseling journals as well as the number of addictions-related articles in relationship to total publication. The percentage of the total number of addictions-related articles in comparison to total number of published articles was 4.5%. As expected, the Journal of Addiction & Offender Counseling (JAOC) published the highest percentage of addictions articles (76.1%). The journal with the next highest percentage of addictions articles was the Journal of Military and Government Counseling (13.8%), followed by the Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling (9.6%), the Journal of College Counseling (8.6%), and CORE (8.3%). Six journals published less than 1% of their articles on addictions: The Career Development Quarterly (0.0%), Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy (0.0%), Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology (0.0%), Counselor Education and Supervision  (0.5%), Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development (0.5%), and Professional School Counseling (0.9%).

The authors also examined the first research question by calculating the percentage of addictions-related articles during each year of publication. The number and percentage of addictions articles published for each year is as follows: 2005 (n = 18; 4.0%), 2006 (n = 20; 4.5%), 2007 (n = 20; 4.7%), 2008 (n = 14; 3.0%), 2009 (n = 17; 3.9%), 2010 (n = 21; 4.5%), 2011 (n = 30; 6.3%), 2012 (n = 30; 6.4%), 2013 (n = 20; 4.0%), and 2014 (n = 20; 4.7%). The percentage of addictions articles remained relatively stable during this period; however, a slight increase in the percentage of articles published on addictions was observed in 2011 and 2012.

Research Question 2: What Types of Addictive Behaviors and Content Topics Were Addressed?

All seven categories included in the addiction-related content topic variable were represented in the data. The highest number of addictions articles focused on population variables (n = 57; 27%), or addictions issues within non-clinical groups. The content topics approaches to counseling (n = 43; 20%) and professional practice issues (n = 39; 19%) were the second and third most represented categories. Fewer addiction-related articles were published on the following content topics: client variables (n = 20; 10%), measurement (n = 18; 9%), effectiveness of counseling and preventative interventions (n = 17; 8%), and counselor variables (n = 16; 7%).

Additional analysis revealed that among the 18 articles in the measurement category, 14 different assessment instruments were represented. Whereas most instruments (n = 10) were discussed in only one article each, the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory-3 (SASSI-3; Miller & Lazowski, 1999) was included in eight of the articles in this category. Three instruments were included in two articles: the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey (Core Institute, 1994), CAGE questionnaire (Ewing, 1984) and the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (Selzer, 1971). Further, additional analysis of the effectiveness of counseling and preventative interventions category found that only four articles addressed prevention; three of these articles discussed a similar intervention to prevent college student drinking and one presented findings of an evaluation of a school-based substance abuse prevention program.

Table 1

Addiction Articles in Professional Counseling Journals, 2005–2014


No. of Addiction Articles Found

No. of Total
Possible Articles

% Addiction to No. of Total

The Professional Counselor




Journal of Counselor Leadership & Advocacy




Journal of Counseling & Development




Adultspan Journal




The Career Development Quarterly




Counseling and Values




Counselor Education and Supervision




Journal of Addiction & Offender Counseling




Journal of College Counseling




Journal of Employment Counseling




Journal of Humanistic Counseling




Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development




Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation




The Family Journal




Journal of Creativity in Mental Health




Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling




Journal of Mental Health Counseling




Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology




The Journal for Specialists in Group Work




Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development




Professional School Counseling




Rehabilitation Counseling




Journal of Military and Government Counseling








Note. The first issue of The Professional Counselor was published in 2011; Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation was first published in June 2010; Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling was first published in October 2008; Journal for Social Action in Counseling was first published in April 2007; Journal of Creativity in Mental Health was first published in September 2007; the first issue of Journal of Military and Government Counseling was published in January 2013; the first issue of the Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy was published in 2014.


The addictive behavior coding variable also was used to assess this research question. General substance use was by far the most represented addictive behavior in the articles (n = 142; 68%), followed by alcohol consumption (n = 46; 22%) and behavioral addictions (n = 11; 5%). Specific substances were addressed in fewer articles: nicotine (n = 8; 4%), opioids (n = 4; 2%), stimulants (n = 4; 2%), cannabis (n = 3; 1%) and ecstasy (n = 1; 0.5%). The total values exceed the actual number of research articles included in the analysis because some articles addressed more than one addictive behavior. In the behavioral addictions category, sex addiction was addressed in three articles, three articles included a general discussion of behavioral addictions, and addictions to gambling, gaming, Internet, self-injury and food were each mentioned once.

Research Question 3: How Much Addictions Research Was Published in Counseling Journals?

This research question was addressed using the type of research coding variable. Approximately 60% of addictions-related articles (n = 127) were original research. Among these articles, 82% were quantitative (n = 104) and 13% were qualitative (n = 17). Mixed methods was the smallest category (n = 6), representing 5% of all addictions research. Articles coded as “non-research” (n = 83) included innovative methods papers, professional practice papers, interviews, and literature reviews on topics such as counseling theory and special populations.

Research Question 4: What Types of Populations and Data Analytic Techniques Are Represented in the Addictions Research?

Research population and data analysis were the coding variables used to assess this research question. Table 2 lists the various types of participants used in the addictions-related research articles. The most common population examined was adults (n = 49; 40%), or individuals (18 years and older) not enrolled in college, followed by undergraduates (n = 36; 29%) and addictions professionals (n = 26; 21%). The total values exceed the actual number of research articles included into the analysis because some articles included more than one population. The multicultural populations category represented a number of ethnic groups including African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans, as well as a sample of participants in Korea. Three articles were not included in this analysis because they did not involve research with human subjects (e.g., content analysis of substance use screenings).

Table 2 Types of Participants Used in Addictions Research Articles
Population Count








Addictions Professionals



Clients in Addictions Treatment



LGBT Populations



Children and Adolescents



Multicultural Populations



Men Only






Women Only



Counseling Students



Note. Three articles were removed because they did not include human subjects (n = 124). Some articles include more than one population. Therefore, the total values may exceed the actual number of research articles accepted into the analysis.

All 15 data analytic techniques were represented within the addiction-related research articles (Table 3). Descriptive statistics (n = 34; 27%), regression analysis (n = 31; 24%) and theme analysis/coding (n = 22; 17%) were the most used techniques. Data strategies less likely to be utilized include discriminant analysis (n = 4; 3%), canonical analysis (n = 3; 2%) and cluster analysis (n = 1; 1%). The total values exceed the actual number of research articles included in the analysis because some articles utilized more than one data analysis strategy.

Table 3 Type of Data Analysis Used in Addictions Research Articles
Data Analytic Procedure



Descriptive Statistics



Regression Analysis



Theme Analysis/Coding



Chi-Square Test












Structural Equation Modeling






Confirmatory Factor Analysis



Exploratory Factor Analysis



Other Nonparametric



Discriminant Analysis



Canonical Analysis



Cluster Analysis



Note. Some articles used more than one procedure. Therefore, the total values may exceed the actual number of research articles accepted into the analysis (n = 127). MANOVA = multivariate analysis of variance; MANCOVA = multivariate analysis of covariance; ANOVA = analysis of variance; ANCOVA = analysis of covariance.


Articles published in 23 professional counseling journals between January 2005 and December 2014 were examined to assess the scope with which addictions were represented in the professional counseling literature. Overall, 210 (4.5%) of the 4,640 articles published addressed addictions content. Not surprisingly, JAOC, a publication sponsored by the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors, contained the most articles on addictions. It also is noteworthy that several journals with higher percentages of addictions articles were launched within the period of time the analysis was conducted (e.g., Journal of Military and Government Counseling and Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling). The introduction of these journals may suggest that increased attention is being given to addictions issues or, at the very least, to populations that are more vulnerable to experiencing the consequences of addictive behaviors.

The higher percentage of articles in 2011 and 2012 may have been associated with changes to addictions-related professional training and diagnostic considerations that occurred around these years. In 2009, CACREP introduced an addictions counseling specialty area and added language in their standards requiring all students to learn about the etiology, prevention and treatment of addictions; therefore, it is possible that during the years following these changes, there was an increased interest in the teaching of addictions content to counselors-in-training. Alternatively, the revised formulation for the diagnosis of SUD in the DSM-5, published in 2013, also may have contributed to the increase in addictions articles. Leading up to the publication of the DSM-5 there may have been greater discussion as to how addictive disorders are conceptualized and assessed.

The most common type of article published addressed addiction-related issues within non-clinical populations; fewer articles focused on topics specific to individuals receiving addictions counseling. Even fewer articles included research on outcomes of prevention and counseling interventions. The presence of only four articles in the sample (1.9%) that assessed the efficacy of prevention efforts is concerning given that prevention has been found to be a key facet of professional counselor identity (Mellin, Hunt, & Nichols, 2011) and is considered by CACREP (2016) as “foundational knowledge” (p. 8) for all counseling professionals. This discrepancy may suggest that despite being regarded as an important component of professional training and identity, little is actually done pertaining to prevention practice and research by professional counselors.

Although relatively few articles in the sample included addictions outcomes research, it is promising that CORE was established by the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling  in 2010 as a venue for outcomes research and program evaluation findings (Hays, 2010). Since the inception of CORE, its publication of addiction research has resulted in it being one of the top five journals in our study publishing on addiction topics.

Among the assessment instruments in articles that focused on addictions-related measurement issues, the SASSI-3 (Miller & Lazowski, 1999) was the most commonly discussed. The amount of attention given to the use of the SASSI-3 appears to be warranted considering the popularity of this instrument among professional counselors and clinical mental health counselors in particular. In a national survey of counselor assessment practices by Peterson, Lomas, Neukrug, and Bonner (2014), the SASSI-3 was the highest ranked test of addictive behaviors among all professional counselors. Among clinical mental health counselors, it was the third highest ranked inventory overall, behind the Beck inventories for depression and anxiety. Further, Neukrug, Peterson, Bonner, and Lomas (2013) found that more than three-quarters of counselor educators who teach assessment use the SASSI-3 in their courses. Despite the widespread use of the SASSI-3, it does have its limitations; the SASSI-3 can be cost prohibitive for some clients and requires that those who use it receive specialized training. As a result, examining the psychometric properties of other instruments, specifically measures that are free or more cost effective and do not require specialized training to interpret, seems prudent.

The limited number of articles addressing specific types of addictive behaviors is problematic. Although common physiological and psychosocial processes exist across all addictive behaviors, there also are unique factors associated with the etiology, prevention and treatment of the various drug classifications and behavioral addictions (Brooks & McHenry, 2015). Indeed, prevention and intervention efficacy often correlate with information tailored to each need. In light of the current opioid and prescription drug epidemic—a 137% increase in drug overdose deaths and 200% increase in opioid deaths from 2000 to 2014 (Rudd, Aleshire, Zibbell, & Gladden, 2016)—examining the prevention and treatment of this specific classification of substances would be a prudent area of research.

Analysis of addictions-related research revealed that nearly two-thirds of all articles in the sample represented original empirical research. This is higher than what Ray et al. (2011) found in their content analysis of 15 counseling journals in print between 1998 and 2007; these authors found that approximately one in three articles published included original research. These findings suggest that despite addictions not being a topic commonly discussed across counseling journals, there may be greater attention to conducting research on addictive behaviors by counseling researchers. Or, this may reflect an overall trend among counseling journals to publish research since the final year (2007) of the content analysis conducted by Ray et al. (2011). The level of sophistication of data analysis in the articles in this sample is comparable to findings from past content analyses of long term publication trends in specific counseling journals; for instance, descriptive statistical techniques were among the most commonly used methods of analysis in JCD (Erford et al., 2011) and Journal of College Counseling (Byrd et al., 2012).

One of the most commonly used groups in addictions research was college students, which may indicate an over-reliance on the use of convenience sampling across institutions of higher education. A concerning trend observed in the data was that addictions professionals were utilized more as research participants than were clients in addictions treatment. Greater attention to understanding individuals who are enrolled in treatment can help researchers and professional counselors identify successful ways to tailor and personalize counseling interventions to fit the needs of specific client populations. In addition, although several articles used diverse populations, fewer studies examined addictions issues among discrete groups of men and women only. Moreover, twice as many articles were found that focused on men compared to women only. Additional research examining gender differences is necessary considering that men and women face unique issues related to the development and treatment of addictive behaviors (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2015).


The findings of this study should be viewed within the context of several limitations. An advantage of content analysis is that it can be used to help organize and summarize large quantities of information; however, by assigning each individual article to a category, it is possible that some distinctive characteristics of the articles in the sample may have been lost or trivialized (Riffe, Lacy, & Fico, 2014). In addition, the process of creating categories for the articles is researcher-driven and, even though efforts were made to develop the coding framework using the available literature, it is possible that different researchers would not have created the same levels of the study variables.

Other limitations relate to data collection and the coding process. Since the purpose of the present study was to analyze articles that focused on addictions, the sample was developed through a review of journal titles, abstracts and keywords only—an approach utilized in previous content analyses of specific topics within the counseling literature (Barrio Minton et al., 2014; Evans, 2013). In the unlikely event that an article focusing on addictions did not include one of the search terms in these three areas, it would not have been included in this study. Also, this study did not include articles in counseling journals that are affiliated with regional or statewide counseling organizations, such as The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, published by the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, or the Virginia Counselors Journal, which is the journal of the Virginia Counseling Association. The authors chose to restrict their data collection to include only journals produced by NBCC, CSI, ACA and ACA member divisions because they believed that a content analysis of articles sampled from these national publications would provide a general overview of the addictions-related content discussed throughout the counseling literature.

Although inter-rater agreement among coders for most variables was satisfactory, reliability for coding the data analysis variable was lower than the minimal acceptable threshold suggested by Krippendorff (2013). Possible reasons for low concordance include the number of categories for this variable and the inconsistencies in how data analytic techniques were described within the various articles in the sample. Finally, as this study presented an overview of the types of addictions-related articles published in counseling journals, the quality of the publications was not evaluated during the coding process. This may be a possible next step for counseling researchers that could yield more rigor and, subsequently, evidence-based practices for addictions prevention and counseling.

Implications for Professional Counselors

According to the ACA Code of Ethics (2014), “Counselors have a responsibility to the public to engage in counseling practices that are based on rigorous research methodologies” (Section C, p. 8). When addressing issues related to addictive behaviors, professional counselors have a modest yet relatively diverse literature available to help guide their practice. Despite the fact that a large number of articles in the sample described approaches to addictions counseling, many of these papers were conceptual in nature and did not include original empirical research to assess counseling outcomes. To better assist professional counselors in using research-informed approaches, it is necessary for greater attention to be given by counselor educators and researchers to producing addictions-related intervention research and program evaluations.

The limited number of articles that evaluated treatment approaches also may represent a more endemic issue in counseling and counselor education. Many professional counselors report not feeling adequately prepared to operationalize and measure client outcomes, despite recognizing the need for these skills in their work (Peterson, Hall, & Buser, 2016). Although these skills have been identified as key research competencies in counselor education (Wester & Borders, 2014), it is unclear how these competencies are addressed in entry-level and doctoral research curricula. Researchers may wish to examine the ways in which professional counselors and counselor educators learn how to evaluate treatment outcomes. This may help inform the development of new pedagogical strategies that lead to an increased production of outcomes research on approaches to counseling and prevention in counseling journals.

In addition to a call for research on counseling outcomes, it also seems apparent that there is a need for more sophisticated research questions and hypotheses in research conducted on addictive behaviors. Addiction is a multifaceted phenomenon that involves the interplay of multiple biological, psychological and social determinants (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2011); therefore, the use of descriptive statistics or univariate procedures may not capture the complexities of how addictive behaviors are initiated, maintained and extinguished. The use of more sophisticated data analytic techniques by researchers may help address this issue. Structural equation modeling can be utilized to simultaneously test the fit of an explanatory model of addictive behavior comprised of multiple independent and dependent variables. For example, Wahesh, Lewis, Wyrick, and Ackerman (2015) utilized structural equation modeling to evaluate the fit of a mediational model of collegiate drinking that included multiple determinants of alcohol use. Alternatively, qualitative methods can be used by researchers to provide an in-depth understanding of how various interpersonal, social and cultural variables shape individual behavior (Likis-Werle & Borders, 2017).

One way that counseling journals can increase the publication of articles that address specific issues related to addiction is by offering a special issue or section on these topics. Journal editors can develop a call for papers that focus on addictions-related issues salient to their publication’s readership. Depending on the particular journal’s audience, this can include examining prevention, a specific classification of addictive behaviors, or intervention outcomes, areas that were not well represented in the current sample of articles. For example, in 2011 CORE dedicated a special section (Volume 2, Issue 1) to substance abuse outcome research and measures. The use of special issues or sections across counseling journals can ensure that professional counselors have access to information that is germane to their work. JAOC may seem like a natural venue for topics related to addictions in counseling; however, that perception is problematic because JAOC is geared toward addictions and offender counselors, making it possible that the particular populations studied, findings and implications in articles published in this journal are not as relevant to professional counselors in other settings.

Although journal articles represent an important source of professional development, it is possible that professional counselors utilize other venues for continuing education. Future researchers can examine continuing education practices of counselors to determine the particular sources of education and whether or not the information provided through these venues is consistent with the typical scope of practice and professional identify of the counseling profession. Relatedly, it also seems necessary to determine where else counseling researchers and counselor educators publish their research on addictions counseling. While counselor educators in CACREP-accredited programs are expected to demonstrate scholarly activity in counseling (CACREP, 2016), it is possible that some addictions counselor educators publish in journals outside of counseling that specialize in addictions or have higher impact factors. Journal impact factors are a method of determining a journal’s significance in comparison to other journals in the field. Some counselor educators may seek to publish in journals with a more favorable impact factor for evaluation purposes related to faculty tenure and promotion (Fernando & Barrio Minton, 2011). Assessing author publication trends by reviewing the curriculum vitae of addictions counselor educators can help identify the journals in which they most frequently publish. Examining these trends can identify the types of addictions-related research and other scholarly work that are being produced by counselor educators and counseling researchers but are not appearing in counseling journals.

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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Edward Wahesh, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at Villanova University. S. Elizabeth Likis-Werle is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University. Regina R. Moro, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Edward Wahesh, Villanova University, Education and Counseling (SAC 302), 800 E. Lancaster Avenue, Villanova, PA 19085,