Research on International Counseling Students in Selected Counseling Journals: A 16-Year Content Analysis

Byeolbee Um, Lindsay Woodbridge, Susannah M. Wood

This content analysis examined articles on international counseling students published in selected counseling journals between 2006 and 2021. Results of this study provide an overview of 18 articles, including publication trends, methodological designs, and content areas. We identified three major themes from multiple categories, including professional practices and development, diverse challenges, and personal and social resources. Implications for counseling researchers and counselor education programs to increase understanding and support for international counseling students are provided.

Keywords: international counseling students, counseling journals, content analysis, publication trends, counseling researchers

International counseling students (ICSs) can be defined as individuals from outside the United States who seek professional training by enrolling in counselor education programs in the United States. After graduation, they often keep contributing to the counseling field as professional counselors or counselor educators, either in the United States or their home countries (Behl et al., 2017). In 2021, non-resident international students accounted for 1.02% of master’s students and 3.81% of doctoral students in counseling programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2022). However, because these percentages do not include international students who have resident alien status in the United States (Karaman et al., 2018), the actual numbers of international students in counseling programs may be higher. Despite the underestimated number of ICSs in CACREP-accredited programs, Ng (2006) found that at least one international student was enrolled in 41% of CACREP-accredited programs, which suggested that many counselor education programs already had some degree of global cultural diversity. Considering that the number of ICSs in the United States has risen within a few decades (CACREP, 2022; Ng, 2006), additional research is needed on this population and how best to prepare them for professional practice.

 Research on International Students in Counseling Programs
     While in training, ICSs, like domestic students, experience pressure to perform across academic, practical, and personal contexts (Thompson et al., 2011). However, ICSs face the additional challenges of adapting to a new culture and practicing counseling in that culture (Ju et al., 2020; Kuo et al., 2021; Ng & Smith, 2009). These challenges stem from having varying levels of experience using English in an academic context, adapting to new sociocultural and interpersonal patterns, and navigating key clinical factors of counselor education such as supervision and therapeutic relationships (Jang et al., 2014; C. Li et al., 2018; Y. Mori et al., 2009). Researchers have found that ICSs perceive more barriers and concerns regarding their training, such as academic problems and role ambiguity in supervision (Akkurt et al., 2018; Ng & Smith, 2009).

Regarding the experiences of ICSs, researchers have paid scholarly attention to the concept of acculturation, which is the assimilation process an individual experiences in response to the psychological, social, and cultural forces they are exposed to in a new dominant culture (C. Li et al., 2018; Ng & Smith, 2012). According to counseling studies, ICSs’ levels of acculturation and acculturative stress were associated with several variables related to their professional development, including counseling self-efficacy, language anxiety, and diverse academic and life needs (Behl et al., 2017; Interiano-Shiverdecker et al., 2019; C. Li et al., 2018). For example, Interiano-Shiverdecker et al. (2019) found that two domains of acculturation—ethnic identity and individualistic values—were positively associated with counseling self-efficacy for international counseling master’s students. Researchers have also uncovered the potential issues ICSs can experience related to a lack of acculturation: Behl et al. (2017) found that students’ acculturative stress was positively associated with their academic, social, cultural, and language needs.

With goals of uncovering effective coping strategies and identifying characteristics of high-quality training environments, researchers have investigated the personal and academic experiences of ICSs (Lau & Ng, 2012; Nilsson & Wang, 2008; Park et al., 2017; Woo et al., 2015). Woo and colleagues (2015) identified several coping tools of ICSs. These tools included self-directed strategies such as engaging in reflection and keeping up with the latest literature, support from mentors, and networking among international students and graduates (Woo et al., 2015). Researchers have attended to strategies that support ICSs’ development of cultural competence and commitment to social justice (Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010; Karaman et al., 2018; Ng & Smith, 2012). For example, Delgado-Romero and Wu (2010) piloted a social justice group intervention with six Asian ICS participants and found the intervention to be a useful way to empower students and enhance their critical consciousness about inequity.

Supervision has been another area of focus in ICS research. Through interviews and surveys of ICSs, researchers have identified supervision strategies that support ICSs’ developing cultural competence, professional development, and self-efficacy (Mori et al., 2009; Ng & Smith, 2012; Park et al., 2017). A shared theme across these studies is the importance of clear communication. Findings of two studies (Mori et al., 2009; Ng & Smith, 2012) support supervisors engaging ICS supervisees in communication about critical topics such as cultural differences and the purpose and expectations of supervision. Based on a consensual qualitative analysis of interviews with 10 ICS participants, Park et al. (2017) recommended that programs and supervisors make sure to share basic information about systems of counseling, health care, and social welfare in the United States.

Necessity of ICS Research
     Across academic units, there has been a growing attention to international graduate students (Anandavalli et al., 2021; Vakkai et al., 2020). Given the increasing representation of international students in counseling programs, researchers have called for academic and practical strategies to support ICSs’ success in training (Lertora & Croffie, 2020; Woo et al., 2015). These calls are aligned with the values of professional counseling organizations. Specifically, the American Counseling Association (ACA; 2014) endorsed respect for diversity and multiculturalism as elements of counselor competence. This value is reflected in the ACA Code of Ethics, including Standard F.11.b, which urges counselor educators to value a diverse student body in counseling programs. Similarly, the CACREP standards have identified counseling programs as responsible for working to include “a diverse group of students and to create and support an inclusive learning community” (CACREP, 2015, p. 6). Because counselors must have a profound comprehension of and commitment to diversity, experiences with multiculturalism during professional training programs are essential (O’Hara et al., 2021; Ratts et al., 2016). In this vein, the presence of international students in counseling programs can be beneficial for both domestic and international students by enhancing trainees’ understanding of diversity and multicultural counseling competencies (Behl et al., 2017; Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2013). Given that there is a substantially increasing need for addressing multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice in the counseling profession, counseling programs’ efforts to recruit various minority student groups, including ICSs, will contribute to not only counselor training but also client outcomes in the long term.

However, despite the importance of the topic, researchers have consistently indicated that research on ICSs has been quite limited (Behl et al., 2017; Lau et al., 2019). In counseling research, there is a history of researchers using content analysis to provide a comprehensive overview of topics that are underrepresented but have growing importance. For example, Singh and Shelton (2011) published a content analysis of qualitative research related to counseling lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer clients. Involving the summarization of findings from a body of literature into a few key categories or content areas (Stemler, 2001), content analysis is a useful methodology for expanding the field’s knowledge and understanding of the topic. Considering ICSs’ unique challenges and their potential contributions to enriching diversity in counseling programs and in the profession (Park et al., 2017), a comprehensive understanding of the current ICS literature is needed. This content analysis can identify how the research on ICSs has progressed and what remains unexplored or underexplored, which can provide meaningful implications for researchers interested in conducting ICS research in the future.

Purpose of the Study
     The purpose of this study is to identify major findings in literature recently published on ICSs in the United States and to draw useful implications for counseling researchers and counseling programs seeking to better understand and support international students in counseling programs. Our content analysis, which focused on ICS research published between 2006 and 2021 in selected counseling journals, was driven by the following research questions: 1) What are the publication trends in ICS research, such as prevalence, publication outlets, authorship, methodological design, and sample size and characteristics?; and 2) What is the content of the ICS research published in counseling journals? Based on the findings, this study aimed to suggest recommendations for counseling researchers to fill the scholarly gap in ICS research and for counselor education programs to provide more effective training experiences to their international trainees.


     Content analysis is a useful methodology to expand our knowledge and understanding of the field through an overview of the current literature (Stemler, 2001). This approach makes it possible to effectively summarize a large amount of data using a few categories or content areas. In counseling research, content analysis has been used to provide an overview of a profession that is underrepresented but with growing importance (e.g., LGBTQ; Singh & Shelton, 2011), which is aligned with the aim of this study. This study employed both quantitative and qualitative content analysis to provide an overview of ICS research. Quantitative content analysis refers to analyzing the data in mathematical ways and applying predetermined categories that do not derive from the data (Forman & Damschroder, 2007). After reviewing existing content analysis articles in the counseling field, Byeolbee Um and Susannah M. Wood determined the scope of our quantitative analysis as: (a) journal and authorship, (b) research design, (c) participant characteristics, and (d) data collection methods.

Research Team
     The research team consisted of two doctoral candidates and one full professor, all of whom were affiliated with the same CACREP-accredited counselor education and supervision program at a Midwestern university. Um and Lindsay Woodbridge were doctoral candidates in counselor education and supervision when conducting this research project and are currently counselor educators. Um is an international scholar from an East Asian country. She has drawn on her experiences in quantitative and qualitative courses and research projects to engage in research of marginalized counseling students, including ICSs. Woodbridge is a domestic scholar who has taken classes and collaborated with international student peers and worked with international students in instructional and clinical capacities. She has taken quantitative and qualitative research courses and completed several research projects. The first and second authors met regularly to establish the scope of the investigation, collect data, and form a consensus on coding emerging categories and sorting them into themes. Wood, an experienced researcher and instructor, has worked as a counselor educator for more than 15 years. She has worked with international students in teaching, supervision, advising, and mentoring capacities. She audited the research process, reviewed emergent categories and themes, and provided constructive feedback at each phase of the study.

Data Collection
     To identify a full list of ICS studies that satisfy the scope of this study, Um and Woodbridge independently performed electronic searches using research databases including EBSCO, PsycINFO, and ERIC. Because ICSs have attracted scholarly attention relatively recently and because Ng’s (2006) study that estimated the number of ICSs in CACREP-accredited programs was the first published research on ICSs in counselor education programs, we set 2006 as the initial year of our search. We used the following search criteria to identify candidate articles: (a) published between 2006 and 2021 in ACA division, branch, and state journals and major journals under the auspices of professional counseling organizations; (b) containing one or more of the following keywords: international students, international counseling students, international counseling trainees, international counseling programs, counselor education; and (c) involving original empirical findings from ICSs in the United States.

We conducted an extensive search of ICS research across various journals in the counselor education field and identified ICS articles from several ACA-related journals, including Counselor Education and Supervision (CES), Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development (JMCD), The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision (JCPS), The Journal for Specialists in Group Work (JSGW), and the Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory & Research (JPC). Additionally, we found ICS articles from the International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling (IJAC) and the Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy (JCLA), which are associated with the International Association for Counselling and Chi Sigma Iota, respectively. Although they are not under the broader umbrella of ACA, these journals have contributed to enriching scholarship in the counseling field.

After the initial searches, Um and Woodbridge made a preliminary list of the articles identified based on the search results. Subsequently, they re-screened the articles independently. Among the 27 identified articles, we excluded five conceptual papers, three articles that examined counselors’ or counselor educators’ experiences after graduation, and one article about ICSs in Turkey. Consequently, the final data consisted of 18 articles published by seven selected counseling journals.

Data Analysis
     The research team analyzed content areas of the ICS research as an extension of qualitative content analysis, which requires performing the systematical coding and identifying categories/themes (Cho & Lee, 2014). We followed a series of steps suggested by Downe-Wamboldt (1992), which included selecting the unit of analysis, developing and modifying categories, and coding data. Several methods were used to ensure the trustworthiness of this content analysis study (Kyngäs et al., 2020). For credibility, Um and Woodbridge conducted multiple rounds of review on determining an adequate unit of analysis and tracked all discussions and modifications in great detail. For dependability, we calculated interrater reliability coefficients and Wood provided feedback about the results. Um also secured confirmability by utilizing audit trails, which described the specific steps and reflections of the project. Finally, to support transferability, we carefully examined other content analysis articles, reflected core aspects in the current study, and depicted the research process transparently.

Coding Protocol
     After completing the quantitative content analysis, we conducted the qualitative content analysis as Downe-Wamboldt (1992) suggested. In so doing, we applied the inductive category development process suggested by Mayring (2000), which features a systematic categorization process of identifying tentative categories, coding units, and extracting themes from established categories. Specifically, after discussing the research question and levels of abstraction for categories, Um and Woodbridge determined the preliminary categories based on the text of the 18 ICS articles. We practiced coding the data using two articles and then performed independent coding of the remaining articles. Using a constructivist approach, we agreed to add additional categories as needed. Subsequently, the categories were revised until we reached a consensus. In the final step, established categories were sorted into three themes to identify the latent meaning of qualitative materials (Cho & Lee, 2014; Forman & Damschroder, 2007). Regarding validity, the congruence between existing conceptual themes and results of data coding secures external validity, which is regarded as the purpose of content analysis (Downe-Wamboldt, 1992).

Interrater Reliability
     We used various indices of interrater reliability to assess the overall congruence between the researchers who performed the qualitative analysis and ensure trustworthiness. In this study, we used the kappa statistic (κ) suggested by Cohen (1960), which shows the extent of consensus among raters for selecting an article or coding texts (Stemler, 2001). Cohen’s kappa has been used extensively across various academic fields to measure the degree of agreement between raters. More specifically, the kappa statistic was calculated in two phases: 1) after screening articles and 2) after coding the texts according to the categories. The kappa results between Um and Woodbridge were .68 for screening articles and .71 for coding the text, both of which are considered substantial (.61–.80; Stemler, 2004).


Results of Quantitative Content Analysis
     Based on our electronic search, we identified a total of 18 ICS articles published between 2006 and 2021 in seven selected counseling journals, including three ACA division journals, one ACA state-branch journal, one ACES regional journal, and two journals from professional counseling associations (see Table 1). Specifically, two articles were published in CES, three in JMCD, one in JCPS, one in JSGW, three in JPC, seven in IJAC, and one in JCLA. Across the 18 ICS articles, a total of 35 researchers were identified as authors or co-authors with six authoring more than one article. According to researchers’ positionality statements in qualitative articles, eight researchers reported that they were previous or current ICSs in the United States. The institutional affiliations of researchers include 22 U.S. universities and two international universities, with three institutional affiliations appearing more than once across the studies.

Table 1
Summary of International Counseling Student Research in Selected Counseling Journals Between 2006 and 2021

Journal and Author Research Design Participants Data Collection Topic
Counselor Education and Supervision (CES)
Behl et al.

(Pearson product-moment correlations)

38 counseling master’s and doctoral students Online survey Stress related to acculturation and students’ language, academic, social, and cultural needs
D. Li & Liu
Qualitative (Phenomenology) 11 doctoral students Semi-structured interview ICSs’ experiences with teaching preparation
Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development (JMCD)
Kuo et al.
Qualitative (Consensual
qualitative research)
13 doctoral students Semi-structured interview ICSs’ professional identity development influenced by their multicultural identity and experience
Nilsson &
Dodds (2006)
Quantitative (Exploratory factor analysis, ANOVA, and hierarchical multiple regression analysis) 115 master’s and doctoral students in counseling and psychology Online survey Development of a scale to measure issues in supervision
Woo et al.
Qualitative (Consensual qualitative research) 8 counselor education doctoral students Semi-structured interview Coping strategies used during training in supervision
The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision (JCPS)
Park et al.
Qualitative (Consensual qualitative research) 10 counseling master’s and doctoral students Semi-structured interview Practicum and internship experiences of ICSs
The Journal for Specialists in Group Work (JSGW)
& Wu (2010)
(Not identified)
6 Asian counseling graduate students Counseling
Social justice–focused group intervention
Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory & Research (JPC)
et al. (2019)
Quantitative (Hierarchical multiple regression analysis) 94 counseling master’s and doctoral students Online survey Relationship between acculturation and self-efficacy
Ng (2006) Quantitative (Descriptive analysis) 96 CACREP-accredited
counseling programs
Responses via email/telephone Enrollment in CACREP-accredited programs
& Black (2009)
Qualitative (Phenomenology) 4 master’s students
and 1 doctoral student
in counseling
Semi-structured interview Perceptions of supervision
International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling (IJAC)
Akkurt et al.
Quantitative (Moderation analysis) 71 counseling master’s and doctoral students Online survey Relationships between acculturation, counselor self-efficacy, supervisory working alliance, and role ambiguity moderated by frequency of multicultural discussion
Interiano & Lim
Qualitative (Interpretive phenomenology) 8 foreign-born doctoral students Semi-structured interview Influence of acculturation on ICSs’ professional development
Lertora & Croffie
Qualitative (Phenomenology) 6 counseling master’s students Demographics survey, focus
group, and semi-structured
Lived experiences of master’s-level ICSs in counseling program, including challenges and support, cultural differences, and future career paths
C. Li et al.
(Linear regression analysis)
72 counseling master’s and doctoral students Online survey Influence of acculturation and foreign language anxiety on ICSs’ counseling self-efficacy
Ng & Smith
56 international counseling students
82 domestic
counseling students
Survey Perceived barriers and concerns of ICSs in their training compared to domestic counseling students
Ng & Smith
Quantitative (Hierarchical regression analysis) 71 counseling master’s and doctoral students Online survey Relationships among ICSs’ training level, acculturation, counselor self-efficacy, supervisory working alliance, role ambiguity, and multicultural discussion
Smith & Ng
Mixed methods (Descriptive analysis, constant comparative method of analysis, and phenomenology) 11 master’s students and 10 doctoral students (including 7 recent graduates) Online survey ICSs’ experiences, resources, hindrances, and recommendations regarding multicultural counseling training
Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy (JCLA)
Kuo et al.
Qualitative (Consensual qualitative research) 13 doctoral students Semi-structured interview ICSs’ professional identity development influenced by their multicultural identity and experience

Note. ICS = international counseling student.

In terms of research design, eight articles employed quantitative research designs with diverse statistical methods including hierarchical multiple regression analysis, ANOVA, exploratory factor analysis, descriptive analysis, linear regression analysis, and moderation analysis. Another nine articles used qualitative approaches including phenomenology and consensual qualitative research, while one article (Smith & Ng, 2009) applied mixed methods design including both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Regarding participants, eight quantitative studies reported having between 38 to 115 ICS participants, including Ng’s (2006) study in which the author collected information on ICSs from 96 CACREP-accredited counseling programs. The numbers of participants in the eight qualitative ICS articles were relatively smaller, ranging from 5 to 13, which is natural given the characteristics of quantitative and qualitative research designs. Finally, the mixed methods study included 21 ICS participants. Quantitative researchers most frequently used online surveys to collect data, although one researcher (Ng, 2006) gathered information via email or telephone. Researchers using qualitative methodologies primarily used semi-structured interviews to collect data, while Delgado-Romero and Wu (2010) performed a group counseling intervention and interpreted the results, including the feedback of group members.

Results of Qualitative Content Analysis
     The content areas of the ICS research included personal and professional aspects of ICSs’ adjustment and development. These aspects were influenced by ICSs’ unique circumstances along with their needs, potential stressors, and accessible resources and strategies. During qualitative content analysis, we generated and established preliminary categories. We then developed the preliminary categories into three main themes encompassing ICS research: (a) professional practices and professional development, (b) academic, social, and cultural challenges, and (c) personal and social resources. Each theme consisted of several identified categories.

Professional Practices and Professional Development
     Many studies examined ICSs’ perceptions, concerns, needs, and suggestions of professional training experiences, including practicum and internship (e.g., Lertora & Croffie, 2020; Park et al., 2017), supervision (e.g., Ng & Smith, 2012; Nilsson & Dodds, 2006), multicultural training (e.g., Akkurt et al., 2018; Smith & Ng, 2009), social justice group intervention (Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010), and teaching preparation (D. Li & Liu, 2020) from the unique perspective of ICSs. Furthermore, in relation to the professional practices, several categories of ICSs’ professional development were identified, such as counseling self-efficacy (e.g., Interiano-Shiverdecker et al., 2019; C. Li et al., 2018), professional identity development (e.g., Kuo et al., 2018, 2021), role ambiguity (Akkurt et al., 2018; Ng & Smith, 2012), and multicultural competencies (Smith & Ng, 2009).

Academic, Social, and Cultural Challenges
     The second theme included unique challenges that ICSs encountered across academic, social, and cultural domains. The most commonly identified category from 12 studies was acculturation (e.g., Behl et al., 2017; Interiano & Lim, 2018; Lertora & Croffie, 2020). In addition, ICSs faced other cultural barriers involving cultural differences (e.g., Behl et al., 2017; Woo et al., 2015), difficulties in performing teaching and supervision practices (e.g., Li & Liu, 2020; Woo et al., 2015), and struggles in understanding cultural values and U.S. culture (e.g., Kuo et al., 2021; Sangganjanavanich & Black, 2009). ICSs reported that their academic and social concerns included English proficiency (e.g., Kuo et al., 2021; Nilsson & Dodds, 2006) and experiences of language anxiety (C. Li et al., 2018); stigma, biases, and discrimination (e.g., Ng & Smith, 2009; Sangganjanavanich & Black, 2009); and interpersonal isolation (e.g., Behl et al., 2017).

Personal and Social Resources
     The third theme emerged from multiple categories of personal and social resources that supported ICSs. In terms of personal resources, researchers identified several characteristics such as self-reflection, self-regulation, and self-efficacy, which contributed to ICSs’ professional development (e.g., Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010; Interiano-Shiverdecker et al., 2019; Woo et al., 2015). Additionally, the sources of social support for ICSs included their peers and other ICSs (e.g., D. Li & Liu, 2020; Woo et al., 2015), faculty and mentors (e.g., Smith & Ng, 2009; Woo et al., 2015), department and college (e.g., Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010; D. Li & Liu, 2020), and family (Kuo et al., 2018).


The purpose of this content analysis was to provide an organized overview of counseling studies conducted for ICSs over the past 16 years both from quantitative and qualitative perspectives. The aggregated findings, including publication trends and content areas of ICS research, are expected to present the missing pieces in research to better understand and support ICSs and provide meaningful recommendations to better support their professional development. Specifically, we identified 18 articles published in selected counseling journals during the 16-year period from 2006 to 2021. Our findings included the journals, authorship and affiliation, research orientation, participant characteristics, data collection method, and content areas. In general, researchers from many educational institutions have conducted collaborative research focusing on ICSs, with a balance of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Research participants were ICSs at master’s and doctoral levels, with larger participant groups for quantitative studies and smaller groups for qualitative studies. The most frequently employed methods for data collection were online surveys and semi-structured interviews. Among the 18 identified ICS articles, three main content themes emerged, with each theme consisting of several categories.

In terms of the content, counseling researchers have consistently examined the professional practices of ICSs in their programs. Our findings indicate that many researchers were interested in supervision as an essential aspect of counselor education. Supervision involves intricate dynamics between the supervisor, supervisee, and client, and it can have a substantial influence on counselor competency development (Falender & Shafranske, 2007; Nilsson & Dodds, 2006). For this reason, ICS research has focused not only on investigating the supervisory concerns, needs, and satisfaction of ICSs, but on providing an integrative supervision model for this population (Nilsson & Dodds, 2006; Park et al., 2017; Sangganjanavanich & Black, 2009). Beyond supervision, researchers have also explored other topics, including teaching preparation and social justice counseling (Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010;
D. Li & Liu, 2020). We found that researchers have attended to ICSs’ professional competencies as well as their training processes, including counseling self-efficacy, professional identity, and multicultural and social justice competencies (Kuo et al., 2021; C. Li et al., 2018; Smith & Ng, 2009). These professional competencies and training processes are regarded as important indices of successful and effective counselor training (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014; Woo et al., 2015). As a whole, ICS research has addressed diverse student training experiences and resultant developmental outcomes, although the absolute number of studies remains limited.

Our results highlight cultural and language differences as a primary barrier for many ICSs when they initiated their study in a foreign country. This finding is consistent with previous studies, including Mori’s (2000) seminal work. Most studies we examined identified acculturation as a key construct of ICSs’ adjustment and growth in a foreign country (Interiano & Lim, 2018; Ng & Smith, 2012). Many ICS participants sought to maintain a balance between engaging in U.S. language and culture and sustaining their own cultural identity (Interiano-Shiverdecker et al., 2019; D. Li & Liu, 2020; Sangganjanavanich & Black, 2009). Specifically, ICSs reported cultural challenges in several areas, including the educational system, teaching styles, personal interactions, social justice issues, and cultural values and practices (Behl et al., 2017; Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010; D. Li & Liu, 2020). One study found that doctoral-level ICSs experienced greater cultural adjustment problems and conflicts compared to master’s-level ICSs (Ng & Smith, 2009), which implies that differentiated understanding and approaches may be required according to ICSs’ developmental stages. Also, our findings echoed the existing literature that one of the main obstacles for international students is language proficiency (Kuo et al., 2021; C. Li et al., 2018), as ICSs who had difficulty using English reported greater academic needs and concerns than their peers (Behl et al., 2017).

A notable finding is that the cultural barriers ICSs experienced were intertwined with their social concerns. ICSs are exposed to social dangers involving stigma, discrimination, and interpersonal isolation (Behl et al., 2017; Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010). Although several researchers explored the potential relationship between ICSs’ length of time in the United States and their stress and cultural development (Behl et al., 2017; Nilsson & Dodds, 2006), their findings did not indicate any significant relationship. This lack of an effect may imply that other risks and protective factors have more influence on the successful adjustment and achievement of ICSs regardless of the amount of time they have spent in the United States. As such, our findings have shown that ICSs face unique challenges across their professional and personal lives in acculturating to two or more cultures and satisfying counseling training requirements.

Corresponding to these challenges, various personal and social resources have been regarded as protective factors of ICS development. Specifically, in terms of social support, researchers identified the importance of support from mentors, supervisors, peers, and other international graduate students (e.g., Woo et al., 2015). Given that ICSs often experience a lack of social support, it is noteworthy that the current ICS literature highlights the need for counselor training programs to promote students’ personal strengths and social connections.

Overall, we identified patterns and trends in research on international students in counseling programs based on studies published in selected counseling journals. Despite our efforts to reflect on diverse ICS experiences, the paucity of ICS research across selected counseling journals, particularly ACA journals, is notable. Given the increasing representation of ICSs in the wider counseling student body (Ng, 2006), further studies addressing the resources and barriers of this student population are needed. Furthermore, international students were exposed to unprecedented difficulties and mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic (Chen et al., 2020). These challenges necessitate more scholarly attention toward supporting and advocating for ICSs, including their adjustment, professional development, and transition from training to practice.

     Because members of the counseling profession have expressly emphasized the importance of enriching multiculturalism and diversity (D. Li & Liu, 2020), we expect our findings to provide meaningful implications for counselor education programs. First, counseling researchers are encouraged to conduct more ICS research given the limited available studies and the increasing representation of international students in counseling programs. Even though they attempted to examine diverse training experiences and competency development of ICSs, many areas are understudied, such as their teaching and social justice practices. The existing ICS research mostly concentrated on identifying factors that influence ICSs’ academic and social lives. However, given the continuous increase of ICSs in the counseling field, research about strengths and support strategies of counselor education programs having many ICSs is worth studying. Also, in future studies, researchers can try to reflect the actual voices of ICSs about what they want from their training programs, whether they feel their program is affordable, and whether their program is effective in supporting their professional development. In addition, counseling researchers can develop projects considering cultural differences of ICSs in order to better understand them not as a single group but as multiple individuals having unique cultural backgrounds. Overall, this content analysis study underscores the need for more research on this student population.

Regarding counselor education programs, programs can provide specific resources to support the professional development of ICSs. To help ICSs overcome language barriers, for instance, institutions can provide professional assistance in the use of English, such as writing centers and speaking centers. Departments can provide language support specifically relevant to counseling, including workshops and seminars about practical language tips for counseling practice and research writing. For example, Jang and colleagues (2014) recommended instituting mock supervision sessions before practicum and/or internship to further prepare international counseling trainees for their duties. Counselor education programs are expected to address the unique language and academic needs of ICSs.

Counselor education programs should also facilitate ICSs’ cultural understanding and adjustment. Counselor education programs can design and provide opportunities for ICSs to socially interact with colleagues and faculty members in the program. Existing studies that highlight the importance of mentoring (e.g., Delgado-Romero & Wu, 2010; Ng, 2006; Woo et al., 2015) are further proof that faculty members in counselor education programs can play a significant role in the personal and professional development of ICSs. Because ICSs share unique challenges and learning experiences (D. Li & Liu, 2020; Sangganjanavanich & Black, 2009), faculty members who were ICSs or have experience advising or collaborating with ICSs can serve as essential mentors for this population.

Counselor education programs might benefit from developing and employing curriculum and courses that apply the empirical findings of ICS research, including the results of this study. These studies serve as a reference for designing more effective counselor training. Programs that design their training to support the needs of ICSs may also find that they are more effective in recruiting and retaining international students. For example, faculty members can respond to ICSs’ anxiety and concerns before they enter clinical practice (Ellis et al., 2015; Nilsson & Wang, 2008). Also, ICSs are expected to benefit from synthesized results about ICS research, promoting a deeper understanding of themselves and enabling them to develop their own coping strategies and access potential resources. Furthermore, counselor education programs need to prepare different training trajectories for master’s students and doctoral students. Compared to ICSs in doctoral programs, ICSs are relatively rare at the master’s level, comprising only 1% of master’s-level counseling trainees (CACREP, 2015). Because master’s-level ICSs may feel like they belong to the minority, helping them feel connected is an essential task for counselor education programs. Therefore, programs are required to prioritize the effective delivery of knowledge and adequate practical opportunities for supervisees at the master’s level.

Finally, counselor education programs should work toward a program culture that supports diversity. Although fostering multiculturalism has emerged as a priority for counselor education programs, more work is needed to support internationally diverse perspectives. For example, Taephant and colleagues (2015) examined the experiences of U.S.-educated international counselors practicing in non-Western counseling environments. Drawing upon these findings and other relevant references, counselor educators may design a class discussing the limitations of Western-style training. As is evidenced by existing literature, open discussions about cultural differences can be effective for the psychosocial adjustment and professional development of ICSs.

Limitations and Future Research
     This study includes some limitations to note. The first and most important limitation is the concerning lack of research focusing on international students in the counseling profession (D. Li & Liu, 2020; Nilsson & Dodds, 2006; Woo et al., 2015). Even though ICSs have recently begun to attract scholarly attention (Lau et al., 2019), the number of articles published recently may not be sufficient to discuss the diverse purposes and areas of focus for ICS research. Although our study specifically highlighted the need for more research on ICSs, an extensive range of discussion was not possible due to the limited number of articles. Thus, we encourage more professional counseling organizations and counseling researchers to consider ICSs’ professional development as a research topic. Also, because this study was limited to articles published in journals related to ACA and selected other professional organizations, future research with a more comprehensive search may elicit rich and diverse discussion. Finally, content analysis has a few methodological limitations, such as no existence of unified rules and a precise analytical process, and potential biases in coding, which necessitates further research on ICSs using other methodologies for more in-depth investigations.


     ICSs can contribute to increasing program diversity and cultivating students’ multicultural counseling competency but have been understudied despite their growing representation. This study provided a comprehensive overview of ICS research across 18 articles within a 16-year period, using both quantitative and qualitative content analysis. Counseling researchers can pay more scholarly attention to the academic and social lives of ICSs from a strength-based approach. Counseling programs and counselor educators can support ICSs by providing resources for adjustment, developing curricular and extracurricular activities involving ICSs, and working toward a more multicultural and inclusive program environment.

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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Research Focused on Doctoral-Level Counselor Education: A Scoping Review

Gideon Litherland, Gretchen Schulthes


The aim of this study was to develop an understanding of the research scholarship focused on doctoral-level counselor education. Using the 2016 Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) doctoral standards as a frame to understand coverage of the research, we employed a scoping review methodology across four databases: ERIC, GaleOneFile, PsycINFO, and PubMed. Research between 2005 and 2019 was examined which resulted in identification of 39 articles covering at least one of the 2016 CACREP doctoral core areas. Implications for counseling researchers and counselor educators are discussed. This scoping research demonstrates the limited corpus of research on doctoral-level counselor education and highlights the need for future, organized scholarship.  

Keywords: scoping review, doctoral-level counselor education, 2016 CACREP doctoral standards, counseling researchers, counselor educators


Counselor educators are positioned to be at the vanguard of research, teaching, and practice within the counseling profession (Okech & Rubel, 2018; Sears & Davis, 2003). The training of counselor educators is concentrated in the pursuit of doctoral degrees (e.g., PhD, EdD) in counselor education and supervision. Doctoral-level education of counselor educators is thus critical to the development of future leaders for the counseling profession (Goodrich et al., 2011). Counselor education doctoral students (CEDS) enrolled within programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) engage in advanced training in leadership, supervision, research, counseling, and teaching (CACREP, 2009, 2015; Del Rio & Mieling, 2012). CEDS complete academic coursework, participate in practicum and internship fieldwork, and deepen their professional counselor identity (Calley & Hawley, 2008; Limberg et al., 2013). Upon graduation, it is expected that CEDS are prepared to competently assume the responsibilities of a counselor educator. Counselor educators go on to work in any myriad of roles—professional and business leadership positions, academia, clinical and community settings, and consultation practices across the country (Bernard, 2006; Curtis & Sherlock, 2006; Gibson et al., 2015). It is imperative, then, for doctoral-level education to prepare and deliberately challenge these future counselor educators (Protivnak & Foss, 2009).

Historically, there have been concerns regarding the level of sustainability within the profession and the need for more qualified counselor educators (Isaacs & Sabella, 2013; Maples, 1989; Maples et al., 1993; Woo, Lu, Henfield, & Bang, 2017). Holding the terminal degree for the profession (Adkison-Bradley, 2013; CACREP, 2009; Goodrich et al., 2011), graduating CEDS meet the increasing demands across the country for trainers of a qualified workforce of school, college, rehabilitation, clinical mental health, addictions, and family counselors who can meet the psychosocial well-being needs of a diverse global population. There is an increasing need for counselors in all specialty areas, given recent projections of the next decade from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019). The needs of communities (e.g., criminalization of mental illness; Bernstein & Seltzer, 2003; Dvoskin et al., 2020), training programs (e.g., multicultural counseling preparedness; Celinska & Swazo, 2016; Zalaquett et al., 2008), and public mental health issues (e.g., suicide; Gordon et al., 2020) reflect the urgency for a qualified workforce that can serve clients, students, and a global economy (Lloyd et al., 2010; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.-a, n.d.-b). Because of the demand for such a workforce, the counseling profession and its institutions must be prepared to educate counselor educators who, in turn, lead, teach, supervise, and mentor future generations of helping professionals. Given these market demands, it is important to consider: To what degree are CEDS being prepared to meet these demands in their post-graduation roles? How are CEDS being prepared to meet such demands? What evidence exists to guide the training and development of CEDS?

Based on available data from official CACREP annual reports, from 2012 to 2018, the number of CACREP-accredited counselor education doctoral programs increased from 60 to 85 (CACREP, 2013, 2019). In the same time period, the number of enrolled CEDS grew from 2,028 to 2,917. The number of doctoral program graduates similarly increased from 323 to 479. This interest and investment in accredited doctoral programs at universities across the country warrants greater research attention to better understand, focus on, and shape the doctoral-level education of future counselor educators. A great deal rests on preparation of future counselor educators as they maintain the primary responsibility for leading the profession as standard-bearers and gatekeepers.

Research on counselor education doctoral study is essential for improving and maintaining the efficacy of doctoral training because CEDS are the future leaders, faculty members, supervisors, and advocates of the profession. A critical step toward facilitating research on counselor education doctoral study is a scoping review (Tricco et al., 2018). Scoping review methodology has previously been used within counseling and mental health research (e.g., Harms et al., 2020; Meekums et al., 2016). Such a review can assist in constructing a snapshot of the breadth and focus of the extant research.

CACREP Core Areas as a Useful Framework for Analysis
     The 2016 CACREP Standards (CACREP, 2015) delineate core areas of doctoral education and provide a meaningful and accessible framework appropriate to assess the state of doctoral-level education and training of CEDS. CACREP develops accreditation standards through an iterative research process that capitalizes on counseling program survey feedback, professional conference feedback sessions, and research within the counseling profession (Bobby, 2013; Bobby & Urofsky, 2008; Leahy et al., 2019; Williams et al., 2012). CACREP publishes updated accreditation standards that are publicly available online, on average, every 7 years (Perkins, 2017). The 2016 CACREP Standards (2015) articulate core areas of doctoral-level education and training in counselor education that align with professional expectations of performance upon graduation. These areas include leadership/advocacy, counseling, professional identity, teaching, supervision, and research. These core areas aim to guide faculty in fostering the development of counselor educator identity and professional competence.

The 2016 CACREP (2015) doctoral-level core areas serve as a professionally relevant framework to examine the extant research addressing doctoral-level education and training of CEDS. Previous research has utilized CACREP master’s-level core areas for content analysis (Diambra et al., 2011). Although much research within the field of counseling and other helping professions addresses the experiences and training needs of master’s-level practitioners, there is seemingly scant published research addressing the education and training of CEDS. To arrive at a clearer understanding of this gap, a framework of analysis (e.g., the 2016 CACREP doctoral-level core domains) is necessary in order to furnish a status report of the current research addressing doctoral-level education and training of CEDS.

Employing the 2016 CACREP (2015) doctoral standards core areas as a frame through which to view the research emphasizes the importance of accreditation and professional counselor identity. Doctoral core areas directly relate to the domain-driven framework employed in this study. In order to achieve a focused understanding of coverage of the CACREP core areas, the framework employed within this study conceptualizes each core area as a domain with two distinct differences: (a) distinguishing between leadership and advocacy in separate domains and (b) inclusion of professional identity as its own domain. The domains of our framework included Professional Identity, Supervision, Counseling, Teaching, Research, Leadership, and Advocacy. By systematically mapping the research conducted in each area of counselor education, we aimed to identify existing gaps in knowledge as a means to focus future research efforts. In this scoping review, the primary research question was “What is the coverage of the 2016 CACREP doctoral standards within the research over the past 15 years?” Research subquestions included (a) How many studies “fit” into each of the doctoral standard domains? (b) What frequency trends were present within the data related to type of research (qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods)? (c) What publication trends were present within the data related to (i) year of publication, (ii) profession-based affiliation of the publishing journal, and (iii) the publishing journal? and (d) What other foci emerged that were not addressed by the CACREP 2016 doctoral program standards?


In order to address the primary research question and related subquestions in a systematic way, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocol (PRISMA-P; Moher et al., 2015) was considered. The PRISMA-P articulates critical components of a systematic review and aims to “reduce arbitrariness in decision-making” (Moher et al., 2015, p. 1) by facilitating a priori guidelines—with a goal of replicability. However, given the general-focus nature of the research question, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR; Tricco et al., 2018) was more appropriate.

The PRISMA-ScR is an extension of the PRISMA-P with a broader focus on mapping “evidence on a topic and identify[ing] main concepts, theories, sources, and knowledge gaps” (Tricco et al., 2018, p. 467). The following steps, or items, of the PRISMA-ScR are described further in subsequent sections, including: primary and sub-research questions (Item 4), eligibility criteria (Item 5), exclusion criteria (Item 6), database sources (Item 7), search strategy (Item 8), data charting process (Item 10), data items (Item 11), and synthesis of results (Item 14). Items of the protocol not specifically listed here are satisfied by structural elements of this article (e.g., title [Item 1] and rationale [Item 3]).

Eligibility Criteria
     For the present study, articles were only considered eligible for inclusion if they had been published in a peer-reviewed journal between 2005–2019. To be included in the study, articles were required to be research-based with an identified methodology (i.e., quantitative, qualitative, mixed-methods), primarily focused on some aspect of counselor education doctoral study (e.g., program, student, faculty, outcomes, process), and published in the English language. Articles were considered primarily focused on counselor education doctoral study if their research questions, study design, and implications directly bore relevance to the scholarship of doctoral counselor education. Excluded from the study were published dissertation work, magazines, conference proceedings, and other non–peer-reviewed publications. Position, policy, or practice pieces; case studies; conceptual articles; and theoretical articles also were excluded. The primary focus of the study could not be outside of counselor education doctoral study.

Information Sources
     To identify articles for inclusion, the following databases were searched: PubMed, ERIC, GaleOneFile, and PsycINFO. We also utilized reference review (backward snowballing) as an additional information source (Jalali & Wohlin, 2012; Skoglund & Runeson, 2009).

     Each database was searched with a specific keyword, “counselor education doc*,” followed by a topical search term. The asterisk (*) was deliberate in the search term to inclusively capture all permutations of “doc,” such as doctoral or doctorate. Search terms were derived from the rationale for the present study and CACREP doctoral core areas. The search terms were: “research,” “empirical,” “counseling,” “doctoral program standards,” “peer-reviewed research,” “CACREP,” “doctorate,” “quantitative,” “program,” “student,” “faculty,” “outcomes,” “process,” “professional identity,” “counseling,” “supervision,” “teaching,” “leadership,” and “advocacy.” Researchers divided the search terms, while maintaining the keyword “counselor education doc*,” and independently ran systematic searches using any eligibility criteria (e.g., inclusive years) that the database could sort. Inclusion criteria, including search terms and keyword, were entered into the search query tool and the results exported. Results from each database search were delineated on a yield list for later screening.

In order to increase methodological consistency among researchers, each utilized a search yield matrix (Goldman & Schmalz, 2004). Results from each researcher’s yield list were organized within the search yield matrix using three fields: article title, authors, and year of publication. This allowed for cleaner comparison of articles and continued identification of duplicates throughout the screening processes. Duplicate entries were collapsed to one citation so that only one entry per article remained, regardless of database origin. Each researcher conducted a preliminary screening of article titles with the inclusion criteria.

Selection of Sources of Evidence
     In order to systematically screen articles and produce a final list for data collection, three levels of screening were conducted for the entire yield. Level 1, 2, and 3 screenings are described in detail below.

Level 1 Screening
     Each researcher scanned their own yield list (duplicates removed). Every citation’s title was examined for preliminary eligibility. Researchers agreed to engage in an inclusive scan of titles and pass articles on to Level 2 screening if they seemed at all relevant to doctoral counselor education. Researchers indicated an article’s fitness for inclusion by a simple “yes” or “no” note on the Level 1 screening instrument. The yield from Level 1 screening was considered adequate for further review and moved on to Level 2 screening.

 Level 2 Screening
     Using the results from the Level 1 screening, each researcher scanned the other’s “for inclusion” list. Each citation’s abstract was examined for eligibility. Researchers indicated an article’s fitness for inclusion by a simple “yes” or “no” note on the Level 2 screening instrument. The yield from Level 2 screening was considered adequate for further review and moved on to Level 3 screening.

Level 3 Screening
     Using the results from the Level 2 screening, researchers combined their lists and consolidated duplicates. Each article’s full text was examined for eligibility by each researcher. Researchers indicated an article’s fitness for inclusion by a simple “yes” or “no” note on the Level 3 screening instrument. In order to avoid bias or influence, each researcher conducted their screening work on a separate document. In reviewing eligibility indicators, researchers sought resolution through discussion, review of eligibility criteria, and assessment of an article’s scholarly focus. This process of Level 1, 2, and 3 screening resulted in a unified list.

Reference Review
     In order to identify potential articles for inclusion that were missed or unintentionally excluded from the search process, researchers conducted a reference review strategy (Jalali & Wohlin, 2012; Skoglund & Runeson, 2009) on the unified list. The reference review consisted of examining the reference section of every article that was selected for inclusion in the unified list. Researchers examined the reference section for relevant titles (Level 1 screening) and endorsed each article according to “yes” or “no” for inclusion. If an article was determined possibly eligible for inclusion, a full-text examination (Level 3 screening) was conducted to determine further eligibility. Any articles determined to be eligible for inclusion were then added to the unified list.

Data Charting Process and Data Items
     In the data charting process, we employed a matrix strategy (Goldman & Schmalz, 2004). Data was collected and organized within a data collection matrix instrument. We created the data collection matrix instrument to organize and focus data collection.

Data items included: year of publication, publishing journal, professional affiliation of publishing journal, type of methodology (e.g., qualitative, quantitative), and domain fitness (i.e., Counseling, Supervision, Teaching, Professional Identity, Research, Leadership, or Advocacy). If other themes were identified that did not fit within the domains, those were noted for later review.

To collect data, we divided the unified list into two halves and then independently charted the data for each citation in the data collection matrix instrument. To determine the professional affiliation of the publishing journal, we reviewed the public-facing website of each journal and reviewed the information available. To determine domain coverage, we reviewed the aim, research question(s), and discussion section of each article and compared the focus of the article to the 2016 CACREP doctoral core area descriptions. For example, if a study focused on the experience of CEDS becoming supervisors, this was coded as “Supervision.” If, however, a study’s aim and research question focused on an area of counselor education doctoral study that was not covered by a domain, then it was coded as “Other Focus.” Researchers discussed articles coded as “Other Focus” and worked to collapse similar foci under broad categories for ease of reporting.

Of note, researchers did not consider articles that utilized CEDS within a sample or participant pool as automatically eligible for inclusion. Studies were only included if doctoral-level counselor education was a key component or focal point of the research inquiry. Every effort was made to ensure study appropriateness for review based on these criteria.

Synthesis of Results
     We analyzed the results after data collection through descriptive statistics and basic data visualization of trends (e.g., frequency, type). We discussed each research subquestion, considered what data best addressed the question, and reviewed data for any trends. Having described the process of the scoping review, the results of the study are presented next according to the preferred reporting items for scoping reviews (Tricco et al., 2018).


Selection of Sources
     A total of 9,798 citations were initially retrieved from the ERIC (n = 1,012), GaleOneFile (n = 327), PsycINFO (n = 1,298) and PubMed (n = 7,161) databases. After an initial review of citation type (e.g., book, white paper) and removal of duplicates, 3,076 articles remained. The Level 1 screening captured 2,599 ineligible articles not meeting the inclusion criteria. Therefore, at the end of the Level 1 screening, 477 citations remained. The Level 2 screening captured 292 ineligible articles that did not meet inclusion criteria, resulting in 185 articles. As researchers combined lists for Level 3 screening and identified duplicates, 185 articles reduced to 123. The Level 3 screening captured 52 ineligible articles that did not meet inclusion criteria, resulting in 71 articles for the unified list. Articles from the reference review yield (n = 9) were screened and added to the unified list. The unified list initially consisted of 80 citations. However, three articles were removed as a result of data cleaning (e.g., text-based differences not previously captured by sorting tool) and/or not meeting inclusion criteria (e.g., inaccuracies in published article’s references). Therefore, 77 articles were selected for inclusion within the present scoping review.

Coverage of CACREP Doctoral Domains
     The results suggested that some trends exist within the literature focused on doctoral study within counselor education. Although there was coverage of each of the 2016 CACREP doctoral standards core areas within the last 15 years, it was quite minimal (see Table 1). Of our 77 identified studies, 39 studies (50.65%) mapped onto the seven-domain framework. This left 38 studies (49.35%) focusing on some other aspect of counselor education doctoral study, discussed further below.


Table 1


Domain Coverage as Addressed by Year


Identified Domain Advocacy Counseling Leadership Professional Identity Research Supervision Teaching Total
n n n n n n n n
2006 0 0 0   0   1   1 0   2
2008 0 1 0   0   0   0 0   1
2009 0 1 0   0   0   0 0   1
2011 0 0 0   0   2   2 1   5
2012 0 2 0   0   0   0 0   2
2013 0 0 0   3   1   0 1   5
2014 0 0 1   0   1   2 0   4
2015 0 0 0   0   0   1 0   1
2016 0 1 0   1   0   2 1   5
2017 1 3 1   3   4   3 2 17
2018 0 1 0   2   1   0 1   5
2019 0 0 0   1   0   0 2   3
Total 1 9 2 10 10 11 8 51

Note. N = 51. Some articles met the criteria for more than one domain; therefore, the stated N is higher than the total number of articles identified. The years 2005, 2007, and 2010 are not included in the above table, as no articles that met the inclusion criteria and the established domains were published during those years.


Across the 15 years of literature examined in the current study, 39 studies covered the CACREP domains within our framework, but not necessarily with equal attention by scholars. To respond to the question “How many studies ‘fit’ into each of the doctoral standard domains?” we looked at the frequency of occurrence, per domain, across the 39 studies. Data indicated that Supervision was most frequently covered (n = 11), followed by Professional Identity (n = 10) and Research (n = 10). Domains with less than 10 studies over the 15-year time period included Counseling (n = 9), Teaching (n = 8), Leadership (n = 2), and Advocacy (n = 1). Of note, some articles mapped onto multiple domains during the coding process (see Appendix).

Methodological Trends
     In determining frequency trends related to methodology, researchers analyzed each article’s research questions, method, and results section. Within the 39 domain-covering articles, there was a nearly equal emphasis between quantitative and qualitative research on doctoral counselor education. Of the domain-covering articles, 21 identified a clear quantitative methodology and 17 identified a clear qualitative methodology. Only one study identified a mixed-methods methodology and mapped onto the Professional Identity domain.

Publication Trends
     The results did not indicate any identified trend within the year of publication. With regard to the professional affiliation of the publishing journal, 31 (79.49%) were published within counseling journals, and 8 (20.51%) were in interdisciplinary journals that were either topical (e.g., multicultural education) or methodologically (e.g., qualitative) focused.

Nearly half of the articles (n = 15) were published in Counselor Education and Supervision. The Professional Counselor was the second most frequent journal of publication (n = 5), followed by The Clinical Supervisor, Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, and the International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, which each published two articles over the 15-year period (see Table 2).

The remaining journals—American Journal of Evaluation; Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling; British Journal of Guidance & Counselling; Counseling and Values; Journal of Asia Pacific Counseling; Journal of College Counseling; Journal of Counseling & Development; Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development; Journal of Rehabilitation, Mindfulness, Multicultural Learning and Teaching; The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of Counseling and Professional Psychology (now: The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of the International Trauma Training Institute); and The Qualitative Report—each only had one published article that covered a domain within the 15-year period.

Other Emergent Themes
     Several themes emerged across the 38 remaining articles that did not address a domain within our framework (see Table 3). These articles focused on some aspect of doctoral counselor education but considered some near-experience or program factor that did not directly link to CEDS’ learning, training, or skill acquisition. The most frequently occurring topics addressed by the scholarly literature were dissertations (n = 6), general student experience (n = 4), and persons of color (n = 4). Other identified themes include: admissions (n = 3), program culture (n = 3), attrition/persistence (n = 2), career planning (n = 2), comprehensive exams – student experience (n = 2), general wellness (n = 2), motherhood (n = 2), problematic behavior (n = 2), international students (n = 1), international students – student experience (n = 1), school counselor educators (n = 1), spirituality (n = 1), wellness in motherhood (n = 1), and workforce issues (n = 1).


Table 2

Number of Articles Addressing Domains by Journal

Journal Name n
Counselor Education and Supervision 15
The Professional Counselor   5
The Clinical Supervisor   2
Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation   2
International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling   2
American Journal of Evaluation   1
Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling   1
British Journal of Guidance & Counselling   1
Counseling and Values   1
Journal of Asia Pacific Counseling   1
Journal of College Counseling   1
Journal of Counseling & Development   1
Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development   1
Journal of Rehabilitation   1
Mindfulness   1
Multicultural Learning and Teaching   1
The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of Counseling and Professional Psychology (now: The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of the International Trauma Training Institute)   1
The Qualitative Report   1
Total 39

Note. N = 39. Only articles that met the inclusion criteria and covered at least one doctoral
domain are included. 


Given the importance of training doctoral-level counselor educators for the profession’s long-term growth and development, the results suggest minimal coverage of the CACREP doctoral standards core areas within the extant research. With little expectation of what we would find, this work is intentionally diagnostic of the current research scholarship focusing on doctoral counselor education. To date, no other scoping review research has focused on doctoral-level counselor education.

     Given that only 39 articles satisfied our criteria, it is important to note that the scope of this review was limited to only research-based published literature. There may be valuable grey literature and scholarship focused on doctoral-level counselor education, but it was not captured within our narrow, predetermined scope. Another possible reason for our results may simply be a function of the profession’s emphasis on master’s-level training within the broader counseling literature. As the entry-level degree for the counseling profession, it comports with expectations that master’s-level training would, therefore, be more represented within the literature. Further, it may be the early developmental stage of the counseling profession that, in part, explains the lack of attention to doctoral-level counselor education. Additionally, the research-to-practice gap within the counseling profession may also explain the minimum coverage of the CACREP core areas within our results. For a detailed discussion of the research-to-practice gap in the counseling profession, see Lee et al. (2014).


Table 3 

Number of Articles Addressing Other Foci Beyond Domains

Other Focus    n
Dissertations   6
Persons of Color   4
Admissions  3
Program Culture   3
Attrition/Persistence   2
Career Planning   2
Motherhood   2
Problematic Behavior   2
International Students   1
School Counselor Educators   1
Spirituality   1
Student Experience
    General   4
    Comprehensive Exams   2
    International Students   1
    General   2
    Wellness in Motherhood   1
Workforce Issues   1
Total 38

Note. N = 38. Each article identified as having another focus
was only placed into one category.

Domain-Specific Discussion
     Across the domains, there was notably uneven coverage. With the highest occurrence (n = 11), Supervision may be more extensively covered because it is a skillset that is well-emphasized within counselor education and supervision doctoral programs. Supervision, as a professional skillset, also has significant interprofessional interest, relevance, and marketability. Professional Identity (n = 10) as a focus of doctoral-level research makes sense given the past two decades’ emphasis on unifying the profession and the resultant professional discourse around professional identity (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011). As CEDS experience a transition in their identity from practitioner to educator/researcher, professional identity is a natural topic of inquiry (Dollarhide et al., 2013). Similarly, as research skill and identity development have been an important part of the counselor education discourse (Lamar et al., 2019; Okech et al., 2006), it follows that Research (n = 10) would be tied for second in coverage of the CACREP core areas. Counseling (n = 9) was covered within the literature, somewhat surprisingly, more frequently than other domains that are considered foundational to the role of a counselor educator (Okech & Rubel, 2018), such as Teaching and Leadership.

The research covering Teaching (n = 8) and doctoral-level counselor education has received scant attention across the 15-year period. There are likely a few historical factors that have influenced this result. Most notably, doctoral training, specifically of PhDs, has not emphasized teaching, but rather the development of the subject expert (Kot & Hendel, 2012). And although counselor educators consider the training, teaching, and supervision of counselors-in-training to be a critical part of their work, the effectiveness of their teaching preparation remains a critical research topic (Association of Counselor Education and Supervision [ACES] Teaching Initiative Taskforce, 2016; Barrio Minton et al., 2018; Suddeath et al., 2020; Waalkes et al., 2018). Teaching also may not be as robustly covered of a domain in the research because of the historical reliance on other disciplines’ theories, andragogies, and practices or the absence of a collective, focused research agenda (ACES Teaching Initiative Taskforce, 2016).

Finally, although Leadership (n = 2) and Advocacy (n = 1) were covered within the research, the strikingly low occurrences of coverage stand in stark contrast to the profession’s stated values. Leadership is a robust area of scholarship outside of the profession of counseling and it is considered a critical part of doctoral counselor education (Chang et al., 2012). It may be that a significant amount of leadership-focused literature is primarily conceptual or theoretical in nature and thus did not meet the inclusion criteria. The absence in our results of research-driven discourse around doctoral-level leadership is noteworthy for those training the future leaders of the profession. Similarly, though advocacy has been discussed as a critical part of counselor practice (Toporek et al., 2010), it has also received little attention within the doctoral-level counselor education research. One possible reason for the minimal attention could be the seeming devaluation of advocacy within traditional conceptualizations of faculty scholarship (e.g., research, teaching; Ramsey et al., 2002). Perhaps, then, there is a “fitness” issue between professional advocacy skills and job responsibilities.

Other Foci
     These articles (n = 38) focused on some aspect of doctoral counselor education but also considered some element that did not directly link to CEDS’ learning, training, or skill acquisition. This may suggest a general interest in the experience and context of CEDS within the literature that simply did not map onto our scoping frame. The rationale for such non-domain, other-focused research likely lies in the counseling profession’s tacit understanding that education is a holistic endeavor and not solely driven by accreditation (Dickens et al., 2016).

There is value in this research that focuses on other aspects of the doctoral counselor education experience. If the profession is to value the role of accreditation in fostering quality education across the country, then it remains vital to build out a research base that bears relevance to both program accreditation and other variables related to the doctoral experience.

     In selecting the methodology for this study, researchers aimed to reduce limitations and increase rigor through the adoption of a protocol. Despite using the scoping review protocol, limitations of this study are evident and worth considering for future replications, particularly related to the search strategy, inclusion criteria, and the stringent focus on counselor education.

In designing the search strategy, researchers limited search terms to the most proximal to the CACREP doctoral core areas. Because of the limited set of search terms used, the search strategy may not have captured an exhaustive list of all eligible citations for inclusion. A possible solution to address this in future studies is the addition of broader spectrum search terms and automated search engines, such as Publish or Perish (Harzing, 2010).

Citations were only included if they were peer-reviewed, research-based articles; no grey literature was included. However, future scoping reviews may consider including grey literature (research-based or not research-based) in order to get a broader understanding of the existing scholarship focusing on doctoral counselor education.

By design, this study focused solely on “counselor education,” to the deliberate exclusion of “counseling psychology,” the profession’s historical cousin within the field of psychology. Counselor education is, however, also a terminology used primarily within the United States, and many countries do not differentiate these fields as distinctly as the United States (Bedi, 2016). As such, the possibility exists that some international articles that may contribute to the conversation on doctoral counselor education have not been captured within this review. Including counseling psychology in future studies may result in a more comprehensive yield, but the education and accreditation differences between the two professions is worthy to note.

Implications for Research
     In the absence of clear parameters to assess our results, we may consider this study as an initial diagnostic baseline in a larger effort to identify knowledge gaps and set shared research agendas (Tricco et al., 2016). Notable in the results is the lack of a sustained scholarship addressing doctoral-level counselor education. As research excellence remains a priority for the counseling profession (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011; Kline, 2003; Wester & Borders, 2014), counseling scholars require strategies to construct a long-term research agenda exploring doctoral-level counselor education and directly informing training. Such strategies may include regular assessments of the scope of the research (such as this study), a community of collaborative researchers, and professional association support and showcasing. In developing a clear understanding of doctoral-level counselor education, researchers may then work toward defining effectiveness, evaluation, and excellence in doctoral preparation. Further, for researchers interested in publishing in this area of scholarship, it may be useful to consider the publishing journal results in order to compare editorial fitness for manuscript publication. All domains considered warrant further attention and scholarly investigation.

Implications for Counselor Educators
     In light of the 39 research-driven articles focusing on doctoral counselor education published from 2005–2019, it is critical to wonder if this is a robust enough evidence base to inform program-wide decision-making for doctoral training programs. For example, in a cursory review of the counseling literature, few published textbooks exist that specifically address doctoral-level counselor education domains, such as teaching (McAuliffe & Eriksen, 2011; West et al., 2013) or research (Balkin & Kleist, 2016) and at-large issues (Flamez et al., 2017; Homrich & Henderson, 2018; Okech & Rubel, 2018). To move beyond adapting master’s-level curriculum for more advanced practice, as may be appropriate for experienced professional counselors, counselor educators require a specific body of literature, tools, and strategies for developing doctoral counselor education programs that meet or exceed CACREP standards.

As doctoral-level preparation has previously been identified as vital for the long-term growth of the profession (Sears & Davis, 2003), doctoral program directors, faculty, and staff would benefit from the development of, for example, a specialized andragogy, professional identity, and best practices for implementation. Such a corpus of research evidence and praxis knowledge of doctoral-level counselor education could inform professional development workshops and resources focused on fostering doctoral student development. The results of the current study suggest an urgent need to address such gaps in our empirical body of evidence for application to counselor education doctoral programs.

Implications for the Counseling Profession
     CACREP, as the accrediting body for counseling programs across the country, assumes the responsibility for setting the standard of professional preparation for doctoral learners. By articulating clear and robust standards for doctoral programs, CACREP advances a framework that aims to produce competent counselor educators. It is essential to consider the extant conceptual, empirical, and experience base. Within this scoping review, findings indicate a seemingly impoverished empirical base covering the domains for doctoral-level counselor education. Other authors have called for further empirical inquiry of the CACREP standards, with particular respect to the evidence base for teaching preparation. In the ACES Teaching Initiative Taskforce (2016) Final Report, the authors wondered, “To what degree do current [2016] CACREP standards capture knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for effective teaching practice in counselor education?” (p. 36). To extend this question, it may also be asked, “To what degree do the current CACREP standards capture the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be an effective counselor educator post-graduation?” Additionally, “What empirical base can we draw from to inform our training of future counselor educators?”

CACREP is actively engaged in promoting research on the impact of accreditation and is thus uniquely positioned to encourage focused scholarship to develop a research base for future iterations of the doctoral standards. In order to meaningfully shape and encourage scholarly research, counseling organizations should embrace opportunities for collaboration. Extending cooperative partnerships with professional associations, such as ACES, may prove especially fruitful for CACREP, and the larger counseling profession, in constructing a professional scholarly discourse around research of doctoral-level preparation. Such strategies that could stimulate research focused on doctoral-level preparation in counselor education may include: facilitating research-incubation initiatives; increasing the availability and amount of funding for such research; and the regular publication of briefs, syntheses, or memoranda that promote research-based or empirically driven preparation practices.


If doctoral preparation of counselor educators is to advance in a research-informed way, then the scholarship of doctoral-level training is valuable. Calling for more research is not the final conclusion of this study. Rather, if doctoral-level counselor education is to remain important to the profession, then the profession would benefit from an organized, focused, and high-quality scholarship of doctoral-level training. Doctoral programs, counselor educators, and the profession would benefit from a robust corpus of scholarship that directly impacts decision-making, andragogy, and professional identity development. With minimal research covering the identified doctoral-level domains, an opportunity exists to engage in critical reflection on the existing scholarship and evidence that form the foundational architecture of doctoral-level education within the counseling profession. This research seeks to assist in identifying the gaps in the current body of published research literature on doctoral-level counselor education and inform future research activity.

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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Articles and Associated Domain Coverage 

Title Author Year Domains
An Exploration of the Perceived Impact of Post-Master’s Experience on Doctoral Study in Counselor Education and Supervision Farmer et al. 2017 Advocacy, Counseling, Leadership, Professional Identity, Research, Supervision, Teaching
Mindfulness and Counseling Self-Efficacy: The Mediating Role of Attention and Empathy Greason, P. B., & Cashwell, C. S. 2009 Counseling
Perceived Competency in Working with LGB Clients: Where Are We Now? Graham et al. 2012 Counseling
Faith as A Cultural Variable: Implications for Counselor Training Scott et al. 2016 Counseling
Collecting Multidimensional Client Data Using Repeated Measures: Experiences of Clients and Counselors Using The CCAPS-34 Martin et al. 2012 Counseling
Counselor Education Students’ Exposure to Trauma Cases Lu et al. 2017 Counseling
Multicultural Implications of the Influence of Ethnicity and Self-Efficacy for Students and Counselor Educators Maldonado, J. M. 2008 Counseling
Examining the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Multicultural Counseling Competencies in Counselor Trainees Campbell et al. 2018 Counseling, Professional Identity
Critical Readings for Doctoral Training in Rehabilitation Counseling: A Consensus-Building Approach Bishop et al. 2017 Counseling, Professional Identity, Research, Supervision, Teaching
Perceived Leadership Preparation in Counselor Education Doctoral Students Who Are Members of the American Counseling Association in CACREP-Accredited Programs Lockard et al. 2014 Leadership
Mexican American Women Pursuing Counselor Education Doctorates: A Narrative Inquiry Hinojosa, T. J., & Carney, J. V. 2016 Professional Identity
A “Chameleonic” Identity: Foreign-Born Doctoral Students in U.S. Counselor Education Interiano, C. G., & Lim, J. H. 2018 Professional Identity
Professional Identity Development in Counseling Professionals Woo, H., Lu, J.,
Harris, C., & Cauley, B.
2017 Professional Identity
Professional Identity Development of Counselor Education Doctoral Students: A Qualitative Investigation Limberg et al. 2013 Professional Identity
Professional Identity Development of Counselor Education Doctoral Students Dollarhide et al. 2013 Professional Identity
Title Author Year Domains
Fostering Connections Between Graduate Students and Strengthening Professional Identity Through Co-Mentoring Murdock et al. 2013 Professional Identity
Pedagogical Perspectives on Counselor Education: An Autoethnographic Experience of Doctoral Student Development Elliott et al. 2019 Professional Identity, Teaching
Evidence for the Mitigating Effects of a Support Group for Attitudes Toward Statistics Lenz et al. 2013 Research
The Authorship Determination Process in Student–Faculty Collaboration Research Welfare, L. E., & Sackett, C. R. 2011 Research
Understanding the Researcher Identity Development of Counselor Education and Supervision Doctoral Students Lamar, M. R., & Helm, H. M. 2017 Research
Doctoral Counselor Education Students’ Levels of Research Self-Efficacy, Perceptions of the Research Training Environment, and Interest in Research Lambie, G. W., & Vaccaro, N. 2011 Research
Doctoral Research Training of Counselor Education Faculty Okech et al. 2006 Research
Advisory Relationship as a Moderator Between Research Self-Efficacy, Motivation, and Productivity Among Counselor Education Doctoral Students Kuo et al. 2017 Research
Research Training in Doctoral Programs Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs Borders et al. 2014 Research
Program Evaluation in Doctoral-Level Counselor Education Preparation: Concerns and Recommendations Sink, C. A., & Lemich, G. 2018 Research
International Doctoral Students in Counselor Education: Coping Strategies in Supervision Training Woo et al. 2015 Supervision
A Qualitative Study of Challenges Faced by International Doctoral Students in Counselor Education Supervision Courses Jang et al. 2014 Supervision
Becoming a Supervisor: Qualitative Findings on Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Doctoral Student Supervisors-in-Training Frick, M. H., & Glosoff, H. L. 2014 Supervision
Becoming a Supervisor: Doctoral Student Perceptions of the Training Experience Nelson et al. 2006 Supervision
New Supervisors’ Struggles and Successes With Corrective Feedback Borders et al. 2017 Supervision
A Delphi Study and Initial Validation of Counselor Supervision Competencies Neuer Colburn et al. 2016 Supervision
Supervisee Incompatibility and Its Influence on Triadic Supervision: An Examination of Doctoral Student Supervisor’s Perspectives Hein et al. 2011 Supervision
Examining the Status of Supervision Education in Rehabilitation Counsellor Training Pebdani et al. 2016 Supervision
Student Reflections on the Journey to Being a Supervisor Rapisarda et al. 2011 Supervision
Learning to Teach: Teaching Internships in Counselor Education and Supervision Hunt, B., & Gilmore, G. W. 2011 Teaching
Teaching Competencies in Counselor Education: A Delphi Study Swank, J. M. 2019 Teaching
Structure, Impact, and Deficiencies of Beginning Counselor Educators’ Doctoral Teaching Preparation Waalkes et al. 2018 Teaching
Coteaching in Counselor Education: Preparing Doctoral Students for Future Teaching Baltrinic et al. 2016 Teaching
Observing the Development of Constructivist Pedagogy in One Counselor Education Doctoral Cohort: A Single Case Design McCaughan et al. 2013 Teaching

 Note. N = 39. Only articles that met the inclusion criteria and covered at least one doctoral domain are included.


Inspiration for this research stemmed from the completion of a doctoral-level course assignment developed by Dr. Deborah Rubel, an associate professor at Oregon State University. Gideon Litherland, PhD, NCC, CCMHC, ACS, BC-TMH, LCPC, is a core faculty member in the Counseling@Northwestern site of the Counseling Program at the Family Institute at Northwestern University. Gretchen Schulthes, PhD, NCC, LAC, is the Associate Director of Advisement and Transfer at Hudson County Community College. Correspondence may be addressed to Gideon Litherland, 618 Library Place, Evanston, IL 60201,