A Phenomenological Exploration of Counselors-in-Training’s Experiences of Microaggressions from Clients

Corrine R. Sackett, Heather L. Mack, Jyotsana Sharma, Ryan M. Cook, Jardin Dogan-Dixon

Microaggressions can and do occur in the counseling process, yet there is a dearth of literature about how counselors-in-training (CITs) experience this phenomenon from clients or how they may respond to clients who perpetuate microaggressions against them in a therapeutic setting. Therefore, in this constructivist phenomenological study, we explored CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients in the counseling process. Two interviews with six participants of various marginalized identities revealed the following themes: (a) internal reactions, (b) attempts to contextualize, (c) prevalence of microaggressions, (d) navigating microaggressions, and (e) seeking support. Findings and implications for CITs and counselor educators and supervisors are discussed.

Keywords: microaggressions, constructivist phenomenology, counseling process, counselors-in-training, counselor educators

Microaggressions have been defined as intentional or unintentional ongoing verbal or nonverbal offensives experienced by individuals of a marginalized group (Ratts et al., 2016) and as “subtle and stunning” daily racial offenses that impact the health and well-being of individuals (Pierce, 1970). Counselors and counselors-in-training (CITs) of marginalized identities are often uncertain of whether or how to respond to microaggressions in counseling sessions while keeping the counseling relationship intact (Branco & Bayne, 2020). As such, counseling researchers have the opportunity and responsibility to explore the experiences of counselors or CITs who are the target of microaggressions from clients. Scholarship around this topic can help the counseling profession, and counselor education specifically, in developing competencies to help guide CITs and counselors in these situations.

Given the reality that there are clients from privileged groups receiving counseling from CITs from marginalized groups (Haskins et al., 2015; Ratts et al., 2016) and that the counseling process is an intersection of cultural identities between the client and CIT (Ratts et al., 2016), there is potential for microaggressions to occur in this relationship. Various studies have explored microaggressions within the counseling setting as experienced by clients who identify as racial/ethnic minorities (Constantine, 2007; Crawford, 2011; Morton, 2011; Owen et al., 2011, 2014); however, much less is known about counselors’ and CITs’ experiences with clients who may perpetuate microaggressions against them (Branco & Bayne, 2020). Given the dearth of literature focusing on how CITs can and do handle microaggressions from clients, we aimed to help fill this gap in the literature by exploring CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients.

In the 1970s, Harvard-trained Black psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce coined the term “microaggression” to describe the insults that he witnessed Black Americans encounter daily (Pierce, 1970). His work has been seminal in laying a foundation for understanding the damage that negative interracial interactions have on Black Americans’ health. Decades later, Sue and colleagues (2007) continued Pierce’s research on microaggressions and expanded its definition to include experiences of cultural bias, prejudice, and power imbalance. Literature about microaggressions in the counseling profession highlights the negative impact of counselors being the offender, or the person who perpetuates microaggressions, toward a racially/ethnically marginalized client in session (Constantine, 2007; Owen et al., 2011).

Although racial microaggressions toward racially/ethnically marginalized people have been studied extensively, microaggressions can also target gender, sexual orientation, ability status, class, religion, and other visible and invisible identities (Chan et al., 2018). The consequences of microaggressions on the counselor–client relationship have been studied in the context of gender (Owen et al., 2010) and sexual orientation (Shelton & Delgado-Romero, 2013). As such, there is a need for more research to explore microaggressions as a phenomenon that affects various identities. When individuals identify with multiple salient identities, they are more likely to experience privilege and oppression. For instance, a person can experience White privilege while simultaneously experiencing marginalization from identifying as queer—this person can belong to both oppressive and oppressed groups. Because one identity can be stigmatized while another is privileged, there is complexity in understanding one’s whole identity rather than only its parts. The Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC) include a quadrant to represent a privileged client and a marginalized counselor (Ratts et al., 2016) that can be used to conceptualize the dynamic of microaggressions experienced by counselors from clients. It is possible, of course, for counselors and clients to identify with being in more than one quadrant simultaneously as members of both privileged and marginalized groups. Further, the intersectionality of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities may increase the frequency and impact of microaggressions (Williams et al., 2021). Microaggressions toward intersecting marginalized identities compound their harmful impact (Nadal et al., 2015).

Oppression on an individual level in the form of microaggressions, regardless of whether they are intentional or unintentional, can have a devastating impact on individuals’ physical and mental health (Pierce, 1970; Ratts et al., 2016). Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress have been reported by researchers as being associated with microaggressions (Williams et al., 2021). Thus, it is feasible that CITs would experience these same mental and physical reactions to microaggressions within the counseling relationship (Branco & Bayne, 2020), which in turn seems likely to influence their work with current and future clients.

Purpose of the Study
     Branco and Bayne (2020) asserted that counselor educators are called to provide training for counselors from marginalized identities to work with clients from privileged identities, and the counselor education field is lacking in this area. Because the cultural experiences and backgrounds of clients and counselors impact the counseling relationship (Constantine, 2007; Crawford, 2011; Morton, 2011; Owen et al., 2011, 2014), counseling process, treatment selection, and outcomes, it is critical that counseling researchers expand inquiry in this area (Hays, 2020). Specifically, counseling researchers need to inquire more about counselors’ experiences with social injustice and how those affect the counseling process. As established, the MSJCC framework allows for counselors and clients from many intersecting privileged and marginalized identities (Ratts et al., 2016). Although previous studies have focused exclusively on racial microaggressions from clients, Branco and Bayne (2020) called for a broader examination to include counselors or CITs who identify with a marginalized status outside of race and ethnicity. As such, the purpose of the current study was to explore CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients, regardless of the one or more marginalized identities they carried, through van Manen’s (2016) constructivist hermeneutic phenomenological approach. This is a reflective process focused on the lived experiences of participants. By specifically focusing on CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients, we gain insight into how to better provide supervision and training in this area. Thus, the research question that guided this investigation was: “What are CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients in the counseling process?”


Research Design Overview
     We chose van Manen’s (2016) constructivist hermeneutic phenomenological approach for this inquiry of CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients, as it aims to increase thoughtfulness, grasp essential meaning, and come into closer contact with the world while providing thought-provoking data that are ideal for clinical practice (Sackett & Cook, 2021). van Manen described hermeneutic phenomenological research as choosing a phenomenon of serious interest, investigating the lived experience of the phenomenon, reflecting on its essential themes, describing the phenomenon through writing and rewriting, remaining in pedagogical relationship, and balancing the parts of the whole of the research.

Researcher Reflexivity
     Following van Manen’s (2016) advisement that researchers be aware of and transparent about their own experience of the phenomenon under investigation and the influence of their own values, beliefs, and experiences, we describe our positionality here for transparency. At the time of the study, authors Corrine R. Sackett, Jyotsana Sharma, and Ryan M. Cook were faculty members in counselor education programs at research universities—Sackett was an associate professor and Sharma and Cook were assistant professors. Heather L. Mack and Jardin Dogan-Dixon were graduates of a CACREP-accredited program specializing in clinical mental health counseling; Mack was practicing in agency and private practice settings and Dogan-Dixon was a correctional psychologist. Sackett, Mack, Sharma, and Dogan-Dixon identify as heterosexual and cisgender women, and Cook as a heterosexual and cisgender man. Sackett, Mack, and Cook identify as White, Sharma identifies as Asian Indian and international, and Dogan-Dixon identifies as Black and from a Christian background.

Sackett was drawn to this line of inquiry after a supervision session in which a supervisee disclosed a microaggression from a client related to gender. The supervisee’s site supervisor (a male counselor) was in the session as a co-counselor. Following the session, the CIT and site supervisor processed the event. Although the site supervisor was supportive, he advised the CIT not to address the microaggression with the client because it was not related to the client’s counseling goals. The CIT described feeling dismissed by her site supervisor’s response. She also described uncertainty in how to continue a meaningful counseling relationship with the client afterward without addressing the microaggression. This experience led Sackett to seek guidance from the literature on CITs’ or counselors’ handling of microaggressions from clients, but she found limited scholarly resources. Sackett was influenced by this experience in her conceptualization of the current study, and in analyzing and writing the findings. Further, while recognizing her privileged identities, Sackett has experienced gender microaggressions that have impacted her and the way she views this topic area. Mack, while also recognizing her privileged identities, has experienced gender microaggressions from clients and a site supervisor. Sharma identifies as an international scholar of Asian Indian descent. As an international woman of color, Sharma has experienced many microaggressions since moving to the United States. She has experienced microaggressions from clients, colleagues, and supervisors. Cook has wondered how supportive or unintentionally unsupportive he has been as a supervisor and faculty member with CITs’ experiences of microaggressions. Dogan-Dixon has experienced gendered racial microaggressions from clients, peers, and supervisors in various counseling settings across her training. She initially struggled to address microaggressions in the moment because of potential rejection and backlash; with practice, however, she has learned to address microaggressions in multiple ways, including caring confrontation. She now educates others on how to navigate microaggressions in personal and professional settings. In harnessing the interpretive nature of van Manen’s (2016) approach, instead of bracketing these biases, we embraced them as part of the process (Prosek & Gibson, 2021).

     Participants included six CITs from CACREP-accredited counselor education programs in the United States. Sampling was purposive for the phenomenon under investigation (Prosek & Gibson, 2021), and all participants met the eligibility criteria of being enrolled in a CACREP-accredited master’s program with a specialty in clinical mental health or school counseling, being enrolled in or completed practicum or internship in their program, and having lived experience of microaggressions from clients in the counseling process. Constructivist qualitative studies tend to have smaller sample sizes that allow for more depth of understanding and intriguing findings (Boddy, 2016). Though we recruited from across the United States, our resulting sample consisted of participants from the Southern region of counselor education programs. Participant ages ranged from 26–30 years. Self-named gender identity included one female, two cisgender female, two cisgender male, and one participant who did not specify gender. Self-named sexual orientation included one straight, one lesbian, two bisexual, and two who did not specify. Participants self-identified their racial/ethnic identities as Hispanic (one), Hispanic/Latina (one), Black/Afro Latino (one), Caucasian (one), and White (two). Those who answered the question of other relevant identities named student or partnership status. Participants were entered into a drawing for one of three $15 Starbucks gift cards after completion of the second interview as a token of appreciation for their time.

Participant Recruitment
     Sackett obtained human subjects research approval from her university of employment’s IRB. Sackett then recruited participants by sending two rounds of emails explaining the purpose of the study to contacts from 387 CACREP-accredited master’s programs in the United States with specialty areas in clinical mental health and school counseling. The email requested the faculty member send the recruitment email with the purpose of the study and a note about what participation entailed to their master’s students who were currently enrolled in, or had completed, practicum or internship in their program. Inclusion criteria included the experience of a microaggression from a client, regardless of marginalized identity(ies) of the CIT. The email asked CITs to contact Sackett if interested in participation. When participants contacted Sackett, she completed the informed consent process and referred them to Mack to schedule the first interview. Ten individuals contacted Sackett with interest in participating in the study. However, four of the initial 10 individuals reported not having experiences of microaggressions to share after hearing the definition of a microaggression from Mack (see Data Collection below).

Data Collection
     Mack conducted two interviews over Zoom with each participant. Two interviews per participant allowed for sustained engagement with the phenomenon, and interviews were spaced from 1 to 3 weeks apart per participant to allow time for reflection between the interviews. This resulted in 12 interviews. Each participant answered demographic questions during the first interview that requested gender, age, race/ethnicity, any other relevant identities, and pseudonym. To begin each interview, Mack broached her identities with participants (Day-Vines et al., 2007) and verbally gave participants a definition of microaggressions as intentional or unintentional ongoing verbal or nonverbal offensives experienced by individuals of a marginalized group (Ratts et al., 2016). Interview questions were centered on CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients, in line with van Manen’s (2016) recommendation that the interview be strongly oriented to the phenomenon. Interview questions were developed by Sackett, Mack, and Sharma and were informed by extant literature of counselors’ experiences of microaggressions from clients (e.g., Branco & Bayne, 2020), multicultural counseling competencies (e.g., Ratts et al., 2016), and CITs’ prioritization of information for supervision (e.g., Cook & Welfare, 2018), coupled with the authors’ respective expertise and perspectives. Researchers used the same interview protocol for both interviews, which can be found in the Appendix. While being mindful of the differences between counseling and interviewing (Sackett & Lawson, 2016), Mack utilized counseling skills to facilitate discussion and to communicate empathy (Kleist, 2017). Interviews ranged in length from 24 to 62 minutes (M = 46.1; SD = 11.82), except for Lila’s second interview of only approximately 5 minutes, as she indicated she had nothing to add from the previous interview. Interviews were audio-recorded and later transcribed by a graduate assistant.

     We used NVivo Version 12 (QSR, 2018) software to manage the data. Operating from van Manen’s (2016) approach, we were concerned with capturing the essential meaning of the phenomenon, which involved seeing the essential meaning of each participant’s experience, reaching a reflective determination, and explaining the experience. In this process, we gave order to the research and writing by considering the phenomenon in themes. Along with van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenological approach, we employed the First and Second Cycle coding process described by Miles et al. (2020). After listening to all participant interviews, Sackett reviewed the 12 interview transcripts while utilizing a line-by-line approach to coding (van Manen, 2016). She applied in vivo codes in her first review and then went back through the data to apply a combination of descriptive codes, process codes, emotion codes, and value codes in the First Cycle coding (Miles et al., 2020). This allowed for a way to summarize segments of data. Next, Sackett applied Second Cycle coding, or pattern coding, to group the initial codes into themes. van Manen described this theme development as giving shape to the shapeless in the data.

We followed van Manen’s (2016) recommendation that for deeper understanding, a peer may read a draft of the description of the phenomenon and share their insights of whether the description resonates with their own experience of the participants’ descriptions. As such, Mack, who had conducted the interviews, and Sharma, who listened to the recordings of the interviews, read the steps of First and Second Cycle coding Sackett employed and shared their insights of how the description of the findings reflected their experience of the participants’ accounts. Through this iterative process, we were able to examine, reinterpret, and reformulate themes while keeping in mind van Manen’s guiding question for this process of whether the phenomenon would still be the same if we were to change or delete any theme. We followed van Manen’s advisement to be mindful to capture individual experiential differences in our data analysis and writing process of the phenomenon. In this study, that meant considering the unique identities of each participant, including intersecting identities and how those may impact their experience of microaggressions from clients. We chose to structure our writing of the phenomenon thematically, one of van Manen’s suggestions for organizing the portrayal of the data. There is some overlap in the nuances of the meanings of the themes, as describing a phenomenon is bound to have a somewhat forced quality.

Methodological Integrity
     As suggested by van Manen (2016), the researchers engaged with each other throughout the entire process of data collection and analysis in a collaborative way that led to deeper understanding of the phenomenon. This process strengthened our engagement with the phenomenon and transcended the limits of having a sole researcher. In doing this, we had regular phone calls, video meetings, and emails throughout the study. Sackett kept a reflective journal while listening to the interviews and conducting analysis. Further, we kept a log of each step in the process, including interview data, codes, and theme development, to show the culmination of our interpretation of the findings. Finally, we conducted two member checks through email with each participant. Member checks allowed participants to reflect on the transcripts of the interviews for further insight and to review the themes and allow for feedback on if it was an accurate description of what the experience is like (van Manen, 2016). Therefore, we conducted member checks after interviews were transcribed and after theme development. In the second member check, we invited participants into dialogue around whether the themes reflected their experience of the phenomenon.


Five themes emerged from our exploration of CITs’ experiences of microaggressions from clients in the counseling process: (a) internal reactions, (b) attempts to contextualize, (c) prevalence of microaggressions, (d) navigating microaggressions, and (e) seeking support. The first theme, internal reactions, had three subthemes: caught off guard, discomfort, and imposter phenomenon. The fourth theme, navigating microaggressions, had five subthemes: fear of responding genuinely, letting it go, attempting to redirect, directly responding, and avoiding. The final theme, seeking support, had three subthemes: site, university, and family and peers. Pseudonyms chosen by the participants are used throughout the Findings section to maintain participants’ confidentiality.

Internal Reactions
     The first theme, internal reactions, embodies what was happening internally with CITs as they experienced microaggressions in the counseling process. This theme includes subthemes centered around being caught off guard, feeling discomfort, and experiencing imposter phenomenon.

Caught Off Guard
     The first subtheme of internal reactions CITs experienced, caught off guard, describes the initial reaction from the microaggression and not being sure how to react outwardly. David cautiously described his reaction to a parent in a school counseling setting as “mostly just confusion and not really being sure how to respond in that particular situation to what the parent had said.” Wesley, on the other hand, also in a school counseling setting, carefully described trying to manage being caught off guard with how he responded nonverbally in the moment:

I put on my poker face. Nonverbally, eyes kind of narrow, brows furrow. . . . [if] they catch me off guard, like one eyebrow goes up. But because . . . of the mask [from the pandemic], they can’t really read my facial expression, they can only see my eyes.

     CITs also conveyed feeling discomfort in their internal reactions to microaggressions, including anxiety, fear, hurt, sadness, and anger. Lila solemnly described her surprise and discomfort with a client making assumptions of her based on ethnicity as “not ashamed, but saddened that she made that difference between us. I didn’t think she would have done that.”

Imposter Phenomenon
     The third subtheme that resonated with CITs’ experiences in terms of internal reactions was imposter phenomenon. CITs often felt microaggressions from clients made them question their competency and even confirmed doubts they already had in the counselor role, as David thoughtfully articulated:

I think this goes back a little bit to the imposter syndrome that a lot of interns feel, and that I know that I’ve certainly felt. It’s like someone seeing me for who I am and confirming all the different feelings that I have about myself. About maybe not being fully capable in the role yet. . . . very much like, “oh you’re seeing me for who I am” and feeling . . . “I agree with you. You’re seeing how I see myself in some situations.”

Attempts to Contextualize
     The next theme, attempts to contextualize, captures CITs’ tendency and desire to try to make sense of the client microaggression and to understand where the client was coming from and why they may have felt that way or may have said those things. For instance, Lila rationalized—while not excusing the microaggression from her client—“I guess the moment when she said that she was ill, and she was going through a lot of issues. So, I kind of understand her, but I don’t think there was a need of saying stuff like that.” Riley came from the perspective that it is part of a counselor’s role to seek to understand the microaggression:

I see where individuals come from and . . . my job will be to understand the perspective of the other individual . . . and show that type of unconditional positive regard and that unconditional empathy toward them. And kind of look at things from their view. I try not to take things . . . too hard. Because it was just the way they were raised.

Prevalence of Microaggressions
     The next theme encompasses CITs’ perspectives that microaggressions are part of their lives and ongoing experiences, and in some cases they described feeling a bit numb or resigned to microaggressions. Riley said that she “didn’t feel anything. I was just like, ‘here this guy goes again.’ I wasn’t frustrated because I didn’t feel my face getting hot. . . . Typically when I get frustrated, my ears start to burn.”

Wesley underscored the prevalence of these experiences in his world, too: “At this point, nothing really surprises me. Maybe it’s me putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses and just using the glass to filter through whatever microaggressions come at me at this point.” He expressed feeling like he had experienced enough microaggressions to “kind of become numb to it. . . . it happens, and you don’t even pay it any mind, especially living in the South.”

Navigating Microaggressions
     The next theme speaks to how CITs navigated, or thought about navigating, the microaggressions with clients. These responses ranged broadly from fear of responding genuinely to letting it go, attempting to redirect, directly responding, or avoiding.

Fear of Responding Genuinely
     The first subtheme captures the participants’ fear of responding genuinely to clients, even when in some cases they would have liked to. Some of this fear centered on participants’ awareness that they may be playing into stereotypes held by clients if they were to respond genuinely, as Riley richly articulated:

That really bothers me . . . I tend to find myself taking a moment to myself, and I’ll be like, “okay, you’re good” . . . “that’s okay. It’s just one thing that one person told you and maybe they were having a bad day.” So, I try to be as understanding as I can.

Riley expressed that society and the media often portray Latina women as “feisty” or “spicy,” and that she does not want to “give [someone] that satisfaction” of confirming the stereotype: “I’m not like that, you know? I’m not spicy. I’m not a food.”

Other CITs described fear of the vulnerability involved with responding genuinely to a client’s microaggression. For example, Blake explained her genuine response and surrounding fear:

And I did disclose to the client that I’m bisexual. I said, “Oh I’m, I’m bi.” But I had that like, even knowing that the client was part of LGBTQ community, I had that question of like, “Why is the client asking? Is this appropriate? What should I say? What do I do?”

Letting It Go
     CITs described often letting microaggressions go for the sake of the client, the counseling, and the counseling relationship. Connecting back to the theme of attempting to contextualize the microaggression, Riley felt it was her responsibility to let it go, “because they’re [microaggressions] from clients, I understand the role as . . . as a student counselor, that I have to kind of push it aside, and bracket those feelings.” Wesley was earnest in his feeling that microaggressions from students’ parents should not get in the way of his work as a school CIT:

Yeah it’s going to take the focus off of the kid. And it’s going to make things awkward. So I’m all for teaching people, but there’s a . . . moment in time when it’s appropriate. And at this point . . . I’m just trying to get through what we’re doing so we can move on to the next parent. No . . . hard feelings, I’m not upset. I’m a little disappointed, but I’m not livid . . . let’s just move on.

Attempting to Redirect
     Some CITs chose to navigate the microaggression by redirecting it back to the client or to another topic without directly addressing the microaggression. For instance, Riley spoke to her efforts to connect these incidents back to clients indirectly: “Even if it’s something said toward us, we try to find a window . . . or different backdoor type of thing to redirect whatever they are saying back to them.”

Directly Responding
     There were times in the CITs’ experiences of microaggressions in counseling where there was a direct response, either by themselves, a part of the client system, or their site supervisors. CITs seemed to view these instances as reparative in the rift the microaggression created in the therapeutic relationship. For example, Wesley fondly recalled a time when a student apologized for his parent’s microaggression after the fact:

They felt that I was uncomfortable, and they felt the need to try and repair it by apologizing for their parents. So it was very validating to me as a person. And to me as a Black person, because the kid realize what their parents had [done] was out of pocket . . . I’m assuming the kid didn’t want our relationship to suffer. . . . So we talked about it. “Look it’s cool it happened, you and I are still good,” and we moved on.

In a different vein, Blake said that responding directly to a youth client questioning her sexual identity in a public area of the practice helped build trust with the client:

[If] I had hesitated, or if I had said, “oh, no, like I’m not like [that],” I think you know, I think people are perceptive and I think that would have damaged [the relationship]. Even if I’m not sure that the disclosure was an additive piece to the relationship, I think that not being forthcoming would have detracted from anything in that moment.

     Finally, within the theme of navigating clients’ microaggressions, participants reported engaging in avoidance afterward in response. This avoidance included instances when the CIT dreaded contact with the client (or the client system) and limited contact when possible. Avoidance also showed up on behalf of the client by discontinuing work with the CIT in individual or group settings. M relayed that her site found a way to separate her and the client who microaggressed against her: “They even said . . . ‘We’re going to not put her in groups with you . . . it’s just not safe for either of you guys.’” Wesley, a school counseling CIT, somberly described parents trying to avoid him after microaggressing against him: “I’ve had a few [parents] request a different . . . counselor when they come in, because they may feel like they soured their relationship with me already. These are the parents . . . who have noticed that they . . . micro-assaulted me.”

Seeking Support
     The final theme, seeking support, captures participants’ experiences (or lack thereof) of seeking and finding support from their sites, university supervisors and faculty, and family and peers.

     CITs often found support at their sites after experiencing microaggressions from clients. This was frequently seemingly because of physical proximity. Often CITs’ site supervisors or other counselors at the site may have witnessed the microaggression or CITs were able to debrief with someone nearby after it happened. David indicated having a quick but meaningful moment of support with his site supervisor before moving on to their next meeting. He recalled that “after the meeting my supervisor and I just kind of like gave each other a look like, ‘ooh that was kind of a strange meeting.’” M was able to debrief with her site supervisor regularly following repeated microaggressions from her client and found her guidance helpful and supportive, especially in the realm of not taking things personally. M said her supervisor encouraged her to “process it on my own, to make sure that it’s not affecting me . . . to where I can’t even use my counseling skills. Like she didn’t want me to go home at night thinking that a patient hates me.”

     For the most part, CITs described either not taking these instances of microaggressions to university supervisors or faculty or facing unsupportive responses when they did. Blake relayed feeling shut down by a faculty member’s humor in a class discussion when she brought up how she handled a microaggression with self-disclosure:

Yeah it was a moment of . . . playful questioning of like, “Oh, that’s the decision you made?” That kind of has that implication that maybe it wasn’t the best decision without having more context, right? And I know . . . that [humor is] kind of his approach. But it was a moment, where I was . . . like, “well I don’t really feel like going further with this.”

In some cases, CITs did find helpful and supportive responses from their faculty. Riley described her professor normalizing her experience and giving her what she found to be helpful advice:

[He] told me, “Sometimes we get things like that,” and that’s when he gave me that advice of trying to redirect the question or redirect it back to the client, versus falling into the trap. Well, he called it a trap. Into that little trap they could be setting for us.

Many participants described feeling as though the microaggression was handled by themselves, at their sites, or through processing with family; thus, they felt no need to bring it up in university supervision.

Family and Peers
     CITs frequently described seeking out their families, friends, and peers for support after experiencing a microaggression from a client. Lila processed her experience with her husband, who gave her advice to have more boundaries with her client and “to keep it more professional. . . . I would sometimes disclose about my personal life because she would ask. So I just stopped disclosing.” Riley expressed feeling the need to vent to friends about her experience, “like ‘What the hell was this lady thinking like telling me that?’ . . . just letting it out.”

Wesley sought support from his mother and grandmother in processing microaggressions perpetuated by students’ parents in his school counseling role. He relayed their supportive response:

It was more of a, “These things can happen, you handle it appropriately.” . . . they have had experiences with microaggressions themselves. [They] may not have known what to call them but have experienced it. And pretty much just applauded me for staying neutral, not punishing the kid for what their parents said, and not completely blasting the parent in the meeting because . . . of a joke they let out.


In the current study, we explored six CITs’ experiences of microaggressions perpetuated by their clients in counseling settings. The findings from this study provide insight into how novice counselors experience microaggressions from their clients and choose to handle it. We hope these findings enrich the understanding of client-based microaggressions and offer important implications for CITs, counselor educators, and supervisors.

The first theme, internal reactions, reflected the ways in which participants internally processed the microaggression from their client, which is consistent with prior literature of counselors of color’s experiences with microaggressions from clients (Branco & Bayne, 2020). Interestingly, the CITs in the current study described being caught off guard—feeling confused and uncertain with how to respond—while the more seasoned counselors of color in Branco and Bayne’s (2020) study described buffering and bracing for the microaggression, as if they were prepared for it. Counselors in Branco and Bayne’s study (2020) described their readiness for microaggressions from clients was informed by their prior and extensive personal and professional experiences. Although the CITs may have experienced microaggressions in their personal lives and were used to them, as evidenced by the theme of prevalence of microaggressions, their being caught off guard may be attributable to their lack of counseling experience, and more specifically, having never experienced microaggressions from clients and having not yet learned how to navigate this issue.

The CITs further described how microaggressions from clients caused feelings of hurt, fear, anger, sadness (subtheme of discomfort), and experiences of imposter phenomenon. CITs commonly experience confusion, doubt, and worry about their own professional competencies and preparedness as counselors—sometimes internalizing issues in counseling as their own failures (Loganbill et al., 1982; McNeil & Stoltenberg, 2016). Ultimately, CITs in this study also tried to understand the microaggression from their clients’ perspectives. CITs seemed to understand that people inherit their biases from their families and ancestors and reinforce them through microaggressions, oftentimes unintentionally (Williams et al., 2021). Counselors of color in Branco and Bayne’s (2020) study expressed that they tried to make sense of the microaggression as well, and considered their clients’ worldview, racial identity development, and experiences as they evaluated how they would handle the microaggression. The degree to which CITs can consider the clients’ worldview and cultural identity development may depend on their level of professional development (McNeil & Stoltenberg, 2016) and their own identity development (Day-Vines et al., 2007; Jones et al., 2019).

The CITs in the current study described microaggressions as an ongoing part of their lives, as captured in the theme of prevalence of microaggressions. Microaggressions have been referred to as everyday racism, as they are routine and chronic for individuals of racially and ethnically marginalized populations (Williams et al., 2021). This finding is consistent with prior literature of racial microaggressions (Branco & Bayne, 2020; Haskins et al., 2015, Pierce, 1970). Our findings also extend the knowledge base about microaggressions from clients, as microaggressions can target not only race and ethnicity, but also gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, and religion. This finding is not unexpected; as informed by the MSJCC (Ratts et al., 2016), counselors and clients possess multiple identities, both privileged and marginalized, and visible and invisible.

The CITs in this study employed a variety of strategies in navigating microaggressions from their clients. Many CITs felt discomfort in the moment, but they were fearful of responding with their genuine reactions for various reasons. Some CITs tried to redirect the microaggressive client by concentrating on the client’s presenting issue or by taking the focus of the conversation elsewhere. Some CITs directly addressed perpetrators’ microaggressions and expressed that this action helped the relationship, while others decided to forgo addressing the microaggressions altogether. In some situations, clients and CITs attempted to avoid each other following the microaggressive incident. These varying responses are not unlike those found in prior research (Branco & Bayne, 2020). A unique contribution to this study is that our participants even experienced microaggressions from clients’ parents, reflecting a larger system that may foster and perpetuate biased opinions and perspectives toward individuals with marginalized identities. When counseling children, parents play an important role in the counseling relationship, despite not being the identified client (Sackett & Cook, 2021).

The final theme, seeking support, reflected the participants’ willingness and desire to seek support for their experiences of microaggression and from whom the support was sought. CITs must decide whether to disclose an issue experienced in counseling, including microaggressions (Branco & Bayne, 2020), and with whom they trust to share this information (Cook & Welfare, 2018; Cook et al., 2019). Some counselors in Branco and Bayne’s (2020) study spoke of seeking support (i.e., coworker, friend), while others did not and chose to process the event independently. The response of the CITs in our study was also somewhat mixed in this regard, as some CITs sought guidance from professionals at their site or, less often, from university faculty or supervisors, while others sought support from individuals in their personal lives. Given that our participants were trainees, it is not unexpected that they would seek guidance from someone more experienced, like a supervisor (McNeil & Stoltenberg, 2016), though interestingly many CITs did not choose to bring these situations to a university supervisor or faculty member. Further, the participants’ satisfaction with the support that they received, especially from their university, varied greatly. Although some participants felt validated, others felt unsupported. It remains to be seen how the response of the supervisors might inform participants’ actions in the future, although Cook et al. (2019) found that CITs who disclosed a salient concern to their supervisors and felt unsupported may be less willing or unwilling to bring up similar issues in the future with the same supervisor.

The finding that CITs in this study were discussing the microaggressions with family and peers must be carefully considered, even though this finding is not entirely unexpected. Ladany et al. (1996) found that CITs commonly discussed issues withheld from their supervisors with peers and friends, although these people were most often also in the mental health field. Further, studies have found that counselors with marginalized identities value the support of others with shared identities (Branco & Bayne, 2020; Haskins et al., 2015). However, like other scholars (Ladany et al., 1996), we wonder how a CIT’s professional development or client’s care might be impacted by heeding the advice of or seeking support from someone who does not possess the necessary training or is bound to the same ethical and professional mandates as a clinical supervisor or infield peer.

     There are limitations to this study that are important to note. Although researchers recruited participants from CACREP-accredited programs from across the United States, the resulting sample consisted of only those from the Southern region. CITs’ experiences with microaggressions in this region may be different from those in other parts of the country. Next, we did not explicitly ask about participants’ targeted identities; this information was inferred from participants’ experiences. Although a plethora of existing research focuses on racial microaggressions, we acknowledge that our participants also spoke about other marginalized identities that were salient to them. Additionally, although our sample size was congruent with the constructivist philosophical stance and scope of the study (Boddy, 2016), the sample was relatively small. Counselor educators should consider the transferability to CITs with marginalized identities working with clients of privileged identities. Finally, given van Manen’s (2016) recommendation for an interpretive conversation with participants around the identified themes, scheduling a verbal conversation with each participant for the second member check may have allowed for more input from participants on the findings.

Implications for CITs, Counselor Educators, and Supervisors
     Readers will need to determine, along with the researchers’ description, the naturalistic generalizability of these study findings to their contexts (Hays & McKibben, 2021). However, the findings from this study offer several notable implications for CITs. As with the participants in this study, CITs experiencing uncertainty with how to respond to microaggressions from clients should be expected, given that microaggressions can be difficult to identify and rectify because of their nebulous nature (Williams et al., 2021) and given the lack of training CITs receive on how to navigate these complex issues (Haskins et al., 2015). Further, learning how to best attend to cultural issues in the counseling relationship is a learned skill (Ratts et al., 2016) that is gained through curiosity, intentional learning, lived experience, and continued professional development (McNeil & Stoltenberg, 2016). As evidenced by findings from this study, as well as other studies (e.g., Branco & Bayne, 2020), counselors choose to respond to microaggressions from their clients in a multitude of ways, including offering no response at all. How best to respond to microaggressions is ultimately the choice of the CITs themselves, including the degree to which they discuss their experience and with whom. For example, CITs must consider their position of power in the counselor role, the impact of any decision on the counseling relationship, the intentionality of clients’ microaggressions, and their own emotional well-being
(Pierce, 1970). Given the complexity of this decision, there may be some useful strategies to help inform CITs’ decisions in how to best respond (Hernández et al., 2010; Nadal, 2011).

CITs may find it helpful to broach cultural identities with their clients at the beginning of their working relationship (Day-Vines et al., 2007). By inviting and normalizing conversations of cultural differences, it may make it easier for both parties to openly discuss microaggressions when they occur. CITs may also find it helpful to model humility in the counseling relationship by correcting their own assumptions about clients (Marbley, 2004). Broaching is a skill and a form of immediacy, or processing the here and now of the counseling relationship, which has been found meaningful in the counseling relationship and the counseling process to clients (Sackett & Lawson, 2016; Sackett et al., 2012) and CITs (Sackett et al., 2012). We believe CITs can harness the skill of immediacy (i.e., broaching) to address microaggressions with clients when they occur in counseling. But first, they need to be taught skills to disarm and dismantle microaggressions to reduce the harm and distress they may cause (Sue et al., 2019). Although the onus is not on CITs who experience microaggressions to always address them in the moment, developing a clinical skillset to educate clients on how to recognize their biases, challenge erroneous beliefs that undergird microaggressions, and develop empathy with those they have harmed is important to mitigating the risk of burnout among CITs with marginalized identities (Williams, 2020).

The findings from this study also offer important implications for counselor educators and supervisors. Fickling et al. (2019) contended that the MSJCC framework (Ratts et al., 2016) should be explicitly integrated into clinical supervision. These findings might also provide a rationale for counselor educators to consider how to infuse the MSJCC framework into their classrooms to better prepare students for microaggressions from clients. Specifically, counselor educators and supervisors can examine with CITs how a counselor holding a marginalized identity can engage with a client holding a privileged identity in a counseling relationship, including discussing or role-playing various scenarios and ways to manage microaggressions from clients (Branco & Bayne, 2020). Encouraging counselor self-care strategies (Sue et al., 2019) in processing these scenarios is critical.

Haskins and colleagues (2015) found that counselor educators acknowledged their curriculum was tailored for White students to work with White clients, even if unintentionally. Counselor education program faculty may apply critical race theory tenets to their curriculum to challenge the dominant White discourse in counselor education, as advised by Haskins and Singh (2015). Our findings highlight the value of training related to CITs’ other marginalized identities as well (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, religion, first language) when working with clients of various privileged and/or visible identities, a need identified by Branco and Bayne (2020). The absence of education on navigating microaggressions may lay the foundation for marginalized students to feel as though their experiences are misunderstood or unwelcomed by faculty or supervisors. The current study provides counselor educators and supervisors with information from CITs on how they experience the counseling process when the dynamics of clients with privileged identities and counselors with marginalized identities are present and political (Ratts et al., 2016). Our study findings fill a gap in the literature of the experiences of CITs who encounter clients who offend and perpetuate microaggressions against them while in session.

Because CITs and supervisees control what they share in supervision, fostering an environment that promotes supervisee disclosure is critical (Cook & Welfare, 2018). Studies of intentional nondisclosure (i.e., supervisees’ purposeful withholding of salient information in supervision; Cook & Welfare, 2018; Ladany et al., 1996) found that supervisors can best mitigate supervisees withholding information by attending to the supervisory relationship and demonstrating cultural humility (Cook & Welfare, 2018; Cook et al., 2020). When a CIT voices concerns related to their identities (i.e., a microaggression), counselor educators and supervisors have an opportunity to support such disclosure in a way that validates the CIT’s experience and encourages future disclosures (Cook et al., 2019). Jones et al. (2019) provided situational examples and related response prompts to guide counselor educators and supervisors on ways to broach cultural differences with their supervisees at the beginning of the supervisory relationship and appropriately attend to cultural issues throughout the relationship. Further, as multicultural competence is positively correlated to a stronger supervisory relationship from the supervisees’ perspective (Fickling et al., 2019), supervisors who work to incorporate the MSJCC framework into their supervision will benefit in their supervisory relationships, hopefully leading to increased disclosure of experienced microaggressions, and provision of appropriate support in navigating the CIT–client relationship.

Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of interest
or funding contributions for the development
of this manuscript.


Boddy, C. R. (2016). Sample size for qualitative research. Qualitative Market Research, 19(4), 426–432. https://doi.org/10.1108/QMR-06-2016-0053

Branco, S. F., & Bayne, H. B. (2020). Carrying the burden: Counselors of color’s experiences of microaggressions in counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 98(3), 272–282. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12322

Chan, C. D., Cor, D. N., & Band, M. P. (2018). Privilege and oppression in counselor education: An intersectionality framework. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 46(1), 58–73.

Constantine, M. G. (2007). Racial microaggressions against African American clients in cross-racial counseling relationships. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.54.1.1

Cook, R. M., Jones, C. T., & Welfare, L. E. (2020). Supervisor cultural humility predicts intentional nondisclosure by post-master’s counselors. Counselor Education and Supervision, 59(2), 160–167.

Cook, R. M., & Welfare, L. E. (2018). Examining predictors of counselor-in-training intentional nondisclosure. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(3), 211–226. http://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12111

Cook, R. M., Welfare, L. E., & Sharma, J. (2019). Exploring supervisees’ in-session experiences of utilizing intentional nondisclosure. The Clinical Supervisor, 38(2), 202–221.

Crawford, E. P. (2011). Stigma, racial microaggressions, and acculturation strategies as predictors of likelihood to seek counseling among Black college students. SHAREOK Repository. https://shareok.org/handle/11244/7357

Day-Vines, N. L., Wood, S. M., Grothaus, T., Craigen, L., Holman, A., Dotson-Blake, K., & Douglass, M. J. (2007). Broaching the subjects of race, ethnicity, and culture during the counseling process. Journal of Counseling & Development, 85(4), 401–409. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2007.tb00608.x

Fickling, M. J., Tangen, J. L., Graden, M. W., & Grays, D. (2019). Multicultural and social justice competence in clinical supervision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 58(4), 309–316. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12159

Haskins, N. H., Phelps, R. E., & Crowell, C. (2015). Critically examining Black students’ preparation to counsel White clients. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 7(3). https://digitalcommons.sacredheart.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1077&context=jcps

Haskins, N. H., & Singh, A. (2015). Critical race theory and counselor education pedagogy: Creating equitable training. Counselor Education and Supervision, 54(4), 288–301. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12027

Hays, D. G. (2020). Multicultural and social justice counseling competency research: Opportunities for innovation. Journal of Counseling & Development, 98(3), 331–344. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12327

Hays, D. G., & McKibben, W. B. (2021). Promoting rigorous research: Generalizability and qualitative research. Journal of Counseling & Development, 99(2), 178–188. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12365

Hernández, P., Carranza, M., & Almeida, R. (2010). Mental health professionals’ adaptive responses to racial microaggressions: An exploratory study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41(3), 202–209. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018445

Jones, C. T., Welfare, L. E., Melchior, S., & Cash, R. M. (2019). Broaching as a strategy for intercultural understanding in clinical supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 38(1), 1–16.

Kleist, D. M. (2017). Multiple perspectives on a phenomenon: The qualitative lenses. In R. S. Balkin & D. M. Kleist (Eds.), Counseling research: A practitioner-scholar approach (pp. 207–241). American Counseling Association.

Ladany, N., Hill, C. E., Corbett, M. M., & Nutt, E. A. (1996). Nature, extent, and importance of what psychotherapy trainees do not disclose to their supervisors. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 43(1), 10–24. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.43.1.10

Loganbill, C., Hardy, E., & Delworth, U. (1982). Supervision: A conceptual model. The Counseling Psychologist, 10(1), 3–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000082101002

Marbley, A. F. (2004). His eye is on the sparrow: A counselor of color’s perception of facilitating groups with predominately White members. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 29(3), 247–258.

McNeill, B. W., & Stoltenberg, C. D. (2016). Supervision essentials for the integrative developmental model. American Psychological Association.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldana, J. (2020). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (4th ed.). SAGE.

Morton, E. (2011). The incidence of racial microaggressions in the crossracial counseling dyad. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Saint Louis University.

Nadal, K. L. Y. (2011). Responding to racial, gender, and sexual orientation microaggressions in the workplace. In M. A. Paludi, C. A. Paludi, Jr., & E. R. DeSouza (Eds.), Praeger handbook on understanding and preventing workplace discrimination (Vol. 2; pp. 23–32). Praeger/ABC-CLIO.

Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Davis, L. S., Wong, Y., Marshall, D., & McKenzie, V. (2015). A qualitative approach to intersectional microaggressions: Understanding influences of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. Qualitative Psychology, 2(2), 147–163. https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000026

Owen, J., Imel, Z., Tao, K. W., Wampold, B., Smith, A., & Rodolfa, E. (2011). Cultural ruptures in short-term therapy: Working alliance as a mediator between clients’ perceptions of microaggressions and therapy outcomes. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 11(3), 204–212. https://doi.org/10.1080/14733145.2010.491551

Owen, J., Tao, K. W., Imel, Z. E., Wampold, B. E., & Rodolfa, E. (2014). Addressing racial and ethnic microaggressions in therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(4), 283–290.

Owen, J., Tao, K., & Rodolfa, E. (2010). Microaggressions and women in short-term psychotherapy: Initial evidence. The Counseling Psychologist, 38(7), 923–946. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000010376093

Pierce, C. (1970). Offensive mechanisms. In F. B. Barbour (Ed.), The Black seventies (pp. 265–282). Porter Sargent.

Prosek, E. A., & Gibson, D. M. (2021). Promoting rigorous research by examining lived experiences: A review of four qualitative traditions. Journal of Counseling & Development, 99(2), 167–177.

QSR International Pty Ltd. (2018). NVivo (Version 12). https://lumivero.com/products/nvivo

Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2016). Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: Guidelines for the counseling profession. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 44(1), 28–48. https://doi.org/10.1002/jmcd.12035

Sackett, C. R., & Cook, R. M. (2021). An exploration of young clients’ experiences in counseling with post-master’s counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 99(1), 72–83. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12355

Sackett, C. R., & Lawson, G. (2016). A phenomenological inquiry of clients’ meaningful experiences in counseling with counselors-in-training. Journal of Counseling & Development, 94(1), 62–71.

Sackett, C., Lawson, G., & Burge, P. L. (2012). Meaningful experiences of clients and counselors-in-training in counseling. The Professional Counselor, 2(3), 208–225. https://doi.org/10.15241/css.2.3.208

Shelton, K., & Delgado-Romero, E. A. (2013). Sexual orientation microaggressions: The experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer clients in psychotherapy. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(S), 59–70. https://doi.org/10.1037/2329-0382.1.S.59

Sue, D. W., Alsaidi, S., Awad, M. N., Glaeser, E., Calle, C. Z., & Mendez, N. (2019). Disarming racial microaggressions: Microintervention strategies for targets, White allies, and bystanders. American Psychologist, 74(1), 128–142. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000296

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271

van Manen, M. (2016). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Williams, M. T. (2020). Microaggressions: Clarification, evidence, and impact. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15(1), 3–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691619827499

Williams, M. T., Skinta, M. D., & Martin-Willett, R. (2021). After Pierce and Sue: A revised racial microaggressions taxonomy. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(5), 991–1007. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691621994247


Interview Protocol

Tell me about your experience(s) where a client said something that felt like a microaggression toward you.

  • What feelings came to you when you experienced the microaggression from your client?
  • What thoughts came to you?
  • How did you respond (verbally and/or nonverbally)?
  • How did the client respond to your response?
  • What occurred then?
  • How do you feel this impacted your relationship with the client?

Did you process this experience with anyone? With whom did you share about this experience (peers, supervisors, faculty, friends, family, etc.)?

If you processed this with your supervisor(s), was this a doctoral student supervisor, faculty supervisor, or site supervisor?

  • How did your supervisor(s) respond?
  • How did your supervisor(s) encourage you to respond?
  • How did you feel about that response from your supervisor(s)?
  • How did you proceed after the feedback from your supervisor(s)?

If any further action was taken with your client following supervision:

  • How did your client respond?
  • How do you feel about how it went?
  • How do you feel this impacted your relationship with the client?

Did you seek [additional] supervision following [remedial] interactions you may have had with your client?

  • From whom?
  • What was the feedback from your supervisor(s)?

How do you feel this entire experience impacted your relationship with your supervisor(s)?

Any other experiences?

Corrine R. Sackett, PhD, LMFT, is an associate professor at Clemson University. Heather L. Mack, LPC, works for The Well Center in South Carolina. Jyotsana Sharma, PhD, ACS, LCMHC(NH), is an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University. Ryan M. Cook, PhD, LPC, ACS, is an associate professor at the University of Alabama. Jardin Dogan-Dixon, PhD, is a Correctional Psychologist for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Correspondence may be addressed to Corrine R. Sackett, 225 S. Pleasantburg Dr., Suite D-1, Greenville, SC 29607, csacket@clemson.edu.

Trajectory of Journal Article Publications for Counselor Educators at Comprehensive Universities

Gregory T. Hatchett

This study involved a longitudinal analysis of the journal article publications accrued by counselor educators at comprehensive universities over the first 20 years since receiving their doctoral degrees. A review of electronic databases revealed these counselor educators accrued a median of three journal article publications over the first 20 years since degree completion. Faculty rank, inferred binary gender, and the date of terminal degree all predicted cumulative journal article publication counts. An analysis of sequence charts revealed that journal article publication counts are not invariant over the first 20 years since degree completion, but vary based on time, faculty rank, and inferred binary gender. The implications of this research for counselor education training are discussed.

Keywords: counselor educators, journal article publications, faculty rank, comprehensive universities, gender

     The primary purpose of doctoral-level training in counselor education is to prepare program graduates for careers as counselor educators and clinical supervisors (Snow & Field, 2020). Consistent with this objective, graduates of counselor education and supervision programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) are required to attain numerous research competencies that will equip them for making scholarly contributions to the counseling literature (CACREP, 2015). Likewise, the PhD degree, which is the terminal degree offered to graduates of nearly all these programs, has been traditionally designed to prepare graduates for research and teaching in higher education (e.g., Dill & Morrison, 1985).

     Be that as it may, most graduates of counselor education and supervision programs do not become faculty members, let alone faculty at research-intensive universities (e.g., Lawrence & Hatchett, 2022; Schweiger et al., 2012; Zimpfer, 1996). For example, Lawrence and Hatchett (2022) recently investigated the occupational outcomes of 314 graduates of CACREP-accredited doctoral programs. Overall, they found that 41.4% of these graduates had some type of faculty position in higher education. However, faculty positions as assistant professors in CACREP-accredited programs were much less common (23.9% of the total sample), and assistant professor positions in CACREP-accredited counseling programs at universities classified by the Carnegie Classification System (https://carnegieclassifications.acenet.edu) as either R1 (Very high research activity) or R2 (High research activity) were relatively rare (8.3% of the total sample). Thus, fewer than 1 in 10 of these recent program graduates attained professor positions at universities that expect high levels of scholarly productivity.

     At the time of this writing, 401 colleges and universities in the United States and Puerto Rico have at least one CACREP-accredited counseling program. However, only 134 (33.5%) of these institutions have a Carnegie Classification of either an R1 or R2. More common are CACREP-accredited programs at master’s degree–granting institutions designated by the Carnegie system as M1 (Larger programs), M2 (Medium programs), or M3 (Smaller programs). Many of these universities would fall under the general umbrella of what are commonly denoted as comprehensive universities. At comprehensive universities, the focus is typically on undergraduate education, and graduate education tends to be limited to master’s degrees in professional disciplines, such as education and business (Youn & Price, 2009). Compared to their colleagues at research-intensive universities, faculty at comprehensive universities tend to have high teaching loads and greater expectations for service along with substantially lower expectations for faculty scholarly productivity (Hatchett, 2021; Henderson, 2011).

     Though the scholarship expectations are lower, counselor educators at comprehensive universities are still commonly expected to exhibit some level of scholarly productivity for performance evaluations as well as tenure and promotion decisions (Fairweather, 2005; Hatchett, 2020; Youn & Price, 2009). Specific to counselor education, Hatchett (2020) recently surveyed 168 counselor educators about their perceptions of the tenure process, workloads, and their annual scholarly productivity. Regarding journal article publications, these counselor educators reported accruing a median of 0.45 national or international journal article publications a year. However, there is reason to believe that this sample statistic may be an overestimate. For one, only about 20% of the counselor educators at comprehensive universities completed the survey. Secondly, the rate of journal article publications reported by this sample of counselor educators greatly exceeds estimates attained from archival research.

     For example, Hatchett et al. (2020) assessed the journal article publications of a large sample (N = 821) of counselor educators employed in CACREP-accredited master’s-level counseling programs housed in comprehensive universities. To identify peer-reviewed journal articles, they searched these counselor educators’ names through three electronic databases (i.e., PsycINFO, ERIC, Academic Search Complete) for the time interval of January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2017. They found that these counselor educators had attained a median of only 1 (M = 1.99, SD = 3.46) peer-reviewed publication over this
10-year time interval; notably, nearly half of this sample (n = 381, 46.4%) did not have any journal article publications indexed in any of the three databases. Granted, these three electronic databases do not capture all the journal article publications attained by counselor educators. Nonetheless, the gap between self-report (Hatchett, 2020) and archival publication estimates (Hatchett et al., 2020) is so large that it probably cannot be explained away by publications that were not referenced in any of these databases.

     A second shortcoming of the archival research by Hatchett et al. (2020) was its cross-sectional nature. A cross-section cannot directly answer the question as to whether publication rates might vary or decline over the course of counselor educators’ careers. Hatchett et al. (2020) and Lambie et al. (2014) found some evidence that journal article publications may decline over counselor educators’ careers. To better evaluate this phenomenon, Lambie et al. recommended that future researchers use a longitudinal research design that tracks publication counts across time. Not only would a longitudinal design better detect changes and trends in publication rates across time, but such a design could also better illuminate the extent to which counselor educators at comprehensive universities publish in peer-reviewed journals across their careers.

Purpose of the Present Study
     Accordingly, the purpose of the current study was to use a longitudinal research design to summarize and track the rate of journal article publications by counselor educators at comprehensive universities over an extended period of time. Specifically, this study assessed the cumulative journal article publications attained by counselor educators at master’s-only counseling programs at comprehensive universities for the first 20 years since receiving their terminal degrees. A secondary objective of this study was to evaluate whether factors identified in previous research would also be useful for predicting journal article publication counts in this sample. Previous researchers have found that binary gender (Lambie et al., 2014; Newhart et al., 2020; Ramsey et al., 2002), faculty rank (Hatchett et al., 2020; Newhart et al., 2020; Ramsey et al., 2002), and year of degree completion (Hatchett et al., 2020; Lambie et al., 2014) predict journal article publication counts. Thus, these same three variables were used to predict cumulative journal article publication counts accrued by these counselor educators over the 20 years since their degree completion.


Procedures and Participants
     Because this study involved only the collection and analysis of publicly available data, the internal IRB determined this study was exempt from IRB oversight. As in the methodology used by Hatchett et al. (2020), a comprehensive university was operationally defined as an institution classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as a master’s-level institution with a designation of M1 (Larger programs), M2 (Medium programs), or M3 (Smaller programs). In addition, any M1, M2, or M3 institution was excluded from this study if it did not denote at least part of its faculty with traditional academic ranks (i.e., assistant professor, associate professor, professor) or if the program also offered a doctoral degree program in counseling or counselor education. The process for collecting data involved three steps. The first step was to identify CACREP-accredited master’s programs at comprehensive universities that met the abovementioned criteria.

     As a result of this search process, 157 colleges and universities were identified for potential study inclusion. At the second step, the websites of these colleges and universities were searched to identify counselor educators with the rank of either associate or full professor. In addition to the rank of at least associate professor, a minimum of 20 years must have passed since the counselor educator received their doctoral degree to be included in this study. At the end of this process, 162 counselor educators were eventually identified. For each identified counselor educator, the following information was recorded: (a) name of the counselor educator, (b) Carnegie Classification of their current university, (c) inferred binary gender based on name and any contextual information, (d) type of terminal degree (e.g., PhD, EdD), (e) academic discipline of terminal degree, and (h) date of doctoral degree. If any of this data was not available on a counseling program’s website, additional public resources were searched, such as university catalogs, Dissertations Abstracts International, Google, and LinkedIn. There were six counselor educators for whom a terminal degree date could not be identified; these counselor educators were removed from the sample, leaving a final sample size of 156.

Count of Journal Article Publications
     To identify journal article publications, each counselor educator’s name was searched through three major electronic databases: PsycINFO, ERIC, and Academic Search Complete. The beginning date for each search was the year following a counselor educator’s terminal degree date and the end date of the search was 20 years later. A journal article publication was operationally defined as any authored publication in a peer-reviewed journal indexed in any of the three databases that involved theory, counseling practice, quantitative research, qualitative research, mixed method research, or published responses to other published works; for the purpose of this study, editor notes and book reviews were excluded. The number of journal article publications for each counselor educator over the first 20 years after degree completion was summed to represent journal article publication counts.


Data Analysis Strategy
     Prior to conducting any analyses, the dataset was screened for data entry errors, unusual values, and extreme outliers; none were identified. Prior to running the negative binomial regression analysis, the categorical predictor variables (inferred binary gender, faculty rank) were dummy coded. All screening procedures and subsequent analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS (Version 28).

     To predict journal article publication counts, a negative binomial regression analysis was conducted because the criterion variable, journal article publications, represented a count variable that contained a large number of zero values and the variance of the distribution exhibited overdispersion (Fox, 2008). Power estimates for negative binomial regression models are less developed than those available for linear models. Nonetheless, traditional power estimates for general linear models (Cohen, 1988) and experimental estimates for generalized linear models (Doyle, 2009; Lyles et al., 2007) suggested that the negative binomial regression analysis likely had sufficient statistical power (> .80) to detect at least medium effect sizes. The following assumptions for negative binomial regression were examined: multicollinearity, residual plots, independence of residual errors, and the presence of any highly influential cases. No difficulties were identified.

     Ideally, a time series analysis is recommended for identifying trends or changes in longitudinal data across time (Yaffee & McGee, 2000). However, it is commonly recommended that a time series analysis should be based on a minimum of 50 observation periods (e.g., Tabachnick & Fidell, 2019). Power estimates for time series analyses can become very complex, and in some cases, 100 to 250 observational periods may be needed to reliably detect trends or seasonal patterns in time series data (Yaffee & McGee, 2000). It would not be feasible to track even a minimum of 50 years of journal article publications for a sizeable sample of counselor educators. Furthermore, inferential statistics—and accompanying power analyses—are needed for making inferences from a sample to the larger population from which the sample was drawn. Aside from inaccuracies on department websites, the counselor educators in this study represent the entire population of counselor educators at master’s-only programs in comprehensive universities who received their doctoral degrees at least 20 years ago. As Garson (2019) pointed out, “having data on all the cases in the population of interest eliminates the need for a random sample and, indeed, for significance testing at all” (p. 25). Consequently, the longitudinal analysis of this data will be limited to the creation and visual analysis of sequence charts.

Characteristics of the Sample
     Regarding inferred binary gender, 51.9% (n = 81) of these counselor educators appeared to identify as female, and 48.1% (n = 75) appeared to identify as male. Two-thirds (n = 104, 66.7%) held the rank of full professor, and 33.3% (n = 52) held the rank of associate professor. The years in which they earned their terminal degrees ranged from 1970 to 2000 (Mdn = 1995.00, M = 1992.70, SD = 6.48). The number of years after earning their terminal degrees ranged from 20 to 50 (Mdn = 25.00, M = 27.30, SD = 6.48). Their terminal degrees included PhDs (n = 118, 75.6%), EdDs (n = 31, 19.9%), PsyDs (n = 4, 2.6%), and other (n = 3, 1.9%). Slightly over half of these faculty members had terminal degrees in counseling/counselor education (n = 80, 51.3%), followed in frequency by counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or educational psychology (n = 47, 30.1%); education (n = 13, 8.3%); rehabilitation or rehabilitation psychology (n = 10, 6.4%); and other (n = 6, 3.8%). Almost two-thirds (n = 102, 65.4%) were faculty at public universities with the remainder (n = 54, 34.6%) being faculty at private universities. Regarding current Carnegie Classifications, over four-fifths were faculty at M1 institutions (n = 128, 82.1%), which was followed in frequency by M2 institutions (n = 20, 12.8%) and M3 institutions (n = 8, 5.1%).

Journal Article Publication Counts
     At the end of the first 20 years after receiving their terminal degrees, these counselor educators had accrued a median of three (M = 5.26, SD = 6.92) journal article publications referenced in at least one of the three electronic databases. Notably, a fourth of the sample (n = 39, 25%) did not have any journal article publications indexed in any of the electronic databases. Expressed on an annual basis, the entire sample of counselor educators had accrued a median of 0.15 (M = 0.26, SD = 0.35) journal articles each year for the first 20 years after completing their terminal degrees. 

Prediction of Publication Counts
     Based on prior research in counselor education (e.g., Hatchett et al., 2020; Lambie et al., 2014; Newhart et al., 2020; Ramsey et al., 2002), the next set of analyses evaluated whether cumulative journal article publication counts could be predicted from faculty rank, inferred binary gender, and year of terminal degree. In fitting a negative binomial regression model to the data, the likelihood ratio chi-square statistic was statistically significant, indicating that the three combined variables were useful for predicting publication counts: χ2(3, N = 156) = 21.22, p < .001, McFadden R2 = .024. All three predictor variables made unique contributions to the prediction of journal article publication counts (see Table 1). The estimated number of publications for full professors was 1.73 times higher (95% CI [1.18, 2.53]; p = .005) than for associate professors. For reference, over the first 20 years since degree completion, associate professors had accrued an average of 3.31 (SD = 5.52) journal article publications compared to an average of 6.24 (SD = 7.36) journal article publications for full professors. The estimated number of publications for male counselor educators was 1.45 times higher (95% CI [1.02, 2.06]; p = .037) than for female counselor educators. For reference, male counselor educators had accrued a mean of 6.17 (SD = 7.89) journal article publications compared to a mean of 4.42 (SD = 5.81) for female counselor educators. Finally, with each 1-year increase in terminal degree date, the estimated number of cumulative publications increased by 4.1% (95% CI [1.01, 1.07]; p = .005).

Table 1
Prediction of Journal Article Publication Counts From Faculty Rank, Inferred Binary Gender, and Terminal Degree Date


Predictors                                                 B                       SE                        Wald χ2                p


Faculty Rank                                       .55                   .19                         8.01               .005

Inferred Binary Gender                         .37                    .18                         4.36                .04

Year of Terminal Degree                        .04                   .01                        7.75                .005



Longitudinal Analyses
     As reported previously, cumulative journal article publications varied as a function of both faculty rank and inferred binary gender. Because of this, two sequence charts were created to illuminate how journal article publication trajectories varied based on faculty rank and inferred binary gender. SPSS (Version 28) was used to create two sequence charts of the average number of journal article publications accrued each year for the first 20 years since degree completion. Figure 1 represents a sequence chart for journal article publications disaggregated by faculty rank. Figure 2 represents a sequence chart for journal article publications disaggregated by inferred binary gender.

Figure 1
Average Number of Journal Article Publications for Associate and Full Professors Over 20 Years After Degree Completion

Figure 2
Average Number of Journal Article Publications for Male and Female Counselor Educators Over 20 Years After Degree Completion


     The main objective of this study was to conduct a longitudinal analysis of the journal article publications of counselor educators at comprehensive universities for the first 20 years after receiving their doctoral degrees. A secondary objective was to evaluate how well these publication counts could be predicted from faculty rank, inferred binary gender, and year of terminal degree. Parallel to the results section, summary statistics will be discussed first, followed by the results of the regression analysis, and ending with the results of the longitudinal analyses.

     Over the first 20 years since receiving their terminal degrees, the counselor educators in this sample had accrued a median of three (M = 5.26, SD = 6.62) journal article publications, which translates to a median of 0.15 (M = 0.26, SD = 0.35) journal articles published per year. Notably, a fourth (n = 39, 25%) of the sample did not have any journal article publications referenced in any of three major electronic databases. These findings are consistent with those of Hatchett et al. (2020), who investigated the journal article publications of this same population over a discrete 10-year period (2008–2017) using a similar methodology. They found that counselor educators at comprehensive universities had a median of 0.10 journal article publications each year, but a much higher proportion (46.4%) of their sample did not have any journal article publications referenced in any of the electronic databases. These differences may be the result of both the specific compositions of their samples and the timeframes for data collection. The current study examined the publication records of only associate and full professors, whereas Hatchett et al. (2020) examined the publication records of assistant, associate, and full professors of counselor education. Consistent with that expanded population, some of the counselor educators in the study by Hatchett et al. were just starting their careers and may not yet have attained many publications. There is also the possibility that some of the assistant professors in that study will be, or have been, turned down for promotion to associate professor because of inadequate scholarly productivity. Of course, it is not surprising that the current study, which examined a 20-year timeframe, uncovered a lower percentage of counselor educators without any journal article publications; after all, the counselor educators in the current study had double the time in which to accrue journal article publications.

     Based on previous research in counselor education (Hatchett et al., 2020; Lambie et al., 2014; Newhart et al., 2020; Ramsey et al., 2002), this study also examined how well faculty rank, inferred binary gender, and year of terminal degree predicted journal article publication counts. Full professors had more journal article publications for the first 20 years after receiving their terminal degrees than those at the rank of associate professor. Not only would more publications be expected for a counselor educator at the rank of full professor, but other studies in counselor education have also found higher levels of scholarly productivity for full professors compared to associate professors (Hatchett et al., 2020; Ramsey et al., 2002). Although Lambie et al. (2014) found that associate professors had more journal article publications than full professors, their study included only counselor educators at doctoral-level programs and covered a discrete 6-year period of journal article publication counts. Thus, these two studies are not directly comparable. Several researchers have also found that male counselor educators attain more journal article publications than female counselor educators (Lambie et al., 2014; Newhart et al, 2020; Ramsey et al., 2002). Thus, the results from the current study are consistent with the majority of other research on this topic. Finally, in the current study, the date of terminal degree attainment had a minor impact on journal article publication counts. This is consistent with two other studies in the literature (Hatchett et al., 2020; Lambie et al., 2014). There are at least two plausible explanations for this finding. On the one hand, expectations for scholarly productivity have increased in recent years (Fairweather, 2005; Youn & Price, 2009); thus, it is not surprising that counselor educators who have attained their terminal degrees more recently have more journal article publications. From another perspective, Lambie et al. (2014) hypothesized that more recent graduates of counselor education programs may have stronger research skills than those who graduated earlier. Both explanations are speculative, so future research might better elucidate the role of time and training experiences on journal article publications.

     The final objective of the study was to evaluate the extent to which journal article publication rates change over the course of counselor educators’ careers. The sequence charts presented in Figures 1 and 2 provide evidence that scholarly productivity is not invariant over the first 20 years since doctoral degree completion but tends to vary based on time, current academic rank, and inferred binary gender. There seems to be a relative peak around Year 7 for full professors and Year 14 for associate professors. The peak at Year 7 for full professors may be attributable to the typical timeframe for applying for tenure and promotion to associate professor; however, it is unclear why the associate professors exhibited a relative peak at Year 14. There also seems to be a peak around Year 7 for male counselor educators and Year 11 for female counselor educators. Again, the peak around Year 7 for male counselor educators is consistent with the typical timeframe for applying for tenure and promotion to associate professor. Though speculative, the delayed peak for female counselor educators may be the result of childbirth and early childcare responsibilities. Some research indicates that female faculty members plan childbirth around the academic calendar and tenure clock (e.g., Armenti, 2004), so perhaps a similar phenomenon occurred among the female counselor educators in this sample. More research is needed on how childbirth and childcare experiences impact the career decisions and scholarly productivity of female counselor educators (e.g., Trepal & Stinchfield, 2012). Finally, for the entire sample, there seems to be a relative decline in journal article publications near the end of the 20-year observational period. This lower level of scholarly productivity may reflect fewer institutional incentives to continue publishing, less interest in conducting original research, or a shift to other professional responsibilities, such as leadership positions on campus or in professional counseling associations.

     One clear limitation to the current study was the inability to apply a time series analysis to the data. As already mentioned, there were not enough observation periods to run a time series analysis with sufficient statistical power. In addition, the sequence charts were based on the average number of publications attained by these counselor educators on a yearly basis. The distribution of journal article publications for every observational unit was positively skewed, and the median number of publications for every observational unit was zero. Consequently, if the median number of publications each year had been plotted on the sequence charts, both graphs would have included two flat lines directly on the x-axis. Expressed differently, the typical counselor educator at a comprehensive university did not attain any journal article publications in a typical year. Thus, to some extent, the trends plotted in Figures 1 and 2 reflect only the most active researchers in this population.

     It is also important to note that this study operationalized a very narrow definition of scholarly productivity: journal articles referenced in the PsycINFO, ERIC, or Academic Search Complete electronic databases. Though a highly reliable operational definition, and one used by other researchers (Barrio Minton et al., 2008; Hatchett et al., 2020; Lambie et al., 2014), this index certainly does not capture the full breadth of scholarly productivity. Counselor educators across all types of universities write book chapters and books, present at conferences, prepare reports, and secure external grant funding, among many other additional activities (e.g., Ramsey et al., 2002).

     A final limitation of this study was the professional backgrounds of the counselor educators in this sample. Though all the counselor educators were faculty at CACREP-accredited programs, only about 50% had terminal degrees in counseling or counselor education. At the time of these counselor educators’ terminal degrees, CACREP did not stipulate that core faculty must have doctoral degrees in counselor education and supervision from CACREP-accredited programs. Even accounting for the grandfathering clause of 2013, a clear majority of the faculty in CACREP-accredited counseling programs now have doctoral degrees from CACREP-accredited counselor education and supervision programs (Hatchett, 2021). It is unknown whether this shift in the professional backgrounds of counselor education faculty will eventually impact the long-term trajectory of counselor educators at comprehensive universities.

Implications for Counselor Education
     The results from the current study indicate that the typical counselor educator at a master’s-only counseling program at a comprehensive university will generate less than six journal article publications over the course of their career. Also, if these reported trends are stable across time, a significant minority will not attain any referenced journal article publications across their careers. These trends do not mean that counselor educators at comprehensive universities do not make meaningful contributions to the field of counseling in other ways, such as conference presentations, book chapters, grants, or evaluation reports (e.g., Ramsey et al., 2002). Also, as already mentioned, the electronic databases selected for this study and the study by Hatchett et al. (2020) do not capture all of the journals in which counselor educators publish. Nonetheless, it does reflect a relatively low level of original research published in peer-reviewed journals that is easily accessible through searching three popular electronic databases.

     The results from this study—combined with the typical occupational outcomes of program graduates—should have implications for doctoral-level training in counselor education. As previously mentioned, all graduates of CACREP-accredited doctoral programs are required to acquire numerous research competencies that will equip them for making original and meaningful contributions to the counseling literature (CACREP, 2015). Yet, most graduates of these programs do not attain faculty positions in higher education, and among those who do, relatively few will be employed at research-intensive universities (e.g., Lawrence & Hatchett, 2022; Schweiger et al., 2012; Zimpfer, 1996). Furthermore, based on the distribution of CACREP programs across the Carnegie Classification System, program graduates who do secure faculty positions will be more likely to be employed at master’s-level universities than at institutions classified as R1 or R2.

     It might be argued that the low rate of journal article publications produced by counselor educators at comprehensive universities is not problematic. Counselor educators at comprehensive universities spend proportionately more of their worktime on teaching and administrative tasks (Hatchett, 2021), and they often lack the institutional resources experienced by their colleagues at more research-intensive universities, such as access to research assistants (Henderson, 2011). Expecting counselor educators at comprehensive universities to do more research might be as fair as asking counselor educators at research-intensive universities to do more teaching and service (Hatchett et al., 2020). Yet, on the other hand, one should also consider what is being lost by the low levels of research found among many of the counselor educators at comprehensive universities. Many of these counselor educators are presumably not using the multitude of research competencies they developed during their doctoral-level training. The research training prescribed by CACREP is not just the means to a single end, a completed dissertation. One of the explicit training objectives of CACREP-accredited doctoral programs is to prepare program graduates to generate and disseminate new knowledge in the field of counseling (CACREP, 2015), an objective commonly discharged through publishing original research in peer-reviewed journal articles. The current study cannot resolve this conflict, but hopefully it will facilitate additional discussions on the value and role of research training in CACREP-accredited doctoral-level programs.

Recommendations for Future Research
     One recommendation for future research, and one directly derived from the previous discussion, would be to investigate the extent to which graduates of CACREP-accredited doctoral programs use the skills and competencies acquired as part of their training. For example, researchers might investigate the extent to which program graduates use specific skills in teaching, research, grant work, clinical supervision, program evaluation, consultation, and clinical practice as part of their postgraduate occupations. The distributions of these actual work responsibilities could then be compared to the relative emphases of these competencies in doctoral-level training programs. Another recommendation for future research would be to replicate this study with counselor educators at universities with higher expectations of scholarly productivity, such as counselor educators at R1 or R2 universities, and those universities that offer CACREP-accredited doctoral degrees in counselor education, irrespective of Carnegie Classifications. Such research might identify trends and patterns in publication patterns for those counselor educators who are expected to produce and maintain higher levels of scholarly productivity over the entire course of their careers.

     Consistent with the results of earlier research (Hatchett et al., 2020), the current study suggests that counselor educators at comprehensive universities—in general—publish minimal research in peer-reviewed journals. Furthermore, the journal article publications of these counselor educators exhibited a relative decline over the course of the first 20 years of the educators’ careers. These findings are somewhat in conflict with the accreditation standards delineated by CACREP and the objectives of doctoral-level training in counselor education. CACREP (2015) requires that all new core faculty have a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision from accredited doctoral programs. These accredited doctoral programs stipulate that all program graduates attain numerous competencies in research and scholarship, irrespective of the graduates’ career plans. Yet, most graduates of CACREP-accredited doctoral programs do not attain faculty positions as counselor educators (Lawrence & Hatchett, 2022; Schweiger et al., 2012; Zimpfer, 1996), and for those who do, they are more likely to be employed at comprehensive universities at which scholarly productivity tends to be minimal than at more research-intensive universities at which high levels of scholarly productivity will be needed for promotion and tenure. Given these outcomes, counselor educators should revisit the nature of doctoral-level training and reevaluate the extent to which the curricula of CACREP-accredited programs prepare program graduates for the most common career pathways after graduation.


Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of interest
or funding contributions for the development
of this manuscript.


Armenti, C. (2004). May babies and posttenure babies: Maternal decisions of women professors. The Review of Higher Education, 27(2), 211–231. https://doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2003.0046

Barrio Minton, C. A., Fernando, D. M., & Ray, D. C. (2008). Ten years of peer-reviewed articles in counselor education: Where, what, who? Counselor Education and Supervision, 48(2), 133–143.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2015). 2016 CACREP standards.

Dill, D. D., & Morrison, J. L. (1985). EdD and PhD research training in the field of higher education: A survey and a proposal. The Review of Higher Education, 8(2), 169–186.

Doyle, S. R. (2009). Examples of computing power for zero-inflated and overdispersed count data. Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods, 8(2), 360–376. https://doi.org/10.22237/jmasm/1257033720

Fairweather, J. S. (2005). Beyond the rhetoric: Trends in the relative value of teaching and research in faculty salaries. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(4), 401–422. https://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2005.0027

Fox, J. (2008). Applied regression analysis and generalized linear models (2nd ed.). SAGE.

Garson, G. D. (2019). Multilevel modeling: Applications in STATA®, IBM® SPSS®, SAS®, R, & HLM™. SAGE.

Hatchett, G. T. (2020). Perceived tenure standards, scholarly productivity, and workloads of counselor educators at comprehensive universities. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 13(4).

Hatchett, G. (2021). Tenure standards, scholarly productivity, and workloads of counselor educators at doctoral and master’s-only counseling programs. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 14(4).

Hatchett, G. T., Sylvestro, H. M., & Coaston, S. C. (2020). Publication patterns of counselor educators at comprehensive universities. Counselor Education and Supervision, 59(1), 32–45.

Henderson, B. B. (2011). Publishing patterns at state comprehensive universities: The changing nature of faculty work and the quest for status. The Journal of the Professoriate, 5(2), 35–66. http://caarpweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/5-2_Henderson_p.35.pdf

Lambie, G. W., Ascher, D. L., Sivo, S. A., & Hayes, B. G. (2014). Counselor education doctoral program faculty members’ refereed article publications. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(3), 338–346.

Lawrence, C., & Hatchett, G. T. (2022). Academic employment prospects for counselor education doctoral candidates [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Northern Kentucky University, School of Kinesiology, Counseling, and Rehabilitative Sciences.

Lyles, R. H., Lin, H.-M., & Williamson, J. M. (2007). A practical approach to computing power for generalized linear models with nominal, count, or ordinal responses. Statistics in Medicine, 26(7), 1632–1648.

Newhart, S., Mullen, P. R., Blount, A. J., & Hagedorn, W. B. (2020). Factors influencing publication rates among counselor educators. Teaching and Supervision in Counseling, 2(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.7290/tsc020105

Ramsey, M., Cavallaro, M., Kiselica, M., & Zila, L. (2002). Scholarly productivity redefined in counselor education. Counselor Education and Supervision, 42(1), 40–57. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2002.tb01302.x

Schweiger, W. K., Henderson, D. A., McCaskill, K., Clawson, T. W., & Collins, D. R. (2012). Counselor preparation: Programs, faculty, trends (13th ed.). Routledge.

Snow, W. H., & Field, T. A. (2020). Introduction to the special issue on doctoral counselor education. The Professional Counselor, 10(4), 406–413. https://doi.org/10.15241/whs.10.4.406

Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2019). Using multivariate statistics (7th ed.). Pearson.

Trepal, H. C., & Stinchfield, T. A. (2012). Experiences of motherhood in counselor education. Counselor Education and Supervision, 51(2), 112–126. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2012.00008.x

Yaffee, R., & McGee, M. (2000). Introduction to time series analysis and forecasting with applications of SAS and SPSS. Academic Press.

Youn, T. I. K., & Price, T. M. (2009). Learning from the experience of others: The evolution of faculty tenure and promotion rules in comprehensive institutions. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(2), 204–237.

Zimpfer, D. G. (1996). Five-year follow-up of doctoral graduates in counseling. Counselor Education and Supervision, 35(3), 218–229. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.1996.tb00225.x

Gregory T. Hatchett, PhD, NCC, LPCC-S, is a professor at Northern Kentucky University. Correspondence may be addressed to Gregory T. Hatchett, MEP 211, Highland Heights, KY 41099, hatchettg@nku.edu.

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.



*References marked with an asterisk indicate literature included in the Appendix.

Adkison-Bradley, C. (2013). Counselor education and supervision: The development of the CACREP doctoral standards. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91(1), 44–49. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00069.x

Association of Counselor Education and Supervision Teaching Initiative Taskforce. (2016). ACES Teaching Initiative Taskforce: Best practices in teaching in counselor education report 2016. Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. https://acesonline.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/ACES-Teaching-Initiative-Taskforce-Final-Report-2016.pdf

Balkin, R. S., & Kleist, D. M. (2016). Counseling research: A practitioner-scholar approach. American Counseling Association.

*Baltrinic, E. R., Jencius, M., & McGlothlin, J. (2016). Coteaching in counselor education: Preparing doctoral students for future teaching. Counselor Education and Supervision, 55(1), 31–45. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12031

Barrio Minton, C. A., Wachter Morris, C. A., & Bruner, S. L. (2018). Pedagogy in counselor education: 2011–2015 update. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(3), 227–236. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12112

Bedi, R. P. (2016). A descriptive examination of Canadian counselling psychology doctoral programs. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 57(2), 83–91. https://doi.org/10.1037/cap0000047

Bernard, J. M. (2006). Counselor education and counseling psychology: Where are the jobs? Counselor Education and Supervision, 46(1), 68–80. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2006.tb00013.x

Bernstein, R., & Seltzer, T. (2003). Criminalization of people with mental illnesses: The role of mental health courts in system reform. University of the District of Columbia Law Review, 7(1), 143–162. https://digitalco

*Bishop, M., Tiro, L., Fleming, A. R., & McDaniels, B. (2017). Critical readings for doctoral training in rehabilitation counseling: A consensus-building approach. Journal of Rehabilitation, 83(1), 3–10.

Bobby, C. L. (2013). The evolution of specialties in the CACREP standards: CACREP’s role in unifying the
profession. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91(1), 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00068.x

Bobby, C. L., & Urofsky, R. I. (2008). CACREP adopts new standards. Counseling Today, 51(2), 59–60. http://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/CACREP-adopts-new-standards-August-2008.pdf

*Borders, L. D., Welfare, L. E., Sackett, C. R., & Cashwell, C. (2017). New supervisors’ struggles and successes with corrective feedback. Counselor Education and Supervision, 56(3), 208–224. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12073

*Borders, L. D., Wester, K. L., Fickling, M. J., &Adamson, N. A. (2014). Research training in doctoral programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Counselor Education and Supervision, 53(2), 145–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2014.00054.x

Calley, N. G., & Hawley, L. D. (2008). The professional identity of counselor educators. The Clinical Supervisor, 27(1), 3–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/07325220802221454

*Campbell, A., Vance, S. R., & Dong, S. (2018). Examining the relationship between mindfulness and multicultural counseling competencies in counselor trainees. Mindfulness, 9, 79–87.

Celinska, D., & Swazo, R. (2016). Multicultural curriculum designs in counselor education programs: Enhancing counselors-in-training openness to diversity. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 8(3), 4. https://repository.wcsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1124&context=jcps

Chang, C. Y., Barrio Minton, C. A., Dixon, A. L., Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (Eds.). (2012). Professional counseling excellence through leadership and advocacy. Taylor & Francis.

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2009). CACREP standards. www.cacre

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2013). 2012 annual report. http://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CACREP-2012-Annual-Report.pdf

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2015). 2016 CACREP standards. www.cacrep.org/for-programs/2016-cacrep-standards

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2019). Annual report 2018. http://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CACREP-2018-Annual-Report.pdf

Curtis, R., & Sherlock, J. J. (2006). Wearing two hats: Counselors working as managerial leaders in agencies and schools. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(1), 120–126.

Del Rio, C. M., & Mieling, G. G. (2012). What you need to know: PhDs in counselor education and supervision. The Family Journal, 20(1), 18–28. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480711429265

Diambra, J. F., Gibbons, M. M., Cochran, J. L., Spurgeon, S., Jarnagin, W. L., & Wynn, P. (2011). The symbiotic relationships of the counseling profession’s accrediting body, American Counseling Association, flagship journal and national certification agency. The Professional Counselor, 1(1), 82–91. https://doi.org/10.15241/jfd.1.1.82

Dickens, K. N., Ebrahim, C. H., & Herlihy, B. (2016). Counselor education doctoral students’ experiences with multiple roles and relationships. Counselor Education and Supervision, 55(4), 234–249.

*Dollarhide, C. T., Gibson, D. M., & Moss, J. M. (2013). Professional identity development of counselor education doctoral students. Counselor Education and Supervision, 52(2), 137–150.

Dvoskin, J. A., Knoll, J. L., & Silva, M. (2020). A brief history of the criminalization of mental illness. CNS Spectrums, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1092852920000103

*Elliott, A., Salazar, B. M., Dennis, B. L., Bohecker, L., Nielson, T., LaMantia, K., & Kleist, D. M. (2019). Pedagogical perspectives on counselor education: An autoethnographic experience of doctoral student development. The Qualitative Report, 24(4), 648–666.

*Farmer, L. B., Sackett, C. R., Lile, J. J., Bodenhorn, N., Hartig, N., Graham, J., & Ghoston, M. (2017). An exploration of the perceived impact of post-master’s experience on doctoral study in counselor education and supervision. The Professional Counselor, 7(1), 15–32. https://doi.org/10.15241/lbf.7.1.15

Flamez, B., Lenz, A. S., Balkin, R. S., & Smith, R. L. (2017). A counselor’s guide to the dissertation process: Where to start and how to finish. American Counseling Association.

*Frick, M. H., & Glosoff, H. L. (2014). Becoming a supervisor: Qualitative findings on self-efficacy beliefs of doctoral student supervisors-in-training. The Professional Counselor, 4(1), 35–48. https://doi.org/10.15241/mhr.4.1.35

Gibson, D. M., Dollarhide, C. T., Leach, D., & Moss, J. M. (2015). Professional identity development of tenured and tenure-track counselor educators. Journal of Counselor Leadership and Advocacy, 2(2), 113–130.

Goldman, K. D., & Schmalz, K. J. (2004). The matrix method of literature reviews. Health Promotion Practice, 5(1), 5–7. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524839903258885

Goodrich, K. M., Shin, R. Q., & Smith, L. C. (2011). The doctorate in counselor education. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 33(3), 184–195. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-011-9123-7

Gordon, J. A., Avenevoli, S., & Pearson, J. L. (2020). Suicide prevention research priorities in health care. JAMA Psychiatry, 77(9), 885–886. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1042

*Graham, S. R., Carney, J. S., & Kluck, A. S. (2012). Perceived competency in working with LGB clients: Where are we now? Counselor Education and Supervision, 51(1), 2–16. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2012.00001.x

*Greason, P. B., & Cashwell, C. S. (2009). Mindfulness and counseling self-efficacy: The mediating role of
attention and empathy. Counselor Education and Supervision, 49(1), 2–19.

Harms, L., Boddy, J., Hickey, L., Hay, K., Alexander, M., Briggs, L., Cooper, L., Alston, M., Fronek, P., Howard, A., Adamson, C., & Hazeleger, T. (2020). Post-disaster social work research: A scoping review of the evidence for practice. International Social Work. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020872820904135

Harzing, A.-W. (2010). The publish or perish book. Tarma Software Research Pty Limited.

*Hein, S. F., Lawson, G., & Rodriguez, C. P. (2011). Supervisee incompatibility and its influence on triadic supervision: An examination of doctoral student supervisors’ perspectives. Counselor Education and Supervision, 50(6), 422–436. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2011.tb01925.x

*Hinojosa, T. J., & Carney, J. V. (2016). Mexican American women pursuing counselor education doctorates: A narrative inquiry. Counselor Education and Supervision, 55(3), 198–215. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12045

Homrich, A. M., & Henderson, K. L. (2018). Gatekeeping in the mental health professions. American Counseling Association.

*Hunt, B., & Gilmore, G. W. (2011). Learning to teach: Teaching internships in counselor education and supervision. The Professional Counselor, 1(2), 143–151. https://doi.org/10.15241/bhh.1.2.143

*Interiano, C. G., & Lim, J. H. (2018). A “chameleonic” identity: Foreign-born doctoral students in U.S. counselor education. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 40(3), 310–325.

Isaacs, M. L., & Sabella, R. A. (2013). Counselor educator compensation, work patterns, and career outlook. Journal for International Counselor Education, 5(1), 32–49. https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewco

Jalali, S., & Wohlin, C. (2012, September). Systematic literature studies: Database searches vs. backward snowballing. In Proceedings of the 2012 ACM-IEEE international symposium on empirical software engineering and measurement (pp. 29–38). IEEE.

*Jang, Y. J., Woo, H., & Henfield, M. S. (2014). A qualitative study of challenges faced by international doctoral students in counselor education supervision courses. Asia Pacific Education Review, 15(4), 561–572. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-014-9342-9

Kaplan, D. M., & Gladding, S. T. (2011). A vision for the future of counseling: The 20/20 Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89(3), 367–372.

Kline, W. B. (2003). The evolving research tradition in Counselor Education and Supervision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 43(2), 82–85. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2003.tb01832.x

Kot, F. C., & Hendel, D. D. (2012). Emergence and growth of professional doctorates in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia: A comparative analysis. Studies in Higher Education, 37(3), 345–364. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2010.516356

*Kuo, P. B., Woo, H., & Bang, N. M. (2017). Advisory relationship as a moderator between research self-efficacy, motivation, and productivity among counselor education doctoral students. Counselor Education and Supervision, 56(2), 130–144. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12067

Lamar, M. R., Clemens, E., & Dunbar, A. S. (2019). Promoting doctoral student researcher development through positive research training environments using self-concept theory. The Professional Counselor, 9(4), 298–309. https://doi.org/10.15241/mrl.9.4.298

*Lamar, M. R., & Helm, H. M. (2017). Understanding the researcher identity development of counselor education and supervision doctoral students. Counselor Education and Supervision, 56(1), 2–18.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12056

*Lambie, G. W., & Vaccaro, N. (2011). Doctoral counselor education students’ levels of research self-efficacy, perceptions of the research training environment, and interest in research. Counselor Education and Supervision, 50(4), 243–258. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2011.tb00122.x

Leahy, M. J., Chan, F., Iwanaga, K., Umucu, E., Sung, C., Bishop, M., & Strauser, D. (2019). Empirically derived test specifications for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor examination: Revisiting the essential competencies of rehabilitation counselors. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 63(1), 35–49.

Lee, K. A., Dewell, J. A., & Holmes, C. M. (2014). Animating research with counseling values: A training model to address the research-to-practice gap. The Professional Counselor, 4(4), 303–315. https://doi.org/10.15241/kal.4.4.303

*Lenz, A. S., Perepiczka, M., & Balkin, R. S. (2013). Evidence for the mitigating effects of a support group for attitudes toward statistics. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 4(1), 26–40.

*Limberg, D., Bell, H., Super, J. T., Jacobson, L., Fox, J., DePue, M. K., Christmas, C., Young, M. E., & Lambie, G. W. (2013). Professional identity development of counselor education doctoral students: A qualitative investigation. The Professional Counselor, 3(1), 40–53. https://doi.org/10.15241/dll.3.1.40

Lloyd, A. P., Feit, S. S., & Nelson, J. (2010). The evolution of the counselor educator. Counseling Today, 53(5), 58–59. http://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/The-evolution-of-the-counselor-educator-November-2

*Lockard, F. W., III, Laux, J. M., Ritchie, M., Piazza, N., & Haefner, J. (2014). Perceived leadership preparation in counselor education doctoral students who are members of the American Counseling Association in CACREP-accredited programs. The Clinical Supervisor, 33(2), 228–242. chttps://doi.org/10.1080/07325223.2014.992270

*Lu, H-T., Zhou, Y., & Pillay, Y. (2017). Counselor education students’ exposure to trauma cases. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 39(4), 322–332. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-017-9300-4

*Maldonado, J. M. (2008). Multicultural implications of the influence of ethnicity and self-efficacy for students and counselor educators. Multicultural Learning and Teaching, 3(1), 65–77. https://doi.org/10.2202/2161-2412.1030

Maples, M. F. (1989). The counselor educator crunch: Anatomy of a faculty search. Counselor Education and Supervision, 29(2), 94–101. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.1989.tb01141.x

Maples, M. F., Altekruse, M. K., & Testa, A. M. (1993). Counselor education 2000: Extinction or distinction? Counselor Education and Supervision, 33(1), 47–52. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.1993.tb00267.x

*Martin, J. L., Hess, T. R., Ain, S. C., Nelson, D. L., & Locke, B. D. (2012). Collecting multidimensional client data using repeated measures: Experiences of clients and counselors using the CCAPS-34. Journal of College Counseling, 15(3), 247–261. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2012.00019.x

McAuliffe, G., & Eriksen, K. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of counselor preparation: Constructivist, developmental, and experiential approaches. SAGE.

*McCaughan, A. M., Binkley, E. E., Wilde, B. J., Parmanand, S. P., & Allen, V. B. (2013). Observing the development of constructivist pedagogy in one counselor education doctoral cohort: A single case design. The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of Counseling and Professional Psychology, 2(1), 95–107.

Meekums, B., Macaskie, J., & Kapur, T. (2016). Developing skills in counselling and psychotherapy: A scoping review of interpersonal process recall and reflecting team methods in initial therapist training. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 44(5), 504–515. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069885.2016.1143550

Moher, D., Shamseer, L., Clarke, M., Ghersi, D., Liberati, A., Petticrew, M., Shekelle, P., & Stewart, L. A. (2015). Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement. Systematic Reviews, 4(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/2046-4053-4-1

*Murdock, J. L., Stipanovic, N., & Lucas, K. (2013). Fostering connections between graduate students and strengthening professional identity through co-mentoring. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 41(5), 487–503. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069885.2012.756972

*Nelson, K. W., Oliver, M., & Capps, F. (2006). Becoming a supervisor: Doctoral student perceptions of the training experience. Counselor Education and Supervision, 46(1), 17–31.

*Neuer Colburn, A. A., Grothaus, T., Hays, D. G., & Milliken, T. (2016). A Delphi study and initial validation of counselor supervision competencies. Counselor Education and Supervision, 55(1), 2–15.

*Okech, J. E. A., Astramovich, R. L., Johnson, M. M., Hoskins, W. J., & Rubel, D. J. (2006). Doctoral research training of counselor education faculty. Counselor Education and Supervision, 46(2), 131–145.

Okech, J. E. A., & Rubel, D. J. (Eds.). (2018). Counselor education in the 21st century: Issues and experiences. American Counseling Association.

*Pebdani, R. N., Ferguson-Lucas, T. K., Dong, S., & Oire, S. N. (2016). Examining the status of supervision education in rehabilitation counsellor training. Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counseling, 1(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1017/jrc.2016.2

Perkins, S. N. (2017). Competency-based standards for marriage, couple and family counseling. In J. Carlson & S. B. Dermer (Eds.), The SAGE encyclopedia of marriage, family, and couples counseling (pp. 312–315). SAGE.

Protivnak, J. J., & Foss, L. L. (2009). An exploration of themes that influence the counselor education doctoral student experience. Counselor Education and Supervision, 48(4), 239–256.

Ramsey, M., Cavallaro, M., Kiselica, M., & Zila, L. (2002). Scholarly productivity redefined in counselor education. Counselor Education and Supervision, 42(1), 40–57. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2002.tb01302.x

*Rapisarda, C. A., Desmond, K. J., & Nelson, J. R. (2011). Student reflections on the journey to being a supervisor. The Clinical Supervisor, 30(1), 109–123. https://doi.org/10.1080/07325223.2011.564958

*Scott, S. K., Sheperis, D. S., Simmons, R. T., Rush-Wilson, T., & Milo, L. A. (2016). Faith as a cultural variable: Implications for counselor training. Counseling and Values, 61(2), 192–205. https://doi.org/10.1002/cvj.12037

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

*Sink, C. A., & Lemich, G. (2018). Program evaluation in doctoral-level counselor education preparation: Concerns and recommendations. American Journal of Evaluation, 39(4), 496–510. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098214018765693

Skoglund, M., & Runeson, P. (2009, April). Reference-based search strategies in systematic reviews. In 13th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (EASE) 13 (pp. 1–10).

Suddeath, E., Baltrinic, E., & Dugger, S. (2020). The impact of teaching preparation practices on self-efficacy toward teaching. Counselor Education and Supervision, 59(1), 59–73. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12166

*Swank, J. M., & Houseknecht, A. (2019). Teaching competencies in counselor education: A Delphi study. Counselor Education and Supervision, 58(3), 162–176. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12148

Toporek, R. L., Lewis, J. A., & Ratts, M. J. (2010). The ACA Advocacy Competencies: An overview. In M. J. Ratts, R. L. Toporek, & J. A. Lewis (Eds.), ACA advocacy competencies: A social justice framework for counselors (p. 11–20). American Counseling Association.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K., Colquhoun, H., Kastner, M., Levac, D., Ng, C., Sharpe, J. P., Wilson, K., Kenny, M., Warren, R., Wilson, C., Stelfox, H. T., & Straus, S. E. (2016). A scoping review on the conduct and reporting of scoping reviews. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 16(1), 15.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., Moher, D., Peters, M. D. J., Horsley, T., Weeks, L., Hempel, S., Akl, E. A., Chang, C., McGowan, J., Stewart, L., Hartling, L., Aldcroft, A., Wilson, M. G., Garritty, C. . . . Straus, S. (2018). PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and explanation. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(7), 467–473. https://doi.org/10.7326/M18-0850

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.-a). Occupational outlook handbook, school and career counselors. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.-b). Occupational outlook handbook, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Occupational outlook handbook, 21-1019, counselors, all other. U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.bls.gov/oes/2018/may/oes211019.htm

*Waalkes, P. L., Benshoff, J. M., Stickl, J., Swindle, P. J., & Umstead, L. K. (2018). Structure, impact, and deficiencies of beginning counselor educators’ doctoral teaching preparation. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(1), 66–80. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12094

*Welfare, L. E., & Sackett, C. R. (2011). The authorship determination process in student–faculty collaboration research. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89(4), 479–487. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2011.tb02845.x

West, J. D., Bubenzer, D. L., Cox, J. A., & McGlothlin, J. M. (Eds.). (2013). Teaching in counselor education:
Engaging students in learning
. Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.

Wester, K. L., & Borders, L. D. (2014). Research competencies in counseling: A Delphi study. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(4), 447–458. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00171.x

Williams, D. J., Milsom, A., Nassar-McMillan, S., & Pope, V. T. (2012). 2016 CACREP standards revision committee at turn one. Counseling Today, 55(5), 56.

*Woo, H., Lu, J., Harris, C., & Cauley, B. (2017). Professional identity development in counseling professionals. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 8(1), 15–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2017.1297184

Woo, H., Lu, J., Henfield, M. S., & Bang, N. (2017). An exploratory study of career intentions in academia: Doctoral students in counselor education programs in the US. Journal of Asia Pacific Counseling, 7(1), 79–92. https://doi.org/10.18401/2017.7.1.7

*Woo, H., Jang, Y. J., & Henfield, M. S. (2015). International doctoral students in counselor education: Coping strategies in supervision training. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 43(4), 288–304. https://doi.org/10.1002/jmcd.12022

Zalaquett, C. P., Foley, P. F., Tillotson, K., Dinsmore, J. A., & Hof, D. (2008). Multicultural and social justice training for counselor education programs and colleges of education: Rewards and challenges. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(3), 323–329. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2008.tb00516.x



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, gideon.litherland@northwestern.edu.


“They Stay With You”: Counselor Educators’ Emotionally Intense Gatekeeping Experiences

Daniel A. DeCino, Phillip L. Waalkes, Amanda Dalbey

Emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences can require counselor educators to engage in a complicated, time- and energy-consuming, and draining series of events that can last years and involve legal proceedings. Research related to counselor educators’ experiences of intense emotions while gatekeeping remains limited. The aim of this transcendental phenomenological study was to investigate counselor educators’ (N = 11) emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Five themes emerged from the data: early warning signs, elevated student misconduct, dismissal, legal interactions, and change from experience. By being transparent about their feelings and challenges regarding emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences, counselor educators may compel other faculty, counselors in the field, and doctoral students to be better prepared for emotional gatekeeping experiences.   

Keywords: gatekeeping, counselor educators, transcendental phenomenological, emotionally intense, experiences


Gatekeeping is an important role for counselor educators in order to uphold ethical standards within the counseling profession and to protect clients, students, and faculty (Homrich & Henderson, 2018). Allowing unprepared individuals to become counselors can impede positive client outcomes in therapy and even harm clients (Homrich & Henderson, 2018). The American Counseling Association’s ACA Code of Ethics (2014) defined gatekeeping as “the initial and ongoing academic, skill, and dispositional assessment of students’ competency for professional practice, including remediation and termination as appropriate” (p. 20). In addition, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2015) standards require counseling program faculty to follow gatekeeping procedures in line with university policy and the profession’s ethical codes.

Previous researchers have explored gatekeeping procedures (Swank & Smith-Adcock, 2014), gatekeeping policy (Rust et al., 2013), models for evaluating student counselor competence (Lumadue & Duffey, 1999), and problematic student behaviors (Henderson & Dufrene, 2013). Although research has focused on gatekeeping in counselor training, how counselor educators experience emotions tied to gatekeeping practices remains relatively unknown. Faculty who have engaged in some gatekeeping practices (e.g., remediation and dismissal) have reported experiencing strong emotions that may negatively impact the gatekeeping process (Wissel, 2014). Therefore, the purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to illuminate counselor educators’ emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. We defined emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences as multilayered, complex, time-extended events that counselor educators identify as emotionally memorable.

Emotions and Gatekeeping
     In more serious cases, gatekeeping can be a multilayered series of interactions with administrators, university appeals boards, and lawyers (Homrich & Henderson, 2018). Ziomek-Daigle and Christensen (2010) framed counselor educators’ gatekeeping in terms of preadmission screening, postadmission screening, remediation plan, and remediation outcome phases. In many cases, students and educators often proceed through Ziomek-Daigle and Christensen’s linear gatekeeping phases, but in other cases, gatekeeping is non-linear. In these non-linear cases, a student may be dismissed from their program, file an appeal, and be granted re-admittance. In these intense gatekeeping scenarios, a considerable amount of attention, time, and energy are often required of counselor educators. Although Ziomek-Daigle and Christensen’s phases are aimed to promote more structured gatekeeping practices, little is known about what phases, specific topics, or dimensions of counselor educators’ experiences with intense gatekeeping may exist.

A fear of legal consequences as a result of gatekeeping practices can influence counselor educators’ decision making (Crawford & Gilroy, 2013). Homrich et al. (2014) found that gatekeepers experience negative emotions, including fear and apprehension, surrounding student dismissals. Recently, Schuermann et al. (2018) utilized consensual qualitative research to reaffirm counselor educators are fearful of some gatekeeping outcomes (e.g., threats of lawsuits or legal consequences). Despite this potential for negative feelings, little is known about how counselor educators’ emotions may be tied to gatekeeping-related lawsuits and how these experiences are processed and managed.

Gatekeepers can pay an emotional price for gatekeeping students (Gizara & Forrest, 2004). In a collective case study of 12 counseling psychologist site supervisors, participants unanimously expressed that student impairment issues (e.g., when students acted unprofessionally at clinical sites) were the most painful events to confront with supervisees (Gizara & Forrest, 2004). Similarly, participants interviewed in Wissel’s (2014) phenomenological study on counselor educators’ experiences of terminating students for non-academic reasons (e.g., students causing harm to clients during practicum) reported these experiences were uncomfortable because of role dissonance and responsibility. Kerl and Eichler (2005) claimed counselor educators may experience a “loss of innocence” as a consequence of emotionally taxing, isolating, and professionally challenging gatekeeping experiences (p. 83). Kerl and Eichler also stressed that counselor educators should emotionally explore the meaning of their gatekeeping experiences to uncover how these feelings interact with their gatekeeping practices. Unless emotions surrounding gatekeeping are addressed, counselor educators may “remain stuck in a place that holds on to us with powerful and overwhelming emotions” (Kerl & Eichler, 2005, p. 84).

Because gatekeeping can generate intense emotions, counselor educators’ failure to understand and bracket their emotions could result in flawed decision making that serves their needs instead of the ethical codes of the profession (Brear & Dorrian, 2010). Providing specific insights and strategies to help counselor educators become aware of their emotions during intense gatekeeping experiences may help them protect themselves, other faculty, peers, and future clients. Yet, there is currently a lack of depth in our understanding of counselor educators’ emotions related to gatekeeping. Therefore, guided by Moustakas’ (1994) notion that transcendental phenomenological studies should seek to uncover the essential structure of a particular phenomenon, our study sought to answer two research questions: First, what are the common elements of counselor educators’ emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences? Second, what, if any, important insights did counselor educators gain from emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences?


Phenomenological research generates descriptions of experiences that “keep a phenomenon alive, illuminate its presence, accentuate its underlying meanings, enable the phenomenon to linger, and retain its spirit, as near to its actual nature as possible” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 59). Therefore, we chose to use a transcendental phenomenological approach for this study to capture and share the essence of counselor educators’ lived experiences with emotionally intense gatekeeping (Lopez & Willis, 2004). Transcendental phenomenology allowed us to (a) explore how emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences affect counselor educators personally and professionally, (b) bracket our own assumptions about emotionally intense gatekeeping, and (c) understand the common elements of participants’ gatekeeping experiences.

     Participants qualified for inclusion in this study if they self-reported at least one emotionally intense gatekeeping experience and were currently employed as a counselor educator at a CACREP-accredited institution. Eleven counselor educators participated in this study, representing years of experience between 2 and 37 years (M = 19.8, SD = 11.58). Table 1 provides a snapshot of participant demographics.


Table 1

Participant Demographics

Name Gender Race or Ethnicity Rank Degree Major Degree Type Yrs. Exp. CES
Sue Female White Assistant CES PhD     0–5
Rosie Female White, Caucasian Full CP PhD 20–25
Rose Female White, Caucasian Associate CES PhD 15–20
Mike Male Caucasian Full CEs EdD 25–30
Mark Male White Full CES PhD 35–40
Maria Female White, Caucasian Associate CES PhD   5–10
Lila Female Multicultural Full CP PhD 25–30
Frank Male Caucasian Full CES EdD 20–25
Rita Female Hispanic Associate CES PhD 20–25
Herbie Female Asian Assistant CES PhD   5–10
Dan Male White Adjunct CES EdD 30–35

Notes. All participant names are pseudonyms. For gender, race, or ethnicity, participants’ responses were recorded verbatim. CES = Counselor Education and Supervision. CP = Counseling Psychology. PhD = Doctor of Philosophy. EdD = Doctor of Education. Yrs. Exp. CES = Years Working as a Counselor Educator and Supervisor.


Recruitment Procedures
     To seek out counselor educators with emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences (Miller et al., 2018), we recruited participants through three purposeful sampling and screening procedures. First, participants were recruited based on their authorship of at least one gatekeeping article published in a journal or magazine that noted their professional experiences with gatekeeping. Four articles addressing the authors’ personal experiences with gatekeeping were identified. Those authors were sent an email inviting them to participate in this study. Second, we used a purposeful sample of accredited counselor education programs listed on CACREP’s official website. This search yielded a total of 880 potential counselor training programs. We generated a stratified sample three times that resulted in three separate batches of 23 programs. Program coordinators were sent emails asking them to share the study invitation with their faculty members who may identify as having one or more emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Third, snowball sampling was used by asking all participants to identify other potential participants who fit our criteria for participation. To meet the study’s eligibility requirements, participants were required to (a) be employed at a CACREP-accredited counselor training program; (b) be instructors or adjunct, full, associate, or assistant professors (Schuermann et al., 2018); and (c) have been involved in at least one emotionally intense gatekeeping experience as a counselor educator.

Data Collection Procedures
Semi-Structured Interviews
     After the lead researcher obtained IRB approval, we collected interview data through telephone and Skype interviews. We contacted potential participants with a description of the study, including our definition of emotionally intense gatekeeping, and a copy of the informed consent form. Interested participants responded to our requests via email and the lead researcher scheduled a time to interview them. Semi-structured interview questions were designed from a review of the relevant literature on gatekeeping and our own professional experiences with gatekeeping as counselor educators to gather rich and thick descriptions of the phenomenon (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Interview questions, including “What do you remember most vividly about your emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences?”, were emailed to all participants prior to their interviews. Before audio recording began, all participants created a pseudonym to protect their confidentiality. All interviews were audio-recorded using Garageband. Interviews were between 24 and 45 minutes and were transcribed by Rev.com. Once interviews were transcribed, audio files were deleted.

Letter-Writing Activity
     Once interviews were completed, participants also were invited to complete a letter-writing activity based on their emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Letter writing can provide a concrete and lasting record of one’s experiences as opposed to spoken words, which usually disappear after they are spoken (Goldberg, 2000). We used this letter-writing activity to help triangulate the data. The letter-writing instructions asked participants to revisit their emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences, if other prior life events may have influenced their perceptions of gatekeeping, and what, if anything, they learned from these experiences. We received three letters, ranging from 94 to 2,027 words (M = 786).

Data Analysis
     We used Moustakas’ (1994) five-step transcendental phenomenological process to analyze the data. First, prior to reading the transcribed interviews and letters, the research team (composed of all three authors of this article) met and existentially bracketed (Gearing, 2004) their experiences with emotionally intense gatekeeping, identifying biases or presuppositions. Next, we read the transcripts and letters twice independently and began familiarizing ourselves with participants’ experiences. We reconvened to discuss our initial impressions of the data and engaged in horizontalization (Moustakas, 1994), or highlighting and clustering significant statements into groups with similar meaning. Forty-six initial codes were created and grouped into clusters to generate textural descriptions of the phenomena. We met three more times to discuss our emerging themes, reconcile any discrepancies in our analysis, and reach consensus on the findings. In between each meeting, team members independently reflected on the codes and emerging phenomena. We reconvened a fifth time and developed nine larger themes that were organized as textural and structural clusters, or meaning units (Starks & Brown Trinidad, 2007). Through this process of phenomenological reduction (Moustakas, 1994), we refined our themes and identified the crucial elements of participants’ experiences. At this point, two themes were discarded because of inconsistent support and a lack of consensus among the research team. Next, an external auditor, who was a counselor educator with qualitative research experience and numerous publications in counseling journals, reviewed the initial coding and theme construction and provided feedback to the research team. The auditor suggested the removal of one theme and the consolidation of two others. The research team discussed the external auditor’s feedback and incorporated their theme reduction suggestions to help clarify the meaning and representation of the data. Finally, we met one more time to discuss our final five themes and confirmed that our findings accurately represented the essence of participants’ experiences of emotionally intense gatekeeping.

     In this study, we used several measures to achieve congruent trustworthiness within the phenomenological research tradition (Flynn & Korcuska, 2018). First, in order to uncover the essence of our experience without completely detaching from the world, we bracketed our prior theories, interpretations, and assumptions of the phenomena through multiple team discussions (Gearing, 2004). To track our discussions during the data collection and analysis phases, the lead author kept a reflexive journal to help us account for our presuppositions and interpret the data accurately. Second, we offered participants a member check of their interview transcripts. Each participant was asked to review their transcript for accuracy and was provided an opportunity to elaborate further on their initial statements. Five participants elaborated on their thoughts to clarify meaning. Third, the lead author kept an audit trail detailing the times and dates of participant interviews, sampling procedures, and member checks, and a summary of the discussions between the researchers (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Fourth, the letter-writing activity yielded another data source to triangulate our findings (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). Finally, the auditor in this study challenged the research team to revisit our prior assumptions of emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences to ensure monitoring of potential bias.

Reflexivity Statement
     The research team included two counselor educators employed as full-time faculty at two different midsized universities in the Midwest United States, and one graduate student with knowledge of gatekeeping and research experience at the first author’s university. The first author identifies as a White, able-bodied, middle-aged male and pre-tenured counselor educator. The second author identifies as a White, able-bodied, middle-aged male and pre-tenured counselor educator, and the third author identifies as a White, able-bodied, young adult female counseling graduate student. Our main assumptions before starting this study were that (a) emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences elicit only negative emotions from faculty; and (b) discussion of emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences is considered taboo for fear of litigation or unwanted attention. These assumptions stemmed largely from our own experiences as students in counselor training programs. Each of us experienced times when we knew faculty were engaged in gatekeeping. These experiences modeled gatekeeping for us and demonstrated how faculty balance protecting students from peers who may be engaged in problematic behaviors.


We identified five themes from counselor educators’ emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences: (a) early warning signs, (b) elevated student misconduct, (c) student dismissal, (d) legal interactions, and (e) change from experience.

Early Warning Signs
     Most participants (n = 10) discussed behavioral and academic issues with students that, at first, appeared to be fixable through remediation and interventions. During these experiences, participants reported feeling shock, frustration, irritation, and sadness. For example, Rose shared how faculty noticed that a student was making poor choices and how they tried to intervene quickly:

She really had tried to push herself too far, farther than she was ready to go. . . . I just knew the person, in spite of the faculty repeatedly saying don’t push yourself too hard to where you’re not even able to show up at your practicum internship site on a regular basis. They ignored our advice. And when somebody is simply not showing up on a regular basis, that’s behavior that can’t go on.

In other examples, participants shared stories of students exercising poor boundaries. In these experiences, students displayed behaviors that were symptomatic of larger issues that would reveal themselves later. Dan shared:

This student was chronically late, and when the student arrived, instead of just sliding in quietly, the student would make an entrance. . . . After this became a chronic problem, there seemed to be resistance. The next semester was similar, except by now, I could see that the student was being avoided by many of his classmates.

Like Dan, participants discussed a variety of outcomes after their early interventions with students regarding their problematic academic and professional behavior(s). Often counselor educators’ interventions helped students remediate and correct their behaviors. In other cases, students continued to act inappropriately or committed more serious infractions.

Elevated Student Misconduct
     All 11 participants described a more serious student violation after initial warning signs. These violations required a higher level of faculty intervention. In these interactions, participants felt anger, betrayal, and confusion. Sue discussed her emotions and process surrounding discovering her students had cheated:

I had one earlier this year that was very emotionally intense, that affected me personally and professionally, that was around academic honesty and integrity. During one of my classes, I discovered that a group of students cheated on an examination—a group of five out of a classroom of 12, so a very significant percentage. It was really shocking at first. I really did go through the stages of grief now looking back.

For several other participants, more serious violations occurred during students’ practicum or internship courses. Mike described hearing about one student’s ethical violation from their practicum site supervisor: “She has taken it upon herself to recruit individual clients from her group to see on her own, at home!” These events brought out anxiety, despair, and anger in faculty members and required more direct interventions, including direct meetings with students, discussions of students during faculty meetings, or removal of students from a class or courses.

Student Dismissal
     Participants (n = 9) reported feeling many intense emotions in their experiences when dismissing students. Most expressed extreme sadness and frustration with students. Students were usually dismissed after failing to comply with remediation plans (e.g., retaking an ethics course, attending personal counseling) within the time frame allotted. Some remediated students chose to leave the program on their own account. Some participants questioned if they were acting in the best interests of the profession, program, and university. For example, Rose reflected on her personal feelings and professional responsibilities with emotionally intense gatekeeping:

I would say that [gatekeeping experiences] took a lot out of me, emotionally. It was exhausting. Even today, I don’t feel the intensity that I felt at the time. But there’s still emotion. There’s still kind of a sadness and disappointment that we had to have conversations. And certainly, I’m very hopeful that . . . the people who were removed from the program have found something else to do where they can be successful.

Participants’ decisions to dismiss students also impacted them unexpectedly. Lila explained:

Once in a while it’s also very sad because you see people with a lot of potential, good people, that because of what’s happening in their lives might make poor choices. And the sad part is to see somebody with so much potential getting themselves into trouble because of personal issues. And then the investment they have made in their education and all this money they have put into it, it comes to an end because they made poor choices. It’s very sad to see something like this. It stays with you. Those are the things that sometimes will wake me up at three, four in the morning and think, “Ah, I wish things were different.”

Legal Interactions
     Among the most disruptive and emotionally intense phase of many participants’ (n = 7) gatekeeping experiences were legal proceedings. These moments were often physically and emotionally taxing, confusing, and disruptive on personal and professional levels. Participants frequently second-guessed their thoughts and behaviors. Usually this phase started with notification of a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the student against the faculty, program, or university. Mark shared his feelings after discovering he was one of the primary people named in a lawsuit:

I was the department chair, and I had to deliver the news. I was named in the lawsuit along with the dean, and the Board of Trustees, and one other faculty member. . . . I questioned whether I had done things properly. I felt vulnerable. I felt like that my reputation might be compromised.

Legal proceedings involving participants (n = 6) were jury and judge trials in either civil or criminal court and sometimes generated publicity outside of their institutions. Several participants shared that legal proceedings came with an emotional cost to them and their respective programs. For example, Dan felt emotionally exhausted with his lengthy involvement with the legal system:

Along the way, there was tremendous amounts of angst, and time, and energy, and aggravation spent on this student, and on the trouble that he generated, and the accusations that he was making . . . 12 or 18 months later, we were notified that he had hired an attorney, and that he was going to sue the college. Depositions followed, hours of depositions. Because I was the faculty member that had the most time with him, I was deposed for about a day and a half, where his attorney asked me every imaginable question six different ways from Sunday. It was not a pleasant experience. Anyway, there would be many, many months that would go by without hearing anything, and then we’d be told that, “Okay, we’ve been scheduled for a trial.” Then we get up to the trial and there’d be some continuance, and the can would get kicked down the road again. From the time the student was expelled from the program to deposition, it was four years. From the time of the actual jury trial, it was 10 years.

Most participants were surprised and saddened by students’ efforts to win legal proceedings. Participants were aware of the importance of their legal encounters, yet also unsure how to balance them with multiple professional responsibilities. Lila expressed:

This was a student that was terminated and the student sued, started a lawsuit. . . . The student re-mortgaged their home so they could hire that attorney and take the university to court, take us to court. It was disruptive to our teaching because . . . the trial was happening about an hour and a half away. So we would have to find somebody to cover our class. We would get there, there would be delays, so we would be asked to go again the next day. . . . And we won the case because we had followed the policy and the student had refused to remediate . . . so the student lost their home. I mean it was a really sad situation.

Change From Experience
     All participants in this study shared what they learned from their emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. In this theme, participants offered advice and wisdom for other counselor educators.

All participants shared that their emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences reinforced their commitment to ethics, program standards, transparency, and fairness. Despite their feelings of guilt and humility resulting from their experiences, participants wanted to be more proactive and clear with their gatekeeping processes. Dan shared:

It was a learning, not just for me, but for our entire faculty that we need to be really clear every step of the way, about who we are as a program, what do we stand for, what expectations do we have? And that when those expectations are in some way violated or are bent, we need to be very clear with the student about what’s going on. And when or if we ever arrive at a place where we see a student who is having this kind of a problem, we need to take action sooner.

Every participant expressed a commitment to engage in future gatekeeping practices more effectively. Several expressed feeling unsure about gatekeeping initially but eventually replaced vacillating feelings with more confidence and greater self-efficacy. Herbie noted:

I think initially there was much more apprehension and dread. Just a lot of uncertainty and a lot of ambiguity about like, okay, how is it going to go? What do I need to say? How can I be clear? How am I wrapping up this conversation and their understanding of the message I’m trying to communicate? Well, at the same time as, you know, like being a counselor, like how can I be like positive and supportive at the same time, which is a hard place to be in when you’re also being the disciplinarian. And I think now because I’ve had many more experiences with gatekeeping, and having those tough conversations, it’s much clearer to me. I go in and I have in my mind a plan that I need to follow.

Nine participants shared how bracketing their personal beliefs, emotions, and opinions of students helped them become more effective and ethical gatekeepers. Frank commented:

I was less aware of my emotional triggers years ago. And realizing that there are lots of different values, beliefs, knowledge, and skills that I bring in that I use to judge a situation. And in doing so I have to remember to bring it into the present. That I have to be able to separate what my values and beliefs, skills, and competencies are and what is expected of the profession, especially as delineated in the code of ethics.

Most participants also discussed how their programs and departments changed as a result of their intense gatekeeping experiences. Changes often occurred at multiple levels. For example, Sue shared, “I tightened my syllabi. I went back through the code. I actually advocated and we re-wrote all of the syllabi for my entire university in grad counseling.”

     All but one participant (n = 10) offered current and future counselor educators advice on emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Eight participants specifically mentioned that counselor educators should rely on trusted and supportive colleagues to help navigate emotionally intense gatekeeping. Dan said:

I want to say how critically important it is to make sure that you build a team of faculty, not just for the day when you’re going to have to engage in a gatekeeping process, but for all kinds of reasons. Building a team where there’s real trust, where there’s emotional vulnerability, and where differences about ideas . . . can be addressed is so very important.

In other examples, participants shared how each faculty member in their program developed a role. These roles helped faculty share responsibility with gatekeeping duties while also promoting due process and professionalism. Rosie commented:

We look at [gatekeeping] in a behavioral way, but certainly with a respect for the student’s interpersonal processes and personality style. . . . We’re always good at keeping each other (faculty) accountable. . . . We balance each other out. Then, when we do meet with the student as a faculty, if on one of those occasions we think that is necessary, we take different roles. We decide who’s going to be what person in that process.

Several participants offered tips for working with administrators (e.g., deans, human resource representatives, university lawyers, provosts, presidents), including how faculty may need to explain ethical codes, program policy, and gatekeeping philosophies to them. Lila shared, “Be prepared outside of the department, there are appeals committees. They may see it differently than you and your faculty see it.” Maria offered more proactive advice:

At the beginning of a semester, reach out to deans or upper administration, that, “we are looking to tweak or update our gatekeeping policy; we’d like to run it by you and get your feedback, and we’d also like to run it by legal counsel through university.” And that helps everybody be informed up front, and things tend to go much better when everybody knows what to expect and what our obligations are as gatekeepers.

Finally, all participants talked about ways in which counselor educators and counselor programs can better prepare doctoral students and support early career faculty for emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Herbie offered:

[The] messages I received and modeling that I saw were really helpful in me understanding the need for gatekeeping. Because the parameters that were set forth in both my master’s and my doctoral program, were just really clear on what’s okay and what’s not okay. And then having a cohort family . . . and having that support network and being able to talk about experiences that I was observing . . . within a safe container was really helpful.


To ensure the counseling profession is composed of qualified, competent, and ethical counselors, counselor educators must gatekeep even if they may experience intense emotions. The emotions stemming from participants’ intense gatekeeping experiences included dissonance, discomfort, guilt, anger, and role confusion, as well as empathy, compassion, and sensitivity for students. These emotions were similar to those reported by participants in other studies (Gizara & Forrest, 2004; Wissel, 2014). Regardless of the type (i.e., professional or academic) and the level of severity of gatekeeping counselor educators experienced, participants’ experiences were persistent and draining. Counselor educators engaged in intense gatekeeping should prepare for exhausting, emotionally layered events that will impact them professionally and personally. In addition, the time-intensive nature of emotionally intense gatekeeping is noteworthy. Several counselor educators reported that numerous years (the longest being 10) were needed for due process (i.e., academic appeals and legal proceedings).

The findings from this study also extend the concept of gatekeeping beyond the boundaries of what happens within a counseling student’s program and institution. Ziomek-Daigle and Christensen (2010) noted that unsuccessful remediation efforts may yield either students leaving their program voluntarily or being dismissed. This study highlights that when students challenge dismissal decisions, the dismissal process can involve legal proceedings that can last for numerous years. Over half of the participants in this study discussed legal encounters of some kind related to intense gatekeeping, and this may indicate that legal encounters related to gatekeeping may be occurring more frequently among counselor educators (Homrich et al., 2014; Schuermann et al., 2018).

Most participants expressed that their gatekeeping experiences fostered their professional growth, but also came with personal emotional costs. Many participants said that their intense gatekeeping experiences unexpectedly affected them personally. Some participants indicated they felt trapped because they could not share details of their emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences with partners, family, or others outside their department because of student confidentiality constraints. This finding aligns with Kerl and Eichler’s (2005) assertion that unless faculty actively take steps to process emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences, the experiences themselves may hold power over faculty until they are properly addressed.

Finally, as a result of their intense gatekeeping experiences, many participants took more preventative and systematic approaches to protect the counseling profession, students, and future clients by preparing for future intense gatekeeping encounters. Participants reported processing their feelings about gatekeeping as well as reassessing individual responsibilities plus program and university polices to better align with the ACA Code of Ethics (2014). Homrich (2009) suggested that faculty, including adjunct instructors and clinical supervisors, should plan for challenges that may arise when gatekeeping students. Multiple faculty stressed that their admissions decision making and criteria for new students were improved as a result of their emotionally intense gatekeeping. For instance, faculty reported recognizing rigid beliefs and concerning behaviors more quickly during admissions interviews and when students were starting their graduate training (Swank & Smith-Adcock, 2014.) Participants also reported how changes in gatekeeping practices at the individual (e.g., confronting problematic behaviors quicker), institutional (e.g., discussions with provosts and deans about professional ethics and gatekeeping practices), and professional (e.g., publishing articles) levels often took time and focused effort to change perceptions among stakeholders and others connected to their programs.

Implications for Counselor Educators and Counselors
     Based on our findings, we noted several implications for counselors and counselor educators. First, counselor educators should consider how doctoral training programs can facilitate learning related to emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences that include discussion of students’ potential emotional reactions to gatekeeping. Doctoral students may benefit from more transparency among current counselor educators in discussing their emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Discussions may help normalize how maintaining professional relationships with students and navigating intense emotions can be useful learning experiences during their doctoral training. Doctoral student gatekeeping training may inadvertently create dual relationship conflicts between master’s students and doctoral students if there are pre-existing relationships. Although a faculty mentor’s sharing of a student’s gatekeeping context may help doctoral students learn, faculty should balance this with the need to maintain the student’s confidentiality (Rapp et al., 2018).

Furthermore, more mentorship for future and beginning counselor educators regarding emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences may help alleviate adverse feelings. Departmental discussions of gatekeeping policies, a culture of openness, and mentorship from senior faculty (Homrich, 2009) can help reduce feelings of isolation, anger, sadness, betrayal, and other negative emotions for future and inexperienced faculty. Over half of participants mentioned mentorship from experienced faculty as support that helped them manage feelings of stress, anxiety, and fatigue during emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. In addition, several participants in this study, regardless of prior experience with emotionally intense gatekeeping, sought consultation and comfort from other faculty within their departments. Counselor education programs should have a designated mentor for faculty who may feel overwhelmed with an emotionally intense gatekeeping experience and keep open lines of communication for all faculty (Homrich & Henderson, 2018). Of note, two participants expressed that they were aware of colleagues at other institutions who were unable to find encouragement and mentorship while imbued in intense gatekeeping, and those faculty either found other jobs or left the profession entirely.

Third, participants in this study experienced challenging and intense emotions surrounding legal proceedings. Counselor educators and clinicians should consider that lawsuits related to gatekeeping, impairment, and professional competence are on the rise (Schuermann et al., 2018). Counselor educators and counselors in the field should be better prepared for lawsuits and retain legal counsel, consult with colleagues, utilize personal counseling, and take other protective and therapeutic measures (Gaubatz & Vera, 2002). In addition, counselor educators and counselors may want to utilize self-care strategies to help bracket and monitor their emotions to allow for clear thinking and more ethical and intentional decision making if confronted with a lawsuit (Dugger & Francis, 2014).

     This study has three limitations. First, only three participants had less than 10 years of experience. Because perspectives, practices, and philosophies on gatekeeping can differ with experience (Schuermann et al., 2018), early counselor educators may have different experiences of emotionally intense gatekeeping. Second, only one participant in this study identified as an adjunct instructor. As institutions of higher education increase the number of their courses taught by non–tenure-track faculty, perspectives from adjuncts, lecturers, instructors, and other non–tenure-track training professionals, who are held to the same ethical standards and gatekeeping expectations, may be warranted. Likewise, site supervisors can play a vital role in the gatekeeping process and their perspectives on gatekeeping are important as well. Finally, given the complex and ongoing nature of emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences reported by participants, another data source (e.g., follow-up interviews) and more letters from participants might have provided a more thorough understanding of emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences.

Implications for Future Research
     This study was a first step in describing counselor educators’ emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences. Researchers of future studies might explore faculty groups’ collective emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences through focus groups. More understanding of how counselor education programs collect and document student information, make gatekeeping decisions, develop gatekeeping policies and procedures, and rely on gatekeeping-related ethical codes and standards are needed. Additionally, insights from adjunct instructors and clinical site supervisors who have experienced emotionally intense gatekeeping or students who have successfully completed remedial plans may provide unique perspectives on gatekeeping. Understanding how students navigate remediation plans and their emotional reactions to them may inform counselor educators and the profession as to what matters most to students and how to better reach them (Foster et al., 2014). Similarly, site supervisors often have more knowledge of students’ work with clients than counselor educators and may be an underutilized resource in gatekeeping practices. Finally, more research on counselor educators’ experiences with legal proceedings are warranted. Although several legal cases have generated considerable attention (see Plaintiff v. Rector and Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary, 2005; Ward v. Wilbanks, 2009), this study seems to be the first that qualitatively explored counselor education faculty members’ experiences specifically with legal encounters. How counselor educators balance lawsuits and professional responsibilities, the prevalence of lawsuits against counselor education faculty for gatekeeping practices, and counselor educators’ levels of legal preparedness are rich topics for future study.


In conclusion, findings of this transcendental phenomenological study reveal the intense emotions counselor educators may experience when gatekeeping. In support of others’ research (Kerl & Eichler, 2005; Wissel, 2014), participants felt intense emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, and vulnerability, as well as empathy for the affected students. Emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences seem time-consuming, usually involving multiple faculty members and administrators, as well as sometimes requiring legal counsel. The findings reveal how faculty should moderate their emotions and uphold ethical standards while engaging in emotionally intense gatekeeping. Finally, emotionally intense gatekeeping experiences can inspire counselor educators to revise their program policies, syllabi, and approaches to gatekeeping practices.


Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of interest
or funding contributions for the development
of this manuscript.



American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA code of ethics. https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/2014-code-of-ethics-finaladdressc97d33f16116603abcacff0000bee5e7.pdf?sfvrsn=5d6b532c_0

Brear, P., & Dorrian, J. (2010). Gatekeeping or gate slippage? A national survey of counseling educators in Australian undergraduate and postgraduate academic training programs. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 4(4), 264–273. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020714

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2015). 2016 CACREP standards. http://www.cacrep.org/for-programs/2016-cacrep-standards/

Crawford, M., & Gilroy, P. (2013). Professional impairment and gatekeeping: A survey of master’s level training programs. Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 5(1), 28–37.

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). SAGE.

Dugger, S. M., & Francis, P. C. (2014). Surviving a lawsuit against a counseling program: Lessons learned from Ward v. Wilbanks. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(2), 135–141.

Flynn, S. V., & Korcuska, J. S. (2018). Credible phenomenological research: A mixed-methods study. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(1), 34–50. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12092

Foster, J. M., Leppma, M., & Hutchinson, T. S. (2014). Students’ perspectives on gatekeeping in counselor education: A case study. Counselor Education and Supervision, 53(3), 190–203.

Gaubatz, M. D., & Vera, E. M. (2002). Do formalized gatekeeping procedures increase programs’ follow-up
with deficient trainees? Counselor Education and Supervision, 41(4), 294–305.

Gearing, R. E. (2004). Bracketing in research: A typology. Qualitative Health Research, 14(10), 1429–1452.

Gizara, S. S., & Forrest, L. (2004). Supervisors’ experiences of trainee impairment and incompetence at APA-accredited internship sites. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35(2), 131–140.

Goldberg, D. (2000). ‘Emplotment’: Letter writing with troubled adolescents and their families. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 5(1), 63–76. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359104500005001007

Henderson, K. L., & Dufrene, R. L. (2013). Student behaviors and remediation: An empirical study. Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory & Research, 40(2), 2–14.

Homrich, A. M. (2009). Gatekeeping for personal and professional competence in graduate counseling programs. Counseling and Human Development, 41(7), 1–24.

Homrich, A. M., DeLorenzi, L. D., Bloom, Z. D., & Godbee, B. (2014). Making the case for standards of conduct in clinical training. Counselor Education and Supervision, 53(2), 126–144.

Homrich, A. M., & Henderson, K. L. (Eds.). (2018). Gatekeeping in the mental health professions. American Counseling Association.

Kerl, S., & Eichler, M. (2005). The loss of innocence: Emotional costs to serving as gatekeepers to the counseling profession. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 1(3–4), 71–88. https://doi.org/10.1300/J456v01n03_05

Lopez, K. A., & Willis, D. G. (2004). Descriptive versus interpretive phenomenology: Their contributions to nursing knowledge. Qualitative Health Research, 14(5), 726–735. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732304263638

Lumadue, C. A., & Duffey, T. H. (1999). The role of graduate programs as gatekeepers: A model for evaluating student counselor competence. Counselor Education and Supervision, 39(2), 101–109.

Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Miller, R. M., Chan, C. D., & Farmer, L. B. (2018). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: A contemporary qualitative approach. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(4), 240–254.

Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. SAGE.

Plaintiff v. Rector and Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary, No. 03-2119 (4th Cir. February 8, 2005).

Rapp, M. C., Moody, S. J., & Stewart, L. A. (2018). Becoming a gatekeeper: Recommendations for preparing doctoral students in counselor education. The Professional Counselor, 8(2), 190–199.

Rust, J. P., Raskin, J. D., & Hill, M. S. (2013). Problems of professional competence among counselor trainees: Programmatic issues and guidelines. Counselor Education and Supervision, 52(1), 30–42.

Schuermann, H., Avent Harris, J. R., & Lloyd-Hazlett, J. (2018). Academic role and perceptions of gatekeeping in counselor education. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(1), 51–65.

Starks, H., & Brown Trinidad, S. (2007). Choose your method: A comparison of phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. Qualitative Health Research, 17(10), 1372–1380.

Swank, J. M., & Smith-Adcock, S. (2014). Gatekeeping during admissions: A survey of counselor education programs. Counselor Education and Supervision, 53(1), 47–61.

Ward v. Wilbanks, No. 09-CV-11237, Doc. 1 (E.D. Mich., Apr. 2, 2009)

Wissel, A. M. (2014). Gatekeeping in counselor education: Experiences of terminating students for nonacademic concerns. In Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2014, 1–10. https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/vistas/by-subject2/vistas-education-and-supervision/docs/default-source/vistas/article_08

Ziomek-Daigle, J., & Christensen, T. M. (2010). An emergent theory of gatekeeping practices in counselor education. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88(4), 407–415.


Daniel A. DeCino, PhD, NCC, LPC (Colorado), is an assistant professor at the University of South Dakota. Phillip L. Waalkes, PhD, NCC, ACS, is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Amanda Dalbey, MA, graduated from the University of South Dakota with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Correspondence may be addressed to Daniel DeCino, 414 E. Clark St., Vermillion, SD 57069, daniel.decino@usd.edu.

Gaining Administrative Support for Doctoral Programs in Counselor Education

Rebecca Scherer, Regina Moro, Tara Jungersen, Leslie Contos, Thomas A. Field

Initiating and sustaining a counselor education and supervision doctoral program requires navigating institutions of higher education, which are complex systems. Using qualitative analysis, we explored 15 counselor educators’ experiences collaborating with university administrators to gain support for beginning and sustaining counselor education and supervision doctoral programs. Results indicate the need to understand political elements, economical aspects, and the identity of the proposed program. Limitations and areas for future research are presented.  

Keywords: counselor education and supervision, doctoral, university administrators, counselor educators, support


The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs’ (CACREP) 2009 CACREP Standards (2008) included a new requirement for core faculty in both entry-level (i.e., master’s) and doctoral programs. This requirement endured in the 2016 CACREP Standards (2015). Although West et al. (1995) predicted the necessity of growth of CACREP-accredited doctoral-level counselor education programs in the mid-1990s, it was not until 2013 that core faculty in all CACREP-accredited programs were required to possess doctorates in counselor education and supervision (CES; or be grandfathered in from previous employment experience; CACREP, 2008). Master’s-level programs that are seeking new CACREP accreditation, as well as existing programs that are seeking to maintain accreditation, must therefore hire faculty with doctorates in CES. This requirement has created a need for greater numbers of doctoral graduates in counselor education, and institutions with master’s-level programs may be seeking to establish new doctoral-level programs to meet this need.

The creation of a doctoral program requires intricate navigation of complex systems of administration, accreditation, funding, laws, facilities, infrastructure, and politics. Additionally, universities have different requirements and levels of approval for new program development (S. Fernandez, personal communication, November 27, 2017). Counselor educators proposing a CES doctoral program must have an understanding of the complexity of the specific university (e.g., its organization, the history of university support for doctoral programs, the mission of the institution, the needs of the surrounding community, and the resources required for program development and implementation). Furthermore, counselor educators must have a firm grasp of accreditation standards for both the university’s regional accreditation bodies (e.g., Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), as well as specialty CES accreditation through CACREP.

Structure of Universities
     The hierarchical structure of universities varies from institution to institution. In this section, we provide a general outline of how universities are structured to help counselor educators who are interested in proposing a CES doctoral program. This information is very important when considering how to advocate for a doctoral program because of the many organizational layers and levels associated with an institution.

Typically, counseling programs are housed in a department, college, or school of the university (e.g., College of Education). The program is led by a program head, coordinator, or department chair. This person reports to the dean of the college. The dean reports to the provost or chancellor or chief executive officer. The president of the university then supersedes this level.

It is important for faculty members to assess the priorities of their institution for academic, student, and financial affairs. For example, a small private college in an urban area may have a mission to train adult learners and to provide access to education through lower admissions standards and flexible pathways to degree completion. In contrast, a large, public, research-intensive university may have a mission to support exceptional research and secure external grant contracts, and to raise college rankings through metrics such as low acceptance rates (The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, 2019). Based on administrative experience with doctoral program creation, structural information must be taken into consideration when advocating to administrators on behalf of CES doctoral program development.

Successful Initiation of Doctoral Programs
     In the higher education literature, there are a few publications on the creation of doctoral programs. Researchers have proposed that doctoral programs can be successfully initiated in the context of three circumstances: (a) top-down initiation, (b) filling a need in the local area, or (c) focusing on new delivery methods (Brooks et al., 2002; Haas et al., 2011; Slater & Martinez, 2000). In regard to top-down initiation, some authors have proposed that doctoral programs are likely to be launched if the initial idea comes from the provost or president of the university. Slater and Martinez (2000) described the process of successful initiation of a doctoral program in a small institution in Texas. They reported that the president suggested the idea to the dean, with later onboarding of faculty members.

Doctoral programs also seem to be initiated successfully if a need exists for such a program in the local area (Brooks et al., 2002; Haas et al., 2011). Haas and colleagues (2011) emphasized the importance of faculty members and administrators assessing program fit within the region. In both the Brooks et al. (2002) and Haas et al. (2011) studies, the importance of current delivery modalities in successfully recruiting support for a doctoral program, including the use of online delivery and interdisciplinary studies, was presented.

Rationale and Purpose
     At the time of writing, no studies could be identified in the CES literature regarding how to successfully gain administrative support for starting a doctoral program in CES. Another manuscript in this special issue (Field et al., 2020) illustrates a potential pipeline problem in counselor education, in particular the need for more CES doctoral programs in the North Atlantic and Western regions of the country. CES faculty members who are contemplating starting a CES doctoral program currently have little guidance on how to gain support for starting a program. In addition, no studies could be located regarding how to successfully sustain an existing doctoral program in CES. The purpose of this study was to collect and analyze qualitative data to address the research question guiding this study: Which strategies are helpful in gaining initial and ongoing support from administrators for a CES doctoral program, and how successful are those?


This study was conducted as part of a larger basic qualitative study sampling counselor educators. The purpose of the larger qualitative study was to identify perceptions of doctoral-level counselor educators regarding four major issues pertinent to doctoral counselor education: (a) components of high-quality programs, (b) strategies to recruit and retain underrepresented students, (c) strategies for successful dissertation advising, and (d) strategies for working with administrators. In order to explore these four major issues, four research teams were assembled, one of which included the authors of this manuscript. All four coding teams worked together to select these four issues, as it was felt that these issues were most pressing for faculty who were seeking to establish new doctoral CES programs and that little information and guidance existed in these areas. In-depth interviews were then conducted with doctoral-level counselor educators in CACREP-accredited programs to answer a series of research questions that addressed the issues above. Faculty from CACREP-accredited programs were selected because the focus of the larger project was to support faculty who intended to seek CACREP accreditation for new doctoral CES programs.

In the basic qualitative tradition, qualitative data were collected, coded, and categorized using the constant comparative method from grounded theory methodology (Corbin & Strauss, 2015; Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). Basic qualitative designs involve the collection and analysis of qualitative data for the purpose of answering research questions outside of other specialized qualitative focus areas (e.g., developing theory, understanding essence of lived experience, describing environmental observations). Because we were not seeking to develop theory, understand lived experience, or research any other specialized qualitative focus area with this study, and because the research question did not require a specialized approach to data analysis, the large research team selected the basic qualitative approach described above.

Each coding team designed interview questions to directly answer their specific research question. The research questions explored in this study were as follows: Which strategies are helpful in gaining initial and ongoing support from administrators when seeking to start a new doctoral program in CES, and how successful are those? The interview questions that were developed and used as the basis for data collection for this study were: 1) What guidance might you provide to faculty who want to start a new doctoral program in counseling, with regard to working with administrators and gaining buy-in? and 2) What guidance might you provide to faculty who want to sustain an existing doctoral program in counseling with regard to working with administrators and gaining ongoing support?

     Participants met two inclusion criteria for entrance into the study: (a) current core faculty members in a doctoral CES program that was (b) accredited by CACREP. Email requests were sent to 85 CACREP-accredited programs; faculty from 34 programs responded (40% response rate). Interviews were conducted with 15 full-time faculty members at CACREP-accredited CES doctoral programs. Participants were each from separate and unique doctoral programs, with no program represented by more than one participant.

The 15 participants were selected one at a time, using a maximal variation sampling procedure to avoid premature saturation (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). The authors used maximal variation to understand perspectives from faculty of diverse backgrounds who worked at different types of institutions. Participant selection was predicated on six criteria grounded in research data about factors that may impact perceptions about doctoral program delivery: (a) racial and ethnic self-identification (Cartwright et al., 2018); (b) gender self-identification (Hill et al., 2005); (c) length of time working in doctoral-level counselor education programs (Lambie et al., 2014; Magnuson et al., 2009); (d) Carnegie classification of university where the participant was currently working using The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education database (Lambie et al., 2014); (e) region of the counselor education program where the participant was currently working (e.g., Field et al., 2020), using the regional classifications commonly applied in the counseling profession; and (f) delivery mode of the counselor education program where the participant was currently working, such as in-person or online (Smith et al., 2015). As an example of this procedure, the first two participants were selected because of variation in gender, years of experience, and Carnegie classification. The third and fourth participants were selected on the basis of differences from prior interviewees with regard to ethnicity and region. Interviews continued until data seemed to reach saturation and redundancy at 15 interviews.

Although unintended, participant characteristics closely approximated CACREP statistics for faculty characteristics. The demographics of counselor educators in the sample was 73.3% White (n = 11), with 73.3% (n = 11) of participants working at research-intensive (i.e., R1 and R2) institutions. The sample was highly experienced, with an average of 19.7 years (SD = 9.0 years) as a counseling faculty member, with a range of 4 to 34 years. More than half of the participants (n = 9) had spent their entire career in doctoral counselor education.

     The last author of this manuscript sought IRB approval. Once we received IRB approval, potential participants were contacted from 85 CACREP-accredited programs with doctoral-level graduate studies in CES. Fifteen faculty were interviewed based on maximal variation sampling described above. All but one participant (n = 14) was interviewed via the Zoom video conference platform, chosen because of its privacy settings (i.e., end-to-end encryption). Interviews were recorded using the built-in Zoom recording feature. One participant was interviewed in person at a national counseling conference. This interview was recorded using a Sony digital audio recorder.

Interview Protocol
     Each videoconference interview was begun by collecting demographics and informed consent. Following the introductory phase, interviewees were asked eight questions that addressed the research questions of the larger study. Two of the questions were specific to this sub-research team. Interview questions were developed using Patton’s (2015) guidelines to inform question development. Specifically, the questions were open-ended, neutral, avoided “why” questioning, and asked one at a time. The questions were piloted with peer counselor educators prior to the start of the research project in order to get feedback on clarity and ease of answering. Participants received the questions by email before their scheduled interview. The participants were identified using alphabetical letters to blind participant identity to all members of the research team.

Each semi-structured interview lasted at least 60 minutes, during which participants responded to questions that were evenly distributed among the four research teams. Participants were therefore able to respond to interview questions with significant depth. Data did not appear saturated until 15 interviews had been conducted. Each research team was asked to review the transcripts developed from the 15 interviews to deduce whether adequate saturation had been achieved and until consensus was reached.

     All interview recordings were transcribed by graduate students. These students had no familiarity with the interviewees and were trained in how to transcribe verbatim. Once completed, each transcript was sent back to the interviewees to ensure accuracy. After all interviewees checked their document, the sections of the transcripts with the questions related to each team were copied and pasted into a document organized by the participants’ alphabetical identifiers. Each team was responsible for coding and analyzing the responses to their respective questions from the interviews.

Coding and Analysis
     The first, second, third, and fourth authors served as coding team members. The fifth author conducted the interviews as part of the larger study and assisted with writing sections of the methodology only. The demographics of the coding team were as follows. Team member ages ranged from mid-30s to 40s. All four identified as White cisgender females. Two of the coding team members were employed as full-time counselor educators, one identified as an administrator and counselor educator, and one coding team member was completing doctoral training as a counselor educator. Two participants had worked in doctoral counselor education programs, and two had not. We have served on both sides of the faculty–administrator relationship. These differences in backgrounds allowed for both etic and emic positioning pertinent to the topic of working with administrators to start and sustain doctoral programs in CES.

Because of the nature of both insider (emic) and outsider (etic) perspectives, the authors used a memo system when coding the manuscripts. This memo system involved three components. First, we created a blank memo every time a transcript was coded. Second, each time an interviewee’s transcribed response provoked some response within one of us, we raised it to the group and reflected on our individual experience. This response was documented in a memo. Third, one of us took notes to bracket any biases that might have been present. Identified biases often stemmed from our own experiences as faculty members talking to administrators, our service in an administrative role, or our own personal experiences developing doctoral programs. This occurred during joint coding team meetings and individual coding meetings once the open coding had been solidified into a set of codes. The memos were kept in a shared, encrypted, electronic folder for later review.

The following steps were followed by the coding team in the current study to ensure trustworthiness of analysis. The four coding team members jointly coded the first three participant transcripts to gain consensus. Following this open coding process, the second author condensed the open codes for the next phase of analysis. The coding team members then reached consensus on the condensed codes. Following agreement, we used the condensed codes to continue the coding process for the next two transcripts in joint coding meetings. This process allowed for discussion to assist with consistent understanding of the codes across the team. Following the joint open coding of the fifth transcript, the remaining 10 transcripts were assigned to one of us for open coding to be completed independently. After the open coding process was completed, the fourth author proposed a framework of the emerging themes. She examined the open codes and considered discussions that emerged throughout the team process to identify the emergent themes from the data. Open codes were only included in the analysis if they emerged in at least four transcripts, which resulted in the removal of three codes from the final results. All team members reached consensus for the themes that were originally identified by the fourth author.


The data analysis process resulted in three emergent themes regarding strategies for gaining initial and ongoing support from administrators for CES doctoral programs and the level of success of those strategies. The three themes were political landscape, economic landscape, and identity landscape. Each theme had five associated subthemes. Each theme and subtheme are discussed in more detail below, and brief participant quotes are inserted to highlight the experiences of the participants in their own words for the purpose of thick description (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).

Political Landscape
     Considering the political landscape appeared to be a crucial strategy for recruiting administrative support when having conversations with administrators about CES doctoral programs. Participants described the importance of understanding the context of conversations with administrators within the larger political system of higher education institutions. The subthemes represented factors that influenced political decisions.

Political Endeavor: “Watching Your Politics”
     Participants reported that conversations with administrators were highly political in nature and having these conversations was a form of political endeavor. One example of political endeavor was to ensure that other academic units and programs were in support of a CES doctoral program. As one participant stated, “First make sure that you’ve got your politics in order, so social work agrees with you and psychology agrees with you. So, you’ve got support of any competitor on campus.” If other academic units or programs are opposed to a CES doctoral program, it may result in administrators being cautious about supporting the program because of fears that they may be caught in the middle of a turf battle.

Gaining administrative support seemed to be predicated on the ability to “strategically build relationships” with administrators, as one participant put it. One participant commented on the complexity of developing these relationships with administrators. This participant believed that faculty needed to strike a balance of being flexible and adaptive to the administrators’ agenda and “order of the day,” while also retaining one’s “own ideology and belief systems.” Building relationships with administrators also seemed to involve avoiding unnecessary conflict that may reduce administrator support for faculty ideas. One participant cautioned that “watching your politics” and “keeping your mouth shut when you know you shouldn’t be speaking up against key administrators” was important during conversations with administrators to avoid unnecessary conflict that could “hurt your own doc program.” Learning this form of engagement seemed to be a struggle for some participants. One participant stated that they “don’t know how to navigate those conversations effectively” and felt “saddened and frustrated” as a result.

Status, Prestige, and Recognition: “A Huge Feather in One’s Cap”
     Participants conveyed that CES faculty could gain administrative support through the strategy of arguing how a doctoral program could enhance status, prestige, and recognition for an institution. One participant commented that “all university presidents want doctoral programs. They want them because of the prestige.” This participant elaborated that faculty should therefore “show them how doctoral programs bring recognition, how it raises you in the rankings, and all of those kinds of things.” Some participants noted that the degree to which administrators cared about enhanced status, prestige, and recognition depended on the type of institution. For example, administrators who work at an institution that is less concerned with college rankings may be unpersuaded by the potential for enhanced status and recognition.

Participants also encouraged CES faculty to strategically engage in actions that increase recognition for the program and university. Some potential strategies that may appeal to administrators include being “identified as an expert, and to go out and do public radio broadcasts and be featured in the newspaper. Be featured in national publications.” This recognition helps with both program and university visibility, which participants believed was important to administrators. Participants also shared that visibility can help to protect the program from losing administrative support. As one participant stated, “If you’re invisible in the eyes of the administrators, they’re not going to think of you if some opportunities are coming to the fore.” This participant further commented that administrators needed to be reminded of the doctoral program through continual visibility efforts, as administrators often operate from an “out of sight, out of mind” position.

Demonstration: “Wanting Empirical Evidence”
     Participants identified the strategy of sharing evidence with administrators to support and sustain doctoral programs. As one participant stated, “Once you get to the doctoral level, then we’re talking about people wanting empirical evidence.” In the early stages of program formation, this evidence might be a comprehensive proposal that is supported by data. As one participant stated, faculty need to develop a “solid plan” and be “as prepared as possible” for conversations in which administrators will “ask a ton of questions.”

Once a program is formed, it seems crucial that programs continuously provide updates to administration about program successes to sustain administrative support. Participants identified several approaches to demonstrating the success of a program. Some participants indicated that it was important to keep administration informed about student successes that occurred during doctoral study. One participant reported that their program kept administration informed via email about “every little success of the doctoral program” and provided the following examples: “Every time somebody successfully defends a dissertation, every time somebody presents at a conference, every time somebody gets a job congratulated, the president knows about it.” Other participants believed that it was helpful to report program outcomes such as graduation rates and employment statistics, which requires faculty to maintain contact with alumni to understand where they are working after graduation. It therefore seems possible that administrators may differ in which types of evidence they value, requiring faculty to carefully consider which information their administration most values when sending them updates of program successes. As one participant stated, “I think the question is, what information do you need to feed to administration to be convincing?”

Scrutiny: “Internal Credibility Is Super Important”
     Participants reported that program faculty should understand the different ways that administration will scrutinize the credibility of a doctoral program. One participant defined credibility as, “Do what you’re doing well.” Administrators might withdraw support for a program that is perceived as not producing quality graduates or has problems such as not graduating students. Administrator scrutiny of the program’s financial situation also appears to be an important consideration. Administrators who are concerned about the financial viability of the program may withdraw their support.

Timeline and Trajectory: “It’s a Long Journey”
     Participants reported that political decisions, such as starting and sustaining academic programs, particularly doctoral programs, may be influenced by unique timelines and trajectories. Participants encouraged faculty to develop the strategy of thinking long-term about cultivating administrative support for a doctoral program. One participant emphasized the need to “work together” with administrators in a collaborative fashion and make compromises so that administrators will support the doctoral program throughout the “long haul” and “long journey” of the program.

The length of administrator tenure at the university is another factor that faculty are advised to consider. One participant stated that faculty tend to have longer tenure than administrators at their university. As a “lifer,” this participant saw “a lot of rotation in and out of leadership.” Administrator turnover can result in changes to administrative priorities and agendas, which can impact support for a CES doctoral program. This participant encouraged faculty to “be cognizant of the fact that winds change.” 

Economic Landscape
     Considering the economic landscape and economic realities of starting and sustaining a doctoral program was the second main overarching theme. Developing an understanding of the economic landscape is important context for faculty when preparing for discussions with administrators. Several subthemes comprise the economic landscape, each detailed below.

Financial Aspects: “It Takes a Lot of Money”
     Of utmost importance when discussing starting and sustaining CES doctoral programs with administrators is understanding the financial resources required. Many participants spoke about the cost of CES doctoral programs for universities. Participants believed that a crucial strategy to gaining administrator support was being able to explain how programs can be at least revenue-neutral or even generate revenue for the university, as administrators are less likely to support a CES doctoral program that is a drain on financial resources.

Participants varied in their perceptions of whether CES doctoral programs could generate revenue for the university. The key distinction between these participants seemed to be whether they believed doctoral programs should charge students tuition or fully fund them. Some participants believed that “high-quality doc programs do not make money for institutions” because they should be fully funding doctoral students rather than generating tuition revenue. These participants proposed that faculty should instead be “thinking creatively about funding sources” and seeking alternative methods of offsetting the financial burden on the institution. Examples of identified alternate funding sources included grants and undergraduate teaching opportunities for doctoral students.

Others were aware of this prevailing belief that doctoral programs do not generate revenue and argued the opposite: “Most faculty, when they want to start a doctoral program, they repeat this thing that they hear, which is ‘doctoral programs cost money, they don’t make money.’ And that’s not true.” These participants proposed that student tuition should be used to fund doctoral programs. One participant argued that if tuition exceeded the cost of faculty salaries, the program was likely to be generating revenue. This participant believed that counseling programs could generate money because they were relatively inexpensive. Unlike hard science disciplines, CES doctoral programs do not require expensive lab equipment, and CES faculty salaries are “lower compared to other programs.”

Tangible Benefits to Ecosystem: “How Do We Help?”
Participants discussed that administrator support for a doctoral program can be bolstered through demonstrations of how the program is supporting the local community. One participant shared that their program provides data to administrators about the number of hours of free counseling that the program provides to the community, which in turn helps the dean to gain the provost’s support for the program. Such data can help administrators when they conduct a cost–benefit analysis for whether to start a new program or sustain an existing program. Likewise, another participant encouraged faculty to take an “ecological view” and consider “how do we help . . . the surrounding communities?” 

Need for Resources: “Pit Bulls in a Fighting Ring”
     Participants discussed the need to address the competition for resources when attempting to gain administrator support. Participants mentioned the scarcity of resources that included faculty positions (i.e., lines) and physical building space. This scarcity resulted in programs needing to compete for resources. One participant stated, “I think we’re all going to be like pit bulls in a fighting ring over resources at this point.” Another participant shared a similar statement: “Once we get outside of our building, it is very territorial. So, we have to basically anticipate resistance from other pockets in the university if we want a new program at the doctoral level.” This participant elaborated that the provost needs to be aware of these dynamics and that faculty should attempt to make a strong case for needing resources if they are in competition with other programs.

Competition for resources seemed to occur not only within a university’s departments but also between CES programs at different universities. Doctoral applicants appear to be increasingly making enrollment decisions based on tuition costs and graduate assistantships, which increases the pressure for programs to provide financial support packages. One participant reported that it is becoming less feasible to operate a doctoral program without “some form of stipend or assistantship” because “if you don’t, there’s too many other programs that do.” This participant elaborated that administrators must support the program with assistantships and concluded, “I wouldn’t try to start a program without it.”

Some participants discussed strategies to maximize resources across the college or school in which the program exists, such as with college-wide methodology courses. Such strategies seemed particularly important when adapting to the pressure of accepting more students to make the program revenue-neutral. One participant suggested that such resource sharing was “of utmost importance… in the early beginnings of programs.”

Faculty and Program Responsibilities
     Faculty have more complex responsibilities when operating a doctoral program compared with a master’s program, such as attending conferences with students and engaging in the larger campus community. As one participant stated, “It’s also being at events, interacting with administrators, making sure when walking around campus or buildings that they know who you are and that they can connect with what you’re doing.” Participants explored the economic aspects of the responsibilities that individual faculty members and the larger program have when responsible for the doctoral education of counseling students: “At our institution, you don’t get a lot of credit per se, or release time or extra pay for all of the work it takes to mentor doctoral students.” This credit that is or is not allocated to doctoral education impacts faculty members’ well-being. Another participant cautioned faculty to be aware of “faculty burnout” that accompanies tensions around adequately funding faculty positions: “If you shrink, and you still maintain the same number of students, there is simply not enough time, not enough emotional capacity, to do the good work.” Another participant shared that their doctoral programs felt like “hell on wheels” because “we ended up with a program that had more than 100 students with two real tenured faculty running the program.”

Influence of University: “Know the Size and Culture”
     This subtheme represented faculty considerations of the larger university system context where the counseling program is situated. As one participant summarized, “part of it is looking at the context of the program in the university.” Participants particularly referenced size as an influencing factor. As one participant stated, “Know the size and culture of your institution.” University size influenced participants’ access to decision-makers: “We’re so small that I could literally walk out of my office and two minutes later I can be in the provost’s office. I can ask a question. They’re very approachable, and so I don’t feel intimidated.” Understanding the institution’s mission and its funding priorities is crucial to forging successful alliances with administrators regarding whether to start and sustain a CES doctoral program. Understanding where a CES doctoral program fits within the institution’s academic structure therefore helps faculty to effectively communicate with administrators, and consistently reviewing this can help inform ongoing dialogues with administrators.

Identity Landscape
     The overarching identity landscape theme represents how programs both understand their internal identity regarding doctoral education, as well as the external identity factors that contribute to the program. Each subtheme is detailed below with participant quotes.

Operationalize and Define Commitment: “Faculty Have to Buy In”
     Gaining faculty buy-in prior to conversations with administrators and gaining approval for a doctoral program was a consistent message relayed by participants. One participant reflected, “Everybody has to be on board and has to buy in to the concept that the mission can’t be the mission of one person.” Another participant recommended that faculty leadership (e.g., program directors) need to operationalize this commitment through intentional dialogues with faculty. This participant stated that “the evidence for faculty buy-in isn’t always there until you probe.” They elaborated that faculty leadership can facilitate discussions around the following questions: “Are you willing to do X, are you willing to do Y?” and “If we start a doctoral program, do you feel like you have the skills you’ll need or do you fear that you’re going to be left behind?” Such conversations appeared important to developing a unified collective commitment to the doctoral program, which was critically important when challenges arose. Other participants reflected on personal buy-in and encouraged self-reflection in this regard: “Things to consider including one’s own personal meaning making.” Participants reflected that doctoral education was significantly different than master’s-level education and required a different level of commitment. Administrators are unlikely to support a doctoral program if the faculty are divided in their commitment to the program.

Understanding Differences: “Know What Your Program Is Worth”
     Participants spoke about the need for faculty to possess knowledge about multiple aspects of doctoral education when conveying information to administrators. Faculty should be familiar with the differences between master’s and doctoral education, between doctorates in other disciplines within the university, and among doctoral programs at different universities in the state. This information assists faculty “to really know what your program is worth and to be able to explain it.” For example, faculty should make administrators aware of how doctoral education can enhance master’s-level training rather than result in master’s students being “ignored” and treated as “second class citizens.”

Participants indicated that administrators may not be familiar with the counseling profession and thus may need education. Participants reported the need for “educating your administrative colleagues about what counselor ed is, what they do, how we train.” Another participant stated that “even at the dean level, they don’t know what the heck a mental health counselor is. Not a clue.” Consistent with this, administrators may also need information about other aspects of the profession, such as the value of specialized accreditation. One participant reported, “I think that we can do a better job of telling our admin the pros of CACREP versus the cons.” Education about CACREP accreditation was important because of the costs associated with accreditation fees and hiring core faculty to meet the CACREP doctoral standards.

Quality in Programs: “High-Quality Output”
     Participants reflected on the importance of program quality as a reflection of the programs’ overall identity. Program outputs seemed to be a particularly important measure of program quality. Some participants, particularly those at research-intensive universities, emphasized the importance of research-related outputs such as “grants, high-quality output, and visibility.” Across participants, employment rates were a particularly important measure of program quality, especially employment in academic and administrative jobs post-graduation. Participants reported that such metrics were useful as a “selling point” to administrators, especially if needs existed for doctoral-level graduates in the local area. As one participant stated, “Some of those outcomes become really important to administrators, and I think that we need to be good at putting those outcomes in front of them.”

Participants also shared concerns with program quality. These concerns often centered on admitting more students than can be adequately mentored through the dissertation process. One participant was “concerned about doc programs that bring in cohorts of 20 and churn them out” because they feared that “big doc programs” are “just course-based models without a whole lot happening outside of that. . . . And, you know, I worry about dissertation mentoring.”

Program accreditation was explored as an influencing factor in program quality that ultimately influences the overall program identity through reputation. One participant stated, “We built the program around the accreditation standards and took those standards very seriously.” Another participant explored how the accreditation process can influence administrators’ opinions of the program: “If we had bombed that visit, from the president to the vice president on down, we would have looked really bad.”

Advancing the Institutional Mission: “It Has to Match”
     Study participants commented on the importance of the identity of the doctoral program connecting to the mission of the larger institution. One participant encouraged faculty to consider the institutional mission when communicating with administrators: “When we advocate for programs, we need to understand the mission of the institution.” This participant reported that administrators in a university that values community service may be in favor of doctoral programs that “create more service providers for the local community.” Another participant stated that “it has to match the university’s mission. I hear that more and more and more.” This participant acknowledged that a proposed doctoral program would only receive administrative support if it “fits with the strategic plan of the university.” Participants indicated that the program should align not only with the institutional mission but also with the mission of the college or school where the program is housed.

Stakeholder Dynamics: “Making the Administrators Happy”
     Participants discussed the variety of stakeholders that faculty should consider when developing a CES doctoral program. Such stakeholders include the students being educated, faculty in the program, administrators who make decisions about the program, and employers of future program graduates. Participants reflected that each stakeholder group can contribute meaningfully to the identity of the program.

At times, a stakeholder group’s contributions and agendas may be at odds with those of another stakeholder group. This is particularly problematic when tensions exist between a stakeholder group and administrators. For example, faculty may prefer a smaller program than administrators. One participant stated that “one of the things that I’ve fought with faculty about my whole life, has been that [faculty] want small classes and they want few students.” This participant added that administrators tend to close smaller programs when pressured to cull the number of doctoral programs at an institution, and thus smaller size represents a potential threat to the program: “Any time an administrator is going to cut a program or deny resources to a program, they do it with the program with the least number of students in it. It’s just the absolute way it’s done.” This participant proposed that faculty stakeholders must therefore understand the dynamics of higher education administration when advocating, as “making the administrators happy with the numbers” is an important priority.


In this study, we conducted a qualitative analysis of interviews with 15 experts in the field to examine the research question. We identified participant-reported strategies for gaining initial and ongoing support from administrators for a CES doctoral program. The overarching themes of political, economic, and identity landscapes emerged from the data, alongside associated strategies necessary for gaining support. Navigation of complex university systems, including accreditation, finances, legal concerns, infrastructure, and politics, seem to be required for successful initial administrator approval of a CES doctoral program. Awareness of institutional mission and history, purpose, community needs, fiscal realities, and the university’s organizational chart also can facilitate approval and successful program sustenance.

Implications for CES Faculty
     The findings from this study may be utilized by existing master’s degree counseling program faculty who want to create a CES doctoral program. Faculty should embark on a data-driven process to inform administrators of tangible benefits across multiple systems and articulate the financial resources necessary for long-term success. As new CES doctoral programs are proposed, faculty should ensure that university administrators are aware of the relative worth of counselors and counselor educators, particularly in contrast to other mental health disciplines that may exist on campus. They may need to document the tangible benefits that CES programs bring to the university that are in alignment with the university’s mission and strategic plan. In 2013, Adkison-Bradley noted, “As universities change and grow, academic programs are often required to justify their request for resources or asked to explain how they uniquely contribute to the overall mission of the college and surrounding communities” (p. 48). Faculty could benefit from open dialogue with administrators and mentors about what it costs the institution to have a doctoral program compared to what revenue and resources a doctoral program can generate. CES faculty also can provide data to explain how accreditation requirements that may appear expensive to administrators (e.g., 1:6 faculty–student ratios in practica; 1:12 faculty–student ratios) do benefit students, clients, and communities, including protection of “broad public interests” (Urofsky, 2013, p. 13).

Faculty must engage in systemic thought that goes beyond the program and department. Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems model provides a useful model for program faculty to understand. This model includes four main systems in which individuals exist—microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem, with each system growing in size and complexity. Faculty without this perspective risk experiencing their department in a bubble and may not realize how their smaller microsystem (i.e., program, department) fits within the larger macrosystem of the university. The political landscape can become entangled in the developing exosystem where these systems overlap. This exosystem includes considerations for the college’s or school’s strategic priorities where the doctoral program is located. Faculty also should consider larger systemic interactions, such as the doctoral program’s relationship with the local community, with other master’s and doctoral programs in the state, and with other doctoral programs nationally.

The 2016 CACREP Standards (2015) require doctoral education to focus on leadership. However, the standards require this education to be in relation to counselor education programs and in professional organizations, not specifically in institutions of higher education as larger systems. It is unknown how or if students receive formal education about how to navigate university systems, as it is not typically included in CES doctoral program curricula. However, in our own personal experiences as faculty members and doctoral students, we have found that this knowledge seems to be acquired through observation, experience, and on-the-job mentoring. Unfortunately, this learning may occur when new and junior faculty are under pressure to establish themselves for tenure and promotion. Senior faculty, including those nearing retirement, are likely to possess this systemic knowledge and understanding. This knowledge could be conveyed via formal or informal mentoring programs; however, junior faculty in counselor education programs report a lack of mentoring experiences (Borders et al., 2011). The lack of mentoring could be from a variety of reasons, as junior faculty members may be intimidated by senior faculty (Savage et al., 2004), or senior faculty may lack the commitment to put forth the long-term effort to gain support for a new CES doctoral program.

Faculty must be willing to invest in learning about the processes involved in doctoral program creation—to listen, be respectful, and exercise patience for the time required for program approval, funding, and development. The results of this study indicate that program generation is a political process, and junior faculty must be aware of their environment. Faculty have different levels of input and leadership at different institutions, such as with different forms of shared governance (Crellin, 2010). Faculty who do not understand political savviness, the role of fiscal constraints, and the historical precedents for doctoral program initiation may struggle more than those who understand the lens by which individual institutional decisions are made.

Implications for University Administrators
     University administrators could utilize the results of this study to understand how to work with faculty who are requesting the initiation of a new doctoral program. Administrators could consider establishing dedicated time and orientation to new and junior faculty to assist them in conceptualizing how faculty requests are prioritized within the institution, perhaps via a formal mentoring program (Savage et al., 2004). For example, if the university’s current vision is to respond to the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates in the local job market, counseling faculty could better manage their expectations about the estimated timeline of new degree program creation while aligning their new CES doctoral degree proposal to a more attainable target date. Communication about the timeline of decisions and the patience involved in systemic change (e.g., state legislature involvement) could also benefit the faculty perspective. Opportunities for learning about the organization are a crucial ingredient in organizational change (Boyce, 2003).

Although it is the responsibility of deans and department chairs to communicate the university’s vision and strategic plan, administrators should also trust the CES faculty’s distinct knowledge of the field and dynamic accreditation standards. Faculty are uniquely qualified to anticipate shifts in the profession that could impact their programs. From our experience, CES faculty who serve as internship clinical supervisors may also possess unique knowledge of the needs of the surrounding communities through their supervisees’ reports of client needs.

It is suggested that administrators include a university organizational chart in new faculty orientation or in the faculty handbook so that faculty can be aware of the hierarchy within the university. The orientation should include a clear explanation of how the particular institution prioritizes agendas and provide a history of the institution, with specific examples of prior program creation in the face of competing needs (e.g., missions, financial). Faculty can then understand how the university invests in its future.

Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research
     Several limitations exist with qualitative research in general, and with this unique project specifically. In general, qualitative research is limited by researcher bias, interviewer bias, interviewee bias, and participant demographics (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). To control for potential bias during the analysis process, the coding team used several strategies to enhance trustworthiness, including recruiting coding team members who had identities as both CES faculty and administrators, bracketing biases throughout coding, using consensus to resolve discrepancies in coding, and using memos to document decisions. Future studies could seek to triangulate the data from this study to determine whether the findings are transferable to the perspectives of other faculty in CES doctoral programs.

The focus of this particular research study was to explore faculty perspectives regarding how to gain administrative support for initiating and sustaining CES doctoral programs. As such, the perspectives of administrators were not surveyed regarding how to gain administrative support for CES doctoral programs (beyond those counselor educator faculty participants who have served in administrative roles). Future studies, perhaps in the form of quantitative research, could include these perspectives to determine whether the perspectives of CES doctoral faculty are consistent or divergent with administrator experiences regarding how to work effectively with administrators.

We sought to understand strategies for successfully gaining initial and ongoing administrative support for a CES doctoral program. This exploration included both participants who had recently started new programs and those who had long worked in CES doctoral programs. However, an analysis of thematic differences between participants who had and had not spearheaded the creation of a CES doctoral program was not conducted. Future research could explore whether strategies varied for those who had recently started a CES doctoral program versus those who had not. In addition, data were not organized and analyzed by differences in participants’ institution type (i.e., private or public), because it was outside the scope of the research question. Finally, the study focused solely on faculty at CACREP-accredited institutions. It is unknown whether the perspectives of participants in this study would be consistent with faculty at non–CACREP-accredited institutions.


The counseling profession continues its efforts to address the pipeline shortage of doctoral-level CES faculty to meet CACREP accreditation requirements. To meet this need, some master’s-level programs are seeking to start CES doctoral programs. The findings from this study may be useful to CES faculty when planning a strategic approach for collaboration with administrators regarding the initiation of new CES doctoral programs. This strategic approach will involve exploring political elements, economical components, and the identity of the proposed program. The findings of this study indicate these areas of knowledge promote a more comprehensive planning process to help prepare for working with administrators on the creation of a doctoral program.


Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of interest
or funding contributions for the development
of this manuscript.



Adkison-Bradley, C. (2013). Counselor education and supervision: The development of the CACREP doctoral standards. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91(1), 44–49. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00069.x

Borders, L. D., Young, J. S., Wester, K. L., Murray, C. E., Villalba, J. A., Lewis, T. F., & Mobley, A. K. (2011). Mentoring promotion/tenure-seeking faculty: Principles of good practice within a counselor education program. Counselor Education and Supervision, 50(3), 171–188. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2011.tb00118.x

Boyce, M. E. (2003). Organizational learning is essential to achieving and sustaining change in higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 28(2), 199–136. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:IHIE.0000006287.69207.00

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Harvard University Press.

Brooks, K., Yancey, K. B., & Zachry, M. (2002). Developing doctoral programs in the corporate university: New models. Profession, 89–103. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25595734

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. (2019). Basic classification description. http://car

Cartwright, A. D., Avent-Harris, J. R., Munsey, R. B., & Lloyd-Hazlett, J. (2018). Interview experiences and diversity concerns of counselor education faculty from underrepresented groups. Counselor Education and Supervision, 57(2), 132–146. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12098

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2015). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (4th ed.). SAGE.

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2008). 2009 CACREP standards. https://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2009-Standards.pdf

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. (2015). 2016 CACREP standards. http://www.cacrep.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/2016-Standards-with-citations.pdf

Crellin, M. A. (2010). The future of shared governance. New Directions for Higher Education, 2010(151), 71–81. https://doi.org/10.1002/he.402

Field, T. A., Snow, W. H., & Hinkle, J. S. (2020). The pipeline problem in doctoral counselor education and supervision. The Professional Counselor, 10(4), 434–452. https://doi.org/10.15241/taf.10.4.434

Haas, B. K., Yarbrough, S., & Klotz, L. (2011). Journey to a doctoral program. Journal of Professional Nursing, 27(5), 269–282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2011.04.006

Hill, N. R., Leinbaugh, T., Bradley, C., & Hazler, R. (2005). Female counselor educators: Encouraging and discouraging factors in academia. Journal of Counseling & Development, 83(3), 374–380.

Lambie, G. W., Ascher, D. L., Sivo, S. A., & Hayes, B. G. (2014). Counselor education doctoral program faculty members’ refereed article publications. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(3), 338–346.

Magnuson, S., Norem, K., & Lonneman-Doroff, T. (2009). The 2000 cohort of new assistant professors of counselor education: Reflecting at the culmination of six years. Counselor Education and Supervision, 49(1), 54–71. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2009.tb00086.x

Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.). Wiley.

Patton, M. Q. (2015). Qualitative research and evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice (4th ed.). SAGE.

Preston, J., Trepal, H., Morgan, A., Jacques, J., Smith, J. D., & Field, T. A. (2020). Components of a high-quality doctoral program in counselor education and supervision. The Professional Counselor, 10(4), 453–471. https://doi.org/10.15241/jp.10.4.453

Savage, H. E., Karp, R. S., & Logue, R. (2004). Faculty mentorship at colleges and universities. College Teaching, 52(1), 21–24. https://doi.org/10.3200/CTCH.52.1.21-24

Slater, C. L., & Martinez, B. J. (2000). Transformational leadership in the planning of a doctoral program. The Educational Forum, 64(4), 308–316. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131720008984775

Smith, R. L., Flamez, B., Vela, J. C., Schomaker, S. A., Fernandez, M. A., & Armstrong, S. N. (2015). An exploratory investigation of levels of learning and learning efficiency between online and face-to-face instruction. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 6(1), 47–57. https://doi.org/10.1177/2150137815572148

Urofsky, R. I. (2013). The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs: Promoting quality in counselor education. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91(1), 6–14.

West, J. D., Bubenzer, D. L., Brooks, D. K., Jr., & Hackney, H. (1995). The doctoral degree in counselor education and
supervision. Journal of Counseling & Development, 74(2), 174–176.


Rebecca Scherer, PhD, NCC, ACS, CPC, is an assistant professor at St. Bonaventure University. Regina Moro, PhD, NCC, BC-TMH, LPC, LMHC, LCAS, is an associate professor at Boise State University. Tara Jungersen, PhD, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC, is an associate professor and department chair at Nova Southeastern University. Leslie Contos, NCC, CCMHC, LCPC, is a doctoral candidate at Governors State University. Thomas A. Field, PhD, NCC, CCMHC, ACS, LPC, LMHC, is an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. Correspondence may be addressed to Rebecca Scherer, B43 Plassman Hall, 3261 West State Road, St. Bonaventure, NY 14778, rscherer@sbu.edu.