Opportunities and Challenges of Multicultural and International Online Education

Szu-Yu Chen, Dareen Basma, Jennie Ju, Kok-Mun Ng


Distance counselor education has expanded educational opportunities for diverse groups of students. To effectively train and support global students in counseling programs, the authors explore some unique challenges and opportunities that counselor educators may encounter when integrating technology in the multicultural counseling curriculum. The authors discuss pedagogical strategies that can enhance distance learners’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies. Through an intersectional, social construction pedagogy, counselor educators can decolonize traditional multicultural counseling curricula and foster an international distance learning environment. Additional innovative approaches and resources, such as online multiculturally oriented student services, online student-centered multiculturally based organizations and workshops, and office hours for mentoring online international students and supporting distance learners’ needs, are described.


Keywords: distance counselor education, multicultural, international, online education, social justice


The growth in distance learning has led to an integration of technology in the curriculum over the past two decades (Allen et al., 2016). Counselor educators now can deliver distance learning courses internationally via videoconference systems, such as two-way audio and video software programs, for students to attend classes either synchronously or asynchronously (Snow et al., 2018), and many programs are moving toward distance education (Benshoff & Gibbons, 2011; Reicherzer et al., 2009). This shift in educational platforms allows both domestic and international students to receive counselor education and training remotely without having to commute or leave their home countries. For example, the counselor education program at the institution of the first three authors currently has over 300 students from the five most populous continents in various stages of counselor preparation. Distance education has expanded educational opportunities, targeted underserved groups of students, and given space for the formation of a more globally diverse student body (Columbaro, 2009; Gillies, 2008).


With the dramatic increase of diversity and attention to racism and other forms of human oppression in the United States, by the early 2000s, the issues of multiculturalism and social justice had come to the center of the counseling profession (Arredondo, 1999) and were recognized as two sides of the same coin (Ratts, 2011). As a result, multicultural education in the profession has been aimed at enhancing students’ awareness of cultural diversity and social justice in counseling relationships and implementation of advocacy competencies as they grapple with power, privilege, and oppression at the individual and systemic levels (Ratts et al., 2015). More recently, the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC; Ratts et al., 2015) has integrated a social justice and advocacy component into the framework of multicultural counseling competencies developed in 1992 by Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis, and highlighted the intersection of identities and the role power, privilege, and oppression play in the counseling relationship. The American Counseling Association (ACA; 2014) has also asserted that “counselor educators actively infuse multicultural/diversity competency in their training and supervision practices. They actively train students to gain awareness, knowledge, and skills in the competencies of multicultural practice” (F.11.c). Yet there seems to be a lack of attention in the literature to how online training programs can address global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies given their non-traditional modes of learning delivery. With the emphasis on the helping relationship in the counseling profession, instructors who teach online face additional challenges because of a lack of in-person contact with students and may feel skeptical about the effectiveness of creating a safe and interactive space virtually, especially in relation to addressing challenging and complex topics (Hall et al., 2010).


It is worth noting that many counselor educators have not received formal pedagogical education and training on integrating technology into their curriculum and developing effective online courses (Cicco, 2012). This impacts educators’ feelings of discomfort or lack of preparedness when developing and delivering an online international multicultural counseling course, as well as facilitating discussions about multicultural issues and developing global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling training and competencies through an online medium. Consequently, when considering the development of an online multicultural counseling course, educators have to not only grapple with the complexity of designing a nuanced curriculum, but also negotiate delivery of a curriculum on an evolving learning platform in which international students who do not reside in the United States are integrated into the learning experience. As such, there are several opportunities and challenges to consider when facilitating multicultural and social justice counseling training on an online platform.


To effectively retain and support global students with diverse backgrounds and learning styles in distance counseling programs, herein we explore challenges and opportunities that counselor educators encounter when integrating technology in the multicultural and social justice counseling curriculum. Specifically, we want to discuss pedagogical strategies that we have found valuable to enhancing global learners’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies. With the movement toward internationalizing the counseling profession, we believe that counselor educators can decolonize the traditional multicultural counseling curriculum and promote global students’ multicultural and social justice advocacy competencies through an intersectional and social construction online pedagogy and further cultivate an inclusive global learning environment. Additionally, we want to share innovative approaches counselor educators can use to support global students’ needs and enhance student retention in online counseling programs.


Internationalization of Multicultural Counseling Education in the Virtual Classroom


In international distance education, each student may differ in experiences of culture, cultural identities, and developmental level of multicultural counseling and social justice competencies. To address the increase in a globally diverse student body, the counseling profession is transforming from a Western-based to a global-based practice (Lorelle et al., 2012). Historically, textbooks and journal articles in the United States regarding diversity are typically monoculture in nature, focusing primarily on social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, and social class that are commonly found in U.S.-based diversity discourse (Case, 2017). Students who live abroad may find these materials and foci disconnected from their contexts and not applicable to their practice. Consequently, these students can become less engaged in the learning experience.


The movement toward internationalizing the counseling profession over the past two decades has highlighted the need to extend multicultural competencies in ways that are relevant to mental health services beyond U.S. borders. Relatedly, Harley and Stansbury (2011) asserted that the multicultural movement needs to take place at two levels. On the first level, it requires our diligence to recognize, learn about, and appreciate the cultural diversity that exists on U.S. soil. The second level requires us to develop a global perspective that recognizes other cultures and sociopolitical forces that impact the lived experiences of people in other countries. Other scholars (e.g., Bhat & McMahon, 2016; Knight, 2004; Ng et al., 2012) also acknowledge these two dimensions in efforts to internationalize the counseling profession and emphasize the need to address the underdevelopment of cross-national multicultural competencies.


To date, systematic discourse related to international students’ learning experiences and perspectives in online training programs remains limited. To respond to this shift in distance counselor education, we propose adding a third dimension—the internationalization of counselor education—to the two levels of multicultural education proposed by Harley and Stansbury (2011). This third multicultural dimension requires a conceptualization of cultures and ways of being into a counseling curriculum that maintains a global and international perspective. Thus, learning is comprised of training activities and programs designed to prepare students to provide culturally responsive counseling services and advocacy that are simultaneously informed by both a local and global perspective.


Counselor educators are aware of the enormity of some of the challenges associated with the movement toward internationalizing counselor education. There have been encouraging but limited developments by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), ACA, and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) toward this cause. For example, to advance global mental health training and services, NBCC trains and collaborates with international counseling organizations to promote counselor professionalism as they develop their training requirements to the needs of their specific populations. ACA and ACES offer international counseling students and faculty interest networks in which counselors and counselor educators have space to facilitate discussions about challenges and solutions when providing global counseling services and preparing culturally responsive training curricula for students. However, the effect of these advocacies on internationalizing counselor education has not been widely evaluated yet. It appears that the counseling profession recognizes the benefits of this endeavor but is sorting out opportunities as well as resources necessary for implementation. We view contributing to the dialogue on internationalizing multicultural counseling training through an intersectional and social construction online pedagogy as a privilege.


Intersectional and Social Construction Online Pedagogy

An area of dissonance for international counseling students involves differences in cultural worldview. Marsella and Pederson (2004) posited that “Western psychology is rooted in an ideology of individualism, rationality, and empiricism that has little resonance in many of the more than 5,000 cultures found in today’s world” (p. 414). Ng and Smith’s study (2009) highlighted that international students, particularly those from non-Western nations, may struggle with integrating Eurocentric theories and concepts into the world they know. Their findings indicated that international trainees tend to experience more difficulties in areas related to clinical training and worldview conflicts in understanding mental health treatment compared to their domestic peers. International students can find that materials learned in Western-based counselor education have little relevance and applicability to the local demographics in which they work (Ng et al., 2012).


Ng and colleagues (2012) indicated that the goals of internationalizing counseling preparation curricula are to better equip students with required knowledge, awareness, skills, beliefs, and attitudes and to train students to become social change agents who actively resolve global mental health issues and inequalities. Herein lies the opportunity for counselor educators to intentionally search for appropriate pedagogies and to critically present readings and other media that help inculcate a multicultural perspective (Goodman et al., 2015) that is relevant to local contexts while appreciating a global perspective of lived experience and civilization. Social constructionism demands that we take a critical stance toward ways of understanding the world (Burr, 2015). It emphasizes the need to acknowledge the context and extent of subjectivity infused into what we know and invites us to critically examine the knowledge we have gained based on the culture and society surrounding the time period in which we exist. This lens helps us recognize that our knowledge is rooted in historical and cultural relativity and is socially created (Young & Collin, 2004). We need to be mindful that the knowledge created in the classroom has a social, cultural, and political impact on society. Thus, to internationalize distance counselor education, we consider it crucial for academics to recognize the social construction of the knowledge they carry and communicate in the virtual classroom setting, including the construction of their teaching methods for delivering knowledge (hooks, 1994).


Over 30 years ago, Crenshaw (1989) and hooks (1984) postulated that individuals hold a set of multiple and simultaneous identities. Crenshaw introduced the term intersectionality to describe individuals’ complex identities as opposed to categorical generalizations. Traditionally, multicultural courses tend to focus on one aspect of social identity and related oppressions separately from other social identities. The intersecting complexities among social identities and structural oppressions and privileges are often neglected. Collins (2000) provided a pedagogic conceptual framework to include both advantaged and disadvantaged identities. Although the intersectionality theory has been integrated within multiple disciplines, such as women’s studies, sociology, psychology, and law, instructors often do not incorporate intersectionality into diversity courses (Dill, 2009). Scholars, therefore, have called for an intersectional approach to transform higher education (Berger & Guidroz, 2009) and move beyond single-axis models.


To move beyond the individual and monocultural level, Case (2017) proposed that educators and students can address issues of culture, diversity, and advocacy in a diverse classroom through an intersectional pedagogy. Case emphasized an effective intersectional pedagogy that includes the following main tenets: Instructors (a) conceptualize intersectionality as a complex analysis of privileged and oppressed social identities; (b) teach intersectionality across a wide range of institutional oppression; (c) aim to explore invisible intersections; (d) include aspects of privilege and analyze power when teaching about intersectionality theory; (e) encourage students reflection about their own intersecting identities; (f) reflect the impact of educators’ social identities, biases, and assumptions on the learning community; (g) promote social action; (h) value the voice of marginalized students; and (i) infuse intersectional studies across the curriculum.


We believe that using an intersectional perspective that couples with a social construction perspective in multicultural education curriculum development can be valuable in the context of distance international counselor education, particularly in multicultural and international online education that contains a globally diverse student body. By implementing an intersectional and social construction pedagogical design in multicultural and social justice online counseling courses, instructors focus on examinations of social locations concerning privilege and oppression (Cole, 2009) and avoid overemphasizing any single characteristic of individual identities (Dill & Zambrana, 2009). This approach also provides instructors and worldwide students with a critical framework for analyzing structural power and oppression, examining the complexity of identities, and discussing action plans for empowerment and advocacy (Dill & Zambrana, 2009; Rios et al., 2017). Chan et al. (2018) also supported embodying an intersectional framework in developing multicultural and social justice courses within the counselor education curriculum. Counselor educators who teach beyond multicultural counseling knowledge and skills can enhance students’ critical thinking, case conceptualization skills (Chan et al., 2018), and cultural empathy (Davis, 2014) toward marginalized groups. Moreover, students are likely to see beyond the prescriptive counseling approach that addresses a limited set of cultural values (Chan et al., 2018). This perspective also can engage students in analyzing issues of privilege, power, and global oppression, and systematically reflecting on their own experiences.


Wise and Case (2013) noted that intersectional pedagogy is an inclusive approach that helps students reduce resistance when engaging in examining privileged and oppressed identities. This approach validates worldwide students’ various experiences and includes exploration of invisible interactions when discussing personal privilege. Considering that issues related to multiculturalism can evoke various emotions in the classroom, such as frustration, shame, guilt, and defensiveness, intersectional pedagogy provides an outlet to engage all students in this learning process (Banks et al., 2013; Wise & Case, 2013). Creating a safe space for learners in virtual classrooms to bravely experience and address these challenges requires thoughtful learning strategies. Accordingly, we illustrate intersectional and social construction pedagogy and strategies that counselor educators can consider integrating into online curricula to facilitate and assess global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies, as well as provide supports for students in a diverse online learning environment.


Internationalizing an Online Multicultural Counseling Course

The master’s counseling program at the first three authors’ institution offers online or residential format options. The online counseling program provides domestic students and international students who live abroad opportunities to receive counselor education and training. Given the high ratio of international students and students with diverse backgrounds at the authors’ institutions, we believe that structuring the virtual multicultural counseling course from a global perspective and grounding it in a socially constructed, intersectional framework can facilitate student understanding and appreciation of multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice. Additionally, a successful integration of technology entails careful consideration of course content, the instructor’s role in the teaching and learning process, and students’ access to and comfort with the technology (Zhu et al., 2011). The following is an example of how an online master’s-level multicultural counseling course is delivered through an intersectional and social construction pedagogy that includes an international perspective, and how global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies are assessed.


Our online multicultural counseling course focuses on creating a critical space where students can actively and transparently deconstruct their socially constructed knowledge, beliefs, and biases about differences and others. Rather than focusing on attending to specific cultural groups, which historically has been the norm for multicultural counseling classes, we focus on internationalizing the counseling profession and emphasize the need to address cross-national multicultural competencies. This course aims to develop students’ consciousness about the system of oppression that significantly impacts both dominant and marginalized groups’ well-being. Thus, the intersectional and MSJCC frameworks are used to structure our online multicultural counseling course in that knowledge, awareness, skills, and advocacy are at the core of each of the assignments, readings, and synchronized and asynchronized discussions.


Readings assigned for the class include both a clinical counseling textbook that attends to assessment, counseling, and diagnosis from a multicultural lens, and supplementary readings from the fields of multicultural and social justice education. Instructors use a learning management system to facilitate asynchronized online discussion board activities and readings and provide written, audio, or video feedback on students’ assignments. In addition to asynchronized learning, instructors and students meet in an interactive synchronized virtual classroom weekly for 1.5 hours over an 11-week course. Research shows that online models can be effective, with synchronous online programs being the most promising (Siemens et al., 2015). Students also have opportunities to do live multicultural role-plays in which instructors provide immediate feedback.


Instructors can face unique challenges in teaching and discussing some sensitive and controversial issues with students, which is an inherent part of multicultural and social justice advocacy training. It is recommended that educators foster positive relationships with students and establish a safe and trusting learning environment to engage students in constructive conversations and self-reflection (Brooks et al., 2017). Yet teaching a multicultural counseling class in a virtual setting can add additional barriers to fostering a safe learning environment. For example, in a virtual classroom, instructors are only able to see a student’s face amidst many other digital faces. As a result, some of the challenges of teaching this course virtually include effectively noting students’ nonverbal communications, sensing their emotive responses or reactions to the discussion content, and attending to topics that students may be having a difficult time speaking about in front of a large group. Moreover, many videoconferencing platforms allow students to engage in both private and public conversations with other students via chat boxes. Consequently, establishing virtual classroom ground rules is essential. Examples of ground rules and strategies that ensure a safe and respectful online learning environment may include: (a) turning on the camera to allow instructors and classmates to observe others’ nonverbal communication and address immediacy, (b) using headphones to respect classmates’ sharing, (c) turning off the private chat setting to avoid side conversations among students, and (d) providing options for students to share their thoughts and feelings in the chat box. It also is important to facilitate a discussion with students about ways to share their airtime with classmates in a virtual classroom and provide their classmates with understanding and support by observing virtual verbal and nonverbal communication.


To assess global students’ cross-national multicultural and social justice counseling competencies, we developed three major assignments and assessments for this class. Virtual classroom discussion is an essential assessment. To socially construct students’ knowledge of power, privilege, and oppression and reflect students’ learning experience, students are encouraged to actively share their reactions to the learning materials and how these materials are related to personal experience and counseling implications in their countries. Students’ level of participation and self- and other-awareness can be assessed in breakout rooms as well as in a large discussion group. However, considering students may have various ways to engage with the materials, instructors encourage students who struggle with verbally participating in the virtual classroom to collaboratively identify alternative concrete methods to evidence participation with instructors, such as reflective journals.


The second assignment is a group presentation that attends to manifestations of oppression within systems. The purpose of this assignment is to increase global students’ knowledge and understanding of how racism and oppression are produced and reproduced across generations, institutions, and countries. Although oppression impacts all institutions, this project encourages student groups to focus on dynamics in eight mutually reinforcing areas: housing, education, immigration, the labor market, the criminal justice system, the media, politics, and health care. Students are also asked to create a vignette based on the presented topic and facilitate role-plays. This experiential activity facilitates students’ understanding of intersecting identities in the counseling relationship and enhances cross-national cultural empathy by attending to clients’ experience. This assignment increases global students’ awareness of the complexity of mental health issues and transgenerational trauma that can ensue as a result of systematic oppression. It also challenges unconscious biases and beliefs that students may have around marginalized populations being impacted by these systems in their countries.


The last major assignment, the resistance project, is a quarter-long individual project and targets an increase in awareness of self. For counselors, awareness of self in the context of culture is one of the more challenging parts of our work and is a process that is ongoing and constant. This assignment focuses on attending to both conscious and unconscious biases to groups of people. Initially, students are asked to identify three specific cultural groups to which they identify resistance in their countries. Students can express significant struggles around this part of the assignment indicating feelings of guilt, shame, judgment of self, denial of bias, and confusion around their biases. Normalizing and validating these feelings is crucial in fostering a space for critical reflection, as well as providing non-judgmental feedback regarding their initial explorations. The next part of our resistance project asks students to select one of the three identified groups to explore in greater detail throughout the quarter. Students are asked to begin looking for numerous academic sources, social media sources, and immersion experiences that they can engage in throughout the quarter that would encourage them to very directly examine their biases. Significant levels of discomfort appear here among students, particularly regarding individual and group experiences they have engaged in. Students are asked to reflect on and lean into that discomfort in order to better understand it. In addition, they are asked to critically examine their internal process and connect their reactions back to their identified resistance.


Supporting Globally Diverse Students Outside of the Virtual Classroom


As counselor education focuses on further developing multicultural online pedagogy, there is a need to evaluate programmatic effectiveness in demonstrating sensitivity to the concerns of globally diverse student populations. Just as it is critical for instructors to attend to creating culturally relevant curricula, program administrators need an understanding of the challenges that characterize distance students from global communities and be intentional about addressing some of those challenges. This section discusses ways that institutions can walk the walk in their application of the principles espoused in curricular pedagogy by creating an environment in which worldwide students feel welcomed and supported.


According to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2016), approximately 32% of students enrolled in counseling programs are from racially diverse heritages. Kung (2017) reported that “in the 2015–2016 academic year, over 1 million international students were reported as studying at U.S. colleges and universities” (p. 479). Currently, there are no official statistics on the number of students enrolled in distance counselor education programs by race, ethnicity, or country of residence. Although specific data is lacking, the statistics above provide an indication of the potentially significant presence of an international student population in distance learning programs. It is critical to examine the criteria for determining a university’s effectiveness in supporting worldwide students outside the virtual classroom. “Exemplary institutions” in recruiting and retaining minority students of color have the characteristic of being successful in increasing enrollment of minority students of color and retaining students through to graduation (Rogers & Molina, 2006). While an institution’s effectiveness in providing needed support does not necessarily equate to its ability to retain students and achieve high graduation rates, one can surmise that some unsupported individuals will choose to drop out. Although there are numerous ways that an institution can provide a sustainable environment for global students outside of the virtual classroom, we will focus on six key approaches, namely technology, field experience, multiculturally oriented student support services, mentorship, student-centered multiculturally based organizations, and multiculturally based events and workshops.



In an online education format, access to reliable technology is imperative to students’ success in the program. Level of access to proper computing devices or to the internet by various social identity groups can create a digital divide, which disadvantages one group over another (Bolt & Crawford, 2000; Clark & Gorski, 2001). International students from developing and underdeveloped nations experience frequent disruption when accessing virtual class meetings and course contents because of political causes or technological deficiency in their regions. For example, a student from the Central African Republic is sometimes unable to log in to class meetings when she is unable to turn on generators in a remote village for fear that this could alert guerilla gangs and prompt additional warfare. A student in Peru who does her internship in rural areas is unable to submit her assignments on time because of a lack of internet access. Students in Beijing experience tight internet firewalls preventing them from accessing sites such as Google, Gmail, and YouTube; this problem intensifies during the week of the governmental National People’s Congress annual meetings. Therefore, Clark and Gorski (2001) urged educators to critically analyze the use of the internet as an educational medium and examine ways technology “serves to further identify social, cultural, educational ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’” in educational settings (p. 39).


As a partial solution to the problem of Chinese students’ difficulty in accessing web-based course content, our institution has purchased a VPN with a reliable server based in Hong Kong. Given that there are approximately 30-plus China-based students in matriculation at our institution each year, this becomes an institutional business decision. Additionally, academic advisors encourage Chinese students to approach their instructors at the beginning of each term to discuss a plan for accessing course material and timely submission of assignments. Instructors and administrators also have a responsibility to be proactive in collaborating with these students in finding alternatives by inquiring and learning about students’ potential challenges regarding technology. Educators need to discuss a plan to accommodate students’ needs within reason.


Field Experience

Issues with cultural worldviews and contextual differences become prominent during students’ process of searching for practicum opportunities and experiences of participating in clinical training in their home countries. Specifically, students and educators have encountered these obstacles in three aspects. First, the philosophical understanding of the purpose of internship and supervision of interns are different. Next, the integration of Eurocentric theories and implications with their clients’ cases might not be applicable. Last, there is a lack of regulatory infrastructure to guide and oversee the helping profession. A case example is students in China, where many native organizations expect to benefit financially from placement of interns. They do not seem to consider that student interns are capable of counseling clients under proper supervision. Thus, many mental health agencies do not permit trainees to provide counseling before graduation. Supervision is considered more of a business arrangement than a supervisory and mentoring relationship.


The first three authors’ institution offers an online practicum course each academic term for students residing and doing an internship overseas. This strategy aims to provide a weekly forum where students receive additional support in applying counseling concepts and approaches to their cultural context. This also serves as a supportive distance environment in which instructors and students collaboratively conceptualize and explore treatment approaches that are culturally and contextually relevant to their client populations. The second purpose for the dedicated practicum course is to navigate students’ dual legal and ethical milieus. A lack of regulatory oversight for the counseling profession in China and other countries has created legal and ethical challenges for intern placements. This reality has added confusion and inconsistencies in what is permissible based on U.S. regulatory and accreditation boards, as well as common practices in students’ home countries.


Multiculturally Oriented Student Support Services

Student services offices in institutions generally provide a wide range of services. To meet distance learners’ needs, it is necessary to implement some student services via an online format. First, institutions provide tutoring services to help improve the English writing skills of speakers of other languages. Students from immigrant and refugee communities as well as some international students fall into this category. Students from non–English-speaking countries enrolled in counseling and related disciplines tend to experience challenges related to English proficiency (Ng, 2006). As such, one-on-one tutoring is available at our institution for students who struggle with editing and American Psychological Association (APA) style writing. This service is critical because many foreign countries do not utilize APA format, and therefore international students do not have familiarity with this style of writing.


Second, tutors at the first three authors’ institution are doctoral students from the psychology department who have opportunities to provide services for students from marginalized communities. Through collaboration between the office of student services and the counseling department, this strategy serves as an excellent service learning experience in working with individuals from globally diverse communities. With an intentional design, the writing skills tutoring service complements classroom pedagogy on multiculturalism by presenting experience with real-world problems, providing opportunities for students to grapple with their beliefs and biases and involve action-oriented solutions.



Mentorship is a substantive resource for supporting worldwide students from diverse communities. Rogers and Molina’s (2006) study found that nine of the 11 psychology programs and departments that were successful at recruiting and retaining students of color had established mentoring programs. In general, ethnic minority students tend to prefer and report more satisfaction with mentors who share a similar racial background (Chan et al., 2015). Figueroa and Rodriguez (2015) posited that mentoring is social justice work that “is a racially and culturally mediated experience instead of a race-neutral, objective interaction” (p. 23). It is an unfortunate reality of counselor education that there exists a significant underrepresentation of minority faculty. The disparity is prominent among Hispanic/Latinx demographics, where student enrollment (8.5%) is almost double the number of faculty (4.7%) from Hispanic/Latinx heritage among CACREP-accredited programs (CACREP, 2016). Black student enrollment is 18.3% and only 12.7% of the total faculty members in CACREP-accredited programs are Black. Chan and colleagues (2015) suggested that in the absence of same-race mentors, the presence of cross-cultural support in the form of multiculturally sensitive mentoring can be beneficial and even critical to the success of international students from diverse ethnic backgrounds.


To support the unique needs of international students in the residential and online cohort, the first author designed weekly office hours for online international students to provide advising and mentorship. The virtual office hours aim to provide a space where students and their peers can not only share challenges, struggles, and concerns about their learning experiences in the program, but also support each other. Additionally, the third author and a colleague have served as international and distance directors of clinical training, which can provide specific mentorship regarding practicum experiences for international students.


Student-Centered Multiculturally Based Organizations

The presence of student-centered organizations is another effective way to provide a sense of belonging and an environment that facilitates peer support among those with shared interests on campus (Rogers & Molina, 2006). Some culturally and social justice–based organizations active at the first three authors’ institution serve this purpose well. One of the university-wide organizations, Diaspora, serves students, staff, and faculty in the community who are interested in learning about and advocating for mental health issues relevant to the Black diaspora. Members of Diaspora aim to raise the community’s awareness of psychosocial and environmental factors that impact the Black community’s well-being. Another organization at our institution, the Latinx Task Force, was formed with a Unity grant award from our university president’s office for faculty, students, and staff to join forces across programs to implement projects that serve the Latinx/Hispanic community on and off campus (Latinx Task Force, n.d.). Furthermore, the Latinx Task Force initiated a Spanish clinician course that introduces students to essential clinical vocabulary, clinical skills, and cultural considerations required to work with Spanish-speaking clients. The Latinx Task Force also conducts a mentorship series that brings Latinx professionals in the field to offer career mentoring support to students.


Multiculturally Based Events and Workshops

Delivery of multicultural education and inclusion of diverse students should not be limited to the virtual classroom. Institutions can be intentional in hosting events and workshops that complement and reinforce classroom pedagogy on multiculturalism while actively supporting individuals from various communities. In recent years, the first three authors’ institution has hosted a rich array of workshops with topics such as “LGBT Psychology,” “Asian Americans and Suicide,” and “Risk and Resiliency Among Newcomer Immigrant Adolescents.” In addition, a “Women of Color Leaders in Psychology” event celebrates the contributions of women of color in psychology and social justice. When the workshops occur in our physical venue, they are often made accessible via videoconferencing platforms and are recorded for later viewing at a convenient time or by those in a different time zone.


Multicultural counseling education and support of the globally diverse student population are ongoing, interrelated endeavors that extend beyond the virtual classroom walls. Intentionality in hosting extracurricular events and creating a supportive environment are ways an institution makes multicultural pedagogical concepts come alive for students. They also are a way of sustaining worldwide students to graduate with a strong foundation from which to launch their counseling careers.


Discussion and Future Direction for Research


The multicultural counseling course in counselor education programs is one of the critical spaces where global students actively engage with the core components of the MSJCC. Given the complexity of teaching this course in a distance learning format, it is crucial for educators to thoroughly think through the varying foundational components, including structure, content, pedagogy, and the various challenges that can arise in virtual classrooms.


We have used our experiences in integrating technology into the multicultural counseling curriculum to discuss online pedagogical framework and virtual course development while exploring unique opportunities, challenges, and solutions. Given the movement of internationalizing the counseling profession, we postulate that multicultural counseling distance education must extend beyond U.S. borders, class meetings, and the curriculum. It is critical that counselor educators provide multicultural and social justice counseling training through systemic modeling by internationalizing the curriculum and training environment and collaborating with training programs and institutions to advocate for, attend to, and support the needs of globally diverse students in distance education.


Currently, the literature on training and online delivery of international multicultural counseling education remains limited. To explore the best online pedagogy for internationalizing multicultural counseling education, more research is needed. As such, future research could focus on examining the outcome of incorporating intersectional and social construction approaches in online counseling curricula, including global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies in their home countries. Future studies also might investigate different course structures and online pedagogy to understand the best methods for multicultural distance counselor education. There is a need to explore counselor educators’ experiences of conducting online multicultural counseling education with globally diverse student populations and their perspectives on receiving multicultural counseling distance education. Supports needed for global students in the online environment may differ from traditional students. Therefore, research on how the academic support of counseling programs and institutions impacts global students’ counseling practice and retention in distance counselor education can be valuable.


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



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Szu-Yu Chen, PhD, NCC, LPC, RPT, is an assistant professor at Palo Alto University. Dareen Basma, PhD, LPC-MHSP, is a core faculty member at Palo Alto University. Jennie Ju, PhD, LPC, is a core faculty member at Palo Alto University. Kok-Mun Ng, PhD, NCC, ACS, LPC, is a professor at Oregon State University. Correspondence can be mailed to Szu-Yu Chen, 1791 Arastradero Drive, Palo Alto, CA 94304, dchen@paloaltou.edu.

Counselor Preparation in England and Ireland: A Look at Six Programs

John McCarthy

Academic preparation is essential to the continued fidelity and growth of the counseling profession and clinical practice. The accreditation of academic programs is essential to ensuring the apposite education and preparation of future counselors. Although the process is well documented for counselors-in-training in the United States, there is a dearth of literature describing the academic preparation of counselors in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This article describes interview findings from six counseling programs at institutions in England and Ireland: Cork Institute of Technology; the University of East Anglia; the University of Cambridge; the University of Limerick; The University of Manchester; and West Suffolk College. It also discusses common and differentiating themes with counselor training in the U.S.

Keywords: accreditation, international, counselors-in-training, England, Ireland

Academic preparation lies at the heart of the counseling profession and is a vital ingredient to professional practice. Most people identifying themselves as professional counselors possess a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, and as a result of the varied roles and settings in which they work, the academic training for such professionals is broad-based in common domains. Most counseling graduate programs typically offer coursework reflective of a core curriculum, field placement, and a specialty area (Neukrug, 2007).

Program accreditation also influences preparation. The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) represent two accrediting bodies in the counseling profession. The most recent CACREP Standards were developed “to ensure that students develop a professional counselor identity and master the knowledge and skills to practice effectively” (CACREP, 2009, p. 2). Eight core areas of curriculum are required of all CACREP-accredited programs: Professional Orientation and Ethical Practice; Social and Cultural Diversity; Human Growth and Development; Career Development; Helping Relationships; Group Work; Assessment; and Research and Program Evaluation. Furthermore, as Neukrug (2007) pointed out, many master’s-level counseling programs include a specialty area recognized by CACREP.

At the same time, international issues in counseling have drawn considerable interest in the past two decades. Pedersen and Leong (1997) outlined the global need for counseling as a result of urbanization and modernization throughout the world. The twelfth edition of Counselor Preparation was the first in the series to offer a chapter about counselor training outside of the U.S. (Schweiger, Henderson, & Clawson, 2008). More recent articles have examined counseling issues in such nations as Turkey (Stockton & Güneri, 2011), Mexico (Portal, Suck, & Hinkle, 2010), and Italy (Remley, Bacchini, & Krieg, 2010). The pace of the counseling profession internationally is rapid, prompting a need “to expand the knowledge basis of counseling as a profession internationally” (Stockton, Garbelman, Kaladow, & Terry, 2008, p. 78).

Despite the interest in international issues, the literature specific to the United Kingdom and Ireland—particularly related to counselor preparation—is somewhat limited. According to Syme (1994), counseling in Britain dates back to the 1940s. Initially such training was limited to priests, youth workers, and volunteers of the National Marriage Guidance Council. University counseling courses started in the 1950s. Growth among counselors working independently (i.e., counseling privately) was observed in the 1960s, and this trend in part resulted in the creation of the Standing Conference for the Advancement of Counselling in 1970.

In regard to the development of school counseling in England, Shertzer and Jackson (1969) noted that four counselor training facilities existed in the country at that time, producing about 100 counselors per year. In discussing various differential factors between the two countries, they pointed out that school counseling in the U.S. had benefited from federal government support, while in England the national government had taken a more neutral stance. Not long thereafter, Hague (1976) indicated that British professionals viewed the development of the profession as lagging behind that of the U.S. It also was during this decade that counselors from the U.S. had a “profound influence” on developments in the UK (Syme, 1994, p. 10). Awareness of counseling grew during the 1980s, a period in which counselors worked in the voluntary and private sectors as well as most universities and even larger companies (Syme).

Citing the 1993 edition of the Counselling and Psychotherapy Resources Directory that was published by the British Association of Counselling, Syme (1994) reported that approximately 600 counselors were listed in the London area, while far fewer were found in other areas of the UK. Around this period of time, counseling in independent practice had become “an attractive career,” though “an ever-present danger of standards being eroded in some areas of Britain where demand exceeds supply” existed (p. 15).

Dryden, Mearns, and Thorne (2000) also offered an extensive perspective of counseling in the UK dating to the World War II era. The British Association of Counselling (BAC), which emerged in 1976 and included members from the Association for Student Counselling and the Association for Pastoral Care and Counselling, played a pivotal role in the early development of the counseling profession. (The BAC has subsequently become the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy). Important contributions came from the educational system and voluntary sector. Dryden et al. summarized the historical foundations: “It is not perhaps altogether fanciful to see the history of counseling in Britain as the story of a collaborative response by widely differing people from different sectors of the community to human suffering engendered by social change and shifting value systems” (p. 471). In the early stages of development, counseling was not viewed as a profession, but rather as something that individuals performed with little or no training that was subsumed by another profession (Dryden et al.).

Dryden et al. (2000) noted that the BAC had begun to accredit counseling programs in 1988. Furthermore, it also had developed an expanded and detailed code of ethics that included supervision and training and had created guidelines for programs seeking accreditation. Altogether the profession had become “significant” in that it now was making noteworthy “demands on the budgets of the social and health services” (p. 476). They further speculated that the greatest inroads in counseling were made in the workplace, particularly regarding job-related stress. As counseling entered the 21st century in Britain, it had reached a “critical but dynamic point” in its development, as it was aiming to “maintain its humanity in its attitudes to both clients and practitioners” (p. 477).


Various accreditation bodies exist in this region. Among the UK programs, two foremost organizations are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and the United Kingdom and European Association for Psychotherapeutic Counselling (UKEAPC).

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), formerly named the British Association for Counselling, was formed in 1977 and arose from the Standing Conference for the Advancement of Counselling (BACP, 2011). Its name was modified in September 2000 in acknowledgement of counselors’ and psychotherapists’ desire to belong to a unified profession that met the common interests of both groups (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010). BACP’s mission is to “enable access to ethical and effective psychological therapy by setting and monitoring of standards” (Welcome from BACP, 2011). BACP accredits individual practitioners, counseling services, and training courses. Nearly 9000 counselors and psychotherapists are accredited by BACP (Counsellor/Psychotherapist accreditation scheme, 2010).

To become accredited, individuals must meet eight criteria, which include the completion of a BACP-accredited training course and a minimum of three years of practice prior to the application. Candidates must have had 450 supervised hours within the past 3–6 years, 150 of which came after their academic training, along with a minimum of 1.5 hours of supervision/month during this period. (An alternative route is provided and included in the BACP Standard for Accreditation.) Other criteria address continuing professional development; self-awareness; and knowledge and understanding of theories along with practice and supervision (BACP, 2009).

BACP began the recognition of training course standards in 1988, and over 120 courses have been recognized or accredited. Courses must include a mix of elements that include knowledge-based learning; competencies in therapy; self-awareness; professional development; skills work; and placements regarding practice (BACP, 2009).

BACP’s most recent framework in ethics, the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP, 2010), replaced earlier ethical codes. Aimed at guiding practice in counseling and psychotherapy for BACP members, the Framework also was produced to “inform the practice of closely related roles that are delivered in association with counselling and psychotherapy or as part of the infrastructure to deliver these services” (p. 02). The Framework features sections on values and ethical principles in counseling and psychotherapy. It also is highlighted by a section related to the personal moral qualities of counselors, who are encouraged to possess such characteristics as resilience, humility, wisdom, empathy, and courage.

The United Kingdom and European Association for Psychotherapeutic Counselling (UKEAPC) is an organization that “regulates and monitors the standards of training and quality of delivery of its Member Training Organizations” (UKEAPC Home page, 2011). It was founded in 1996 and underwent a modification in its name in 2010 to include member organizations in Europe (UKEAPC Name Change, 2010). Member organizations can include universities and training programs in the private sector and it is designed for programs at the post-graduate level or the equivalent thereof (Home Page, 2011).

UKEAPC defines psychotherapeutic counseling as a “form of counselling in depth which adopts a relational-developmental focus with the goal of fostering the client’s personal growth and development, in the context of their life and current circumstances” (UKEAPC What is Therapeutic Counselling?, 2011). It also involves the counselor’s use of self; competence in interventions, assessment, and diagnosis; an understanding of efficacy within the psychotherapeutic relationship; competence in abilities to guide clients toward their existential potential; ability to work with other healthcare professionals; and a commitment to ongoing professional development (UKEAPC).

Trainees in psychotherapeutic counseling programs must meet certain criteria to be considered for acceptance into UKEAPC. In addition to possessing a personality that can maintain stability in a psychotherapeutic relationship, candidates also should be living a life consistent with personal ethics; possess experience in responsible roles in working with people; and have an educational background to enable her/him to cope with academic demands at the postgraduate/graduate level (UKEAPC Training Standards, 2011).

Graduate training programs meeting UKEAPC standards are a minimum of three years in duration along with 450 hours devoted to skills and theory and 300 hours dedicated to supervised work with clients. Four components are deemed to be necessary: personal therapy; clinical practice; supervised practice; and a comprehension of theories. A trainee must have at least 40 hours/year of personal therapy, equating to 120 hours by the conclusion of the program. A final evaluation that assesses theoretical comprehension and clinical competence must also be given. Training programs are responsible for publishing the code of ethics/professional practice to which it adheres; this code must be consistent with the corresponding codes of UKEAPC (UKEAPC Training Standards, 2011).

Programs also must include the following curricular items: theory, practice, and range of approaches of psychotherapeutic counseling; relevant studies in human development, sexuality, ethics, research, and human sciences; social and cultural influences in psychotherapeutic counseling; the provision of a placement in mental health; supervised psychotherapeutic counseling practice; identification/management of the trainee’s involvement in personal psychotherapeutic counseling; the ability to refer to other professionals when deemed necessary; legal issues; research skills; and a written product that displays a trainee’s ability to communicate professionally. Full member organizations also must have a professional development policy consistent with UKEAPC (UKEAPC Training Standards, 2011).

In regard to Ireland, guidance was made “a universal entitlement in post primary schools” in Ireland through the adoption of the Education Act (1998). Additional professionals are given to each school by the Department of Education and Skills for the purpose of guidance. They range from eight hours in smaller schools with an enrollment of less than 200 students to approximately two full-time posts in larger schools with an enrollment of 1,000 students or more (National Centre for Guidance in Education, 2011).

The National Centre for Guidance and Education (NCGE), an agency of the Irish Department of Education and Science, aims to “support and develop guidance practice in all areas of education and to inform the policy of the Department in the field of guidance” (National Centre for Guidance in Education, 2011). The Centre provides support for guidance professionals in the school setting, such as guidance counselors and practitioners in second and third level schools and in adult education. It fosters such support through an array of activities, including though not limited to the development of guidance resources, the dissemination of information on good guidance practice, and offering support for innovative projects in guidance (National Centre for Guidance in Education, 2011). Training in Whole School Guidance Planning also is administered through professional development workshops (NCGE, Whole School Guidance, 2011).

Established in 1968, the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) in Ireland represents over 1200 professionals in second-level schools as well as third level colleges, guidance services in adult settings, and private practice. IGC serves as a liaison and an advocate in its work with government, institutions of higher education, and other organizations (Welcome to the ICG, 2011). It also offers a Code of Ethics (Coras Eitice–Code of Ethics, 2011).

The purpose of this study was to examine counselor preparation at selected institutions of higher education in England and Ireland from a comparative standpoint to that in the United States. In my search of the literature, no recent journal article has addressed this topic. The rationale behind this study is not only to enlighten U.S. counselor educators in learning more about another system of preparation, but also to aid them in their own programmatic considerations regarding such areas as philosophy, training emphases, and student involvement. One of the critical fundamental questions in the interviews echoed Stockton et al.’s (2008) discussion of international counselor training: “What are the critical variables that shape these programs?” (p. 84).

Data Collection

This research project was approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board prior to the collection of data, which took place during the author’s sabbatical in the spring semester of 2011. Institutions offering graduate training in counseling were asked to participate based on, for the most part, a convenience factor. Three of them were in proximity to the base of my sabbatical, the University of Cambridge. The two programs in Ireland were also sought due to their propinquity. This sample was clearly not exhaustive and was not intended to be meant as comprehensive in any way. However, it is interesting to note that the institutions included in this study do vary in both size and type of institution.

Possible participation was initially sought in one of two ways: After identifying a faculty member or course director from a website search, I emailed the respective counselor educator, outlined my proposed study, and asked for participation. In other instances, I spoke to the course director directly. The informed consent was shared or sent for their review, and a copy of the completed consent was given to participants at the actual interview. All interviews were done in person and were informal in structure. Drafts of each course summary in the data section were sent to one of the interviewees at each institution for feedback on the clarity and accuracy of the content as well as overall approval.

Interviewees in the study were Dr. Judy Moore, Director of the Centre for Counselling Studies, University of East Anglia (England); Dr. Steve Shaw, Course Director (Access Course) (Counselling), West Suffolk College (England); Dr. Lucy Hearne, Programme Director, University of Limerick (Ireland); Mr. Tom Geary, Lecturer, Programme Director, University of Limerick (Ireland); Dr. Terry Hanley, Director of MA (January intake), University of Manchester (England); Dr. Colleen McLaughlin, Course Director (MEd), University of Cambridge (England); and Mr. Gus Murray, Lecturer in Counselling, Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland).


In understanding the approach to counselor training in this region, I found some differing language that is reflected in parts of this article. First, for the most part, a “course” would not mean an individual class, as it might be used in the U.S., but rather a course of study or program. Second, instead of “faculty/faculty members” or “department,” I tended to hear “course team” or “members of staff” to describe the equivalent. Third, “course members” was often used in place of “students.” Fourth, instead of being headed by a “department chair,” a faculty member with the title of “course director” oversaw each individual program. Finally, “accreditation” was used to mean both course of study approval by an outside body as well as approval of an individual’s educational work (i.e., certification). In other words, a trainee in England could seek accreditation by, for instance, the BACP.


This section offers an overview of the respective courses included in the study and represents data taken from the interviews as well as from course/university materials and/or websites. Each course summary is designed to reflect pertinent facets of the courses, including the curriculum and any unique elements. A background of the institution also is featured.

University of Limerick (UL)
Located five kilometers from Limerick City, the University of Limerick has an enrollment of approximately 11,600 students (University of Limerick, 2010). Designed around IGC guidelines, its Graduate Diploma in Guidance Counselling program is part-time in enrollment and two full years in duration. Its primary objective is to train practicing teachers and other related professionals to become Guidance Counsellors, and the program’s qualification is recognized by the Department of Education and Skills in Ireland for the aim of gaining an appointment as a Guidance Counsellor at a second-level school (i.e., high school). It is also recognized by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Ireland. To be considered for admission, an individual must have an undergraduate degree and/or an approved teaching qualification or an acceptable level of experience and interest in the area. Applicants also are interviewed prior to the admission decision (University of Limerick, n.d.-b).

Interviews and course materials. Started 12 years ago, the Graduate Diploma in Guidance Counselling at the University of Limerick is housed in the Department of Education and Professional Studies. Faculty members include other UL faculty who primarily teach in other academic areas as well as 6–8 part-time lecturers. The diploma program is offered in 2–3 “outreach centres” throughout Ireland, each of which has a link-in coordinator who liaises with the programme directors and students. Other key personnel include process educators, who aid in teaching theories and skills development; placement tutors, who are retired guidance counselors who serve as supervisors during students’ placements; and mentors, who share their expertise with students on a voluntary basis during the students’ placements. Approximately 18–20 trainees are accepted in a cohort in each of the centres. The diploma program has 325 graduates to date with another 80 trainees to be graduating in January, 2012 (T. Geary & L. Hearne, personal communication, April 4, 2011).

The program is comprised of 10 taught modules, a research project, and a placement in an educational setting. On average, students’ classroom time for the initial three semesters is six hours/week. A portion of the program is offered on two intensive residential weekend sessions. This portion is done in the first and third semesters and emphasizes experiential group work as a way to enhance trainees’ skills. In the third semester, the classtime is decreased to about three hours/week to enable students to complete their research projects (University of Limerick, n.d.-b; T. Geary & L. Hearne, personal communication, April 4, 2011).

Courses in “Counselling Theory and Practice” are taken in both the first and second years. Additional courses in the initial year include those in the areas of human development, career development, group processes, research methods, and assessment. The second year features placements in both educational and industrial settings, the latter of which is brief (five days) and intended to give exposure to alternative guidance counseling settings. Placements are marked on a pass/fail basis. The final year also includes a research project and coursework in guidance in adult/continuing education, educational issues, professional practice, and the psychology of work (University of Limerick, n.d.-b; T. Geary & L. Hearne, personal communication, April 4, 2011).

The University of Limerick program has been described as “a course with psychological emphasis….focusing on the psychological aspects of guidance counseling” and where “the standard and focus on the personal counselling dimension is emphasized” (Geary & Liston, 2009, p. 7). Consistent with this approach, students are required to pursue their own personal therapy. This experience occurs in each first academic year and must be at least 10 sessions in length. Trainees pay for their own therapy and have to submit a letter from the professional confirming the trainee’s attendance (T. Geary & L. Hearne, personal communication, April 4, 2011).

Trainees at UL pursue competency in the various modules through coursework, including a two-week summer school session at the end of the first academic year. Successful completion of a module, each of which has two units, is reflected in evaluative rubrics. They also have two tutorials per semester in which a programme director meets with a group of students to offer a brief presentation on a topic such as writing skills or to discuss trainees’ concerns in relation to their course work. The minor dissertation in the second year requires students to investigate a topic as a practitioner– researcher. Trainees develop the research proposal through the course on research methods taken in the summer school session in the first year. The topic must be related to guidance counseling, and the completed project is submitted at the end of September in their second year for a graduation the subsequent January (T. Geary & L. Hearne, personal communication, April 4, 2011). Finally, elements of the program have been presented at three recent conferences in Finland (Geary & Liston, 2009), the UK (Liston & Geary, 2009), and Canada (Liston & Geary, 2010), and a qualitative/quantitative assessment of UL graduates’ career paths, professional roles, and professional development needs has been planned (Geary & Liston, 2009).

Finally, a Master of Arts in Guidance Counselling was started Fall 2011 (L. Hearne, personal communication, 27 May 2011; University of Limerick, n.d.-c). Focusing on personal, social, educational, and vocational issues through contemporary perspectives, the post-graduate degree program is designed to “advance graduates of initial guidance counselling programmes” and to “build on their knowledge, skills and competencies in the field” (University of Limerick, n.d.-a). The 12-month, part-time programme will be offered only at the main campus for the time being. Five modules and a dissertation will be required and work-related experiences and supervision also will be integral parts of the course of study. Coursework will cover advanced research methods; advanced counseling theory and practice; two practica (the first of which is on critical perspectives in the field and the second of which is on a case study); and guidance planning.

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)
CIT has approximately 12,000 students, about half of whom are enrolled full-time, across four separate campuses. The main campus is located in Bishopstown, west of Cork City (Facts and Figures, n.d.). It features a part-time Counselling and Psychotherapy program that leads to a BA (Honours) degree (Cork Institute of Technology, 2011). A part of this degree can include two certifications: Students completing the first year earn a Counselling Skills Certificate in Counselling Skills, herein referred to as the “initial Certificate.” Similarly, individuals earn a Higher Certificate in Arts in Counselling Skills upon finishing the second year. Both years involve part-time enrollment. The BA (Honours) degree is four years in length and is accomplished through successful completion of the third and fourth years (CIT, Counselling Skills Certificate, 2011).

Interview and course materials. The initial Certificate program is described as “an introductory training in Counselling for use in their existing work or life situations” (CIT, Counselling Skills Certificate, 2011). Individuals must be at least 25 years old and submit two written references and also are assessed through an interview. In addition, the importance of dual relationships is outlined on the website for the Certificate:

…Due to the personal and experiential nature of the course, it is generally not possible to have staff or students with significant existing personal or professional relationships in the same course group. Where possible, every effort is made to overcome this difficulty by placing them in separate groups. Oftentimes this solution is not possible and in these instances, the dual relationship may prevent the applicant from being offered a place on the course at that time (CIT, Counselling Skills Certificate, 2011).

Five courses are offered each semester. Students enroll in coursework on family systems theory and application, counseling skills, mindfulness, and experiential group process in their initial semester. Trainees in the final half of the certification program take courses on person-centered counseling theory and application; developmental theory; and a second course in both counseling skills and experiential group process. Successful completion is based on an evaluation of written, practical, and experiential assignments (CIT Program outcomes, 2011). By earning this Certificate, graduates should be enabled to practice counseling skills within their “existing roles.” Furthermore, the website clearly states that the Certificate is not a professional qualification within Counselling and “does not qualify the holder to practice as a professional counsellor” (CIT, Counselling Skills, 2011).

The Higher Certificate is predicated upon completion of the initial Certificate and has similar admissions requirements (CIT, Counselling Skills, 2011). The goal is to build upon the foundation in the initial Certificate so that individuals can use the skills in existing employment or volunteer work. It also serves as an entry into the BA Honours degree in the subsequent third and fourth years (CIT, Counselling Skills, 2011). Eight modules are outlined and described in detail in a rubric format and are based on various knowledge, skills and competencies (CIT, Higher Certificate, 2011). Content in the Higher Certificate is highlighted by continued work in group process and counseling skills. However, another feature that differentiates the Higher Certificate from the Certificate is an emphasis on theory and application of ego states and life scripts (CIT, Higher Certificate, 2011). Though completion does not permit individuals to practice as a professional counselor, it does enable them to practice a full range of counselling skills within an existing role (CIT, Counselling Skills, 2011).

The Certificate program was developed in 1991. At any given time, about 140 students are enrolled in the various segments of the CIT training: approximately 60 in the first year, 36 in the second year, and 24 in the third and fourth years. Trainees are not guaranteed admission among the various levels. In other words, completion of the initial Certificate does not translate into an automatic admission into the Higher Certificate (year 2). Though the minimum age of 25 is set as admissions criterion for both Certificate programs, the average age of admitted students is generally closer to 35, as life experience and maturity are valued in terms of the development of therapeutic relationships by the trainees. A written self-appraisal and two interviews (group and individual) are also a part of the admissions process. In addition, it was noted that many students enter the CIT program having first been in other professions (G. Murray, personal communication, April 5, 2011).

Years 3 and 4 of the BA (Honours) degree support the practice of counseling with the final year stressing the integration of modalities. Staff members coordinate and often identify the trainees’ placements, which often take place at universities, high schools, primary schools, community projects, and alternative centers. Students are supervised individually and accumulate a minimum of 100 placement hours over the four years (G. Murray, personal communication, April 5, 2011). By their graduation, students must have completed a minimum of 100 hours of personal counseling (G. Murray, personal communication, October 10, 2011). The CIT program also has about 15 instructors, most of whom are part-time, that assist with the training (G. Murray, personal communication, April 5, 2011). A Master’s degree was also instituted in Fall 2011 (G. Murray, personal communication, October 10, 2011).

Most graduates of the BA (Honours) degree progress in their work area as a result of their advanced training, as they may get a promotion or secure a more counseling-related position in their workplace. Private practice is another possible route for graduates. Additional hours are needed after graduation for individuals to meet accreditation standards (G. Murray, personal communication, April 5, 2011).

University of Cambridge
During the 2009–2010 academic year, the University of Cambridge had a full-time equivalent student load of approximately 17,600, of whom about 5,800 students are classified as full-time post-graduate status (Facts and Figures January 2011, 2011). The University’s Faculty of Education offers a full-time Master’s of Philosophy (MPhil) and a part-time Master’s in Education (MEd) in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapeutic Counselling. It is not possible for individuals to gain accreditation through the MPhil program (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, n.d.). Counselor training at Cambridge started in 1985 in the Institute of Education now one of three organizations that make up the Faculty. The MEd program currently has 56 students and a team of five counselor educators. With its focus on working with youth, the MEd program stresses therapy through play and the arts, such as storytelling, drawing, and sand play (McLaughlin & Holliday, 2010).
Interview and course materials. The training route consists of three parts: a) a 60-hour introductory course; b) a 180-hour advanced diploma program; and c) a three-year master’s degree program. The introductory course requires one 4000-word assignment and can be taken through its Faculty of Education or another equivalent program. The advanced diploma program is one year in duration and requires three assignments, two of which are 4000 words in length and the last of which is 8000 words in length. Both the introductory course and advanced diploma are requirements for admission into the master’s degree program. Trainees in the advanced diploma attend classes one day/week for three terms, each of which is 10 weeks in length for the diploma and eight weeks for the master’s degree. The BACP accreditation route begins with the advanced diploma program and concludes with the completion of the MEd degree (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010).
Frequent interviews are integral to the courses. Admissions to both the diploma and MEd courses require, in part, a personal interview with members of the course team. It serves as an assessment of such qualities as their commitment to personal development, their commitment to the course, personal motivation and robustness, demonstration of self-reflection, and how their prior experiences relate to the course. Course members also undergo feedback interviews with tutors. These events occur three times during the diploma course and six times during the MEd course (C. McLaughlin, personal communication, April 20, 2011).

The MEd course of study is grounded in four themes: the therapeutic relationship and therapeutic processes; professional issues in therapy with children; understanding child and adolescent development; and the development of the social and emotional well-being of children (Child and Adolescent Psychotherapeutic Counselling, n.d.). The first two years of the MEd degree course are 238 hours in length, and three required assignments are due each year, two of which are 6000 words in length. Trainees attend classes for five hours on one day/week for three terms for the first two years. Two mornings of classes are also required each term where the focus is solely on practical work. All trainees are mandated to complete a thesis of 18,000–20,000 words in length, and this project takes place in their final year of study (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010).

Supervised counseling practice can begin after January of the MEd degree course. Supervision sessions must occur at least once every two weeks and should take place when no more than six counseling sessions have been completed by the student. Approved supervisors must be used, and they submit a report about the trainee’s counseling abilities each July. Trainees must keep logs of their work and have them signed by their supervisors. Altogether 450 hours of supervised practice are required (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010).

In addition, trainees must undergo their own personal therapy during the course of study. Students are expected to find their own counselor, who must be accredited by a professional association such as BACP or UKEAPC, and be approved by the course director. They also must pay for the therapy themselves. It is mandatory for the duration of the training, including periods when classes are not in session. A minimum of 35 sessions is anticipated. Trainees are expected to be in long-term counseling involving “in-depth work concerning childhood” and “where the practitioner uses the transference, or actively works with the psychotherapeutic relationship dialogically” (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010, p. 5).

Students must submit a report from their counselor, indicating that they have attended and participated in the therapeutic process and whether any serious concerns about their well-being as a future therapist are apparent. Termination in the personal therapy must be documented along with the starting and ending dates and the number of sessions attended. Course members also are required to participate in weekly personal development groups, which are facilitated by someone external to the University. These groups are 24 sessions in total length, which comprises three eight-week terms. In a similar vein, course directors also seek the input of a training supervisor, an external consultant per se who is not associated with the University, regarding course issues (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010; C. McLaughlin, personal communication, April 20, 2011).

Graduates of the course of study have found employment in schools, the NHS, and in the voluntary sector (McLaughlin & Holliday, 2010). Alumni must conduct an annual audit of their professional development to maintain their registration with UKEAPC. The Faculty also operates the Cambridge Forum for Children’s Emotional Well-Being, a continuing professional development program and professional network for graduates and other area psychotherapeutic professionals (University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, 2010; C. McLaughlin, personal communication, April 20, 2011).

University of East Anglia
The University of East Anglia (UEA) was started in 1963, admitting 87 students (History, 2011). It has an enrollment of over 14,000 students (Our Campus, 2011) and is located in Norwich, a city located about 115 miles northeast of London (Getting to UEA, 2011). It offers a one-year, full-time Postgraduate Diploma in counseling that is accredited by BACP and “is designed to equip successful students to practise professionally as counsellors” (PG Diploma Counselling, 2011, para. 1). Intensive five-day trainings are conducted during the first and final week of the program, and counseling placements and supervision are involved in the program. Students who complete the Postgraduate Diploma may continue to the master’s program (MA) in Counseling (UEA Post Graduate Prospectus, n.d.). Both the Postgraduate Diploma and MA courses of study are housed in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning. Students can complete the Master’s degree in six months, if attending full-time, and in one year, if enrolled part-time. UEA also offers a Post-Graduate Certificate in Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy, the only such program in the UK (University of East Anglia School of Education and Lifelong Learning).

Interview and course handbook. The UEA course of study is person-centered in its orientation and the topics of spirituality and focusing are important elements of the training. Primary admission criteria for the Postgraduate Diploma are previous significant counseling experience or the possession of a counseling certificate, which is a 60-credit course emphasizing basic helping skills. Most applicants from the UK possess the latter item. If meeting initial criteria, applicants are interviewed by tutors of the program. Nineteen students were admitted into this program for the 2011–2012 academic year (J. Moore, personal communication, 25 March 2011).

A University policy prohibits graduate student employment for more than 12 hours per week, and tutors strongly recommend that trainees do not engage in work outside of the program. Given the intensive nature of the diploma program, personal therapy is no longer required, though an estimated half of the students do pursue counseling on their own (J. Moore, personal communication, 25 March 2011).

Extensive group participation is integrated into the UEA diploma course. First, self-selected study groups are formed at the outset of the academic year; these groups meet weekly (University of East Anglia, 2010). Second, trainees must participate in “community meetings” twice per week where, along with two tutors who serve solely as facilitators, they are allowed to freely explore their lives or themselves in a supportive environment. Meetings range from 75–120 minutes in length (J. Moore, personal communication, 25 March 2011).

Third, trainees also are required to attend personal development groups composed of 9–10 trainees and held at the end of the teaching week (J. Moore, personal communication, 25 March 2011). The goal of this group is to aid trainees in becoming aware of their vulnerabilities as well as their strengths. The co-facilitator, a person-centered counselor, has no other relationship with the course of study. Fourth, a supervision group is offered in addition to individual supervision. This group is described as “often a very creative place to explore and develop counselling practice” that gives trainees an opportunity to link theory with practice (University of East Anglia, 2010, p. 31). Fifth, they also are obligated to participate in a focusing group and a focusing partnership. This segment of the course enables trainees to work on their core conditions related to their own personal experiences. The partnerships allow trainees to practice focusing and listening skills with other cohort members in a structured approach. The listener in the partnership allows the trainee “a space in the week simply to be and express yourself, and to experience the value of being deeply listened to, without interruption” (p. 32). Participation in these groups meets the BACP requirements for personal development (University of East Anglia).

Six written assignments are a core part of the postgraduate Diploma program (University of East Anglia, 2010), which is often referred to as “Unit I.” They are composed of in-depth analyses of videotapes with peers, essays on and comparison of person-centered therapy with another approach, and a case study (University of East Anglia). Two significant assignments involve in-depth analyses of trainees’ audiotaped work with clients as an assessment of their own self-reflection on their practice and their approach and competence in person-centered counseling. These assignments do not include the 100 placement hours accompanied by weekly supervision and are graded on a pass/fail basis (J. Moore, personal communication, March 25, 2011 and April 21, 2011).

The process of self-assessment is described as “one of the most testing aspects” of the course where, from a person-centered approach, “it is a time when tensions between congruence and acceptance can be felt” (University of East Anglia, 2010, p. 20). This process is the foundation of the culminating project, the trainee’s 8000-word, self-assessment project that comes at the conclusion of the diploma course. Evaluation of this capstone project and the earlier assignments is done via a “mixed assessment process” that combines the person-centered approach and an atmosphere of “constant exploration and examination” along with University and BACP requirements (University of East Anglia, p. 4). The University’s Exam Board also does a thorough review of trainees’ assignments in determining whether a passing grade is issued at the trainee’s completion of course requirements, and this finally determines the pass/fail grade (J. Moore, personal communication, 25 March 2011).

All trainees in the diploma course are offered a core placement in the University Counselling Service and may also have one at a site outside of the University. At the conclusion of the MA trainees must also complete a 20,000-word dissertation (University of East Anglia, 2010). Guided by an academic supervisor, trainees may choose the type of project to be pursued. Many of them select a qualitative exploration related to their interests. Upon graduation, many people may do volunteer counseling work before securing employment, which is often part-time and subsequently found in a drug/alcohol agency, a youth counseling agency, voluntary or statutory agencies, in an educational context or private practice (J. Moore, personal communication, 25 March 2011).

West Suffolk College
West Suffolk College (WSC) is a rural further education college with a main campus in Out Risbygate, adjacent to Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. In 2009–2010, WSC boasted an enrollment of approximately 17,900 students, about 2,500 of whom were enrolled full-time. Courses are offered at over 100 sites throughout the county at its Local Learning Centres (West Suffolk College, 2010).

The two degree (Foundation and BA Honors) courses of study offer coursework reflective of mostly Humanistic, Psychodynamic, and Cognitive-Behavioral orientations and allow students to work toward BACP accreditation. As pointed out in the course website, “Students are encouraged to respect the frame and ethos of their core integrative training approach, but also to develop their own individual style and philosophy of counselling” (University Campus Suffolk, 2010).Coursework covers both works with children and young adults (University Campus Suffolk, 2010).

Interview and course handbook. The “team” (instructors) consists of course directors for both the Access course and the Foundation and BA Honors courses along with four tutors that are not full-time WSC employees. Students progress toward completion of the BA Honors degree by first completing the Access course and the Foundation (FdA Counselling) degree course. As described in the Course Handbook, the Foundation Degrees are “vocational in nature” and “differ from the traditional BA (Honours) degree by placing a much greater emphasis on work-based learning and the acquisition of transferable, vocational and intellectual skills” (p. 3).

Open to everyone, an Access course is generally designed for those individuals who have not been enrolled in an educational program and enables them to raise their academic skills and abilities. The full-time Access course in Counselling requires 450 hours of student contact time with tutors and is done over 45 weeks with class time averaging 1.5 days per week. Students also attend one weekend of residential work. The application process consists of a writing sample, a screen test assessing literacy and numeracy skills, and a group interview. In the admissions workshop, commitment to the course is heavily emphasized, a point reinforced by past students offering a presentation to applicants. Approximately 20 students are accepted annually (S. Shaw, personal communication, 30 March 2011). Course time is consumed mostly by theoretical work presented by tutors in the morning segments. Afternoon sessions include skills practice and required participation in an experiential, here-and-now group facilitated by two tutors. During one weekend in the year, the one-hour group meets for an extended weekend session from a Friday night through a Sunday morning (S. Shaw, personal communication, 30 March 2011).

Ten modules highlight the Access course: Study Skills; Basic Counseling Skills; Emotional Intelligence 1 and 2; Emotional Development; Metaphor, Images, and Dreams; The Professional Relationship; Theories and Concepts; Supervision; and Advanced Counseling Skills. Each module has a corresponding rubric and assignments to assess trainees’ competencies (University Campus Suffolk, 2008/09a). A grade is given for each module as well as for the overall course of study (S. Shaw, personal communication, 30 March 2011).

Completion of the Access course does not qualify a trainee for BACP accreditation, as the course hours do not meet BACP standards in terms of course hours. However, completion does allow for admission to the Foundation degree, the next step in the progression which began two years ago. About 75% of those finishing the Access course choose to continue to the Foundation degree, which involves an examination of theory in greater depth and includes work by Jung, Klein, and Freud. Trainees are responsible for finding their placements and organizing the corresponding supervision. Given the difficulty encountered by students, the team is considering the creation of a counseling agency at the College (S. Shaw, personal communication, 30 March 2011).

Both the Foundation (FdA) and BA Honors degrees are administered through the School of Healthcare & Early Years (University Campus Suffolk, 2008/09b) and are of two semesters in duration with each semester being 12 weeks in length (S. Shaw, personal communication, 30 March 2011). The FdA program is designed to be vocational and includes work experience (placements). It differs from the BA Honors degree in that the FdA program places its emphasis on “work-based learning and the acquisition of transferable, vocational, and intellectual skills” (University Campus Suffolk, p. 5). Upon completion, trainees can apply for BACP accreditation.

In the Foundation program, personal tutors are assigned to each student at the outset of the program. Whenever possible, the student has the same tutor throughout the duration of enrollment. The tutor is designed to be a source of support and a person to offer “advice where needed” (University Campus Suffolk, 2008/09b, p. 3). Students are expected to meet with their tutors once or twice per semester. In addition, the delivery of the modules is done by the Course Committee, which meets four times per academic year. The Committee also views students’ comments as vital feedback in their deliberations.

In the BA Honors program, trainees study five new modules, including the philosophy of counselling; mental health (study of personality disorders); group counseling; counseling children; and a dissertation on their integrative approach to counseling. Upon graduation, people tend to enter private practice; find a position at such places as a drug/alcohol or women’s center, or a community counseling service; or a general practitioner’s office. Some students completing the BA Honors degree have also gained subsequent employment in a school setting (S. Shaw, personal communication, 30 March 2011).

University of Manchester
The University of Manchester has an enrollment of nearly 39,500 students, of which approximately 11,000 are graduate students (Facts and Figures, 2011). It offers a 180-credit MA degree in Counselling, a course of study housed in the University’s School of Education in Educational Support & Inclusion (The University of Manchester, 2010). The degree can be earned through part-time enrollment over a period of 36 months (The University of Manchester, 2011). Individuals of many different career backgrounds often enroll in the course:
The course is intended for people for whom counselling is a legitimate and generally recognized part of their work role, either paid or voluntary [sic]. Normally course members come from a range of professional backgrounds, e.g. teaching; social work; the medical professions, the pastoral ministry and from community voluntary organizations. (Counselling MA Selection criteria, n.d.)

Interview and other course materials. Evaluated on their personal and intellectual fit for counseling training, applicants are required to have a first (i.e., undergraduate) degree or a certificate in counseling, often gained through 90–120 hours of study done at a further education college over a year. However, in some instances professional counseling experience, relevant life experience, and/or suitable training may be considered in place of the degree requirement (The University of Manchester, 2011). In addition to the application forms, individuals must submit references and be interviewed in both a group and individual format as part of the admissions process (Counselling MA Entry requirements, n.d.; T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011). About 30 individuals are admitted annually. They begin the course of study in September of each year with placement hours commonly beginning in their second semester (T. Hanley, professional communication, April 11, 2011).

The initial two years of the course of study have been BACP-accredited since 1993 and require attendance at 60 weekly sessions, a summer school component, and four weekend segments. In the first two years of study, students attend classes from 12pm–8pm one day per week. In the third year, class time decreases to 4–8pm, also one day per week. An introductory weekend is featured at the outset of the course of study to help students in the formation of relationships and to provide a further orientation to the course. All classes are offered in an in-person format. The course is comprised of six teaching modules, which include counseling theories, reflective practice, lifespan/social context, and a supervised project in research. Students also must have 150 practice sessions in their placements as well as monthly supervision and personal therapy. The program is integrative in nature and utilizes Egan’s three-stage model as a foundation for integrating theory and practice (T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011; The University of Manchester, School of Education, 2009–2012; The University of Manchester, School of Education, 2011).

Personal therapy is not required of students during the MA course of study, though it is deemed to be potentially highly beneficial prior to beginning their studies and often recommended throughout. Personal reflection also is encouraged throughout the course of study. To this end, students are required to attend a personal development group once a week over the initial two years in the program. These groups are assigned for the first two years. In the final year, students self-select their groups. They are facilitated by a professional external to the course of study or by one of the core staff on the counseling team not involved in leading input for that year group (T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011).

Most students in the cohort continue to the third year and earn the MA degree, thereby heightening their professional credibility. This final year of studies enables students to complete the research project in an area related to students’ interests. It is not designed to provide additional training in counseling, though students are permitted to attain their placement hours in a period of three years (T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011).

Rather this component of the course seeks to aid students in their academic development in four ways: by providing an introduction to research methods; by helping them to realize the connection between research and practice; by aiding them in the creation of a base of knowledge in current developments in the profession; and by assisting them in building links among theory, research, and practice. Students also are encouraged to attend the annual research conference held each July. The capstone project of the third year is a 15,000-word project in which students implement practitioner-based research on a topic reflective of their professional interest. The proposal for the project is required as part of the third-year coursework. Students then have about nine months to collect data and write the thesis. If successful, they graduate in the following December (The University of Manchester, 2010; T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011).

Graduates of the MA course often take various directions. They may earn a promotion in their present position as a result of their graduate training, as most students in the MA course are employed during their part-time studies. Some individuals find employment as a result of their practice placement. Still others may volunteer at a counseling setting post-graduation and eventually be hired by that same agency (T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011).

The University also features a professional doctorate degree and a Ph.D. degree in Counselling Studies. Very few graduates of the MA degree immediately pursue either doctoral program, as it is not viewed as a linear progression in their education. The Ph.D. program emphasizes such areas as training evaluation; supervision; counseling and culture; and professional, legal, and ethical issues. The professional doctorate is geared toward qualified (accredited), experienced practitioners who desire to study issues in additional depth (The University of Manchester, 2010; T. Hanley, personal communication, April 11, 2011).


Four points emerged from the interviews and examinations of the courses of counseling study. Each point is set in comparison to the structure and academic delivery of counseling programs in the U.S. They are not intended to be framed as comparison points of superiority or inferiority in any way. Rather they are meant to be communicated as merely contrasts in approach and in design.

The master’s degree wasn’t the focal point. To become a professional counselor in the U.S., one must initially obtain both a baccalaureate degree and a graduate degree, the latter of which is in counseling (Schweiger, Henderson, & Clawson, 2008). However, the degree system is different in these programs in that the master’s degree was generally not a critical prerequisite for entry into the profession. Rather the course of study had a different name and came prior to the master’s degree. As seen in both programs in Ireland, the creation of the master’s degree studies in regard to counseling is a more recent development.

Research is required. A significant research project was a capstone requirement in some of the courses studied in this project, as course members were required to design and implement a lengthy research project in the final year of their studies. Students themselves often decided the topic of the study within certain parameters. Given the depth of the project, it appeared to be the equivalent of a master’s degree thesis.

A similar, though perhaps not as extensive, learning experience is expected of trainees of CACREP-accredited programs in the U.S. In the CACREP framework, accredited programs must offer a component on “Research and Program Evaluation.” In this core curriculum area, trainees are to be offered “studies that provide an understanding of research methods, statistical analysis, needs assessment, and program evaluation” (CACREP, 2009, p. 15). Elements of this curricular area include the importance of research in the counseling profession; various research methods; statistical methods; principles of needs assessment and program evaluation; using research in regard to practice; and strategies regarding cultures and ethics in interpretation and reports of research and program evaluation (CACREP, 2009).

Personal therapy is strongly encouraged and sometimes required. In his discussion of factors of an effective helper, Neukrug (2007) cited seven studies, summarizing that a majority of therapists have sought their own personal therapy. They added, “It is heartening to see that therapists seem to want to work on their own issues” (p. 20).

Several textbooks by U.S. authors espouse the same message to trainees: Personal counseling aids the training process and the development, personal and professional, of the student. Kottler and Shepard (2008) addressed one possible benefit of the process: working though conflicts and problems that can impede one’s ability to be therapeutic. They maintained, “In the process of challenging yourself, there is no vehicle more appropriate than experiencing counseling as a client” (p. 473).

The degree to which personal counseling is encouraged for trainees varies in graduate counseling programs in the U.S. However, among some of the six courses of studies, it was clear that personal counseling was viewed as paramount in the training process. In requiring personal counseling, the respective courses of study were making a strong statement in the importance of knowing oneself and of self-reflection. Furthermore, trainees were sometimes expected to participate in what would be considered to be longer-term therapy at their own expense. The two critical factors—the duration of the counseling and the cost involved—are noteworthy, as they reflect the deep level of commitment and benefits seen in the mandate. A possible future study on this realm could investigate the perceived impact of the counseling on the trainees’ development.

A previous career prior to the pursuit of a counseling degree is often the norm. In other words, the possession of professional experience was valued with the inference that entering students possessed more maturity. A theme that appeared throughout the courses of study was the notion of counseling representing a second career for many course members, a topic receiving relatively little attention in the U.S. literature. The BACP echoes the notion of second careers:
Counselling is often taken up as a second career. As a result people are frequently working and training at the same time. For this reason, most courses are part-time, usually in the evening or day release.
The desire to become a counsellor develops frequently from some aspect of a person’s original career. These careers have the welfare of others at heart; for example, nursing, teaching, social and support work. This work naturally benefits from training in counselling skills but may lead to a change to a career as a counsellor. (Careers in Counseling, 2010, para. 1–2)

The notion of entering the counseling profession as a second career is not a foreign concept in the U.S., though literature on this specific topic is extremely limited. Anecdotally, Randy McPhearson, the School Counselor of the Year as chosen by the American School Counselor Association in 2011, entered the field after being a higher education administrator and an executive recruiter (O’Grady, 2011).


The identified themes are not meant to be conclusive, particularly given the relatively small number of courses of study involved in this article. If more courses of study were included, it is conceivable that different observations would have emerged. Nonetheless, the observations are noteworthy and present both similarities and contrasts to the general approaches of counselor education programs in the U.S. In some respects, the themes are not surprising, given the strong foundation of the counseling profession in Ireland and England. Stockton et al. (2008) offered a consistent point: “In nations where counseling is perceived as an independent profession, it is not surprising to see a strong emphasis on graduate-level training that often emphasizes skills, theory, and the identity of the profession” (p. 85).


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John McCarthy, NCC, is a Professor in the Department of Counseling at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Correspondence can be addressed to John McCarthy, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 206 Stouffer Hall, Indiana, PA, 15705, john.mccarthy@iup.edu.

Counselors Abroad: Outcomes of an International Counseling Institute in Ireland

Lorraine J. Guth, Garrett McAuliffe, Megan Michalak

As the counseling profession continues to build an international community, the need to examine cultural competence training also increases. This quantitative study examined the impact of the Diversity and Counseling Institute in Ireland (DCII) on participants’ multicultural counseling competencies. Two instruments were utilized to examine participants’ cross-cultural competence before and after the study abroad institute. Results indicated that after the institute experience, participants perceived themselves to be more culturally competent, knowledgeable about the Irish culture, skilled in working with clients from Ireland, and aware of cultural similarities and differences. Implications for counselor education and supervision, and future research also are outlined.

Keywords: study abroad, multicultural competencies, cross-cultural competence, international, counselor education  and supervision, Ireland

The standards set by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2009) require programs to provide curricular and experiential opportunities in social and cultural diversity. Specifically, CACREP requires counseling curricula to incorporate diversity training that includes “multicultural and pluralistic trends, including characteristics and concerns within and among diverse groups nationally and internationally” (CACREP, 2009, Section II, Code G2a; p. 10). Endorsement of diversity training by the counselor education accrediting body underscores its importance in counselor training; therefore, counselors-in-training must be provided opportunities to be culturally responsive in their work with clients (McAuliffe & Associates, 2013; Sue & Sue, 2012).

This cultural responsiveness is particularly important given the globalization of the counseling movement and the need for counselors to become globally literate (Hohenshil, Amundson, & Niles, 2013; Lee, 2012). However, counselor education training programs have fostered this multicultural competence with students in myriad ways (Lee, Blando, Mizelle, & Orozco, 2007). For example, multicultural courses have often focused on developing trainees’ cross-cultural competencies in the three broad areas of awareness of their own cultural values and biases; knowledge of others’ customs, expectations, and worldviews; and culturally appropriate intervention skills and strategies (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992).

A body of literature has examined the progress of educational programs in incorporating these aspects of diversity into the curricula. For example, Díaz-Lázaro and Cohen (2001) conducted a study that explored the impact of one specific course in multicultural counseling. They found that cross-cultural contact, such as with guest speakers, helped students develop multicultural knowledge and skills; however, they found no indication that the course impacted students’ self-awareness. Guth and McDonnell (2006) examined counseling students’ perceptions of multicultural and diversity training. Courses were found to contribute somewhat to students’ knowledge, but the study found that students gained greater knowledge from personal interactions among peers, interactions with faculty, and other experiential activities outside of coursework. Additional research has shown that multicultural training is significantly related to multicultural competence (Castillo, Brossart, Reyes, Conoley, & Phoummarath, 2007; D’Andrea, Daniels, & Heck, 1991; Dickson, Argus-Calvo, & Tafoya, 2010). A clear message from the literature highlights the importance of personal cross-cultural contact in culturally responsive counseling.

This previous research was limited in that the authors examined only the impact of training offered in the United States, leaving out the potential added value of personal cross-cultural experiences in an international context. Given the impact of direct cross-cultural experiences, a study abroad experience for counselor trainees might be a powerful way to deepen cultural understanding and responsiveness. This quantitative study was designed to examine the outcomes of this counselor trainee study abroad institute on participants’ perceptions of their multicultural competence.


Research on Study Abroad Experiences


Study abroad programs are not commonly rigorously researched because “program evaluation is an afterthought to an ongoing program undertaken by extremely busy program administrators” (Hadis, 2005, p. 5). Although data regarding study abroad experiences are primarily anecdotal, the literature does suggest several positive outcomes of a study abroad institute including personal development, intellectual growth and increased global-mindedness (Carlson, Burn, Useem, & Yachimowicz, 1991). Short-term study abroad experiences also were found to produce positive changes in cultural adaptability in students (Mapp, 2012). However, most of the study abroad research has been conducted in disciplines other than counseling, such as business (Black & Duhon, 2006), nursing (Inglis, Rolls, & Kristy, 1998), and language acquisition (Davidson, 2007). Furthermore, the research has mainly focused on the experiences of undergraduate university students and has not examined the experiences of graduate trainees (Drews & Meyer, 1996).

Several studies have been conducted that are relevant to the counseling profession. Kim (2012) surveyed undergraduate and graduate social work students and found that study abroad experiences are a significant predictor of multicultural counseling competency. Jurgens and McAuliffe (2004) also conducted a study that explored the impact of a short-term study abroad experience in Ireland on graduate counseling student participants. The results indicated that this program was helpful in increasing students’ knowledge of Ireland’s culture, largely due to experiential learning and personal interactions. The current study expands on Jurgens and McAuliffe’s research (2004) by further examining the impact of a counseling and diversity institute that was offered in Ireland. The primary research questions for this quantitative study were as follows: (1) Did the study institute have an impact on participants’ multicultural counseling competencies? (2) Did this study institute have an impact on participants’ multicultural counseling competencies in working with individuals who are Irish?





Twenty (87%) graduate counseling students and three (13%) professional counselors voluntarily participated in this research study while attending the DCII in Ireland. The sample consisted of 83% women and 17% men; 82% identified themselves as Caucasian/European American, 9% as African American, and 9% did not identify their race. The mean age for the sample was 32 (range: 22–60 years). Regarding sexual orientation, 91% of the participants indicated they were heterosexual; 4% indicated they were gay; and 4% indicated they were bisexual. Regarding disability status, 87% of the participants reported not having a disability, 9% indicated they had a disability, and 4% did not answer the question.



The study assessed participants’ cross-cultural counseling competence with the Cross-Cultural Counseling Inventory-Revised (CCCI-R, LaFromboise, Coleman, & Hernandez, 1991). The CCCI-R is a 20-item instrument initially created so that supervisors could evaluate their supervisees’ cross-cultural counseling competence. Questions on this instrument are rated on a 6-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree; 6 = strongly agree). The scale has been found to have high internal consistency and reliability, and high content validity (LaFromboise et al., 1991). Another “recommended use of the CCCI-R is as a tool for self-evaluation” (LaFromboise et al., 1991, p. 387). Therefore, the CCCI-R was slightly modified so that participants could rate themselves to understand perceptions of their own cultural competence, rather than rate other counselors on their cultural competence. Higher scores on this instrument indicate an individual’s belief that he or she has greater cultural competence. Sample prompts include the following: “I am aware of my own cultural heritage,” “I demonstrate knowledge about clients’ cultures,” and “I send messages that are appropriate to the communication of clients.” In the present study, Cronbach’s alpha was used to assess the internal consistency of the CCCI-R and it was reliable at both times of measurement (pretest = .91; posttest = .93).

Four additional Likert-type items were added to the pretest and posttest questionnaires, which asked participants to rate their multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills related to the Irish culture. The items included were as follows: (1) I am knowledgeable of the culture of Ireland; (2) I possess the skills in working with a client from Ireland; (3) I am aware of the differences between the Irish culture and my own culture; and (4) I am aware of the similarities within the Irish culture and my own culture. Participants rated the extent to which they agreed with each item from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Because of the significant (p < .01) correlation among these four items, a single variable was established called Ireland Multicultural Counseling Competencies Scale (IMCCS). In the present study, Cronbach’s alpha was used to assess the internal consistency of the IMCCS, which was reliable at both times of measurement (pretest = .88; posttest = .90).



At the beginning of the study abroad institute, participants completed a pretest questionnaire that contained a demographic information form, the CCCI-R, and the IMCCS. Participants then participated in the two-week study abroad institute. At the conclusion of the institute, participants completed a posttest questionnaire that contained the CCCI-R and the IMCCS.


Diversity and Counseling Institute in Ireland. Study abroad institutes offered in the counseling profession can further counselors’ multicultural competence by immersing trainees in a non-American culture for a period of time. With that intent, the two-week DCII was created to increase participants’ cultural awareness, knowledge and responsiveness. The goals of the DCII were to increase participants’ (1) awareness of their own cultural background and values; (2) knowledge of the American, Irish, and British cultural perspectives; and (3) knowledge of culturally appropriate counseling strategies. Participants learned about the counseling profession in Ireland from leaders in the Irish mental health field; studied core multicultural issues with nationally known U.S. counseling faculty; were immersed in the Irish culture through tours, lectures, and informal experiences; and visited Irish counseling agencies and social programs.




A t-test was performed to examine differences between participants’ CCCI-R mean score across time from pretest to posttest (see Table 1 for mean differences and standard deviations). There were significant differences (p < .0001) in participants’ overall scores on the CCCI-R after they attended the DCII in Ireland, indicating that participants perceived themselves to be more culturally competent by the end of the study abroad experience.

A t-test also was utilized to examine differences between participants’ IMCCS mean score across time (see Table 1 for the mean difference and standard deviations). There were significant differences (p < .0001) in participants’ overall scores on the IMCCS after attending the DCII in Ireland. Thus, participants thought they were more knowledgeable about the culture of Ireland, possessed more skills in working with clients from Ireland, had an increased awareness of differences between the Irish culture and their own, and had an increased awareness of similarities between the Irish culture and their own.


Table 1

Mean Difference between Participants’ Pre- and Post-Institute Multicultural Competence Scores





Regarding the under-researched topic of intentional study abroad counselor education experiences, this study indicated that such an experience can have a positive impact on counselors’ multicultural competency. Previous research on non-counseling study abroad opportunities found that participants experienced personal development, intellectual growth and increased global-mindedness (Carlson et al., 1991). This study begins to address whether a counseling international experience has an effect on counselor multicultural competency.

International study abroad experiences can affect individuals’ perspectives on other cultures, as well as on their own. In the case of this research, participants reported an increase in their cultural competence after the intentional study abroad counselor education experience. These results confirm previous social work research that found a positive relationship between studying abroad and multicultural competencies (Kim, 2012). Further research should explore what components of this institute in particular influenced participants’ multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills.

The overall multicultural counseling competency improvement demonstrated in this study is encouraging. It is important to note that the institute included both experiences and conceptual material. The learning was perhaps enhanced by the experiential learning theory model used to design the institute (Kolb & Kolb, 2009). In this study abroad institute, experiences included visits to specific counseling and educational programs. Participants then reflected on those experiences through journaling and large group processing. Counselor educators might pursue such international initiatives to trigger counselor cultural self-awareness, increase knowledge of other cultures, and build culturally responsive counseling skills.

Study abroad for counselors might be seen as a “value-added” learning opportunity. While at-home multicultural counselor education has been studied (Cates, Schaefle, Smaby, Maddux, & LeBeauf, 2007; Zalaquett, Foley, Tillotson, Dinsmore, & Hof, 2008), such learning may be enhanced by the experience of being immersed in a foreign culture (Kim, 2012). Prolonged immersion in another culture allows counselors-in-training to gain a more nuanced understanding of the differences and similarities among cultures. Participants reported being more aware than before of differences and similarities between the Irish culture and their own culture. Although not all immersion opportunities happen internationally, the degree to which these participants were immersed was novel and led to a significant increase in culturally relevant knowledge, skills and awareness. The degree to which immersion experiences are effective should continue to be explored within the counseling profession.

Transferability of the learning from study abroad is of course crucial, as it would be insufficient to merely learn the particulars of another counseling culture. In that sense, the overall dislocation of being in a foreign culture may transfer to an increase in trainees’ empathy for members of non-dominant cultures in their homelands. It would be difficult to simulate such experiences in the domestic environment. Thus, when designing training experiences, educators could consider the impact of experiential training experiences outside of the home country. While planning these experiences are logistically challenging, the payoff can be impactful (Shupe, 2013).

International study abroad institutes have implications for the counseling community at large. As the profession continues to construct a professional identity and establish its role in the mental health community, counselors must consider the counseling profession as a whole, not solely the parts of the profession within the cultural worldview. Incorporating international experiences into the training practice allows more counselors to communicate and connect as a whole, in order to best develop and advocate for the counseling profession. Furthermore, collaborating with counselors internationally provides counselors-in-training the opportunity to increase their cultural self-awareness, as well as allows counselor educators to examine current training practices and their effectiveness. This assessment may take place through direct observation of international training practices, or more covertly in reflecting on the components of the institute that appeared to impact students.

The results of this study need to be examined in light of several limitations. First, this pre-post design only examined the impact of this study abroad institute. Future research could compare study abroad experiences to other training methods. Future research also could disaggregate the factors that actually contributed to positive outcomes, by investigating the relative contribution of informal encounters, lectures on Irish counseling and social issues, general seminars on culturally alert counseling, and other experiences in the study abroad program. Second, participants volunteered to be part of this study and were predominantly Caucasian/European American and heterosexual women. Future research could seek to replicate these results, using a control group and a more diverse, randomly selected group of participants. Finally, the focus of this research was the impact of a DCII in Ireland. Future research could explore the impact of counseling study abroad programs in other countries. Long term follow-up measures also could be utilized to see if the positive changes in multicultural counseling competencies remain stable over time.




This study was designed to examine the impact of the diversity and counseling study abroad program in Ireland on participants’ multicultural competencies. The results indicate that the study abroad experience in Ireland enhanced participants’ multicultural counseling competencies. These results provide beginning data regarding the benefits of this type of study abroad diversity training and encourage counselor educators to pursue and evaluate such experiences.



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Lorraine J. Guth, NCC, is a Professor and Clinical Coordinator at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Garrett McAuliffe is a Professor at Old Dominion University. Megan Michalak, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at Antioch University New England. Correspondence can be addressed to Lorraine J. Guth, IUP Department of Counseling, 206 Stouffer Hall, Indiana, PA 15705, lguth@iup.edu.