Organizational Variables Contributing to School Counselor Burnout: An Opportunity for Leadership, Advocacy, Collaboration, and Systemic Change

Leigh Falls Holman, Judith Nelson, Richard Watts



This study utilizes a correlation matrix to examine relationships between variables identified in literature (role ambiguity, role conflict, assignment of non-counseling duties, coworker and supervisor support, and level of control over time and task) as measured by the Demand Control Support Questionnaire (DCSQ), and elements of school counselor burnout (SCBO) as measured by the Counselor Burnout Inventory (CBI) subscales (Exhaustion, Incompetence, Negative Work Environment, Devaluing Clients, and Deterioration in Personal Life). Findings indicate experiencing high external demands, such as assignment of non-counseling duties; experiencing the school as a negative place to work; and experiencing low levels of support from colleagues and supervisors result in high levels of exhaustion and contribute to burnout. These variables need further exploration using a hierarchical multiple regression to analyze the amount of variance they contribute to SCBO. The article includes a discussion of ethical concerns, future research, and practice implications for school counselor educators, supervisors, educational administrators, and school counselors.


Keywords: school counselor burnout, non-counseling duties, role conflict, organizational variables, leadership



School counselors are a valuable resource in supporting a school’s mission to help children and adolescents develop into healthy, well-functioning, contributing members of society. However, when school counselors experience high levels of chronic job stress and burnout, those experiences may result in negative effects on the students and schools they serve (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018). Therefore, identifying those variables most likely to contribute to school counselor burnout (SCBO) is crucial for counselor educators’ and supervisors’ development of prevention, monitoring, and early intervention protocols. With this end in mind, this study is the next in a series of research projects we are pursuing to systematically evaluate variables potentially related to SCBO in order to develop a model of SCBO in the future.


Background of School Counselor Burnout

Research suggests demographic variables potentially contribute to the development of SCBO, including high caseloads (Bardhoshi, Schweinle, & Duncan, 2014; Falls & Nichter, 2007; Gunduz, 2012), location of the school (Butler & Constantine, 2005), grade level served (DeMato & Curcio, 2004; Rayle, 2006), and gender and ethnicity of the counselor (Butler & Constantine, 2005; Falls & Nichter, 2007). However, our recent study utilizing a series of factorial ANOVAs systematically analyzed levels of job stress and burnout in relationship to these variables. The findings indicated, contrary to suggestions in the literature, that none of these variables is significantly related with both job stress and burnout (Holman, Watts, Robles-Pina, & Grubbs, 2018). These findings led us to seek additional potential SCBO contributing variables for exploration. Below we discuss additional variables we identified and how we operationalized them for the current study.

External Demands

There are several features of external demands highlighted by the literature, which we describe below. Ultimately, we included role ambiguity, assignment of non-counseling duties, and role conflict in the current study.


     Role ambiguity. The literature indicates that role ambiguity may contribute to SCBO (Culbreth, Scarborough, Banks-Johnson, & Solomon, 2005; Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018). School counselors frequently experience situations where various stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, parents, and students, have conflicting ideas about the school counseling role. Differences in understanding the appropriate role of the school counselor is defined as role ambiguity.


In addition to these stakeholders, school counselors have their own understanding of their roles. School counselors’ conceptualization of their roles is based on their graduate school training (Culbreth et al., 2005; Gibson, Dollarhide, & Moss, 2010; Goodman-Scott, 2015; Watkinson, Goodman-Scott, Martin, & Biles, 2017). However, role ambiguity among school counselors might result from lack of clarity from graduate school programs about the unique manifestation of counseling in a school environment, particularly if school counseling classes are add-on classes to clinical mental health coursework (Falls & Nichter, 2007). Additionally, educational administrators often have little if any instruction in their graduate programs regarding how to best utilize a school counselor in helping reach the school’s overall mission (Amatea & Clark, 2005; Dodson, 2009; Lieberman, 2004; Shoffner & Williamson, 2000). As such, this could be an area of professional advocacy school counselors need to pursue in order to reduce role ambiguity.


Further, the duties assigned by administrators due to role ambiguity are often inconsistent with the American School Counselor Association’s National Model (ASCA; 2012). ASCA’s model indicates school counselors should design and deliver comprehensive school counseling programs that promote student achievement. According to ASCA (2012), “school counseling programs are comprehensive in scope, preventative in design and developmental in nature” (p. 1). Appropriate duties include individual student academic program planning; interpreting testing; responsive counseling services related to school participation and achievement; collaboration with teachers, administrators, and parents; identifying and developing programming for student and school needs; advocating for students; and analyzing disaggregated data (ASCA, 2012).


     Assignment of non-counseling duties. The assignment of non-counseling duties, those inconsistent with ASCA’s National Model (ASCA, 2012), is a significant subset of external demands that negatively impact school counselors (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman, Grubbs, Robles-Pina, Nelson, & Watts, 2019). In fact, several studies have indicated that the assignment of inappropriate non-counseling duties (e.g., master scheduling, substitute teaching, conducting state mandated testing, lunch duty, clerical duties) is a potential variable contributing to SCBO (Baggerly & Osborn, 2006; Bardhoshi et al., 2014; DeMato & Curcio, 2004; Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018; Moyer, 2011).


However, one concern with these studies is the use of the School Counselor Activity Rating Scale’s Other Counseling Duties subscale (SCARS; Scarborough, 2005) to operationalize the assignment of non-counseling duties. The SCARS Other Counseling Duties subscale asks counselors to rate how often they participate on committees within the school; coordinate standardized testing programs; organize outreach to low income families; respond to health issues (e.g., check for lice, eye screening, 504 coordination); perform hall, bus, and cafeteria duty; schedule students for class; maintain educational records; handle discipline; and substitute teach.

According to the developer of the instrument, despite the overall strength of the other SCARS subscales, this subscale demonstrates low reliability (Scarborough 2005). It also does not measure the complex and varied external demands that school counselors experience from multiple stakeholders (Adelman & Taylor, 2002; Baker & Gerler, 2004; Culbreth et al., 2005; Falls & Nichter, 2007; Herlihy, Gray, & McCollum, 2002; Holman & Grubbs, 2018; House & Hayes, 2002). Therefore, in order to measure this construct for the current study, we sought to find another instrument that might measure these non-counseling duties commonly assigned to school counselors. After we discuss the other variables identified as potentially contributing to SCBO, we will discuss a different instrument for operationalizing non-counseling duties.


     Role conflict. Role conflict occurs when school counselors experience multiple external demands from a variety of stakeholders (i.e., administrators, parents, teachers, and students). They report feeling so overwhelmed with attempting to meet all of these externally imposed expectations that they have trouble actually following the ASCA model (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018). As a result, school counselors experience job stress from competing externally imposed demands, each exerting pressure on school counselors’ limited time and resources.


Control Over School Counselor Tasks and Time

Conflicting external demands can become even more challenging when school counselors believe they do not have the ability to choose which tasks to prioritize or how much time to spend on different tasks. This can occur because building administrators insist the school counselor rigidly adhere to only those tasks the administrator believes are important, many of which may be contrary to the ASCA National Model (Falls & Nichter, 2007). Alternatively, school counselors may experience pressure from a building administrator who prioritizes some activities and a director of guidance who prioritizes completely different activities. School counselors may believe they cannot address student needs or conduct needs-based programming because there simply is not enough time to do so. School counselor job stress research indicated that the level of control counselors experience over how they spend their time might affect their level of job stress (Lee, Cho, Kissinger, & Ogle, 2010). Therefore, this is another potential variable we need to explore in relationship to SCBO.


Coworker Support and Supervision for School Counselors

The SCBO literature identifies two additional related variables, coworker support (Bardhoshi et al., 2014; Gunduz, 2012; Holman & Grubbs, 2018; Lambie, 2007; Thomas, 2011) and supervisory support (Bardhoshi et al. 2014; Holman & Grubbs, 2018; Moyer, 2011; Thomas, 2011), as potentially affecting the development of SCBO. Coworker support refers to the quality of relationships school counselors have with their fellow counselors, teachers, and administrators. Supervisory support refers to either the school counselor’s administrative supervisor or a clinical supervisor, which varies from school to school and district to district. Some school counselors have only a building administrator with little other supervisory support, while others have fellow counselors, perhaps even senior school counselors, whom they rely on for clinical supervision. Some districts have directors of guidance who act as school counselor supervisors. Regardless of how support structures are manifest in schools, the support variable, including both perceived support from colleagues and supervisory support, needs to be explored in relationship to SCBO.




We first obtained Institutional Review Board approval. Our research question was: What is the relationship of external demands on time, perceived control over work duties, and colleague and supervisor support with school counselor burnout symptomology? This current study builds on our previous research examining potential demographic variables identified in the literature as potential predictor variables for SCBO. In this study, we explored the significance, strength, and direction of the correlations between role ambiguity, role conflict, and assignment of non-counseling duties, measured by the Demand Control Support Questionnaire (DCSQ) Demand subscale; perceived control school counselors have over how their time is spent on the job, measured by the DCSQ Control subscale; school counselors’ perceptions regarding the level of support they experience from supervisors and colleagues, measured by the DCSQ Supervisor and Colleague Support subscale; and levels of SCBO measured by the Counselor Burnout Inventory (CBI) subscales. We intend to utilize the findings of this and our previous research to develop a model of SCBO in the future.



A priori, we conducted a power analysis determining that we needed 174 participants for sufficient power (a < .05, ß = .8), with a medium effect size (GPower, 2008). We solicited participants by sending emails with a link to our consent and survey to all school counselors in the state of Texas from a list provided by the Texas Education Agency. Employing a criterion sampling strategy, we only included those who met the following criteria: (a) certified school counselor in Texas, and (b) working in a public elementary, middle, or high school (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2011). Our non-random sample of 449 school counselors is representative of the population of Texas certified school counselors with most being White (81%), followed by smaller groups of Black (10%) and Hispanic (9%) counselors. Most (93%) reported having master’s degrees with the remainder holding educational specialist or doctoral degrees.


The sample represents elementary school (43%), middle school (22%), and high school (35%) counselors. Most of the counselors worked in suburban locations (47%), with rural (28%) and urban (26%) almost evenly split to make up the remainder of the sample. They reported working in schools ranging in size from 100 to 3,400 students. Over half the counselors responding reported caseloads of over 400 (53%), with those reporting 251–400 students (35%) as the next largest group, and those with less than 250 (11%) being the least represented group. The mean age of the participants was 44 years, with an average of 13 years’ experience in educational settings. Almost half (43%) were school counselors for 5 years or less. A quarter (25%) reported being counselors between 6 and 10 years, and 32% reported having at least 11 years’ experience as a school counselor.



The current study gathered demographic data in addition to utilizing two instruments. The first is the DCSQ (Karasek & Theorell, 1990) and the second is the CBI (Lee et al., 2007).

DCSQ. The DCSQ (Karasek & Theorell, 1990) is a 30-item scale measuring “psychological work demands, job control and workplace social support” (Williams, Sundelin, & Schmuck, 2001, p. 71). It is the most recent iteration of a scale measuring job demands and psychological workload, decision latitude or control over tasks, and coworker and supervisory support on the job. The goal of the instrument, according to the developers, is “gathering objective data about work environments relevant for prevention-oriented goals of improving social and psychological working conditions” (Karasek et al., 1998; p. 328). It is self-administered and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete (Karasek, 1979; Karasek et al., 1998; Karasek & Theorell, 1990). Participants rate each statement on a 4-point Likert scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, and 4 = strongly agree. The subscales used in our study measure external demands (9 questions), perceived control (9 questions), and supervisor and coworker support (11 questions).
Multiple studies conducting exploratory factor analyses on the questionnaire support the dimensional structure (Cheng, Luh, & Guo, 2003; Choobineh, Ghaem, & Ahmedinejad, 2011; de Araújo & Karasek, 2008; Edimansyah, Rusli, Naing, & Mazalisah, 2006; Eum et al., 2007; Gimeno, Benavides, Amick, Benach, & Martínez, 2004; Gomez-Ortiz & Moreno, 2009; Kawakami, Kobayashi, Araki, Haratani, & Furui, 1995; Li, Yang, Liu, Xu, & Choi, 2004; Mase et al., 2012; Nehzat, Huda, & Tajuddin, 2014). In a recent study, both exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis examined goodness of fit using the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation, finding the values indicate good (.08) to excellent (.05) fit (Santos, Carvalho, & de Araújo, 2016). Additionally, research analyzing the data using a Comparative Fit Index and Tucker-Lewis Index compared the hypothetic model with independent variables finding both indices vary from 0 to 1 and values were above .90, indicating adequate fit (Santos, et al., 2016). They also established composite reliability for each factor loading and respective measurement error at or above .70, indicating satisfactory internal consistency (Santos et al., 2016). Finally, research has demonstrated adequate performance in discriminant validity (Santos et al., 2016).

According to Karasek and colleagues (1998), the coefficients on each subscale indicate strong internal consistency: Demand (.71–.79), Control (.80–.84), and Supervisor and Coworker Support
(.72–.85). Additionally, the “internal consistency of the scales tend to be similar across populations and between men and women” (Karasek et al., 1998, p. 336). The Cronbach’s alphas coefficient for women is .73 and for men is .74, both within acceptable ranges (Karasek et al., 1998). Additionally, several studies support the reliability of the scale format we used in our study (Kawakami & Fujigaki, 1996; Kawakami et al., 1995).

CBI. The CBI (Lee et al., 2007) is a 20-item self-report instrument measuring counselor burnout. Respondents rate each item on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (never true) to 5 (always true). A distinguishing feature of the CBI is that it includes both personal and organizational factors in determining level of burnout, whereas the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) uses a model of burnout exclusive of organizational factors (Maslach, 1982; Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996, 1997). This is significant given that the literature indicates organizational factors, such as external demand on school counselor’s time spent on non-counseling duties (e.g., car duty, scheduling, test administration), as contributing to school counselor burnout (Baggerly & Osborn, 2006; Butler & Constantine, 2005; Culbreth et al., 2005; DeMato & Curcio, 2004; Falls & Nichter, 2007; Lambie, 2007; Mullen & Gutierrez, 2016; Rayle, 2006; Thompson & Powers, 1983; Wilkerson & Bellini, 2006).

The CBI developers established initial psychometrics using an exploratory factor analysis to evaluate construct validity and confirmed their findings with a second exploratory factor analysis. They identified five factors accounting for 66.9% of the total variance in school counselor burnout. Factor 1 is Negative Work Environment (NWE). This subscale includes items such as, “I feel frustrated with the system in my workplace,” thus measuring stress attributed to the work environment other than personal and interpersonal problems. Factor 2 is Devaluing Clients, which includes items such as, “I am no longer concerned about the welfare of my clients,” thus measuring a counselor’s challenges with connecting empathically with student clients. Factor 3 is Deterioration in Personal Life. This subscale includes items such as, “I feel I do not have enough time to spend with my friends,” thus measuring counselor’s perceptions of job-related stress on their personal life. Factor 4 is Exhaustion, including items such as, “Due to my job as a counselor I feel tired most of the time,” thus measuring physical and emotional exhaustion attributed to the job. Finally, Factor 5 is Incompetence. This subscale includes items such as, “I feel I am an incompetent counselor,” thus measuring the counselor’s self-perception of effectiveness on the job. Internal consistency of subscales is acceptable, ranging between .73 and .85 (Lee et al., 2007).
Initially, the instrument developers analyzed the psychometric properties of the CBI with two samples. Although not designed specifically to measure burnout among school counselors, the first sample of 258 counselors included 32.6% professional school counselors, and the second sample of 132 contained 43.2% professional school counselors (Lee et al., 2007, p. 144). Further, researchers validated the instrument with several counseling subspecialties, including school counselors (Lee et al., 2010; O’Sullivan & Bates, 2014). One study of the CBI with 272 school counselors using confirmatory factor analysis found the factor structure valid for use specifically with school counselors (Gnilka, Karpinski, & Smith, 2015). Additionally, test-retest reliability using a 6-week interval demonstrates strong reliability with subscale Cronbach alphas ranging from .72 to .85 (Lee et al., 2007). Finally, both concurrent validity (Lee et al., 2007; Wallace, Lee, & Lee, 2010) and discriminant validity (Lee et al., 2007; O’Sullivan & Bates, 2014; Puig et al., 2012) are well established.


Data Collection

Consistent with our approved protocol, we sent a survey link through Survey Monkey to all school counselor emails provided by the Texas Education Agency. We believe that school counselors suffering burnout are less likely to self-select without an additional incentive to participate because of the negative effects of burnout; therefore, they are more likely to be professionally disengaged. As such, we offered an incentive $50 gift certificate drawing for those choosing to participate and who provided their contact information at the end of the survey. According to Dillman (2014), the offer of an incentive is likely to improve the response rate and inclusion of participants that would not otherwise self-select to take the survey. After reading and agreeing to the consent document, participants completed an online survey comprised of the demographic questionnaire, the DCSQ, and the CBI.


Data Analysis
We downloaded the data from Survey Monkey to Excel and transferred it to SPSS. Once transferred, we eliminated any participants with missing data, leading to our final sample described above. We then conducted descriptive statistics including measures of central tendency, variability and dispersion, distributional shape, and histograms to evaluate normality, in order to ensure that the data collected is appropriate for the analysis conducted. After establishing that the data met the assumptions of normality, linearity, and homoscedasticity, we calculated the reliability coefficients for each of the instruments, namely the DCSQ and CBI, to evaluate their reliability. Once satisfied that each instrument demonstrated adequate reliability coefficients (.70 or higher), we conducted a Pearson’s product moment correlation to explore the relationships between the subscales for each instrument (Field, 2005). We examined the correlation matrix to evaluate evidence of multicollinearity, looking for correlations between two scales of .80 or higher. There were no subscales in the correlation matrix indicating multicollinearity.




The reliability of the DCSQ and CBI subscales is documented in Table 1, and the relationships between the subscales is documented in Table 2. The DCSQ Demand subscale indicated a significant relationship to each CBI subscale; however, only four of them are large enough to interpret. These included a significant positive relationship between the Demand subscale and the CBI Exhaustion subscale (r = .608, p < .01), the CBI Incompetence subscale (r = .297, p < .01), the CBI NWE subscale (r = .517, p < .01), and the CBI Deterioration in Personal Life subscale (r = .518, p < .01). Although low, the Demand subscale also demonstrated significant negative relationships to the DCSQ Coworker and Supervisor Support subscale (r = -.272, p < .01). Therefore, increases in external demands placed on school counselors will likely result in higher levels of exhaustion, feelings of incompetence, experience of their work environment as negative, and deterioration in their personal lives. However, with increasing levels of coworker and supervisory support, external demands may have less impact on school counselors.



Table 1


DCSQ Subscale Reliability


Subscale Cronbach’s Alpha Cronbach’s Alpha based on standardized items Number of Items
DCSQ Control .171 .145   9
DCSQ Demand .807 .813   9
DCSQ Coworker Support .828 .843   6
DCSQ Supervisor Support .891 .890   5
DCSQ Support .907 .909 11
CBI Exhaustion .895 .900   4
CBI Incompetence .730 .733   4
CBI Negative Work Environment .828 .827   4
CBI Devaluing Clients .743 .759   4
CBI Deterioration in Personal Life .837 .836   4




Table 2


Correlation Matrix (DCSQ and CBI Subscales)


Subscale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Control 1 -.246** .294** -.153** -.106* -.330** -.038 -.181**
2. Demand -.246** 1 -.272** .608** .297** .517** .142** .518**
3. Support .294** -.272** 1 -.224** -.166** -.646** -.221** -.252**
4. Exhaustion -.153** .608** -.224** 1 .430** .539** .161** .717**
5. Incompetence -.106* .297** -.166** .430** 1 .464** .409** .435**
6. new -.330** .517** -.646** .539** .464** 1 .314** .552**
7. Devaluing Clients -.038 .142** -.221** .161** .409** .314** 1 .277**
8. Deter in Pers Life -.181** .518** -.252** .717** .435** .552** .277** 1


Note. *p < .05 ** p < .01




The Control subscale demonstrated significant negative correlations with the Demand (r = -.246,
p < .01), Exhaustion (r = -.153, p = < .01), Incompetence (r = -.106, p < .05), and Deterioration in Personal Life (r = -1.81, p < .01) subscales, and demonstrated a significant positive relationship with Coworker and Supervisor Support (r = .294, p < .01). However, only the NWE subscale (r = -.330, p < .01) correlation is large enough to interpret, increased control being significantly negatively correlated with NWE. Although the other correlations are low, there may be interaction effects that warrant future exploration. Therefore, the data suggested that with increased control over how school counselors spend their time, they are impacted less by external demands. They also experienced lower levels of exhaustion, feelings of incompetence, and deterioration in their personal lives. Working in an NWE results in school counselors feeling they have significantly less control over their day-to-day work.


The DCSQ Coworker and Supervisor Support subscale was significantly negatively related to the Demand (r = -.272 p < .01), Exhaustion (r = -.224, p < .01), Incompetence (r = -.166, p < .01),  Devaluing Clients (r = -.221, p < .01), and Deterioration in Personal Life (r = -.252, p < .01) subscales. However, only the NWE subscale correlation was large enough to interpret (r = -.646, p < .01). The Coworker and Supervisor Support subscale is significantly positively related to Control (r = .294, p < .01). These data indicate that increased perceptions of support from coworkers and supervisors decrease school counselors’ negative experience of external demands on their day-to-day work. They also feel lower levels of exhaustion, incompetence, experiences of devaluing their students, and deterioration in their personal lives. Similar to the Control variable discussed above, experiences of coworker and supervisory support are perceived to be lower when school counselors experience their work environments as negative.


Discussion and Implications


Although this study was formulated to expand research regarding demographic variables related to school counselor burnout, they were not found to be significant (Holman et al., 2018). Therefore, the current study focused on exploring organizational variables that may contribute to SCBO. After evaluating the literature, we identified the variables of role ambiguity, role conflict, and assignment of non-counseling duties, which we operationalized using the DCSQ Demand subscale; coworker and supervisory support, which we operationalized using the DCSQ Support subscale; and the level of control school counselors perceive they have over their time and tasks, which we operationalized using the DCSQ Control subscale.


We utilized a correlation matrix to explore relationships between these variables and the subscales of the CBI, which is a valid and reliable measure of SCBO. Our findings indicated organizational variables including high external demands, such as assignment of non-counseling duties; experiencing the school as a negative place to work; and experiencing low levels of support from colleagues and supervisors resulted in high levels of exhaustion and contributed to burnout. These variables need further exploration in future research using a hierarchical multiple regression to analyze the amount of variance they contribute to SCBO. This can provide school counselor educators, supervisors, school administrators, and school counselors with valuable information on the best areas of focus for prevention and intervention activities.


External Demands

The Demand subscale consistently demonstrates the strongest correlations across the matrix. This subscale measures psychological work overload and job conflict that result from role ambiguity such as the assignment of non-counseling duties. Items included whether the job requires employees to “work fast” or “work hard,” perception of “no excessive work,” having “enough time” to complete tasks, experiencing “conflicting demands” or frequent “task interruption,” experiencing the job as “hectic,” or that they have to “wait on others” to complete their job (Karasek et al., 1998).


Research on school counselor role ambiguity supports work overload and job conflict as both antecedents and consequences of role ambiguity in cyclical fashion (Paisley & McMahon, 2001). Additionally, our previous research supports the likelihood of interactions between these constructs, indicating that the DCSQ Demand subscale measures the assignment of non-counseling duties due to role ambiguity, thus resulting in role conflict and work overload (Holman et al., 2019). Role ambiguity, role conflict, and work overload interact to contribute to SCBO (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018; Maslach, 1982; Selye, 1976).


Given these data, we recommend school counselor educators and supervisors consider integrating ways to manage psychological workload in their pedagogical development of emerging school counselors. In addition, we recommend school counseling professionals self-monitor levels of psychological workload in order to identify job stress early and intervene through being proactive in planning self-care activities and continually monitoring levels of job stress so that early intervention and remediation is possible. School counselor educators, supervisors, and school counselors also should consider methods for systematically educating stakeholders on the appropriate role of a school counselor and advocate for that role. One way to do so is to utilize data-driven methods such as needs assessments and both formative and summative program evaluation measures.


By engaging in data-driven practice, school counselors have the necessary tools to communicate their roles and their worth to important stakeholders. School counselors should be proactive in reporting results from formative and summative program evaluation to stakeholders. This is consistent with the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012); however, school counselors likely increase their burnout risk when they continue to wait for administrators to direct them in which activities they will perform. We recommend that school counselors take command of their role by approaching the job from a professional school counselor mindset that demonstrates their role through action, rather than waiting to respond to others’ perceptions of their role.


Coworker and Supervisory Support

     Perceiving higher levels of coworker and supervisory support has a significant inverse relationship with the level of external demands the school counselor experiences on the job. This likely makes sense when we consider that the demands most often prioritized by school counselors are those that come from supervisors. This is consistent with previous literature that found coworker and supervisory support mediates SCBO (Falls & Nichter, 2007). Although significant, the level is just under .3. Given that support is significantly related to a decrease in SCBO, it is important to include the variable in a future regression analysis; however, based on the small correlation, this variable is likely to account for less variance in SCBO than some may hypothesize. The largest relationship involving level of support is the fact that when school counselors perceive they have low levels of support, they experience their work settings in a negative light. It is difficult with this limited data to understand whether the low support results in feeling negative about the work environment or vice versa. This is an area for exploration in the future, as it could provide important information about potential prevention.


Potential Effects of SCBO

Our research suggests that having a negative experience of one’s school environment is very important because it negatively impacts school counselors’ levels of student engagement and competency on the job. Additionally, the data indicated that school counselors working in a negative school environment not only experience high levels of exhaustion but also demonstrate a significant deterioration in their personal lives. The seminal literature on burnout among professionals who are not school counselors has extensively documented the physical, psychological, and interpersonal effects of job stress and burnout (e.g., Maslach, 1982; Selye, 1976). Additionally, preliminary research on SCBO indicated that school counselors report similar negative physical and psychological experiences resulting from job stress (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018). These include developing high blood pressure, overeating, engaging in substance abuse, developing insomnia, and exacerbation of mental health issues related to mood disorders and anxiety (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman & Grubbs, 2018).


Our study supports this existing research that there is a positive relationship between deterioration in personal life and burnout. Given both anecdotal experiences and decades of research on stress and burnout, these results probably seem obvious. However, the impact of SCBO on school counselors’ personal and professional lives, and specifically on the schools and students they serve, needs further examination in research uniquely focused on these topics.


     Deterioration in personal life. If we value the professional school counselors who provide supportive services for our schools, students, teachers, and parents, we should be concerned with their well-being. Counselor educators, supervisors, and those stakeholders who advocate for support of school counselors must actively demonstrate the value we have for school counselors. As such, we recommend that school counselor educators and supervisors develop intentional educational advocacy activities to teach the myriad of stakeholders in our communities about the effective role of school counselors. We tend to do a good job through our professional organizations lobbying for funding for school counselors. However, we do not always adequately educate school administrators, specifically, on the appropriate roles for a school counselor and on how utilizing school counselors in these roles ultimately benefits the school’s mission of developing healthy, knowledgeable, and well-functioning members of society who contribute to a positive community climate.


     Professional incompetence. The Incompetence subscale utilized in our study was significantly related to experiencing low levels of control over time and tasks, and low levels of support. Responses also demonstrated significant relationships with feeling high levels of external demands on time, experiencing exhaustion, perceiving one’s school environment as negative, devaluation of students, and deterioration in their personal lives. Although professional school counselors in previous studies have indicated that they do not view themselves as incompetent, measured as low sense of personal accomplishment by the MBI (Butler & Constantine, 2005; Lambie, 2007; Wilkerson & Bellini, 2006), our findings demonstrated a positive relationship between feelings of incompetence and SCBO.


One potential reason might be that the CBI, as an alternative measure normed specifically on school counselors, may provide a more nuanced and accurate method for measuring this construct. However, future research should examine this, determining whether these findings warrant this conclusion. It is our belief that there is a complex interplay of factors not yet identified in the literature which may improve our understanding of this variable. Therefore, future research should examine the development of school counselor incompetence more closely to gain a better understanding of how it manifests among this population.


We believe another interpretation for conflicting results on reported levels of incompetence among school counselors is that they do not view themselves as incompetent or lacking professional ability. Rather, they view themselves as being externally prevented from using the counseling skills they have. This happens due to conflicting external demands involving assignment of non-counseling duties prioritized as more important than counseling-specific duties (Falls & Nichter, 2007; Holman et al., 2019).

Regardless, if using the CBI to monitor SCBO levels, high scores on the Incompetence subscale would suggest school counselors are experiencing professional impairment. As a result, they are at risk of unethical behavior that may cause harm to students and schools. These risks include developing compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma, developing mental health or substance abuse issues that may impact performance, or even engaging in boundary violations with students through inappropriate relationships. Thus, we recommend school counselor educators, supervisors, and school districts monitor this as a form of risk management through periodic surveys or regular supervisory sessions where directors of guidance and administrators can gather qualitative data about levels of job stress in school counselors’ experience. We argue that once high levels of incompetence develop, the counselor is likely experiencing burnout requiring significant intervention, which might include taking a sabbatical or supervisors counseling these impaired professionals out of the profession. We emphasize the importance of prevention and early intervention in order to avoid school counselors developing high levels of incompetence.


Limitations and Future Research


The current study has several potential limitations, including that self-report research may result in respondents answering based on social desirability, or they might exaggerate their experiences. However, most of our limitations stem primarily from the limited school counseling sample. For reliable generalization beyond the population of school counselors in Texas, future research needs to evaluate these variables with school counselors in other geographic areas. Doing so might reflect differences across the diverse population of school counselors. Similarly, Caucasian participants (81%) are overwhelmingly represented in our sample. Although this may be consistent with the population of Texas school counselors, the sample does not represent the total population of school counselors to which we wish to generalize. Therefore, future research should seek to develop more ethnically diverse samples when replicating this study.


In addition, almost half our sample (43%) were elementary school counselors; therefore, future researchers should examine differences between counselors in elementary, middle, and high school levels in relationship to these predictor variables, perhaps conducting separate studies with each level to determine how much variance demand, control, and supervision or support variables impact SCBO among each of these groups. This is particularly salient in light of concerns about role ambiguity and role conflict developing out of discrepancies between school counselor training and actual duties on the job. In fact, research indicates that training for school counselors on level-specific (elementary and secondary) issues and activities has decreased over time from 14% of programs in 2000 to 2% in 2010 (Pérusse, Goodnough, & Noël, 2001; Pérusse, Poynton, Parzych, & Goodnough, 2015). Further, Goodman-Scott (2015) found no significant differences in recently graduated school counselors regarding content of coursework preparing them for elementary versus secondary placements. In fact, research has indicated that counselor educators preparing school counselors for elementary school positions make pedagogical decisions (e.g., what material to teach in classes and what classes to offer) primarily due to external influences like licensure requirements and job openings, rather than developmental needs of emerging school counselors (Goodman-Scott, Watkinson, Martin, & Biles, 2016). Therefore, future research also might examine interaction effects between grade level training and actual duties in relationship to burnout.


Similarly, future researchers should examine differences between urban, suburban, and rural locations in relationship to the predictor variables measured in the current study, given that almost half the sample (47%) worked in suburban locations. Again, separate studies may provide better information about differences between location of the school and school counselors’ experiences regarding the impact of external demands, decision latitude (control), and levels of perceived support or supervision on development of SCBO, if any exist.


Over half of our sample (53%) had caseloads of 400 or more, which is larger than that recommended by the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012). Although this may be common across the country, we suggest future research test whether these high caseloads may interact with other variables to influence the developmental trajectory of job stress. Therefore, future research should examine school counselors’ caseloads as they interact with levels of external demands, decision latitude, supervision, and colleague support to gain a more nuanced understanding of how these variables interact to influence development of SCBO.


Finally, interaction effects between these variables and identification of potential mediating and moderating variables will provide nuance in our understanding of diverse developmental trajectories of SCBO. By further exploring these, we may identify improved methods of monitoring, prevention, and early intervention, which can all work to support and sustain quality school counselors.




This project was the next one in a series of systematic studies evaluating potential contributing variables suggested in the SCBO literature. Given the serious potential impact of burnout on sustaining school counselors and on potential competency issues discussed above, which could violate school counselors’ ethical duty to promote student welfare, it is crucial that we understand the development of burnout in this counselor population. Our exploration of demographic variables indicated none of these significantly relate to development of job stress and burnout for school counselors surveyed, contrary to suggestions in previous literature (Holman et al., 2018). However, the current study demonstrated several variables that do correlate with school counselor burnout.


Stakeholders who demonstrate a lack of understanding about the appropriate role and duties of school counselors should be aware of conflicting demands on counselors’ time that increase job stress. These include inappropriate duties such as substitute teaching, standardized test administration, master scheduling, and disciplining students. As a result, these counselors experience high levels of psychological stress and emotional exhaustion, consistent with the traditional model of burnout discussed in the literature. Stress and exhaustion have negative effects on counselors’ personal and professional lives. Their experiences of stress are further exacerbated when they experience low levels of support from coworkers and supervisors. The combination of low support with high demands and low control over decision making likely contributes to school counselors’ experiencing their school environment negatively. External demands, emotional exhaustion, deterioration in personal life, low support and supervision, and NWE are potential predictor variables that might contribute to development of school counselor burnout and need further evaluation in future research.


Due to the results of this and previous studies, we recommend school counselors take the following steps to reduce the negative effects of stress that can result in burnout. Counselors should intentionally pursue preventative self-care planning and continual monitoring of stress levels with early intervention and remediation when heightened stress is identified. Additionally, we recommend school counselors be conscientious about engaging in data-driven practice for self-advocacy with stakeholders in order to improve stakeholder awareness of appropriate school counseling activities. We recommend that counselor educators develop pedagogical supports and induction practices that might serve to inoculate emerging school counselors to the typical stressors experienced in this professional role. Finally, we recommend ongoing supports, including consultation, supervision, networking, and personal counseling, when necessary to help school counselors manage stress levels. Future research should develop a model of school counselor burnout and explore potential mediating variables and interaction effects between variables. Doing so can inform future prevention and intervention efforts.

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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Leigh Falls Holman is an assistant professor at the University of Memphis. Judith Nelson is an associate professor at Sam Houston State University. Richard Watts is a Distinguished Professor of Counseling at Sam Houston State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Leigh Falls Holman, CEPR, 100 Ball Hall Walker Ave., Memphis, TN 38152,

Counseling for the Training of Leaders and Leadership Development: A Commentary

Alfonso Barreto

Counseling is the instrument that empowers training and forges the development of leaders in their essential drive to inspire and guide others. As much a discipline and praxis as a professional practice, counseling increases consciousness and optimizes the management and synergy of human energy. This article addresses methods for sustaining leadership development via the leader as manager, educator and motivator.

Keywords: leadership, human energy, counseling, sustained development, discipline and praxis, synergy


Discipline and Praxis in Counseling


Human enhancement is the pure essence of counseling both as a discipline and a profession. As a discipline, counseling is based on education, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology and other human sciences. As a proactive professional practice, counseling works with the processes inherent to the development of personal potential with a view of strengthening and making its integral evolution more effective (Barreto,

2009; Vera, 2003).



Counselors are multidisciplinary professionals who offer their support in the development of individuals and groups regarding a constellation of subjects relative to their circumstances and commonalities (e.g.,

anxiety, depression, mental-emotional disorders, addictions, family issues, sexual abuse and domestic violence, absenteeism, vocational choice and career development, social maladjustment, grief, transitions in stages of

life) that usually cause stress in the development of the personality (Navare, 2008; Vera, 2003; Vera & Jiménez,




Vera (2006) reported that a fundamental goal of counseling services is the assistance to the individual in the task of becoming a person with optimal emotional and intellectual function, and with autonomy sufficient to take care of personal and community affairs in a suitable and effective form.


For Vera (2006), counseling is essentially a service for the enhancement of the individual based on a set of basic assumptions, including the following:


•     The development of the individual is cumulative and dynamic, and changes over time, although it is

considered that the early influences in life echo the experiences of the subsequent years.

•     The psychological representation of life events influences behavior more than the events themselves.

•     Personal development is generated when one maintains a consistent identity (internal limits and external clarity about self) and when responsibility is assumed to choose one’s own personal growth.

•     One has the freedom to choose the future from a wide range of possibilities.






•     Social behaviors are learned and can change with the learning process.

•     Personal development is a product in which interest is manifested in the cooperation with others in order to a common goal.

In consideration of these points, counseling is derived from a set of sub-disciplines and practices that allow one to address the different facets of life from various angles (e.g., social environment, stage of life, experiences) and is focused on an uplifting vision and a holistic understanding of the self (Barreto, 2009; Vera,

2004), as noted by the following:



•    Career counseling pertains to knowledge and methodologies that address the needs and challenges of individuals in the work/organizational environment. Career counseling specializes in work education, organizational and group dynamics, organizational philosophy, sociology and anthropology. Similarly, vocational counseling is the branch of counseling that addresses the needs and challenges in the processes of vocational choice, career planning, and development during the life cycle.

•     Academic counseling focuses on the academic environment and challenges in the personal-social development of students, teachers and the academic community.

•     Family counseling addresses the needs and challenges of the contemporary family, taking into account the sociocultural environment and the interests and expectations of family members.

•     Community mental health counseling engages in the design of programs and projects, addressing the diversities of the community environment for the sake of addressing and facilitating the progress of the communities in a harmonic and sustainable manner.

•     Gerontological counseling centers its activities on the needs and challenges of life in late adulthood, retirement and old age.

•     Addiction counseling is focused on support for individuals and groups regarding drugs and addictive substances, with the purpose of serving as an educator in the process of personal development.


Counseling works based on different scientific-humanistic frameworks without imposing models and patterns of understanding or assistance that restrict freedom, but cooperating and supporting the development of the potentialities of the person in order to stimulate autonomy and functionality throughout the life cycle, and in the sociocultural environment to which individuals belong (Barreto, 2009; Vera, 2004).


It also is important to mention that the counselors are able to cooperate with the development of the human ideal thanks to the development of certain basic therapeutic conditions and some fundamental capacities to obtain the convergence and harmonization of human energy. In Venezuela, and according to relevant literature, such capacities and conditions are denominated professional competencies for counseling including empathy, active communication, paraphrasing, verbal follow-up, comprehensive synthesis, feedback, reflection of contents, feelings and meanings, and confrontation. In this sense—and in agreement with Chang, Barrio Minton, Dixon, Myers, and Sweeney (2012)—counseling professionals have an advantage in identifying population indicators, selecting support methods, and improving the daily mode of life. In the same vein, leaders trained in counseling skills are in a better condition to understand, interact and respond to diverse situations of personal dynamics in the goals for which a leadership relationship has been established.


In effect, the attitudes, skills, and abilities with which the counseling professional is educated conform to a practical theory that can help train and develop responsible professionals and others who wish to facilitate the well-being of humankind: diplomats, police officers, professors, doctors, social workers, journalists, firefighters, and evidently, all types of leaders.




In this way, as demonstrated by the work that was developed by the Counselor Student’s Association at

Regis University (Colorado, U.S.) and stipulated by Osterlund and Mack (2011), diverse students who have

been able to participate in the programs of this association have harnessed their own style of leadership from the knowledge they have gained about themselves, and were able to better organize work teams, handle conflicts, recognize their weaknesses, and take advantage of their strengths. At the same time that these students improved their leadership skills, they also were able to forge closer relations with each other to mutually support their academic and professional development, even after the completion of their university studies.


In parallel, when the leader accepts a set of principles and exerts a praxis based on some attitudes that are

key to all counseling interventions, the leadership would be much less autocracy and more counseling. If leaders exert the praxis of leadership similar to how certain processes of consultation occur, in which the consultant

and consultee share responsibility during the support process in order to promote interpersonal relations, human development, socialization and mental health (Hansen, Himes, and Meier 1990), then the exercise of leadership would become sufficiently sensible and effective in order to reach its maximum potential. This potential harnesses the individual in its processes of improvement, development and search for well-being. In any case, leaders and counselors share a focus and professional interest in their daily activities including the effective management of human energy.


Leadership: An Interaction of Human Energy

The human phenomenon of “leadership” is one of the most studied, discussed and controversial, thus its

complexity, prospects for understanding, and variability of definitions. Barreto (2010) stipulates the following:



In academic circles, leadership is usually associated with status, certain skills, and power that some person has to influence others, innovate, and achieve objectives. Research is carried out constantly in order to clear up confusion and to diminish the lack of knowledge facing the needs and expectations generated around the topic. Also, a great number of books and writings are dedicated to offering prescriptions and formulas for people to exert effective leadership in their areas of expertise and social spaces.


In political, economic and community contexts, leadership is observed as a type of authority— one tied to power and related to the qualities of somebody that excels within a group, which addresses the leader as a set of subordinates, a mass, or lower-ranked followers. In the military field, it is that voice and presence of the leader that keeps alive the “fire” and the “mystical” in the troops when they are deployed to undertake the battles that will guarantee freedom, independence and sovereignty.


In the organizational area, it is presumed that the leadership is in management positions, and that the leader is the highest authority or president of the company. It is for this reason that the leader should shape and grow a set of general and technical skills in others who have management responsibilities, so they can assemble various work teams and reach objectives in an effective and efficient manner.


Additionally, for Baretto (2009), it is evident that leadership is a phenomenon of great attention as much for professionals as nonprofessionals, the young and not so young, experts and the not-so-expert. A social discipline even exists that exclusively approaches leadership as a phenomenon of change and transformation, referred

to as leaderology (Barreto, 2009). The term leadership comes from the indo-European word leit, meaning “to advance or to go forward.” Nowadays the concept of leadership is usually connected with terms like process, skill, influence, ability, quality and power. (Barreto, 2009).





It is important to note that most of these attributions of leadership emerge from the perspective of the leader. However, in making a new judgment on what can be considered to be leadership, it is necessary to understand that it also involves people who are non-leaders—that is, those who are led. A leader is not leader if he does not have the led; this means that leaders and the led are interdependent (Barreto, 2009. The term led is preferred, instead of followers or subordinates, since led serves the intent to increase participation, autonomy, achievement, equality, responsibility and fairness, whereas the other terms imply fascination, oppression, disability, domination, submission and inferiority.


In this sense, and according to Barreto (2009), Freire (2005), Heider (2004) and Ingenieros (2002), the led are at the other end of leadership; they complement the leader, and articulate and execute transformation and

re-engineering. While the leader can serve as a guide and helmsman, the led have the force of the propeller. The led are the reason for the leader. Therefore, leadership is an interaction between the leader and the led, conditioned by the skills, qualities, processes, abilities, characteristics and interests of both parties; where reciprocal influences exist, leaders seek to open and develop the processes of growth and improvement for themselves based on a clear vision and concrete objectives.


As noted by Barreto (2009), each person is a source of energy; adding together all the energies present in a group (family, society, organizations, and work teams) will produce a whole set of emotions, abilities, talents, skills, potentialities, wishes, psyches, bodies, souls and spirits that must be inexorably well-managed to ensure maximum well-being.


Consequently, one should consider leadership as an interaction of human energy that wishes to be

developed and prosper. Human energy is the intelligent and rational force that promotes the transformations and re-engineering. Not only is it a physical energy, it is also a mental, emotional and spiritual energy. Before this redefinition of leadership as an interaction of human energy with the intention to prosper and to perfect, and thanks to the principles assumed in counseling, the leader must be construed as a Manager (M), Educator (E) and Motivator (M) able to manage knowledge, clarify objectives, establish effective communications, evaluate various scenarios and risks, make decisions, and manage changes (Barreto, 2009).


The MEM Leader: Manager, Educator and Motivator

First, it is imperative to clarify that the leader is neither the head nor the patron, nor is the leader necessarily one that is being followed by a group or somebody who holds a managerial or executive position. Leadership is arguably more than that. A leader is a stimulator, guide and protector of human energy (Barreto, 2009).


Ontologically, the leader is a person with an unquestionable ecological sense of the human being, and perhaps for that reason the leader is somebody who revives and renews the concepts of “hope” and “prosperity” that are necessary for the human being to transform with enthusiasm and willingness. For that reason, each leader must be somebody with a set of characteristics, skills, abilities, qualities and talents that allow the leader to initiate and pursue the complex network of processes that comprise the interaction of human energy.


For Barreto (2009, 2010), a leader does not have to be a dichotomous person, nor is a leader simple product of a juxtaposition of characteristics, skills or behaviors. The leader is a triune: a holistic combination of a manager, an educator and a motivator.


A manager has the distinction of converging action toward an objective where energies are put in active tension to obtain an expected end. A manager-leader is responsible for the achievement of goals and objectives




that have a pattern of criteria and a clear philosophy of management and human development (Barreto, 2009; Sennewald, 1985).


An educator is an artist who can enable others to function in social life (Ingenieros, 2002), enhances intelligence, increases the power of the thought, and promotes the intrinsic skills of others to confront the challenges of life.


The true educator-leader assumes a pedagogical and liberating psychology, instead of allowing the dislocated epidemiological processes in which the only thing that happens is the adaptation of the person to the surroundings. On the contrary, the leader stimulates the germination of the critical-reflective competencies that allow both the led and the leader not only adapt to the reality of the surroundings but also to reinterpret it, to re- engineer it, and to transform it (Barreto, 2009, 2012a, 2012b; Freire, 2005).


The motivator mobilizes, encourages, dissuades and makes human energy flow. The leader as a motivator keeps the positive tension active in the group. This motivator-leader creates an energetic climate so that the led enrich it with their activity and enthusiastic participation. The leader is a positive energizer in the group, who does not assail the group, expend its energy, or  impose his motivation per se; rather, a leader resonates

in the led and allows their intrinsic motivational energies to increase and articulate themselves (Barreto, 2009; Goleman, 2006; Heider, 2004).


The MEM leader, as illustrated in Figure 1, drives a practice of participatory, enthusiastic, critical and sustainable leadership. The leader has the conditions to understand and to magnetize the led, and they in response are integrated, and complement and execute the transformations with conscience synergy (Barreto,

2009, 2010).


Consciousness is associated with mental and emotional clarity, capacity to be empathic, ability to handle knowledge with intuitive clarity, and—over and above this—a superior understanding of the connection between all beings and elements (Chatterjee, 2007; Freire, 2005; Goleman, 2006; Heider, 2004). Synergy is the pace of sustained development; it is the cohesive integration of the parts of a system; it is the understanding and connection between the parts of a whole, making the final result of the system superior to the simple sum of the individual efforts that comprise it (Barreto, 2009, 2010). Synergy is the antithesis of entropy.


In thermodynamics, entropy is the property that marks the loss of interrelation between the parts of a system (existing disorder), which eventually leads to decay and obsolescence. A leader avoids entropy for the sake of maintaining harmonic, efficient and effective growth (Barreto 2009, 2010). While synergy is the union of energies, entropy is the dissipation of energy. Synergy makes efficient and effective use of energy; entropy wastes and exhausts energy.


Counseling for the Training of Leaders and the Development of Leadership


At the present time, university programs in counseling are becoming more focused in developing the skills of leadership in the students (Wolf, 2011). This indicates that the competencies and abilities of leaders and counselors are becoming more similar. Therefore, leaders learn more about harnessing particular realities (e.g., culture, gender, political position, spirituality, social sphere), and counselors direct their skills toward the management of human energy.


The training of counselors is not a simple task inasmuch as the professional work of counselors is

based on the human processes of the person. Hence, the aspiring counselor requires a deliberate and intense personal effort in the intellectual and emotional areas, and in the performance in the task of acquiring the competencies for the ideal practice of counseling (Vera, 2003). Similarly, for the training of leaders, a coordinated and deliberate effort is indispensable in order to provoke the awakening of one’s talents and to be able to develop a versatile and heuristic leader: a MEM leader.


Patterson (1999, cited in Vera, 2003) notes, for example, that empathic understanding, unconditional acceptance, and congruence must be promoted and encouraged throughout the training program because such conditions are not techniques or strategies, but attitudes that must harnessed in the person during training and not from the outside. Therefore, the training of leaders as managers, educators and motivators of human energy, can be based on the principles of constructive pedagogy of counseling that according to Vera (2003), allow counseling students to do the following:


•     Become a professional of excellence (independent, flexible, reflective and critical).

•     Assume a notion of life full of possibilities, not restricted to a single path or single way to be.

•     Develop attitudes of understanding, deconstruction and transformation of the status quo.

•     Recognize and to promote the integrated development of individual personalities framed in a sociocultural context.





Thus, it could be argued that counseling can provide knowledge that increases versatility in the training of a MEM leader (manager, educator and motivator) and in the development of leadership in communities, organizations, associations, and families, as well as circumstances in the life cycle of people including childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle age and old age, providing the conditions for


•     raising and promoting the construction of paradigms that allow for the establishment of spaces for reflective understanding and fraternal human encounter;

•     facilitating the establishment of effective mechanisms and processes of communication and management of knowledge;

•     increasing the critical, independent and sovereign sense of the led with the purpose of stimulating responsibility to make decisions, evaluate actions, and increase participation as builders of a collective vision;

•     harnessing the skills of the leader and the led to reinterpret and surpass daily challenges; and

•     promoting the development of individual virtues that serve to optimize and enrich collective skills in an integrated way.



Final Comments


Leadership is an interaction of human energy that it has as its main attribute the development of the processes of growth and improvement for those who conform to it: the leader and the led. Human energy is an intelligent and rational force that promotes and realizes transformations and re-engineering. The leader, consequently, is the focal point of the energies that characterize the group, and must be seen as the manager who clarifies objectives and articulates the resources; as the educator who empowers

and intelligently nourishes human energy; as the motivator that maintains enthusiasm and vigor in the activities of growth and progress: the MEM leader (Barreto, 2009, 2010).


Counseling is a discipline and professional practice defined fundamentally by its uplifting nature of human energy, and by an understanding that people must harness their skills and form their attitudes. The counselor becomes a formidable ally for MEM leader both in its training as well as in its exercise, in providing a thorough understanding of the diverse facets of human life in its different angles with

an enhanced vision and a holistic understanding of people, and in forging a set of key attitudes such as empathy and unconditional acceptance (Barreto, 2009; Vera, 2004).


It is worth reflecting on how many hidden talented leaders might exist in society, who by not considering the systems of counseling lose their methods to make humanity more human; it is worth reflecting on how many leaders in the world are—without knowing it—damaging a human being because they do not use the concepts of the basic principles of human relationships used by counselors, or also how many leaders are not able to manage intelligently, to educate humanely, or to motivate the led in a sustainable manner.





Counselors’ unique training contributes to their being effective leaders in a wide variety of contexts (Paradise, Ceballos, and Hall, 2010).Counseling skills maximize the power of the leader to manage, to educate, and to motivate with synergy and consciousness, rendering human well-being more viable in the life cycle, consequently making the counselor-leader the engineer of sustained human development.












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Alfonso Barreto is a Development Analyst in Talents and Specialists (PDVSA – Management AIT). Correspondence can be addressed to Alfonso Barreto, Av. 33A, Calle 100, Terrazas de Sabaneta, Maracaibo-Venezuela, Sur América,