Cover Stories

What the future holds for the counseling profession

Compiled by Lynne Shallcross March 1, 2012

The future might be anyone’s guess, but David Pearce Snyder has spent his career making calculated predictions about what looms ahead. Snyder, a Bethesda, Md.-based consulting futurist who says he consults on the long-term future of anyone and anything, has a few ideas about what’s in store for the counseling profession throughout the next decade.

Snyder, who is also a contributing editor to The Futurist, the bimonthly magazine of the World Future Society, predicts that by 2020, everyone will be chatting with — not just through — their computers. The significance for counselors, he says, is that computers will be loaded with software enabling the machines to answer their owners’ questions — including questions that people today often go to see a counselor to discuss.

Instead of a live counselor being the first stop for someone with mental health, career, relationship or other issues, Snyder believes that person will initially ask the personal avatar “counselor” on his or her computer for feedback and advice. The personal avatar counselor will be stocked full of good health information, so it will offer constructive and helpful advice, according to Snyder. If the artificial counselor assesses that the person has a problem beyond the scope of assistance the computer can offer, it will recommend that the person see a real counselor. “The artificial counselor becomes the first line of defense,” Snyder says.

On the surface, that prediction sounds disturbing, as if advancing technology might threaten to make the counseling profession obsolete. But Snyder contends that artificial counselors will become crucial to the profession because there simply won’t be enough human counselors to meet the growing demand as the world becomes more complex and everyday life is filled with increasingly challenging problems and decisions. “More people will need help in making decisions about their lives,” he says. “Therefore, I believe the function of counseling will become increasingly important.”

As someone outside the profession, Snyder has an interesting perspective on the future of counseling. For an “inside” perspective, Counseling Today also approached a number of leaders in the field and asked them to share their thoughts (in their own words) on the next decade of counseling. As the American Counseling Association celebrates its 60th year as an organization, these counselors offer projections concerning the trends, issues, challenges and successes that might await the profession in the relatively near future.


Bradley T. Erford
is past president of the American Counseling Association and a professor at Loyola University Maryland. Contact him at berford@loyola.edu.

As I look into my clouded crystal ball to predict the direction of the counseling profession over the next decade, I realize that even though the profession of counseling is more than 100 years old and ACA is celebrating its 60th birthday, counseling as a profession is just coming into its own in terms of parity and respect among peer professions, legislators and the public. We have achieved licensure in every state, but there are over 40 different titles for professional counselor licensees and trainees. How can we expect the public to understand who counselors are and what counselors do when we do not even agree on what to call ourselves?

Developing a unified profession and helping promote a core identity as a counselor first and specialty area second is the preeminent professional challenge of the next decade. To address this challenge, accreditation of counselor education programs and credentialing/licensing of counselors will become even more important. Imagine how easy it would be to advocate for the counseling profession and protect the public if every counselor education program in the United States was accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs; imagine if every graduating counselor attained the credentials of National Certified Counselor and state licensure that was recognized and portable within all U.S. states and territories; imagine if every state licensure board required its licensees to graduate from a CACREP-accredited program and attain the same supervision, experience and examination requirements. Such goals of standardization would simplify immensely our task of protecting the public, advocating for the counseling profession and solidifying a unified professional identity.

Perhaps the biggest threat to professional unity comes from within. Like many of you, I have worked with children, adolescents and their families in schools, provided mental health services to youths and families in private practice, and educated and trained the next generation of counselors in my current work in the university. While each of these positions was referred to by a different title (school counselor, licensed professional counselor, counselor educator), first and foremost I have always been a professional counselor! I happened to work in various settings performing various roles, but at my core, I have always been a professional counselor. Some divisive individuals currently stand opposed to the unity of the profession to which we have dedicated ourselves. These individuals place their political and personal agendas above the common interest of the counseling profession under the guise of counseling specializations. When we go to legislators to advocate for the counseling profession, we must speak with a single voice in order for that voice to be clearly heard and present a single vision for our goals to become realized. Other professionals, such as physicians, dentists, social workers and psychologists, realized this simple truth long ago and have become strong, respected advocates for their professions and the public.

Counseling has gone global. Governments around the world have recognized the importance of mental health and wellness. As a result, numerous counseling organizations have sprung up in nations around the globe looking for guidance related to accreditation, credentialing and organization-building. CACREP is helping to fill the accreditation need by introducing the International Registry of Counsellor Education Programs, which promotes high professional standards sensitive to the cultural and economic realities of international counseling. NBCC International is currently providing support to more than two dozen countries developing credentialing processes and in need of organizational support. At ACA, we are developing ways to encourage and make affordable international membership, and some international members have proposed development of an organizational affiliate or division focused on international counseling. We all share the goal of helping counselors in other countries build a strong, vibrant profession — and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes we have made in the United States.

Finally, as professional counselors, we need to firm up the scientific foundations of counseling effectiveness. There are over 400 published counseling theories, but the outcome literature only supports use of a small fraction of these helping approaches and only for limited developmental and clinical applications. Counseling researchers and journal editorial boards need to substantially increase efforts to validate counseling practices and assess counseling outcomes. It is far easier to advocate for the counseling profession with legislators and public policy administrators when armed with overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of our services. ACA’s new Center for Research and Public Policy was created to focus our efforts on achieving this goal.

Barbara Herlihy is a university research professor in the counselor education program at the University of New Orleans, chair of ACA’s International Committee and chair of the ACA Foundation. Contact her at bherlihy@uno.edu.

Technology is changing our world at an astonishing pace. When I stepped into the 21st century just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that my phone would keep me connected to the world in thousands of ways, limited only by my number of “apps.” Next year, I’ll probably laugh that I thought a smartphone was innovative. That said, my predictions about the future start with the truth of a cliché — technology truly has transformed our planet into a global village. We cannot be unaware of the disparities in power and privilege that exist between and among peoples. Therefore, it seems likely that the social justice movement in the counseling profession will continue to gain strength and will become increasingly international in focus.

How will these changes impact counseling theory? In our upcoming book, Counseling as a Profession: Our Past, Present and Possible Future, Sam Gladding, Courtland Lee and I suggest that our profession will need to move away from existing theories that focus on individuals, couples and families and instead embrace systemic theories that address social ills and foster healing on a global level. Of existing theories, the multicultural and feminist approaches seem to hold the greatest potential for addressing these goals and may see increased acceptance and practice.

Most predictions about counseling theory have taken a narrower focus on the deep entrenchment in our society of the medical model and managed care, as well as our growing dependence on psychotropic medications. Thus, predictions are that brief-term, evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral approaches will dominate the future of mental health care. We believe that if counselors acquiesce to this status quo, we will contribute to the demise of our profession by rendering ourselves superfluous in a field already crowded with practitioners of the medical model. If, however, we can unite behind our identity as a profession that is uniquely strengths-based, holistic and grounded in the wellness model, we have the potential to turn the tide.

Another societal trend worth noting is that, due to advances in medical technology, people are living longer and our aging population is growing. In the future, we will need theories that respond to the needs of elders by addressing spiritual dimensions of living and existential issues such as isolation, meaning and death. But really, who knows what the future will bring for counseling theory? An unforeseen, entirely new paradigm may emerge that challenges all of our current assumptions.

Kurt L. Kraus is the facilitator of the “20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling” initiative and a professor in the Department of Counseling and College Student Personnel at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Contact him at klkrau@ship.edu.

Likely, the next 10 years for the profession will surprise us. Predictions, especially about society in our tumultuous era, are probably best left to futurists who carefully analyze trends and foreseeable forces. Luckily though, actual change will come shaped by collective thinking, the complex evaluation of our profession’s purpose and efficacy, the goodness of fit between our achievements and the challenges the profession will find itself tasked to fulfill and, not least, the degree to which our current and emerging leaders and the visionaries of our profession nurture our own development, unity and growth.

I envision in a simile of identity development that our profession is reaching its early adulthood. The challenges encountered and overcome of our individuation — our adolescence perhaps — have given way to autonomy, recognition and professional fidelity, demonstrated in part by licensure across the nation, a burgeoning national and international counseling workforce, and our clearer and solidifying professional sense of self. Turf, semantic impasses and separatist ideologies of our adolescence wane. Our vision is emerging. We have authored a common definition of counseling and defined guiding principles [as part of the 20/20 initiative], and we begin these next years with ample room and welcome for a grand diversity of practitioners, specializations and missions.

Global politics and economies; technological advances and their consequences; the jeopardy of nationalism and other rampant isms; worry about the Earth’s finite resources and adapting to a warmer planet; the coming of age of generations with beautifully different goals and priorities than [were held by] their parents and grandparents — all will inevitably influence what we do this decade. We as a profession will be propelled in new directions by genomic discoveries and the neurosciences. An expanding embrace of world medicine and health practices coupled with redefinition of health care and service delivery in America will shape us. We, too, are a potent force as we adapt to local and world change. I believe that our profession will be vital in global efforts to raise the quality of life and in providing mental health care to serve our 7.5 billion neighbors by 2022 (U.N. projection). I think our profession will directly influence the emergence of new archetypes for what constitutes education, careers, families, societies, healthy human development across the life span, empathy, philanthropy and happiness.

What will tomorrow’s arrival offer and require of our profession? Our development as a unified profession has been courageous, motivated by compassion and fairness and guided by science and ethics. I am confident we are poised and ready to welcome the next 10 years and beyond. I’ve always been fond of surprises.

S. Kent Butler is an associate professor at the University of Central Florida and president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development. Contact him at skbutler@ucf.edu.

Technology, technology, technology. Excuse me … did I remember to add technology? And we counselors, counselor educators and all concerned professionals involved in the counseling world had better get ready for the transition. I know that I went kicking and screaming into even owning a BlackBerry many years ago, and now I can’t seem to get away from my iPhone. As we journey more into the world of Skype, Facebook and other social media, we counselors have to learn to keep up with the Joneses as it were. Those of us who buck the system will be left behind. We have to meet our clients where they are, and it seems they want to be deeper into the 21st century. Think of the host of problems all of these new technologies will bring to the counseling office. We definitely need to be prepared!

How will these continually evolving trends affect us? How must counseling theories be adapted or even newly created to ensure that our clients’ needs are being met? With this new, innovative, oft-confusing technology comes new ethical concerns, new ways to reach out to our clients and definitely new issues that may need to have culturally sensitive and social justice-minded individuals ensuring that our clients are presented with the very best. Our personal best! Best “evidenced-based” practices have to be at the forefront of our discussions and research. Counselor education programs need to be able to ensure that their curriculums follow a pedagogy that embraces online counseling and supervision. These programs need to start really accepting online counseling programs, which are often seen as foes (come to think of it, I’m still kind of kicking and screaming even as I type this). Traditional programs need to acknowledge the next wave and find ways to attract students who are looking to the future.

We cannot allow ourselves to fall behind on this newfangled phenomenon. Seriously consider the challenges our profession is facing today. We are currently in a battle to define our profession (i.e., “20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling”). Technology will definitely be front and center within this fight. As we head to Washington and deal with the bureaucrats on the Hill, I am sure that how the world is evolving will be on their agenda. Definitions and portability issues aside, we need our two-minute elevator talking points for how we see ourselves technologically in this ever-changing society as well — and you surely don’t want to lose out in this battle to social workers, psychologists and coaches.

I’m game! Are you? Email me. Heck, FaceTime me … I will pull out my iPhone and chat with you for a minute.

Allen E. Ivey is a distinguished university professor (emeritus) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Contact him at allenivey@gmail.com.

There likely will be many new ideas to inform our research, theory and practice, but neuroscience will be at the forefront of what happens to us in the next 10 years.

Counseling changes the brain. The major conceptual, theoretical and practical breakthrough will be the recognition and incorporation of neuroscience into our counseling practice and research. Counseling colleagues are already applying neuroscience principles as they conduct both counseling and research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In interviewing practice, I constantly maintain awareness of the client’s attentional patterns and what likely is occurring in the brain. Relationship and empathic understanding have become even more important. Research demonstrates that high points of client/counselor empathy show in parallel movements on an fMRI.

Wellness and positive psychology will become more central. I’ve always taken a positive approach to the field, but I understand better [now] why and how a strength-based approach builds new neural networks and reinforces positive emotions (associated primarily with the frontal cortex). This even increases the size of the seat of memory, the hippocampus. The positive wellness approach combats and can overcome our protective but also negative emotions of sad, mad and fear.

It is fascinating to discover new scientific foundations for what we counselors have been doing since the beginning. But neuroscience adds to and clarifies what works and makes a difference for our clients. I behave much the same in my own interviewing, but now I am much better at knowing what I am doing and what is likely to happen with the client as a result of the relationship and my interventions.

Biological foundations and curriculum change: CACREP has set the foundation with their new standard that emphasizes bringing biological foundations into our training. At the moment, our field still operates from a “theory of choice” framework, which tends to focus on remediation and a problem-focused approach. Neuroscience leads us more to a positive, preventive approach. For social justice advocates, there is now substantial research that shows that poverty, abuse and oppression lead to less gray matter in the brain, less effectiveness in schools and a lifetime of continuing negative patterns.

On the positive side, wellness assessment and developmental life planning will become central. Less time is likely to be given to abstract theorizing. Stress management will become even more important [because] it provides us with ways to prevent damaging cortisol from entering the brain. It is clear that exercise, nutrition and meditation now are required areas of expertise for all counselors and therapists.

Casey A. Barrio Minton is an associate professor and counseling program coordinator at the University of North Texas and president of Chi Sigma Iota International. Contact her at casey.barrio@unt.edu.

I expect the counseling profession will continue its journey from adolescence to adulthood as we join together to respond to three major demands over the next decade.

  • Accountability: Our educational, governmental and human service institutions have entered the age of accountability. We know we have an ethical responsibility to provide our publics with the most effective and efficient services possible. Unfortunately, we sometimes remain silent as others define evidence-based services for professional counselors or limit us to externally defined types of services or numbers of sessions. In the next decade, I believe we will continue to realize the vital role of rigorous, socially valid research and intentional advocacy regarding professional counseling. As we do so, we will emerge with a stronger understanding of what works in professional counseling practice and education and, in turn, a more meaningful integration of evidence-based practices across counseling settings.
  • Understanding: We have long sought to identify indicators of mental health, and our profession is founded upon a well-developed understanding of holistic wellness. In the next decade, I expect we will develop a more sophisticated understanding of complex connections [between] mental health and a variety of factors such as neurobiology, spirituality, environment and culture. As we understand these influences, our approaches to counseling — including research regarding evidence-based practice and engagement in interdisciplinary cooperation — will need to evolve accordingly.
  • Identity: Demands for greater accountability and enhanced understanding will provide an opportunity for professional counselors to realize our potential as agents of optimal growth and wellness. To respond effectively, we will need to continue to cultivate a collective professional identity regarding who we are, what we do and where, when, why and how we serve. Such solidarity will help us to move forward in our efforts regarding licensure portability, expectation for accreditation, public awareness and advocacy, and interdisciplinary participation.

Manivong J. Ratts is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology at Seattle University and president of Counselors for Social Justice. Contact him at vong@seattleu.edu.

The future of the counseling profession has the potential to be bright. As we consider the profession’s future, it is important that we continue to integrate the needs of the oppressed into emerging counseling theories, training paradigms and clinical practices. We need multiculturalism and social justice to become integral to everything that we do as helping professionals. Both multiculturalism and social justice need to become generic “forces” in the field if we are serious about addressing the issues of culturally diverse clients. To this end, we need to discard old ways of thinking and not become complacent by settling for the status quo of [what is comfortable].

Unfortunately, we have become too comfortable with the social order of things in counseling. We have developed what I refer to as an “additive approach” to helping that does not fully address the needs of culturally diverse clients. An additive approach to counseling is when we integrate multicultural and social justice into predominant counseling theories and ways of practicing without changing the core structure of an existing theory or practice. On the surface, it seems as if we have continued to evolve with the changing needs of society. However, the central tenets of the theory or practice remain the same. This is problematic because we continue to promote paradigms and practices that do not fully address the issues of culturally diverse clients.

A sense of urgency is needed because the consequences are dire. For instance, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are struggling in America’s school system because school staff are ill equipped to respond to a culture of anti-gay sentiment on school campuses. Youth of color and the poor are receiving a K-12 education that our legislators would not want for their own children, yet they (youth of color and the poor) are expected to compete for the same resources (college admissions, jobs, health care, etc.) upon graduation. Predominant counseling theories and practices are not addressing these issues.

The viability of the profession is dependent on our ability to take risks and think differently. We need to stop recreating existing models and practices. For this to occur, we need to admit students into counselor training programs and hire faculty who are unafraid of standing up to the status quo. We need people who will “walk the talk” rather than people who “talk the walk.” We need people who will make us uncomfortable. We need people who identify as social change agents within the profession.

Don W. Locke is president of ACA and dean of the School of Education at Mississippi College. Contact him at locke@mc.edu.

Don W. LockeThe next decade will be exciting for the profession of counseling as we try to maintain the momentum of the past and face the unknown future. In my opinion, we have a variety of needs, challenges and opportunities. There is the two-pronged effort to secure professional unity (as counselors with areas of specialization continue to expand) and to meet the increasing pressure for portability of professional licensure between states. A new challenge is the increased use of technology, cybercounseling and virtual reality. An area of opportunity is the specialization and clinical training that will be provided at the doctoral level for practicing licensed counselors.

If we are to sustain the progress made with implementation of accreditation, licensure and credentialing, it will be necessary to ensure that professional counselors do not splinter by specialization into competitive groups and become adversaries for licensure, payment or clients. The next decade must be one of professional unity and a focus on license portability.

The possibilities presented to professional counselors by the use of technology are, to me, mind-staggering. I cannot envision where we will be in a year, much less a decade from now. There must be the development of ethical guidelines related to the use of technology, accelerated training for current students and annual professional development opportunities for practicing counselors. The prospect of using virtual reality during practicum and internships is already being explored. I have also been contacted by an ACA member who wants to form an interest group concerning the prospect of using virtual reality in therapeutic situations, especially as it pertains to the treatment of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and phobia. I am sure there are additional virtual applications being proposed for a variety of situations. The counseling profession must move quickly to be prepared for the technology-oriented future facing our clients and us.

More professionals will be pursuing the Doctorate of Professional Counseling (DPC). It is anticipated that the programs of study chosen by DPC candidates will provide them with opportunities to select areas of additional training so they can better serve specific client needs. I anticipate that this counselor training model, which recently became available and that prepares candidates for licensure at the master’s level and then specialization at the doctoral level, will expand significantly during the next decade.

Professional counseling has become respected as a viable mental health provider. The next decade will determine if that level of respect is maintained.

Thelma Duffey is president-elect of the American Counseling Association, a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the founding president of the Association for Creativity in Counseling. She also works in private practice in San Antonio. Contact her at thelma.duffey@utsa.edu.

School bullying has long been a difficult experience for children. In fact, some of the more painful childhood memories reported by some adults involve being made fun of, left out or otherwise bullied by their peers. Bullies sneer, mock, intimidate and often involve others to normalize their actions. And today, children have an even greater burden to manage: Internet bullying. People no longer have to look their victim in the eye when bullying. They can simply post a hurtful message, mean-spirited blog or compromising photo. Unfortunately, we know the consequences of bullying. And we know that bullying doesn’t end in childhood.

The experiences of hurt and humiliation are very real societal concerns regardless of age. I can see counseling in the next decade increasing its focus on relational development: supporting realistic self-examination/care and finding innovative ways to promote genuine concern for one’s impact on others. The hope would be that an increased focus on relational competencies could have a productive ripple effect [over] time.

On a practical level, I believe the economy is a significant stressor for many people who find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. They experience stress, seek out services and then have a hard time paying for them — leading to more stress. Exploring creative ways to provide innovative, meaningful and cost-efficient counseling services is becoming increasingly important. A hybrid of face-to-face and online counseling could be one possibility.

As to where the profession heads in the coming decade, the brain will be an emerging area of interest. There is a plethora of information currently available on the neuroplasticity of the brain. I see this as exciting, cutting-edge work that could have a tremendous impact on our profession on so many levels. Still, this work is relatively new and ripe for investigation. I believe rigorous research that examines creative, innovative ways of regulating the brain to perform more optimally would be a wonderful next step in the profession of counseling. In the next decade, we may see important work related to addressing common counseling concerns such as depression, anxiety and addiction through brain regulation.

As far as emerging counseling theories, I see relational-cultural theory (RCT) as particularly relevant because it supports the counseling profession’s focus on wellness and mental health, particularly when conceptualizing people’s life experiences and their responses to these experiences. Using the language of connection, disconnection, development and context, I believe RCT has much to offer the counseling professional in the next decade.

Thomas Sweeney is a professor emeritus of counselor education at Ohio University and executive director of Chi Sigma Iota. He is also a past president of ACA. Contact him at tjsweeney@csi-net.org.

I believe our society is showing clear signs of embracing a more holistic, wellness perspective on well-being. This is being embraced not so much on a philosophical but [an] economic basis. It has always made more sense (no pun intended) to prevent illness, accidents and lifestyle disasters. Increasingly, government, business and industry are aware that life stress, physical inactivity and poor environmental conditions are creating huge repercussions in health care costs. Prevention is smart business, and happy, healthy workers and citizens even more so.

In addition, education is increasingly seen as an economic necessity. Some say that we are no longer world leaders in education. Our economy is suffering as a consequence. The global economy requires us to have competent, flexible workers who adapt to the changes driven by circumstances beyond our borders.

Professional counselors’ competencies in career, group and wellness counseling are unique to their core preparation. Integral to these skills are knowledge and competencies suited to a diverse and culturally rich global society. There will be even greater need for our interpersonal, group and multicultural competencies to help facilitate change in all work and social settings.

In addition, we are currently witnessing a revolution in how we can help those we serve. School counselors are now introducing children to biofeedback computer-based software programs. Such programs help children reduce their test anxiety, learn more effectively and experience self-efficacy with fun-based exercises that translate into classroom, social and learning benefits.

We are also on the cusp of a revolution in delivery of services that never seemed possible before counselor credentialing. While in its infancy in counselor education, neurofeedback for use with children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and adults with anxiety and depression disorders has already begun. Licensed professional counselors are providing such services, sometimes even collaborating with physicians to help reduce and, in some cases, eliminate dependence upon drugs to regulate the body’s and brain’s imperfections.

The major trends in society will not be what drive the future of counseling practice, however. It will be determined more by how professional counselors educate others as to who we are and how we contribute to the realization of a healthy society by fostering wellness and human dignity. [To paraphrase what a U.S. government mental health director] told us in 1990, if you are a “group of groups,” I do not need to listen to you. If you are as one group, now that I have to hear!

Summer M. Reiner is an assistant professor of counselor education and the school counseling coordinator at the College at Brockport. She also chairs the ACA Ethics Appeal Panel. Contact her at sreiner@brockport.edu.

As a profession, I think we are beginning to thrive. Recently, we achieved licensure in all 50 states and gained recognition by the [Department of Veterans Affairs]. There are 598 CACREP-accredited counseling programs and over 48,000 counselors certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors. ACA has over 49,000 members and is still growing. I believe that society has begun to recognize the value of our approach with our emphasis on wellness, strengths and life span development and our rich clinical training. To support our momentum as a profession, we need to address the needs of our clients. Recently, our attention has shifted to disaster mental health and to working with the returning veterans. If I were to predict four additional issues that I believe we will need to be prepared to address, they would include:

  • Life balance: I think that technology is changing the way we live as well as our expectations about the world. The availability of the Internet and smartphones keep us plugged in at all hours. Many of us are multitasking — for example, texting one person, while visiting with another — and working around the clock. How many of us check our email before bed and upon waking?
  • Patience: Instant access to information and entertainment may fuel the need for instant gratification. I would predict that goal setting, career and life planning, and relationships will all be impacted.
  • Health-related decision-making: Given our technological abilities — for example, keeping people alive on machines, analyzing genetic information — I think clients may experience personal dilemmas. Making decisions about the life and death of a loved one, such as “pulling the plug,” can have a lasting emotional impact. A relatively new health option, genetic screening, may allow individuals to identify predispositions for health conditions, longevity and abilities. Individuals may then make life-altering decisions based on their “knowledge” of a predestined life experience. Given the permanency of the decisions, individuals may experience significant emotional distress.
  • Aging: We have known for some time that the baby boomers would eventually reach retirement age. Boomers are clearly a large group and have normalized the idea of seeking counseling for improving wellness. I believe they will expect to address their many age-related transitions through the counseling process. Ironically, ACA continues to pursue achieving Medicare recognition when few counselors are fully prepared to provide such services. NBCC and CACREP eliminated their emphases on geriatric counseling, and less than 2 percent of ACA members are members of the Association for Adult Development and Aging [a division of ACA].

Samuel T. Gladding is a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University and a past president of ACA. Contact him at stg@wfu.edu.

I think the profession of counseling will be more of a leader than a follower in the decade ahead. Counseling will lead in its emphasis on continuously refining itself as a profession and fulfilling its mission accordingly. The 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative, started in 2005, has transformed the profession from one where there was much internal squabbling and disagreement to one where there is more agreement, uniformity and pride in what counseling is and what counselors do.

Besides being a leading helping profession, counseling will be a leader in the next 10 years in its emphasis on wellness, creativity and career development theory and practice. These are all hot topics in society today. An emphasis on wellness is here to stay as Americans realize its importance. The counseling profession has some of the best minds in the country writing, researching and implementing practices in the wellness area. The wellness wheel created by Jane Myers, Tom Sweeney and Mel Witmer is one example of a concrete instrument being developed in counseling that has potential for a huge impact, both inside and outside the profession.

In the creativity realm, I continue to be impressed by the Association for Creativity in Counseling and the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, edited by Thelma Duffey. ACC and those associated with it are into originality and transformation as related to counseling issues. The Journal of Counseling & Development, edited by Skip Niles, is also showcasing articles that deal with macro issues counselors need to be aware of and innovatively tackle.

Finally, because of the economy, career development and theory — one of the pillars on which counseling is based — will become stronger. Career issues are international, and solid career counseling is intentional wherever it is delivered. I think Mark Savickas’ narrative counseling approach is going to grow in popularity. Like existential and Gestalt theories, the narrative approach deals with meaning, mattering and the integration of persons.

Jill D. Duba is an associate professor and coordinator of the clinical mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy programs at Western Kentucky University. She also chairs the ACA Professional Standards Committee. Contact her at jillduba.sauerheber@wku.edu.

Counseling will be significantly impacted by the emerging relationship counselors have with the health care reimbursement system. Managed care promises several advantages. Clients will be assured that they get what they pay for, unnecessary long-term therapy will be eliminated and professional counselors will be paid for services rendered. But what are clients paying for? At what point does managed care begin to mandate what counselors do and how they are thus trained?

My family systems class recently asked me why professional counselors do not engage in co-therapy and why reflecting teams are not employing these techniques in practice, especially since they appear to be highly effective modalities. First, I explained that co-therapy and reflecting teams are not seen as cost-effective. Second, treatment plans must adhere to an outline provided by the managed care system. What professional counselors know and have studied to work is frequently usurped by what “Managed Care Knows Best.” Finally, professional counselors who depend on payment from managed care will have restricted opportunities to empower and help others if they simply document the use of preventative, holistic health and wellness approaches. Managed care may eventually determine counselor identity, the nature of the profession and certainly how counselors are trained and practice.

I believe the growth of the profession is dependent on the growth of the people it serves. Are people getting healthier? Are we getting closer to convincing people that seeking counseling for adjustment-related issues — before they are in crisis — is an illustration of “mental health”? Do the systems that our clients are a part of contribute to the individual health of their members? Are professional counselors seeking more knowledge and skills for helping people develop coping mechanisms, positive support systems and healthy mental lifestyles than [knowledge and skills] about identifying pathology, providing symptom relief and diagnosing? Do professional counselors know what clients need in order to maintain a healthy mental lifestyle within their cultural/family context? If these ideas are essential to counselor identity, we must focus on how to document effectiveness and maintain our core values.

In terms of theories, incorporating systemic, wellness-based theories in practice is crucial. We must conduct studies using wellness-based theories to document what works to help all populations maintain mental “health.” It is time to begin applying these theoretical models within a systemic context rather than using them as backdrops for long-winded and recycled conversations about where we are headed.

Mark Pope is professor and chair of the Division of Counseling and Family Therapy at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is also a past president of ACA. Contact him at pope@umsl.edu.

As the U.S. and other countries experience another capitalist cycle downturn, human services will continue to be the target for drastic budgetary cuts. The good news is this: It will get better (again), but more slowly because of the depth of the recession.

In the long term, counseling has great potential, greater than many of the other mental health professions. We are the youngest of all the mental health professions and, yet, we have overtaken them all. We continue to grow faster than other mental health professions (projections for the next decade include counselors: 18 percent [782,200], social workers: 16 percent [745,400] and psychologists: 12 percent [190,000]; see the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 edition). And because of our economic position — lower cost and yet high-quality services — we will continue to grow faster.

With the increasing move toward 60-hour master’s programs, I see a longer-term trend toward increasing professionalization of counselors. And with counselors achieving licensure now in all 50 states, we can and are moving strongly forward to inclusion in all nationwide programs (for example, TRICARE). We are truly ripening as a profession, with even greater potential for the future.

Finally, newer theories, interventions and models that address outcome quality in shorter-term interventions will increase, such as solution-focused therapy, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and other cognitive behavior theories.

J. Barry Mascari is an associate professor and chair of the Counselor Education Department at Kean University. He is also the American Association of State Counseling Boards’ delegate to the 20/20 initiative. Contact him at jmascari@kean.edu.

Four issues will continue emerging:

1) The profession must decide whether we succumb to what medicine did by moving to practice specialties or remain as broad generalists. People come with multiple problems, and counselors address multiple issues, so specialists would change our profession.

2) Trauma-informed counseling will require ruling out or treating trauma as the primary cause that keeps clients stuck despite many attempts at counseling. Counselors will be required to learn specific evidence-based treatments (EMDR), as well as other neurobiological treatments that will emerge (Brainspotting), to help people break the “recovery logjam” not resolved by talk therapy alone.

3) Addictions-informed treatment recognizes that many people have “use” issues and coexisting disorders that contribute to the self-medication cycle and will benefit from neurobiological techniques as well.

4) Finally, the struggle over using evidence-based techniques (difficult to replicate in noncontrolled client settings) or focusing on the therapeutic alliance and common factors will continue. Some mixture will evolve.

All counselors will need to develop a tool kit loaded with strategies and skills to be employed depending on the client’s needs. These will be less theory-based and more about effectively resolving client problems. Counselors will become a major force in the provision of mental health services.

As far as emerging counseling theories, I believe we are entering the posttheoretical era where older comprehensive “theories” will be presented for historical background in counselor training. My wife (Jane Webber) and I are writing about the posttheoretical era, where the current overemphasis on theories robs time from skill-building.

Although attempts to create a transtheoretical approach met with limited success, it seems that most new ideas look like a slimmed-down [version of Arnold] Lazarus’ multimodal approach. Clients bring multiple issues requiring multiple strategies, which means taking evidence-informed or other effective techniques and applying them to specific client problems. Brief solution-focused and motivational interviewing [approaches] moved in that direction, combining the therapeutic alliance and common factors (taken from Carl Rogers’ work) with strategies framed into a logical treatment model. In light of these changes, counselor educators will be challenged to create teachable models in a way that students understand.

Also, the pendulum of religious fundamentalism swings back as people discover that faith cannot always explain everything and seek to create their own meaning and understanding. A revival of existential thought (Western Buddhism) may re-emerge in counseling.

Deborah Stokes is the director and owner of the Better Brain Center in Alexandria, Va. She is a licensed professional counselor and board certified in neurofeedback. Contact her at dstokes@TheBetterBrainCenter.com.

I believe that over the next decade we will see counselors expand their skill set to keep abreast of the emerging science on the brain and how brain disorders affect behavior, mood, academic performance and interpersonal relationships. We will see, for instance, counselors acquiring training on how to interpret objective measures of brain function such as SPECT and quantitative EEG. These measures will be used to provide input during, for example, marriage counseling, academic counseling and career counseling.

We will see more counselors learning innovative methods of changing brain function, including the neuromodulation methods such as neurofeedback. I also believe that, while psychodynamic approaches will always be important to explore genetic or family-of-origin factors (the loaded gun), there will be a shift toward looking more at environmental factors (the trigger finger) such as nutrition and lifestyle factors that affect the brain and, ultimately, the behavior.

I also see a growing trend with young adults and teens presenting with poor social skills and the inability to interact one-on-one or in groups. There is a growing isolation that I believe is fueled by the explosion of technology and the overreliance on electronic gadgetry to socially connect. So, there is a growing need for social skill-building groups for these young people.

Courtland C. Lee is a professor of counselor education at the University of Maryland and a past president of ACA. Contact him at clee5@umd.edu.

As I consider the evolution of counseling over the next decade, it will be important for the profession to be aware of a number of important global trends. Issues such as worldwide financial instability, climate changes (global warming), unprecedented population aging, ongoing political instability and ideological conflicts, increasingly diverse communities, and rapidly evolving and ever-pervasive technologies all have the potential to significantly impact human development and well-being.

It will be important, therefore, for the counseling profession as it is known in the United States to develop more of an international perspective on counseling and human development, given the sense of global interconnectedness that is emerging among mental health professionals. In many parts of the world, both individually and organizationally, counseling professionals are moving beyond provincial conceptions of theory, research and practice to join in collaborative efforts to foster notions of mental health and human development that stretch across geopolitical boundaries. It will be important for ACA and counselors in this country to be part of these collaborative efforts. Counseling theory and practice over the next decade should focus on understanding human nature in a broad global context. In addition, counselor training must stress the notion that what happens in one community in any part of the United States must be understood within this larger global context. More than ever, it will be crucial for counselors to be able to “think globally and act locally.”

Given this, I believe that counseling practice over the next decade must be predicated on counselors becoming globally literate human beings. Global literacy is the breadth of information that extends over the major domains of human diversity. It consists of the basic information that a person needs to possess in order to successfully navigate life in the technologically sophisticated, globally interconnected world of the 21st century — a world in which people from diverse cultural backgrounds interact in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Global literacy implies an understanding of the contemporary world and how it has evolved over time. It encompasses important knowledge of cultural variations in areas such as geography, history, literature, politics, economics and principles of government. Global literacy is the core body of knowledge that an individual gains over a lifetime about the world in which he or she lives. The driving force behind the development of global literacy is the commitment one makes to ensure that openness to cultural diversity is the cornerstone of his or her life. While the development of multicultural competency should continue to be an important goal for professional counseling training and practice, global literacy must be the goal for a life lived in a culturally competent manner. It logically follows, therefore, that one cannot be a culturally competent counselor if he or she is not a globally literate person, and a wider understanding of the world will be crucial for counselors in the decades to come.

Blair Sumner Mynatt is a doctoral student in counselor education at the University of Tennessee and the student representative to the ACA Governing Council. Contact her at bmynatt@utk.edu.

In my opinion, a future focus of the counseling profession should center on the counseling needs of older adults. In the United States, baby boomers represent a growing percentage of the overall population. As they retire, the counseling profession must be ready to meet the unique developmental needs of this age group. Research suggests that the mental health needs of older adults are growing at an exponential rate, and counselors must be prepared to serve the needs of this underserved population.

The process of aging is a universal phenomenon that needs more attention in counselor preparation programs. There is a general lack of evidence-based practices for older adults. Counseling programs should place a specific emphasis on understanding and meeting the developmental needs of older adults. Counselors should be prepared to work with older adults’ issues such as grief and loss, disability related to physiological functioning, career needs and lack of access to services.

Counselors need training in counseling-based interventions specific to older adults and the awareness of services available in the community. Counseling programs should prepare students to work in more client-focused settings, such as older adults’ homes. If counselors do not reach out to this population, chances are high that older adults will not receive services due to transportation and mobility limitations.

Counselors can play a vital role in the successful aging of today’s older adults. The mental health needs of older adults are often overlooked and can only be expected to grow in the immediate future. The training of future counselors, flexibility of service delivery and development of evidence-based practices are vital for people experiencing this inevitable part of human development.

Cirecie West-Olatunji is past president of the American Counseling Association and associate professor and director of the Center for Traumatic Stress Research at the University of Cincinnati. Contact her at westolce@UCMAIL.UC.EDU.

There are three major trends that are emerging in the discipline of counseling: the internationalization of counseling, more nuanced understanding of traumatic stress and the role it plays in psychological distress, and counseling children.

As more countries explore the value and benefit of having counseling professionals in their society, counseling will become increasingly visible outside the United States. A major benefit of this expansion is that it has the potential to create a global synergy that advances our knowledge and application within the discipline. In particular, globalization of counseling can augment our cultural competence and understanding of sociopolitical context in service delivery.

Another trend is in the area of traumatic stress. There are several human challenges that fuel this trend, such as a) the impending return of U.S. troops from areas of conflict, b) the evolution of the term traumatic stress to include more pervasive triggers (for example, systemic oppression and historical bias/discrimination) and c) the increase in natural and human-made disasters worldwide. More recent catastrophic disasters have [had a greater impact on] individuals, families and communities due to their size, intensity and duration. These changes in the characteristics of disasters have offered new challenges to disaster mental health professionals. Additionally, the prevalence of technology has delivered disasters and subsequent secondary stress to a worldwide audience. Thus, counselors need to create innovative interventions that respond to contemporary challenges.

Finally, the third trend in counseling is attention paid to counseling young children. As the discipline matures, counselors are increasingly defining new areas of application for service delivery. Working with infants, toddlers and preschool children is an emerging area for counselors that allows them to traverse down the developmental pipeline to apply the core principles of counseling to young children. Such an area is appealing to professional counselors because counseling young children requires a focus on prevention and use of a developmental perspective.

Given these three emerging trends, we are likely to see several new theories develop. One would be the creation of new culture-centered counseling theories that come from Eastern Europe, southern Africa, the Pacific Rim or South America. Another area where theory is likely to be developed is in providing more definition to the area of traumatic stress in relation to pervasive intergenerational issues. In working with young children, we are likely to see a flurry of theories related to counseling young children ages 0 to 5. The next decade in counseling will be a very exciting time in which counselors will need to be more responsive than ever.

 

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13 Comments

  1. Demetria Moore

    Right now i’m only a in 9th grade. I decide to take speech; which I’m absolutely loving the class. In the class had to pick a career that we might do: i choose counseling because I’m a interpersonal kind of person. And every time I read something about this career I realize how perfect this career is for me. Someday i hope to be counselor.

    Reply
    1. Cindi Holloway

      Demetria,
      Seeing you comment following the article surprised me and made me smile. I am pleased that you are interested in a career as a counselor. You are setting a great life plan for yourself as a young woman. I encourage you to keep reading about counseling and see that when we counsel someone, we help him of her with the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual areas of life. We counselors believe that when a person has a problem in one area of his or her life, the other areas are also affected. I believe that you will do well as a counselor or in any career you choose to pursue.

      I wish you success and happiness in your life.

      Just a note to remember: When attending college, attend a not-for-profit university or college rather than a private university or college. You can get a great education for half the cost at the not-for-profit schools like the state university.

  2. Felix V.

    I think we need to advance the area of testing ; there is no reason we ought not be paid by insurance companies or third parties for this type of work because, at least in Texas, the licensure board states we are allowed to do this yet, the above happens.

    Another area is hospital and school based positions, I don’t see why Social Workers , are the only acceptable degrees for these positions in major hospitals. This is discrimination against our profession and qualifications and puts a celing on career development. Social Workers are able to compete for these positions, but we can’t.

    Our profession needs to be more of an advocate, like the Chiropractors did when the Medical profession did not want to open doors to them and tried to restrict their practice.

    One way is to get the state associations to get an Attorney General’s opinion.

    These restrictions that I have seen practicing in private will affect younger professionals and especially services to Spanish speaking in schools that in some cities and states are becoming close t0 40% of the school population

    Reply
    1. Marvin Bellows

      While I have mixed feelings about broadly defining testing to be in the counseling scope of practice (there are different levels of testing with different implications as far as personal and professional scope are concerned), I have to agree with you about every other point that you have made. As an advocacy project in my program, I hope to demonstrate professional advocacy by contacting state agencies and hospitals to fight for recognition of our profession as mental health providers. Hopefully as Texans we can push forward the already strong representation that we have in our state.

  3. Marvin Bellows

    First, let me say that, as always, I have been blown away by the perspective that Allen Ivey brings to the field. While I have my concerns about CACREP, I feel that he is absolutely correct at the direction that we must go to stay relevant to the research in our practice. The National Institute of Mental Health blog recently had a piece by Thomas Insel that outlined the weaknesses of the current diagnostic system and its disconnect to the research base.

    Reply
  4. Alma Thomas

    I am in a Counseling and the Creative Arts class at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. An assignment for a research paper was assigned, during the eight week class. I chose the subject Music Therapy And Youth Who Have Experienced A Trauma. My research was limited when it came to scholarly journals. When I say limited I could not find much information on the subject. The paper has been submitted, but I am still interested in youth who have experienced trauma in their lives. I would love to know where the arts in therapy can help them, African American youth preferably need help, music gets their attention.

    Reply
  5. Thomas Lonn Attorney

    We absolutely love your article and find most of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. It is not my first time to visit this site, i am visiting this site dailly and take nice facts from here all the time.

    Reply
  6. natalie

    Thank you for this collection of experts opinions, I stumbled across the article writing an essay for Counselling studies in Australia, I will be emailing the link to associates in the Australia Hypnotherapy Association as I am sure they will enjoy these predictions for counselling. I agree about the need for therapy beyond ‘talk therapy’, Hypnotherapists do work that is very effective for positive neuronal changes. Clients can have very effective sessions and change behavior within a couple of sessions. :)

    Reply
  7. Cheryl (Shelly) Goodrich

    I’m entering practicum very soon and I will graduate in early 2016. I will be a M.F.T counselor. I am so excited and hope to make a difference. All of the blog is very interesting and so is the new research.
    Thank You,

    Reply
  8. Caroline Fernandes

    I am currently a first year student in clinical mental health in Georgia, in addition to being a certified holistic wellness coach. As a counselor, I want to incorporating CAM / Eastern therapies and I would like more information on ACA code of ethics pertaining to CAM therapies. Moreover, I want like to bring awareness of how CAM therapies enhances therapeutic healings in clients when integrated with traditional psychotherapies.

    ~CF

    Reply

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