Tag Archives: Counselor Educators Audience

Counselor Educators Audience

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 president-elect 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 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 an associate professor of counselor education and coordinator of the mental health track at the University of Florida. Contact her at cirecie@ufl.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.

Lynne Shallcross is a senior writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at lshallcross@counseling.org.

 

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Engaging millennial students in today’s counseling classroom

Jeannine R. Studer & Blanche O’Bannon

Today’s counseling students bring a unique array of characteristics and perspectives not previously seen in our classrooms. For instance, it is not uncommon for students to approach classroom assignments through technological means rather than by engaging in thoughtful dialogue. Counselor educators have a responsibility to learn about these students and to adapt pedagogical approaches to reach these learners without compromising classroom rigor or standards. Although making predictions and drawing conclusions about any generation is difficult because of the inevitable variations within groups, generational generalities assist in understanding change, continuity and behaviors.

The millennial generation, also known as Generation NeXt, Generation Y, the Net Generation, Echo Boomers, DotNets or Generation Me, consists of individuals born between approximately 1982 and 2002. Students from this generation first appeared on postsecondary campuses at the turn of the century, and their attendance will continue beyond 2020. Millennials are the largest, most diverse cohort in history. They are characterized as having a sense of entitlement and, in comparison with previous generations, having more chronic diseases, symptoms of major depressive disorder and symptoms associated with psychopathology. Because of these characteristics, as well as other characteristics not identified here, the classroom milieu has changed. Therefore, it is incumbent on educators to adapt instructional pedagogy to engage this generation of learners, while also balancing the needs of students from previous generations who are enrolled in the same classroom with millennials.

Teaching considerations

Instructors shortchange students when they do not hold them to standards and/or do not take the time to understand them and their learning needs. Many millennials have a consumer-focused approach to education in which a passing grade is expected in exchange for paying tuition, a belief that it is acceptable to demand a higher grade when an unsatisfactory mark is received and an expectation of receiving a high mark solely for handing in an assignment, regardless of its quality. In addition, these students generally presume that instructors will understand when they miss a class for personal reasons.

With instant access to information through the Internet, texting and email, many in this generation expect immediate communication and instantaneous feedback from their professors. As a result, it is not uncommon for today’s professors to feel as if they are television show hosts who need to entertain and acknowledge every opinion offered rather than provide a forum for intellectual inquiry. Many millennials have little patience for lectures, traditional classroom structures and assessment strategies. Instead, they prefer to learn through experimentation and active participation in student-oriented assignments. If these students must hear a lecture, they respond best to those that are supplemented with pictures and other graphics or brief videos. Therefore, instruction is received better if it is chunked in smaller segments and augmented with media.

With the availability of numerous technological tools and the infusion of new advances, millennials view learning as a dynamic, active process in which information can be obtained whenever and however it is needed. As millennials continue to upgrade their technology tools, their expectation is that their instructors and institutions will do the same. Yet, the use of technology in the classroom is a challenge for instructors who still teach in the same manner as they did a decade ago. When considering technology in teaching, instructors must consider both the advantages and disadvantages of the plethora of online tools that can accommodate the experiential and participatory learning needs of millennials. Web 2.0 tools have brought powerful resources to the classroom that appeal to the learning styles of millennials as well as to students of other generations.

Web 2.0 toolbox for counseling course work

Web 2.0 tools allow anyone with a computer, Internet access and browser software to use various web-based software applications for free. These new tools allow students and teachers to create, communicate and share information online. There is no shortage of these tools, which are increasing in number at a staggering rate. Several are particularly useful to the counseling education curriculum. In addition, they appeal to millennial students and connect older generations to new learning strategies.

Productivity tools

  • Functions: Word processing presentations, spreadsheets, surveys, drawing
  • Software titles/services: Google Documents (google.com), Zoho (zoho.com)
  • Ideas for the counseling classroom: Productivity tools can be used for teaching the many concepts to students that counselor educators deem essential. The benefits of using Web 2.0 productivity apps include having the option to store the files on the web and to share and collaborate with others without email.

Blogs

  • Function: Online journal
  • Software titles/services: Google Blogger (blogger.com), WordPress (wordpress.org)
  • Ideas for the counseling classroom: Blogs can be used for reflective practice during course work or for writing about topics of interest to counselors. Blogs on topics such as eating disorders and drug addition can be used in counselor education or by practitioners for educational purposes.

Wikis

  • Function: Websites used for collaborative research and writing assignments
  • Software titles/services: PBWorks (pbworks.com), Wikispaces (wikispaces.com)
  • Ideas for the counseling classroom: Wikis can be used to allow students to collaboratively create websites on topics covered in the counseling curriculum, including eating disorders, drug abuse or conflict resolution.

Social bookmarking

  • Function: Tool to search, organize, store, manage and share bookmarks online
  • Software titles/services: Delicious (delicious.com), Diigo (diigo.com)
  • Ideas for the counseling classroom: Social bookmarking allows students and/or professors to create and share sets of bookmarks on topics in counseling.

Podcasts

  • Function: Audio or audio/video files that are accessible online
  • Software titles/services: American Counseling Association podcast series (counseling.org/Counselors/TP/
  • PodcastsHome/CT2.aspx)
  • Ideas for the counseling classroom: Podcasts exist on many topics in the counseling curriculum. Podcast directories offer podcasts by topic. ACA has a podcast directory with many podcasts for members. Counselors, counselor educators and counseling students can create podcasts on various topics as well.

Video sharing

  • Function: Video files that are accessible online
  • Software titles/services: YouTube (youtube.com), Teacher Tube (teachertube.com)
  • Ideas for the counseling classroom: The use of video recordings is a central pedagogical tool in counseling. Videos of role plays can be placed on YouTube and accessed by the instructor for assessment. A huge collection of videos on drug abuse, eating disorders, relationship topics, narcissism and other topics are available for download.

Today’s counselor educators have a greater array of choices than ever before to clarify and demonstrate counseling concepts. Introducing different types of media to counseling students is one method in which we can engage the millennial generation while still appealing to students from earlier generations. Other strategies for working with these students include personal and professional awareness activities, collaboration, and mentoring and supervision.

Personal and professional awareness activities

Counselor educators have an obligation to provide feedback to students and to direct them to appropriate assistance when a professional or personal impairment is perceived. Furthermore, counselor educators can provide exercises and strategies to assist students in self-analyzing their own learning and in assessing who they are as a person and a professional. In part due to standardized examinations mandated by No Child Left Behind, many millennials have honed the skill of rote memorization to the detriment of their critical thinking skills and self-reflection. Because millennials grew up with scheduled activities and continual supervision, they desire specific directions and expectations. Among the useful strategies to use with these students include breaking goals and student outcomes into small steps, offering resources and information that assist in meeting expectations and providing rubrics.

Collaboration

Counselors-in-training may gain a greater awareness of self and others through collaborative learning environments. Yet, it is unclear how communication using the Internet influences social networking with this generation. The Internet tends to increase communication ease and the ability to discuss personal issues, but fostering face-to-face interpersonal relationships seems to be a more difficult skill for many millennials to perfect. Placing students in groups where they can share knowledge and act as resources for one another creates a positive environment that contributes to interpersonal connectedness and facilitates creativity and empathy.

Mentoring and supervision

Many variables are considered when pairing supervisees with appropriate supervisors. Generational differences should be among these considerations. For instance, baby boomers, who generally possess strong work ethics, might have difficulty supervising millennial supervisees, who generally exhibit more relaxed attitudes toward work. Furthermore, because empathy is often lacking among many millennials, supervisors might need to model empathic behaviors to vicariously teach compassion. In addition to the classroom considerations discussed previously, counselor educators can adapt several strategies for assisting in classroom transformation. These include:

  • Introducing course syllabi as contracts that are reviewed on the first day of class so students can ask questions regarding course expectations
  • Providing time for formative evaluative feedback during midterm to detect strategies that are not working and to model openness to student feedback
  • Taking opportunities to get to know students personally
  • Keeping the focus on education without diluting the information
  • Outlining and monitoring rules, policies and procedures
  • Stressing personal accountability with feedback that is layered (for instance, make a positive statement, a statement regarding an area that needs improvement and then another positive statement)
  • Teaching students that the counseling process takes time and that results are not immediate

Conclusion

The millennial generation is influenced by technology more than any other generation of learners, so counselor educators must walk a fine line to simultaneously meet the needs of the technologically savvy millennials and those who do not have these technological skills. Counselor educators have a responsibility to reflect on their individual teaching styles and how their particular pedagogical methods facilitate learning, reflecting and relating in the classroom.

Jeannine R. Studer is a professor of counselor education and the school counseling program coordinator in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at the University of Tennessee. Contact her at jstuder@utk.edu.

Blanche O’Bannon is an associate professor in the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education at the University of Tennessee.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org.

A closer look at developing counselor identity

Timothy E. Coppock

Professional identity has emerged as one of the hot topics in the counseling profession. A quick look at the 2011 ACA Conference schedule and a preview of the sessions for the 2012 conference in San Francisco reveals that, as counselors, we are interested in discussions that investigate the topic and equally interested in adding the topic to our research agendas. This article is a personal reflection on the importance of professional identity from my vantage point both as a professional counselor and a counselor educator. An aspect I am most interested in is how we can strengthen and enhance the process of developing identity as professional counselors.

As is the case with most counselors, the first thing I need to do when meeting a new client is to introduce myself and talk about my identity as a professional counselor, what my client can expect from the counseling process and the expectations that he or she might have. I most often find that I have to define my professional identity by describing what I am not: I cannot prescribe medications, and I am not a psychologist. I go on to say that professional counselors are licensed to help resolve mental and emotional problems. A few clients ask for even more clarification concerning specific competencies, but most individuals are satisfied that their needs can be met so long as I assure them that their insurance will cover my charges.

I find that I have almost the same conversation with applicants to our master’s program in community counseling. If this conversation doesn’t take place at their admissions interview, then most assuredly I will need to provide some further explanation and clarification at several points during their first two or three semesters until the notion of professional identity begins to sink in. By the time master’s students reach their fourth or fifth semester and begin practicum and internship, maybe they will have some level of confidence in the professional identity for which they have trained. At least that’s our hope, isn’t it?

A personal journey

I believe my understanding of professional identity was formed in much the same way. I remember asking dumb questions of my professors at Bowling Green State University as I explored the shared concepts of analysts such as Freud, Jung, Adler and Rogers. Like many of the students entering into the community counseling program where I now teach, I did not have a background or degree in psychology or an applied science such as social work. And, to be honest, the lines between disciplines were quite blurry as I acquired the skills for counseling. What distinguished my identity as a professional counselor from the other professions was not so much based in what I was taught but rather in who was doing the teaching and in the application of these concepts. My professors were counselors who had put the theories and techniques into practice, who exemplified the best of the skills needed to help others bring about desired changes, and who understood the importance of what works and what doesn’t in the development of plans to reach goals.

It’s tough to say exactly when my identity as a professional counselor first emerged because it is indeed a process. It takes time for professional identity to develop, and it requires strong mentors who are willing to invest their time and energy not only in teaching but also in leadership and advocacy. I was simultaneously flattered and challenged when my master’s program adviser, Susan Huss, invited me to co-present at a regional counseling conference. Similarly to most of my fellow students, my life consisted of working a full-time job, attending night classes, finding time to study and balancing multiple roles as a father, student and, now, counselor-in-training. How would I work a two-day event into my already full schedule? How could I stretch my meager budget to include a conference registration and professional membership?

To be sure, professional identity is much more than attending and presenting at conferences. But the process of building identity does include strong relationships with mentors and colleagues who aspire to teach and learn from one another at conferences and continuing education events. And, most formidably, professional identity is built during the two to four years devoted to acquiring the master’s degree required for licensure as a professional counselor in all 50 states. Indeed, there would be no licensure for professional counselors and, hence, we would not be able to provide vital services to clients if it weren’t for the dedication and advocacy of professional counselors and counselor educators. Professional identity depends in part on the critical decisions and crucial sacrifices made by leading counselors and counselor educators. They forged the relationships and coalitions necessary to enact laws that ensure credentialing and accreditation by organizations such as the National Board for Certified Counselors and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. They also provide us with the ACA Code of Ethics and other professional guidelines that protect both the public and our obligation to provide services that meet standards of care. Ultimately, if not for the perseverance and continued dedication of these leaders, counselor licensure laws would not have been enacted in all 50 states.

What distinguishes counselors?

Ever since my years as a doctoral student at the University of Toledo, I have clung to the tenets of a profession that has worked hard to define itself within the complex context of other related professions. Ideally, these related professions would work together as a team, with an integrated approach, to provide mental health services. However, these professions often perceive one another as competitors, fighting for community contracts, insurance endorsements and licensure rights.

Martin Ritchie is another mentor/adviser, and now colleague, who has made a profound impression on my life and career. Indeed Martin Ritchie and Susan Huss represent a league of counselor educators who have invested their entire careers in the building of counseling as a profession. On one unforgettable occasion, Martin challenged my doctoral cohort with a concise history of professional counseling, giving specific emphasis to the identity conflicts professional counselors experienced regarding the related professions of psychology and social work. Embedded in his lecture were the primary issues of a fledgling profession — a profession oftentimes viewed as a stepchild in the course of lobbying and legislative efforts to secure licensure, a profession scrutinized by managed care and representatives of federal funding to determine if its members are legitimate providers of mental health services, a profession frequently lumped together with other social service providers variously as “mental health therapists,” “psychotherapists” and “clinicians.” Dr. Ritchie’s questions still reverberate in my memory: What gives us distinction? What sets counselors apart? Have we indeed earned our identity as a separate profession?

There are no simple answers to any of these questions. The reality is that professional counselors share a heritage of theories, techniques and, to some extent, training with several other types of mental health professionals, most notably marriage and family therapists, social workers and counseling psychologists. In Pennsylvania, where I currently am a counselor educator and also have a limited practice, professional counselors can be licensed with educational backgrounds in no less than 10 related fields. Indeed, the multiple tracks available to licensure in some states have in my opinion contributed to a blurring of professional identity, for counselors and consumers. From the point of view of the consumer, it doesn’t matter which license I use to practice, so long as my profession is regulated to protect the consumer. Psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors all use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and bill the same insurance companies. Some attempt to make the distinction that professional counselors subscribe to a wellness model as opposed to a medical model. But quite frankly, other related professions would claim the same.

So what does make the difference? I believe the difference lies primarily in two areas: in our education and in our supervision as counselors. Professional counselors are trained in counselor education programs by faculty who identify as professional counselors, and we are supervised by licensed professional counselors (LPCs). Counselors educated and supervised by professionals other than counselors are unlikely to have a clear professional identity. CACREP’s work has provided a foundation to ensure that students develop both professional identity and standards for knowledge and skills specific to the profession of counseling.

Supervision is equally influential with regard to our identity as professional counselors. For a number of years, before there were enough LPCs to provide supervision, professional counselors were supervised by other professionals. However, as a profession, we have reached the point at which all 50 states have licensure laws that regulate not only the title of “professional counselor” but, in many states, the practice of counseling as well. Related to the achievement of that objective, most states currently require either that a professional counselor provide supervision or that a minimum number of supervision hours be provided by an LPC.

The task of instilling and developing identity as a professional counselor includes some serious challenges, not the least of which is the limited time available for the identity-building process. The program I am privileged to teach in at Gannon University is a three-year master’s degree program. Other master’s programs can be completed in as little as two years, however. Students entering master’s counseling programs come from a variety of backgrounds and with corresponding bachelor’s degrees: social work, psychology, art therapy, criminal justice and even from humanities or business. Entering students often possess almost no understanding of how counseling is different from other social service professions. In comparing my experience with that of other counselor educators, I have found this is commonplace among three-year master’s programs and even in larger programs featuring multiple tracks or offering a doctoral degree in counselor education.

The challenge is that counseling, unlike other related social service professions, has no corresponding undergraduate major and, hence, no undergraduate professional identity. Undergraduates typically may choose to major in psychology or social work in their freshman or sophomore years, which provides those professions as many as six to eight years to create and develop strong professional identity. Indeed, for a number of students the expectation is that a master’s degree in counseling will be a stepping-stone to a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. in psychology. It has become a challenge for counselor educators to develop curricula that offer the essential components to train counselors, while simultaneously including experiences that will instill and enhance strong identity as a professional counselor. A number of master’s programs are three-year programs in which the third year is spent in clinical practice and internship. Many full-time programs are only two years, however. At best, this leaves only one or possibly two years of classroom contact and exposure to professors and other students in the cohort during which identity-building experiences can be planned.

Suggested solutions

I view myself as a solution-focused, strengths-based counselor. In the best of that tradition, it is time to consider ways to reach beyond the next two to three years. One option for addressing this deficit of time is to expand beyond the bounds of graduate education and training by developing an undergraduate minor in counseling. At a minimum, this would provide undergraduate students — particularly those with related majors in psychology, social work or criminal justice — an opportunity to explore professional counseling. In turn, an undergraduate counseling minor would provide three to four courses in content areas such as basic helping skills, human development and professional orientation. This potentially would expand the amount of time students could develop their identity as professional counselors to as many as four or five years. An important component of this solution is that these undergraduate courses would have to be taught by instructors who strongly identify as professional counselors. One option would be for counselor education doctoral interns to teach the courses. This would represent a secondary benefit for larger counselor education programs that support doctoral degree programs. Another advantage of this approach is that undergraduate students who minored in counseling would be much better prepared for master’s programs. Universities might benefit from this increased awareness in the form of higher enrollment.

A strong predictor of professional identity is membership in professional organizations such as the American Counseling Association, attendance at professional conferences and pursuing leadership opportunities in professional organizations. One of the hats I wear is as faculty adviser for our local chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, the professional honor society that has distinguished itself as being clearly and singularly identified with professional counseling. Students are not eligible for membership in CSI until their second semester. Although the work of CSI is commendable in building professional identity, for students in master’s-only programs, this leaves precious little time for active involvement: about 18 months. I participated in a roundtable discussion in March 2011 with other chapter faculty advisers from master’s-only programs, and it was quickly noted that my experience is not unique. Again, as one who looks for solutions, what if CSI chapters placed even more emphasis on non-membership participation in events for first-year master’s students? And in the interest of expansion of opportunities for identity development, what if CSI supported programs that could be implemented at the undergraduate level to promote the profession of counseling?

Gannon University’s master’s program, like many other CACREP-accredited programs, is in the process of preparing for reaccreditation under the 2009 CACREP Standards. Much adieu has been made over the requirement that 50 percent of master’s course work be taught by core faculty. At issue has been an additional standard related to the professional identities of core faculty members. From a very practical, strengths-based approach, it would seem that the counseling profession could only gain from strengthening the identity of those who are primary to the formation of professional identity in the counseling profession.

In summary, I believe an expansion of the time allotted for development of professional identity can serve to strengthen and enhance our work as professional counselors. The bottom line, of course, is the public we serve. Clients will benefit if they are treated by professional counselors who are not only competent in their counseling skills but also confident in the specific role professional counselors play in providing services.

“Knowledge Share” articles are adapted from sessions presented at past ACA Annual Conferences.

Timothy E. Coppock is assistant professor an clinical experiences coordinator in the community counseling program in Gannon University’s Department of Psychology and Counseling. Contact him at coppock001@gannon.edu.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Engaging counseling students in their ethical development

Julie Koch and Adrienne Erby January 1, 2012

As counselors, we recognize the importance of ethics, so much so that it is a required component of our training. Particularly in our current social climate, with issues such as personal values versus counselor competencies being debated in U.S. court systems, it is crucial for students to prepare to be ethical practitioners.

Unfortunately, students do not usually look forward to ethics classes. They often perceive ethics as boring or, as Karin Jordan and Patricia Stevens noted in a 2001 article for The Family Journal, “legal mumbo-jumbo.” In our experience as instructors, students often enter ethics classes thinking that the ACA Code of Ethics will “have the answer” or that they will be able to refer to a law to tell them what to do. They typically don’t understand the ambiguous nature and complexities of ethical dilemmas.

The use of case studies can help students conceptualize ethical dilemmas, but we believe a need exists for more hands-on, applied training to prepare students for their future practice. Moving beyond lectures and case studies to truly engage students in their learning assists them with problem-solving and increases their confidence in tackling future ethical dilemmas. Here, we share a few activities we have used through the years to engage students in their ethical development.

The use of base groups

On the first day of ethics class, we split the class into base groups of three to five students each. The membership of these base groups will remain consistent throughout the semester. We tell students they should check in with their group at the beginning of every class.

Base groups begin classroom activities and help engage students in small group discussion, which is usually related to assigned readings. Base groups also serve to create an intimate, safe learning environment in which students get to know some of their classmates very well. We encourage students in base groups to exchange contact information with one another. That way, if a student is ever absent or late, one of his or her group mates can provide that student with notes, discuss what happened in class or bring a paper to class for the student.

Base group discussions prime students to participate in more in-depth conversations on specific topics with the entire class later in the class period. Topics of discussion might include “What concerns do you think clients have about confidentiality? Make a list of five” or “Would you be willing to lend a client $5? Attend the same gym? Attend the same weekly yoga class? Why or why not?” As the students hear other perspectives and collaborate with one another, they generate a myriad of options on the basis of their classmates’ experiences, values and understanding of ethical obligations. This structure also teaches students the practice of consulting with colleagues when complex situations arise. Occasionally, we offer questions meant simply to allow the students to get to know one another better, such as “How did you spend fall break?” We then generalize these base group conversations to the overall class discussion, creating space for an even more developed class dialogue.

One final note: Base groups are a nice, practical way of transitioning, allowing the instructor a few minutes to get organized at the beginning of class while students are engaged in discussion. (Resource: David W. Johnson and Frank P. Johnson provide a nice description of base groups and other cooperative learning activities in the 10th edition of their book Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills.)

Values Auction

The Values Auction is an activity that helps students identify the values they hold in their private and vocational lives. Students are placed in small groups of three to five individuals. We supply a handout containing several general life values (family, love, culture, etc.) and work values (high income, security, helping others, etc.). As the auction begins in each group, each student can bid on any value he or she considers most important — family, religion, nature, freedom and so on — but the student has only $500 to spend in total. Bidding begins at $100 for each value, and bids can be increased only in increments of $10 up to the total limit of $500. This activity can prove to be quite lively, with students often becoming emotionally invested in the process. We hear, “Oh! I lost family!” or “Yes! I got religion for $400!”

After completing the activity in small groups, the whole class can process the experience of choosing values. Students can discuss some of the reasons for selecting their chosen values in the auction and reasons for sacrificing the other values. This prompts further discussion of the importance of values in the counseling process and how values affect the practitioner’s ethical decision-making process. It can also be useful to have students write a reflection paper on the process of selecting their values and how this relates to ethical practice in counseling. (Resource: Values Auction activities can be found online through an Internet search, or refer to Mark Pope and Carole W. Minor’s book Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups.)

Jigsaw activities

A jigsaw activity allows students both to teach and to learn from their peers. It is particularly useful in helping students comprehend large amounts of material. With the jigsaw, students can focus on one area in depth and then teach that area to their peers in small groups.

In the first phase of the activity, the class is divided into groups. If six topics need to be covered, we form six groups; if four topics, four groups, and so on. Each group is assigned a portion of reading or a topic in the area of ethics to research. The students meet in their groups to share, discuss and debate what they believe to be their topic’s most important points. They then reach agreement concerning what they want to “teach” to others in the class. The first phase looks like this, with each letter representing one student: (A, A, A, A) (B, B, B, B) (C, C, C, C) (D, D, D, D).

In the second phase, the members of each group are placed into another group with students who have reviewed different topics. Each individual is required to summarize the information about his or her topic thoroughly, yet make the topic as easy to understand as possible. As each student explains his or her topic, the other students ask questions and discuss how the concepts relate to their practical work in the field. The second phase might look like this: (A, B, C, D) (A, B, C, D) (A, B, C, D) (A, B, C, D).

In this activity, students are given the opportunity to dialogue about the complicated issues of ethical practice, legal guidelines and ethics codes. In our class, we use the jigsaw technique to review a seminal article by Naomi Meara, Lyle Schmidt and Jeanne Day that appeared in The Counseling Psychologist. The article, including references, exceeds 70 pages. Each student group is assigned different portions of the article, and each portion covers different principles and virtues with which the students must familiarize themselves and share in jigsaw groups. This type of activity can be used with a variety of articles, book chapters and ethical and legal guidelines. (Resource: For more information regarding jigsaw activities, refer to The Jigsaw Classroom by Elliot Aronson.)

Role-plays and skits

Role-plays can be useful in transferring textbook knowledge into practice by having students act out what they would say or do in a given situation. Through role-plays, students can practice the counselor role in assessing suicide risk, discussing limits of confidentiality or going over a release of information form with a client.

In this activity, students are assigned to groups of three to four individuals, depending on class size. One student plays the counselor, another plays the client, and the remaining group members function as observers providing feedback. During the activity, the roles shift, giving each student the opportunity to play every role. By acting in these roles, students prepare for real-world ethical dilemmas that arise in counseling practice. This activity allows students to gain practical experience, while also helping them consider different ways of handling difficult situations as they observe other students. As students “try on” these roles, they become more familiar with the roles and gain useful feedback in a supportive setting. Later on, as these situations arise in actual practice, students will possess some experience to fall back on.

The main difference between role-plays and skits is that role-plays are performed in small groups, while skits are acted out in front of the entire class. Class skits provide a way for students to use their creativity to construct a story that centers on ethical concerns in counseling situations. Students might use props, costumes and the room layout to set up a case scenario, and then invite the class to process the ethical issues involved and generate possible solutions.

We typically bring a suitcase full of hats, scarves, dishes, cups and random items such as sunglasses, baby bottles and stuffed animals to class. The class can be broken into small groups of three to five students, depending on class size, allowing for several different skits to take place in one class period. In this activity, the instructor assigns a specific issue related to counseling ethics. The small groups can then create any storyline or scenario in which an ethical dilemma must be solved. In our class, small groups are asked to create a situation in which a multiple relationship is exposed (such as running into a client at a party) and act out how the counselor handled the situation, both in the moment and in a therapy session. After each skit, the class is invited to discuss the story, the decision-making process and how the situation could have been avoided or handled differently.

Constructive controversy

Constructive controversy is an activity that places students in situations in which some kind of conflict exists between two opposing ideas, opinions or theories. The students present their opinions and then work together to reach an agreement.

In this activity, students may be paired (one student engages with another student), work in small groups (a pair of students engages with another pair of students), or the class can be split in two (a group of five to 10 students engages with another group of five to 10 students). The students are presented with two sides of an argument, but instead of deciding which side they wish to argue for or against, they are assigned to a side arbitrarily. This forces students, many of whom have preconceived notions or opinions about certain topics, to think critically and consider both sides of an issue. A number of controversial topics within the area of counseling ethics could be presented for consideration using this activity.

In our course, we use the following topic:

Situation: An agency has a policy in which clients are given a diagnosis in the first intake session, after which clients can be seen under a brief counseling model for a total of five counseling sessions. Side A will argue that early diagnosis is crucial in this situation. Side B will argue that rushing into diagnosis is harmful.

Each side is given time to prepare its position, including a rationale and conclusion. Each side then takes turns presenting its position without interruption or rebuttal from the other side. Students are encouraged to take notes and prepare for rebuttal while listening to the other side’s presentation. Both sides then engage in a rational discussion of the issues, with each side defending its own position and pointing out flaws in the reasoning of the other side’s argument. The next step, which is crucial, involves each group reversing positions. Each side must now summarize the other’s arguments to ensure understanding. Finally, both sides discuss the situation and reach a consensus. (Resources: For more information regarding constructive controversy, see Johnson and Johnson’s Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills or David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson and Karl A. Smith’s article “Constructive controversy: The power of intellectual conflict,” which appeared in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning in 2000.)

Illustrations of decision-making models

This is a fun activity that facilitates visual learning and creativity. In this activity, students work collaboratively to create a graphic presentation of an ethical decision-making model. We first introduce the class to several well-known ethical decision-making models through readings and discussion. Students are divided into small groups, and each group is given a large poster-size paper (we use the paper that is like an enormous sticky note, available at office supply stores, so these can be hung up around the room). Each group selects a different model, and group members collectively come up with a design to illustrate its particular model.

Students really embrace their creativity in this exercise. We have seen a “Mario Brothers” video game illustration, a flower, a cartoon strip, a house, a road map and several trees. Each group then presents its poster and explains how the picture relates to or simplifies the ethical decision-making model. The visual serves as a reminder of the steps for that particular model. This activity provides students with presentation experience, encourages group work and collaboration, and inspires creativity in understanding and retaining some of the most common ethical decision-making models in the field. (Resources: R. Rocco Cottone and Ronald E. Claus provide a nice overview of several different decision-making models in their 2000 article “Ethical Decision-Making Models: A Review of the Literature,” which appeared in the Journal of Counseling & Development. In our course, we also use models by Marcia Hill, Kristin Glaser and Judy Harden, and Karen Kitchener.)

Informed consent analysis

The informed consent analysis is an activity in which pairs of students review sample informed consent forms from several agencies. These forms can be downloaded online or gathered from local internship sites, hospitals and practices. We typically allow time for four different informed consent documents.

Students are provided a handout of a table with agency names across the top and different components of informed consent down the side. We ask students to look for a number of these components, including (but not limited to) credentials, responsibility for payment, supervisory relationship, confidentiality and privilege. Using this table as a guideline, students examine each consent form and check which aspects are covered sufficiently.

In the small group, students discuss the content, format, brevity and level of reader friendliness of each form. In this process, students identify commonalities and differences within the various forms, what information must be presented, what information should be presented and explain their reasoning. (Resource: In our course, we utilize a table adapted from Appendix C of Cottone and Vilia M. Tarvydas’ book Counseling Ethics and Decision-Making.)

Our takeaway message

Ethics can be fun! Fun to teach, fun to think about and fun to learn. This is not to take away from the seriousness of our duty to be ethical practitioners. Rather, we think it is important to instill in students the idea that ethics is neither scary nor boring. We want to communicate to them that proper consideration of ethics is more than a duty or an obligation — it is something that should be aspirational and inspirational. We believe that by providing students with these experiences and practice, we are preparing them to be more confident later when faced with real-life dilemmas.

In our experience, the use of active learning strategies increases students’ level of engagement, encourages them to engage in critical thinking, raises their level of preparedness for future practice and increases awareness of how ambiguous ethical dilemmas can be.

“Knowledge Share” articles are adapted from sessions presented at past ACA Annual Conferences.

Julie Koch is an assistant professor in the College of Education’s School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology at Oklahoma State University. Contact her at julie.koch@okstate.edu.

Adrienne Erby is a doctoral student in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Contact her at aerby@uncc.edu.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Making your next move

Lynne Shallcross

It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. Counselors aren’t exempt from that rule, as anyone who has made the transition from graduate student to new professional, from one job setting to another, or from practicing professional to retiree can attest.

Sometimes the change is exhilarating, as when landing a long-sought-after position or graduating with a new degree. Other times change is difficult, such as when starting over after a job loss. Although each person’s transition is different, counselors say change regularly offers both challenges and opportunities.

In 1973, Nancy K. Schlossberg left a position with Wayne State University to move to Washington, D.C., to become the first female executive of the American Council on Education. It was a great move for her professionally and one she very much wanted to make. So Schlossberg admits she was confused when she arrived and felt a little “discombobulated.”

Schlossberg, now professor emerita at the University of Maryland Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, couldn’t figure out what was upsetting her. She was intrigued by her feelings, however, and that intrigue led her to conduct multiple studies of people in transition over the next 35-plus years.

Schlossberg, who developed what she says is the original transition theory and has authored nine books on retirement and other transitions, believes people need to be reminded that change naturally causes discomfort, even if the change is one they desired. “People always wonder, ‘Why am I feeling some unease when this is what I wanted?’” says Schlossberg, who is also a past president of the National Career Development Association, a division of the American Counseling Association. The reason, she says, is because anytime a person’s roles, routines, relationships and assumptions change, it is a little jarring. It takes time to establish a new set of roles, routines, relationships and assumptions, she says, and that’s what the transition process is — the period of time during which a person gets a “new life.”

What makes the transition process unique for each person is something Schlossberg deems the four S’s: situation, self, supports and strategies. Situation refers to the person’s situation at the time of transition and whether other life stressors are involved, she explains. Self alludes to the “person’s inner strength for coping with [the] situation,” she says. Supports have to do with the amount of support a person has available to him or her during a transition. Strategies refer to the coping resources one uses. “The more someone can use lots of strategies flexibly, the better one will be able to cope,” Schlossberg says.

After years spent studying the topic, Schlossberg advises those going through transitions that there are no shortcuts to a quick adjustment. “Don’t give yourself a hard time,” she says. “You will get your new life. It just takes time.”

Counseling Today recently asked four ACA members to share what they experienced and learned as they faced professional transitions common to many counselors.

The move: From student  to professional


 

 

 

 

Stephanie Adams

Stephanie Adams credits her supervisor with giving her the advice she says has been most helpful in making the transition from graduate student to professional counselor: Respect clients’ abilities to heal themselves and control their own lives.

Adams, who graduated with a master’s degree in counseling from Dallas Baptist University in 2009, says one of the most daunting aspects of transitioning from graduate student to counselor intern to professional counselor was worrying that she might let a client down or fail to say the “right thing.” Her supervisor, Carol Doss, told Adams that counselors must believe in the power of their clients. “We don’t have all the power,” Adams remembers Doss telling her. “We’re not God. We’re just here to help as best we can, and if we do that, that’s all we can do.”

That view not only is empowering to clients, Adams says, but also takes some of the pressure off of her as a new counselor. “I’m grateful to have learned that I get to help but [that] I’m not all-powerful,” she says. “I can’t control whether someone gets better. People who like to help put the burden on themselves to fix everyone. [But] it’s not all about me and what I can change.”

If she didn’t see clients as capable and competent enough to overcome their own obstacles, Adams says, then she would worry all the time as a new counselor, constantly agonizing over her decisions and her clients’ problems. Counselors must have faith that clients can handle whatever it is they’re facing, Adams says. “[Seeing it that way] frees me to be the best helper I can be,” she says.

Adams, who is in the process of self-publishing The Beginning Counselor’s Survival Guide, which she co-authored with Doss, has spent the past two-plus years building up her reputation and skills as a professional. Upon graduating in 2009, she continued working as an intern at a family counseling center in Fort Worth where she had done her practicum during graduate school. Soon after earning her license as a professional counselor this past April, Adams relocated to College Station, where she opened a private practice in which she works with clients in Texas online or by phone. She currently works with approximately five clients per week, but her goal is to build that to 10 to 12 clients per week minimum.

Making the transition out of school was scary, Adams says, “because it’s all new and it’s the first time you’re practicing without a net, so to speak.” Adams felt fortunate to have Doss as a great supervisor to lean on and to learn from, acknowledging that it can be nerve-wracking for a student-turned-professional to start making decisions concerning clients on his or her own.

Having experienced firsthand that making the move from student to professional can be daunting, Adams and one of her colleagues, Diana Pitaru, started a group for new counselors called Counselors and Psychotherapists Network of North Texas. The group meets monthly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to talk about issues, struggles, questions, problems, successes and more. Adams also started a beginning counselor’s social networking site (beginningcounselor.webs.com) where newer professionals can help each other by sharing ideas and concerns.

One of Adams’ biggest hurdles in moving from student to professional was feeling unsure of herself and her abilities as a counselor. The only way to conquer that, she maintains, is practice. “[The feeling] never completely goes away, but certainly the knowledge that you’ve successfully handled a certain problem or certain kind of client before gives you added confidence,” she says. “Giving it time to see [the] benefits you have helped a client achieve makes a difference, too. When you can see for yourself that something you said made a difference for a client, it gives you immense satisfaction and confidence.”

Figuring out the practical aspects of starting a career as a counselor was also challenging, Adams says, including how to sign up for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification and how to locate and secure an internship. Once again, Adams says she was fortunate to have a supervisor who helped her find her way.

Both in her internship and now in her work as a private practitioner, finding clients has been part of the job, Adams says. The noncounseling aspects of business, such as putting a listing on Psychology Today’s online therapy directory and seeking clients in a variety of other ways, can seem difficult at first, she admits. To sharpen her skills, Adams read multiple books and attended numerous webinars on marketing. She points to books by Lynn Grodzki and David P. Diana and blogs from Deborah Legge and Tamara Suttle as particularly valuable in getting started as a counselor.

Through her social networking site, Adams says she hears stories of beginning counselors getting discouraged when they hit a bump in the road. She advises students transitioning into professional practice not to take their slight incapacities or areas of needed growth and blow them out of proportion, allowing these relative “weak spots” to define them. “Don’t give up and think you’re not suited for the field,” she says. “You’re here for a reason; there are people you’re supposed to help.”

Adams also encourages those who are feeling stressed during a professional transition to draw on their resources as fledgling counselors and take the advice they would give to clients. “If you’re having an anxiety attack, sit down and deal with it and think of what you would tell someone else to do,” she says. “That’s part of being who you say you’re going to be. You’re not going to be perfect [at it], but try your best to be a representative of a healthy mental lifestyle.” She says this effort involves taking care of yourself and dealing with any issues that arise instead of attempting to suppress them.

Adams offers a few additional pieces of advice for students-turned-professionals:

  • Allow yourself to make mistakes, and don’t assume that a mistake is a sign that you’re not meant for a career in counseling.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people, both inside and outside the counseling profession.
  • Allow yourself some flexibility, but have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Don’t expect things to resolve themselves as quickly as you would like them to be. For instance, Adams says, it can take eight to 12 months for a counseling practice to reach full capacity.
  • Don’t ignore any potential networking connection, whether it’s someone who can offer business advice or a seasoned counselor who can offer wisdom from experience.

With future clients, Adams expects she will be able to draw on the perspective she gained while navigating through this transition. She will feel confident in assuring clients going through their own transitions that it is OK if they don’t have all the answers right away — that they will find the answers as they move forward. Adams also learned during her transition from student to professional that when she found herself avoiding a task, it was usually due to a fear of failure. She discovered that the more she did related to whatever it was she was afraid of, the easier it got.

The biggest payoff in her new role as a professional counselor, Adams says, is feeling the satisfaction that comes from working with clients. “Working with clients is the reward for all the book work,” she says. “That’s what we get into counseling for. That’s what we love.”

The move: From agency work to private practice: Kimberly Leandre

Kimberly Leandre already had a dream of going into private practice. But when the agency where she worked as a counselor closed because of economic difficulties and budget cuts, she was nudged toward that dream a little sooner than she had planned.

For almost eight years, Leandre worked for the Southern Rhode Island Collaborative, where she counseled adolescents in an alternative learning program. In the fall of 2010, her job was cut from 40 hours a week to 12 hours a week. Then this past June, the agency closed completely. Before her hours decreased and again before the agency closed, Leandre explored a variety of employment options: fee for service, community mental health agencies, group practice, teaching at the local community college and private practice as a sole practitioner. She began a limited practice in June 2010 and continued to work part time at the agency throughout its final year. When her job at the agency ended fully, she weighed the pros and cons and chose to put her efforts into a full-time practice.

“My practice is going well and the schedule works great [with] having a husband and three very active kids, ages 9, 11 and 15,” says Leandre, whose practice is in East Greenwich, R.I. “I went from having no clue what ‘CAQH’ (Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare) meant to now being on several insurance panels. My transition has been successful, and it’s largely because I focused on the silver lining in the clouds.”

Leandre is currently seeing between 20 and 25 clients a week while continuing to build her client base. She admits it’s very different from her previous agency schedule but says she’s making her private practice work by offering office hours on weekdays as well as on two weeknights each week and on Saturdays.

Leandre has some background in running a small business — her parents owned ice cream stores, which she managed as she was growing up. Her parents still serve as a sounding board for some of her business ideas. In addition, Leandre belongs to the Rhode Island Mental Health Counselors Association and attended the organization’s seminars on starting a private practice as she was getting her business going. Topics ranged from billing and marketing to the pros and cons of insurance panels.

Leandre also says she read The Complete Guide to Private Practice for Licensed Mental Health Professionals by Robert Walsh and Norman Dasenbrook from cover to cover more than once. She started a website for her practice through TherapySites, got Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) liability insurance through ACA and has a profile on Psychology Today’s online therapy directory.

In addition, Leandre reached out to a childhood friend who works nearby as a counselor in private practice. Leandre met with her to bounce ideas off her and to go over intake documents. Leandre also keeps the clinician on her referral list in case she can’t take a client who calls in.

The initial process of getting clients offered a bit of a hurdle, Leandre admits, in part because it took her a little while to adjust to marketing in a therapeutic manner. Leandre recently printed brochures, which she began dropping off, along with her business card, to area psychiatrists and other doctors.

There is added pressure when running a business to make ends meet because you’re solely responsible for your own paycheck, Leandre says. Addressing the issue of no-shows can be tricky, but Leandre decided to implement a no-show fee because she knew she had to make her practice financially viable.

It takes time to learn the managed care billing process, she says, but it’s necessary to have the patience and make the time to navigate insurance panels. Leandre does all her own billing directly through an online billing clearinghouse system that she uses to organize her client information and notes.

Leandre says the results can be gratifying for counselors who are open to dealing with insurance companies, doing the billing, coordinating the scheduling and handling all the other responsibilities that go along with running a private practice. She touts not only her increased schedule flexibility, which she can adapt based on the needs of her family, but says it’s also rewarding to reap the financial benefits of her own hard work instead of working for someone else.

As she was starting out in her practice, Leandre says she often wondered if she was doing the right thing. Her parents, who were very supportive of her efforts and could draw on their own business experience, told her that new businesses needed to be given five years to succeed. “I would say in the beginning I was nervous, but now I am sure I did the right thing,” Leandre says.

When asked what advice she would give to other counselors considering a move into private practice, Leandre responds, “Read and seminar yourself to death.” She says she remembers walking out of one seminar thinking she hadn’t learned anything new. At that moment, she knew she was ready to start her practice. “It wasn’t that the [seminar] information wasn’t great,” she says. “It was that I had all the information already.”

In addition to attending seminars, networking and talking to colleagues in the field, Leandre recommends securing a good accountant and lawyer, purchasing private practice insurance and getting supervision. Keep professional development at the forefront of your brain as well, she adds.

Finding the right location for your practice is another important element of success, says Leandre, who works in a building with two chiropractors, a massage therapist and an acupuncturist. Although they don’t typically refer clients to each other, being in close proximity to other like-minded professionals who have a passion for health and wellness raises awareness of the range of services offered in the building and increases client traffic, Leandre says.

Among Leandre’s other pieces of advice for those wishing to transition into private practice:

  • Have confidence in yourself and your skills. “Have faith in yourself that you can do this,” she says.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t rush in without first doing all your research and homework.
  • Invest in an informative website. Research shows that letting clients see the environment before they come in can ease anxiety, so Leandre includes a photo of herself and her office on her website.
  • Maintain a list of other practitioners to whom you can refer clients if you can’t take them.
  • Be prepared to handle any hurdles that come your way, such as having the confidence to follow up with an insurance company if it rejects a claim. “There is no problem that is unsolvable,” Leandre says. “You just have to figure out how to solve it.”

Losing a job and being forced to carve out a new career path can be stressful and anxiety-producing, but Leandre says she succeeded because she chose to focus on the positive. That lesson is something she says she can recommend to her future clients. “I really do feel like when one door closes, another opens,” Leandre says. “You have to try to find what good can come from something that feels negative at first. It’s looking for that and staying positive.”

In her case, Leandre couldn’t be happier about the end result. “I feel like I’m living the dream,” she says.

The move: From agency work to academia

 

 

 

 

Ellen Carruth

Ever since graduating in 2008 with a doctorate in counselor education from the University of Tennessee, Ellen Carruth had been actively pursuing a position in academia. But when her persistence finally paid off this past year and she landed a position as coordinator for the master of arts in counseling psychology program at the City University of Seattle, Carruth admits she was nervous.

After graduating with her doctorate, Carruth and her family relocated from Tennessee to Seattle. Although securing a position at a university was her goal, the economy was struggling and academic openings were far from plentiful. So, Carruth ended up taking a position as a clinical case manager with a local community mental health agency, where she and her colleagues provided medication management, case management, substance abuse treatment, counseling and a variety of other services to mostly low-income clients.

When Carruth reached out to Counseling Today in September shortly after beginning her position at City University of Seattle, her feelings were bittersweet. “While I am finally where I have strived to be, I feel lost,” Carruth wrote in an email. “I have spent the last year managing a caseload of 100-plus severely mentally ill adults. I spent my time making sure they had medications, food, shelter and basic necessities. I worked with a group of the most fantastic professionals I’ve ever come across — they were boisterous and loud, but their passion for their work and their clients was contagious. They were my family for 12 months.”

“Now, I will build a new family,” Carruth continued. “I am slowly securing my footing in this new world, learning about the unique aspects of this school and learning the culture of these people. As I move into this role, I am aware of the internal anxieties I feel, my tendency to almost fall into the ‘imposter syndrome’ and the incredibly steep learning curve ahead of me.”

Fast-forward a few months, and Carruth’s outlook is decidedly steadier and more confident. She says she feels like she has found her footing. She has begun developing relationships with other faculty members and is receiving positive feedback from her students.

Looking back, Carruth admits that when she first arrived on campus, she felt there was a pre-existing expectation that she knew exactly what to do in her new role simply because she possessed a doctorate. “Over time, I realized it’s up to me to ask the questions I need to ask and to be a little more assertive,” she says. “Part of my transition was learning how to get what I need from the people around me. It was also a matter of pushing through my insecurities [and] realizing that I’m here because I earned the position.”

While Carruth was working at the community agency, she didn’t give up her hopes of finding a job in academia and kept her ear to the ground. “Persistence was key — staying on top of openings and jumping on them when they popped up,” she says. “I applied for several but, finally, [with City University of Seattle], the time and place was right.”

Much of Carruth’s final month at the agency was spent ramping down her work and ensuring that her clients were assigned to new clinicians so no gap in services would take place. Carruth also met with her supervisor at the university in the month before starting there to find out what the expectations were for her position and to begin preparing for those expectations. Carruth’s position is largely administrative, but she is also teaching one lecture class and supervising two sections of practicum. She’ll also be taking on the role of internship coordinator.

Although Carruth felt an overall sense of excitement upon starting her new position, she admits it was initially a challenge to get to know and understand her new environment. She found herself trying to figure out the culture of her new workplace, how people interacted and where she fit in to the existing dynamic.

However, this transition ended up being easier for her than her previous transition from graduate school to the agency, Carruth says. Upon graduation, she explains, she held the expectation that with a doctorate, she would be immediately hirable for the jobs she desired in academia. When she took the position at the agency, it meant adjusting her expectations. But Carruth is careful to point out that although she didn’t realize it initially, the experience she gained at the agency was invaluable. “I don’t regret spending the time there at all,” she says. “It prepared me in a lot of ways to do the job I’m doing now. With hands-on experience working with clients with severe mental illness, I’m able to relate the course concepts through the experiences I’ve had.”

So Carruth offers other professionals a different perspective on not getting what they think they want right away: Although she felt like she was taking a bit of a step back when she accepted the position at the agency, in hindsight, she says the experience was priceless. “It might not feel like it’s where you want to go at that particular moment, but stick with it, and there’s probably a lesson to be learned,” she says. “Be open and aware to how you can develop professionally.”

Carruth, who serves as the community mental health liaison for the Washington Mental Health Counselors Association, says participating in professional activities and networking helped connect her with opportunities during her job search. “It can be a competitive thing to find a job in your neighborhood,” she says. “Be persistent, and that will pay off. Don’t give up — that’s my advice. If you want it, go for it.”

And when you land a job, Carruth says, persistence is still important. “Approach the new situation with a bit of humility,” she advises. “You don’t know everything you need to know about coming into a college or university setting at first. It will take time and persistence to learn how things work.”

In pursuing and landing the job at her university, Carruth says she learned that no one will chase you down — it’s up to you to go after what you want. And once you arrive at your destination and realize that the transition is ongoing, it pays to remain confident. “For me, it’s remembering that I’m trained to do this work and I have the skills and abilities to do what I was hired to do,” Carruth says. “It’s taking that leap of faith that I will be successful.”

The move: From professional to retiree

 

 

 

 

Charlene Kampfe

Charlene Kampfe loved her job. She had spent more than 20 years as a faculty member in the Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies at the University of Arizona, and at age 66, it wasn’t in her plans to retire.

But the university was offering a tempting deal to tenure-track professors who had worked at the university for a decade or longer and who were 65 or older. Any qualifying professor who was willing to retire would be given a year’s salary in exchange.

“It only made sense to me to take advantage of that,” Kampfe says, “but I loved what I was doing and I was worried I would lose my meaning in life. I loved working with students and I loved feeling like what I was doing was important. And I was afraid I would lose that feeling of doing something important.”

After a lot of careful deliberation, Kampfe decided to accept the offer and retired from the university this past May. Despite her initial worries, by the time her retirement date arrived, Kampfe says she had thought through the decision and had grown to be at ease with it.

Although technically retired, Kampfe hasn’t slowed down that much. She has contracted with ACA to write a book about counseling older people, is working as a consultant, has published several articles and has a few upcoming lectures planned. The university also gave Kampfe emerita status after she left, which allows her to retain a bit of connection to that community and a sense of pride about her contributions there, she says.

The biggest hurdle in transitioning into retirement, Kampfe says, was the amount of preparation involved. “When you retire, the number of things you have to deal with is overwhelming,” she says. The preparation wasn’t so much psychological, Kampfe says, but instead rather basic. It meant investigating Medicare, Social Security, how to manage her money in retirement — even things as mundane as what to do with her sick leave.

Kampfe says her area agency on aging offered a variety of resources, including monthly classes open to anyone planning to retire, counseling services and individual consultations. In addition, Kampfe and a handful of university colleagues who were also retiring formed a group, meeting once every three weeks to share ideas, ask and answer questions, and troubleshoot.

Time to process the transition psychologically felt lacking, Kampfe says, because there was so much to do from a practical standpoint, from making benefits decisions to finishing up her classes to cleaning out her office. But because she was worried she would lose her sense of meaning in life, Kampfe did seek personal counseling, which she found helpful.

Counselors or any other professionals considering retirement should first examine their priorities by asking themselves some questions, Kampfe says. “What do I want? What is meaningful to me? Do I have enough money that I don’t have to work anymore, or do I need to continue? Do I want to work because I love working?”

If a decision is reached to retire, Kampfe says people must then determine at what speed their retirement will run. She suggests that people ask themselves whether they simply want to ramp down in terms of the hours they work or whether they want to stop working completely and just focus on “play.” For Kampfe, the answer was a mixture of new work as a consultant and author along with a healthy dose of play.

“If someone can’t wait to get out and play, then follow your bliss,” Kampfe says. “But if you’re going to miss being a counselor, then find things to do.” Those options might include consulting, grant writing, volunteering or a variety of other alternatives, she says.

In considering retirement, Kampfe says she anticipated the most difficult aspect would be maintaining her sense of self after leaving her job. So it came as a surprise to her when her worry didn’t become a reality. Instead, she has found that transitioning into a consulting role and writing the book have kept her fulfillment needle high. She also maintains contact with some of her students and is working to finish up a few writing projects she had started with students before her retirement.

On the flip side, Kampfe says, the barrage of information and decisions that had to be made involving retirement were surprisingly challenging. One of the best ways she devised to cope with that process involved creating a calendar of tasks and due dates that she updated weekly to keep herself organized and feeling in control.

The biggest payoff of her transition into retirement is having the time to choose what she wants to do, Kampfe says. In fact, she has established a couple of rules for herself in retirement. First is to say yes to any fun activities that people ask her to participate in, and second is to decline any offers of work unless she gets paid and unless the work sounds like fun.

One consideration Kampfe wants to pass along to other counselors approaching retirement is that they should take the time to figure out what they want, determine what holds meaning for them and then figure out what they need to do to experience that meaning. “Make some decisions about that and then try to follow some of [your own] guidelines, but don’t be too stiff about it either,” she says.

Among Kampfe’s other tips:

  • Know what you have to get done in terms of paperwork. Understand the guidelines, the rules and the benefits involved.
  • If you have a partner, make sure that he or she is also doing OK with handling the transition.
  • In determining how to make life meaningful in retirement, Kampfe suggests that people ask themselves the following question: Where is your joy?
  • Be open to opportunities, but also know your boundaries.
  • Lastly, for those in preretirement, Kampfe recommends saving early and saving often.

Kampfe’s own advice for herself in the future might just be, “Don’t worry, you’re more flexible than you know.” Although she was worried about the transition beforehand, Kampfe now happily realizes she’s truly enjoying her time in retirement. “That says to me that I’ve been able to make the transition without too much heartache.”

Lynne Shallcross is a senior writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at lshallcross@counseling.org.

 

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