Tag Archives: Counselor Educators Audience

Counselor Educators Audience

Universities of Malta, Maryland enhance students’ transcultural competencies through joint degree program

Heather Rudow June 1, 2012

The importance of developing culturally competent counselors has never been greater. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected because of technology, economic and business initiatives, pop culture and professional opportunities, cultures are less and less segregated. The likelihood of daily encounters with individuals from other countries or with different ethnic backgrounds is high, meaning counselors no longer can depend on having shared cultural experiences with their clients.

A joint Masters of Arts degree program in transcultural counseling between the University of Malta and the University of Maryland is aiming to prepare the next generation of counselors by teaching students how to work successfully in a variety of contexts, free from cultural biases.

The joint transcultural counseling program is the brainchild of Dione Mifsud, head of the psychology department at the University of Malta, a member of the American Counseling Association and current president of the International Association for Counselling (IAC), and Courtland Lee, a professor of counselor education and school counseling at the University of Maryland and a past president of both ACA and the IAC.

“I had … in mind for sometime that we would have a program with an international flavor,” Mifsud says. His idea took further shape after meeting Lee at an international counseling conference in Malta in 2008. Mifsud then proposed the idea to Lee at the ACA Annual Conference in Charlotte, N.C., in 2009.

The University of Malta had other international joint degree programs in place, Mifsud says, but nothing in the counseling field. Mifsud and Lee began working on a proposal for a joint master’s degree in transcultural counseling between the University of Maryland and the University of Malta, and the program was officially formalized in July 2011.

The first cohort of 14 students — hailing from Malta, Finland, Germany, China and the United States — began in the fall of 2011. When they graduate, they will receive degrees in counseling from both universities.

“What we told them we expect,” Lee says, “is that they will have the transcultural competencies to be world counselors, that they’ll be able to go to any country and adapt their worldview to the cultural context of that country and be good counselors.”

Generally speaking, Mifsud says, transcultural counseling focuses on the bridging of different ethnic cultures. That is not the only thing the program is trying to accomplish, however. “We’d like our counselors to be able to deal with not just ethnic realities, but daily [differences between cultures],” he says. “Each client brings a different culture with him.”

The 18-month joint master’s program is based out of the University of Malta in Valletta and is taught by professors from the United States, Malta and the United Kingdom. Mifsud believes the variety in the teachers’ cultural backgrounds enhances the transcultural element of the program.

The course provides students with training in counseling while also allowing them to “assimilate a broader view of the sociocultural context surrounding counseling,” according to the University of Maryland’s website describing the program.

Students must complete course work, a practicum (done in the country of the student’s choosing) and a final paper. The aim of the program, as described by the University of Maryland website, is to provide the students with “a wider exchange of cultural viewpoints and experiences surrounding contemporary counseling theory and practice.”

There is also something of a political aspect to the program, Mifsud acknowledges. Upon completing the program, he hopes graduates will be able to think transculturally and potentially influence political organizations such as the United Nations and organizations with social justice missions to operate in ways that will positively enhance all cultures.

Mifsud has an idea why more students are choosing to focus on transcultural counseling. “It has to do with counseling becoming a global phenomenon, and also an increased focus on international issues [in society in general], not just in counseling,” he says.

Lee agrees, adding that social justice and transculturalism have become hot topics in modern society and are increasingly relevant for counseling students.

The program dovetails the prevalence of internationalism in the world and in counseling by having the students complete their internships in unique, transcultural settings, from schools to organizations that house immigrants to jails.

Anabel Mifsud (no relation to Dione), research officer and administrator for counseling programs at the University of Malta, explains that it is important for counseling students to intern in settings such as jails because “[prisoners] are marginalized and quite different from the general population, and there are many foreigners there as well.”

Anabel believes transcultural counseling will continue to become more relevant over time. “I think increasingly we are living in a transcultural environment,” she says. “People are moving from one place to another, and we’re seeing a large influx of immigrants, especially in Malta.”

The diverse student cohort in the program in Malta further enhances the ideals being taught in the classroom, Anabel says. “The transcultural element is manifested through these students coming from different countries,” she says.

Student Anders Granberg, a member of ACA, is but one example of the culturally diverse backgrounds found within the program. He is from Finland but has also lived extensively in Hong Kong.

He says studying with students from other countries has helped him learn in ways he would not have otherwise. “They bring their own flavor from wherever they’re from,” Granberg says, “[which affects] how they react to counseling and different aspects of counseling.”

Granberg’s own transcultural background, as well as the growing multiculturalism he has witnessed throughout the world, inspired him to study transcultural counseling. “It interests me a lot and was one of the reasons I got into counseling in general,” Granberg says. “People cross into different cultures all the time and don’t always understand what’s going on. That’s something I understand [in relation to] my own life, and I want to help others with that as a counselor.”

So far, his favorite course has been “Multicultural Counseling,” which was taught by Lee. “It allowed us to reflect on our own cultural elements, and not just our ethnicities, but our genders and other abstract things,” Granberg says.

As Lee explains, “It is basically a modified course that I’ve been teaching in the U.S. for the last 30 years. When you teach a multicultural course in the United States, there is always a focus on race and ethnicity, but that is not the case when teaching the course internationally. [For example], there is a focus on religion [in the class here] because that is a big issue here in Malta. We talked about culture in a much broader, more global sense.”

Student Suelle Micallef Marmara, who is from Malta, says Lee’s class and the other courses she has taken have already altered her worldview. “I’m becoming more transculturally aware, and I’m noticing more conflicts between other cultures and when people don’t integrate with other cultures,” she says.

Marmara believes the transcultural counseling program will prepare her to stay much more open-minded with her clients as she becomes a licensed professional counselor. “It will help me be more aware, be less prejudiced and put less space between [myself] and a [client], which ultimately helps [me] become a better counselor,” she says.

Wenjiao Zhang, a student from China, agrees. “This program changed my views in many ways, [including] how I see perspectives in general,” she says. “For example, I didn’t see how local healing practices could be used as part of counseling practices … but now my eyes are open.”

Victoria Garcia, a student from the United States, says one of the most effective aspects of the program for her is that she is studying abroad for it. “I don’t think it would be as beneficial if it was in the United States,” she says. “And now I’ve made friends from all over the world that I’ll keep in touch with as I continue on this journey to become a counselor.”

Garcia says the program has encouraged her to further develop her views, both transculturally and introspectively. For example, she has come to understand that she struggles to identify with her own ethnic culture, but her courses are helping her to reconcile this aspect of her life. Getting to know one’s self better will only serve to enhance one’s competencies as a counselor, Garcia says.

Garcia is grateful to be experiencing the program, not only because she will graduate with two degrees, but because the program is offering knowledge that she believes will be key to the evolution of the counseling profession.

“I think it’s important to be culturally competent and globally literate,” Garcia says. “I’m not saying you have to be an expert in every culture, but if you don’t understand a little bit where somebody’s coming from, it’s hard to connect.”

 Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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A loss like no other

Lynne Shallcross

Imagine this scenario: You are a counselor, and you have two clients. They are the same age and same gender, and both experienced the death of a partner at roughly the same period in life. So, you can reasonably expect that both will have similar reactions to that parallel loss and both will benefit from similar counseling techniques to deal with the residual grief, right? Not likely.

In fact, says Vincent Viglione, an adjunct professor of counseling at Kean University and Montclair State University in New Jersey, one of the most important things for counselors to understand about grief and loss is that although the experience of loss is universal, every individual’s grief process is unique. “We as counselors recognize that certain client responses are not necessarily pathological,” says Viglione, who is doing his doctoral dissertation on adult sibling grief and continuing bonds at Montclair State. “As such, we attempt to normalize our client’s feelings. In doing so, however, we must preserve the idea that their circumstance is unique to them. Normalizing, then, is never saying, ‘You’re just like everyone else.’”

Keren Humphrey, a retired professor of counseling at Texas A&M University-Commerce, agrees about the unique nature of each person’s grief experience, not only because of her work with clients but also because of her own experience with grief and loss. “In the last two years, I have experienced a number of significant losses, including breast cancer with a double mastectomy, my husband’s extended illness and death, [and] my mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s and her death only a month after my husband’s death,” says Humphrey, whose book, Counseling Strategies for Loss and Grief, was published by the American Counseling Association in 2009. “These experiences have certainly reiterated my view that each person’s experience of loss and grief is unique. The meanings I attach to my losses and my ways of grieving are specific to me.”

Understanding that notion of uniqueness and applying it in session as a counselor means there is no one “right” approach to grief-related counseling work, Humphrey asserts. Rather, to work effectively with these clients, practitioners must be capable of drawing from a variety of counseling skills and techniques and tailoring a therapeutic approach that is custom fit to the client’s specific personality, situation and needs.

A good starting point for counselors is to take the role of “witness” and realize that the client is the expert, Humphrey says. “It’s a time for you to shut up and facilitate the client in telling [his or her] story. We too often in counseling jump too quickly into reflecting feelings and attending and worrying about the next thing we’re going to say to the client. That interferes with [clients] telling their story. Back off of those automatic responses and just allow clients to tell their story of loss.”

A loss is the absence of something we deem meaningful, Humphrey explains, while grief is our response to that sense of loss. People normally associate loss with the death of a family member or close friend, but it can also be inclusive of the loss of a house, a relationship, a job or any number of other things. Sometimes, says Anne Ober, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at Walsh University, it can even be the loss of a particular feeling. For instance, Ober points out that after 9/11, even people who weren’t directly affected by the terrorist attacks might have felt a loss of the sense of security they had presumed previously.

Elizabeth Doughty Horn, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling at Idaho State University, says grief can also stem from the loss of expectations that weren’t met. From the outside, to those observers who aren’t experiencing the loss personally, the loss might not appear particularly significant — for example, a high school student failing to make the cheerleading squad. Many of the losses people experience are disenfranchised, Horn says, meaning they aren’t recognized or appreciated as losses by society. Hallmark doesn’t make cards for disenfranchised losses, she notes.

In some instances, only certain aspects of loss get recognized, while other often more complicated aspects go overlooked. Consider a person recently diagnosed with cancer. “Once someone has been diagnosed with cancer, his or her identity is often linked with the disease,” says Horn, a member of ACA who has researched, published articles, taught classes and presented at conferences on the topic of grief and loss. “The bulk of their day-to-day life is spent focused on cancer — scheduling, getting to and from doctor appointments, reassuring well-wishers, letting people know about their illness, processing their own emotions as well as their family’s. Obviously, people acknowledge grief and loss associated with getting cancer, but they may not view it in terms of the loss of self.”

Many times in cases of disenfranchised loss, clients themselves don’t recognize the issue as one deserving of feelings of grief. They come to a counselor saying, “I shouldn’t be so upset about this,” Horn says. One of the most helpful things counselors can do is to acknowledge the extent of the losses clients have experienced and assist them in connecting the way they are feeling with those losses.

Even in situations in which loss is generally recognized by society at large, counselors say it is common for clients to come into counseling feeling unsure about why they are struggling. “It happens so often,” Horn says. “People come in and recognize there has been a major change, but they’re not seeing it in terms of grief. They might say, ‘I know I lost my job, but I have a new job, so why am I still focused on the job I lost a year ago?’”

Society often emphasizes getting over things and moving on, Horn says, but in many situations of loss, the process of “getting over it” doesn’t happen quickly, if ever. One of the newer trends in grief and loss counseling is the rejection of the idea of “closure” as a completed process, Horn says, especially as it relates to death. But many times, she says, clients either think they should be “over” something already or they don’t even recognize that their pain stems from an issue of grief and loss.

“I believe that once counselors begin to view transitions in terms of grief and loss,” Horn says, “they really won’t have to look for these issues in their clients. Rather, they will see an aspect of them in almost every client issue. I’m not suggesting that everything in life is grief and loss — how depressing — but there can be an element of these in much of day-to-day life in varying extremes.”

Viglione, an ACA member who runs a private practice in Denville, N.J., agrees. “For every client that I see, I find an element of loss in what they’re presenting if I look closely enough.”

Stepping away from the stages

Counselors say one of the more significant changes in the area of grief and loss counseling in recent years has been the move away from using Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief model. Ober, a member of ACA who has researched, counseled and taught on the topic of grief, points out that Kübler-Ross herself said her stages were misapplied and that she originally designed them to be used with individuals coming to terms with their own death. Although Kübler-Ross’ work was very beneficial and started a larger societal conversation about death and dying, Ober says applying the stages to clients going through grief and loss isn’t very helpful and in some cases can even be harmful.

The problem is that the stages model doesn’t fit everyone’s experience, Horn says, especially in light of how each person’s reaction to loss is unique. Humphrey agrees, saying the model suggests that everyone experiences grief the same way. “That just simply is not true,” Humphrey says. “It does not respect the differences among people in terms of personality, social-cultural influences and that kind of thing. We need models that allow us to focus on uniqueness of people. It also ignores process. Instead, we need to understand that clients are in a process of adapting, renewing and reviewing. They’re in a process, not in a stage.”

Horn says research conducted on how the stages were used in therapy has shown that counselors were doing harm to some clients by trying to shoehorn them into stages. For example, if a client wasn’t having the particular experience the counselor thought he should be having according to the stage model, the client may have tried specifically to have that experience, she explains. “And that’s when people get into trouble — when they’re not following their own natural process, when they try to do something that doesn’t fit into who they are,” Horn says.

The stages also gave the impression that if clients went all the way through each of the stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — they would encounter an end point to their grief, Horn says. “But grief is an ongoing process of adaptation,” she says. “The idea of closure is no longer seen as being possible for most people. Rather, it’s ‘How do I adapt or integrate this loss into who I am and into everyday life?’”

Humphrey again emphasizes that the trend in grief and loss counseling in the past decade or two has been toward realizing there is no one-size-fits-all model or therapeutic approach to helping clients. “Instead, the counselor helps clients focus on useful material and implements therapeutic strategies appropriate to the uniqueness of a given client,” she says. “For example, I would use nondirective methods with a client who is uncomfortable with more directive approaches. I might use narrative therapy strategies to help a client explore cultural influences and later use solution-focused or behavior-based strategies for specific problems or to increase awareness of personal strengths for the same client. I might use cinematherapy to highlight multiple issues, but not with people who hate movies. It is important that counseling professionals remember that effective grief counseling is not about the counselor’s specialty. … Rather, it is about selecting and adapting various therapeutic approaches to the particular needs, preferences, personal history, grieving style and multiple contexts of a given client. Using only one approach with every client is ineffective and, worse, very disrespectful.”

Go with what’s natural

The main goal in working with clients who have experienced a loss is to help them experience and express their grief in the style that is most natural to them, Horn says. That might mean encouraging clients to disregard outside influences or the internal “shoulds,” she says. For instance, a person who has just experienced the death of a loved one might get the message from his church that the death was “meant to be” and that it is time to let the person go. “Maybe that ends up making the client feel they should be happier this has happened or that they shouldn’t be feeling so sad,” Horn says. When clients refer to what family members, their religious community or some other outside influence thinks, Horn suggests counselors raise clients’ awareness of this and ask what they are experiencing.

Helping clients find their natural grieving style starts with listening to them and supporting what they say they’re thinking or feeling. “A client might say, ‘I’m really sad, but I haven’t cried and I feel guilty for not crying. I’m more focused on the logistical details of what led up to the person’s death,’” Horn says. “So we try to help foster that rather than putting pressure on them to cry or telling them that they’re in denial.”

In fact, Horn says, one of the newer models some counselors are using in loss and grief work, the adaptive grieving styles model from Terry Martin and Kenneth Doka, recognizes that certain clients will be more affective in their grieving style, some will be more cognitive and others will find themselves along the continuum in between. Understanding that different grieving styles exist and encouraging clients to grieve in the way that’s most natural to them is key, Horn says. For instance, grief groups are often helpful to affective grievers, who might want to share and cry with others, she says. On the other hand, cognitive grievers might want to focus on problem-solving associated with the loss and could find talking about the loss repeatedly with a group to be overwhelming.

“Counselors use this model to help better conceptualize and work with clients,” Horn says. “They educate clients about the uniqueness of grief and help them to identify their personal style, [which is] usually blended, with one more prominent than the other [affective versus cognitive]. This helps to normalize their natural style and helps to remove some of the perceived pressures to grieve in a particular way. Counselors can then use techniques that complement a client’s predominant style, allowing them to experience and express [their grief] more naturally.”

Horn also mentions Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut’s dual-process model as potentially beneficial because it focuses on different aspects of the loss. It looks at both loss-oriented stressors, which deal with thoughts and feelings related directly to the loss, and restoration-oriented stressors, which refer in part to the life roles that have been changed after the loss. The model suggests that people experiencing a loss will oscillate between the two, Horn says.

Ober’s take on the dual-process model is that people need to move between the emotional impact of the loss and the day-to-day logistical impact of the loss. For example, a recent widower might have an intense emotional response in which he cries and talks about his deceased wife, but he may also have to figure out how to cook because she previously prepared all of their meals. “What this theory suggests is that it’s healthy for the person to move between those two [responses] and have a balance,” Ober says. “People who are able to do both fare better in the long run than people who focus on one or the other research shows.”

Meaning-making, which Robert Neimeyer, Thomas Attig and Michael White have researched, is another potentially helpful concept, Ober says. It provides a way of helping clients determine what the loss means to them in their life and their life story, she says, and has similarities to narrative therapy. However, Ober says, counselors need to let clients guide them before using this technique. Clients need to indicate on their own in some way that they are trying to make sense of why the loss happened and what it means to them. “That won’t be the case for everyone,” Ober says. “You shouldn’t apply it unless your client is really at that place.”

Ober also points to continuing bonds theory as potentially helpful. The theory is in contrast to Sigmund Freud’s idea that a person needs to cut ties with whomever has died and focus instead on the here and now. The continuing bonds theory suggests that a person who has lost a loved one can still have a nonphysical relationship and some sort of communication with the deceased person. Letter writing, putting up photos at home, returning to a special place that was important to the deceased person and celebrating the deceased person’s birthday or death anniversary are a few examples of ways to continue the bond, Ober says.

Viglione recommends William Worden’s tasks of grief approach as another potential tool for helping grieving clients. The tasks take clients through accepting the reality of the loss, working through the pain of the grief, adjusting to the new environment and reinvesting in life.

A life story that continues

Humphrey says helping clients to explore and tell their story of loss is important, as is helping them create a new story of who they are today. “Sometimes people can be stuck with their old story, looking at the past as if time stops,” Humphrey says. “They’re living physically in the present and the world is moving on, but they’re stuck. That brings them into counseling. What you’re trying to do as a counselor is help them create a narrative that builds onto their old story by taking into account their losses.”

“Creating a post-loss story of one’s life involves making sense of the losses; dealing with disrupted beliefs, assumptions and expectations; and developing revised but enduring bonds with the loss object,” she continues. “Many clients respond positively to simply introducing the notion of building or creating a post-loss story, so it becomes an ongoing theme in treatment. Thematic genograms, therapeutic writing, objections of connection, loss timelines, decisional balance, client-generated metaphors and wisdom letters are particularly useful strategies here.”

The difference between primary and secondary losses is an important distinction for counselors to make, Humphrey says, and one that can help guide the course of treatment. For example, in a scenario in which a client’s spouse has died, the primary loss is the spouse. The secondary losses might include companionship, a sexual partner and expectation of a future together. “The secondary losses are really the guts of the loss, and that’s where the focus of counseling should always be,” Humphrey says. “When you focus on the secondary losses, it helps you understand what the client sees as meaningful and what should be addressed in counseling.”

“Counseling professionals focus on secondary losses because this reveals the unique meanings, influences, individualized adaptive processes, client strengths and potential problematic issues that constitute client grieving,” Humphrey continues. “I ask a lot of open-ended questions that invite exploration and that recognize the client as the expert on their grief. ‘What does that mean to you? Tell me what works and doesn’t work for you. What feelings/thoughts/behaviors go with this or that? What should I know about you that will help us understand your experience? Tell me the story.’ Their responses provide clues to potential issues and direction for therapy.”

Jane Newman, an ACA member who runs a private practice in Portland, Ore., says one of the first steps she takes with grieving clients is to validate their loss and express empathy for the difficulties they are experiencing. Counselors have to be sure never to minimize or diminish a client’s loss in any way, she cautions.

After validating their loss and pain, Newman says she asks clients, “Now what?” In her current caseload, Newman has a male client recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is a respected scientist who has been forced to sideline his career because of the cancer. “He’s mad and unhappy because within weeks, his whole identity changed,” says Newman, who previously worked as a hospice counselor and in a cancer center as a bereavement counselor. “As a scientist, he doesn’t operate much on a feeling level. He’s mad because he’s not productive right now. I need to honor that and talk to him about how that must feel and not try to take any of those feelings away. And then the [conversation] is, ‘So, now this is part of your life too. This is a new phase of your life. Let’s talk about what you think you might want from this part of your life.’ I want to help him identify those things so that he can get closer to making this part of his life productive, even if that means having some wonderful conversations with his family. I wouldn’t say, ‘How do you make the most of it?’ I would say, ‘Let’s talk about what you might want from this part of your life.’”

Newman says part of a counselor’s role in working with clients who are experiencing loss and grief is to illuminate the strengths and support systems they might be overlooking. Ask how they have coped with stressors in the past and what has helped them get through hard times before, she says.

When grief and loss hit close to home

Of course, counselors aren’t immune to experiencing loss and grief in their own lives. Dealing with that reality goes hand-in-hand with all types of counselor self-care, Horn says. “We need to be acknowledging our own grief and loss and allow ourselves to have that unique experience and expression,” she says. “We tend to feel that we’re above it all or should be immune to losses. We also tend to believe that as counselors, we’re supposed to be so together and that with all of our coping skills, we’re not supposed to hurt.” These misguided beliefs can lead counselors to discount their own grief and loss, Horn says, even as they carefully guide clients to do otherwise.

One of the best things counselors can do is to raise awareness of their own loss histories and their thoughts surrounding grief and loss, Ober says. Ober uses an exercise from Humphrey’s book, Counseling Strategies for Loss and Grief, to help her counseling students become more mindful of their personal experiences of loss and grief, which in turn will lead them to better assist future clients. The exercise involves the counselors-in-training making a timeline of grief and loss through their lives by detailing specific losses. Ober then asks the students to write about what it was like to complete the exercise, including if anything bothered them while exploring past losses or whether they identified something that provided them with encouragement and hope during tough times.

The exercise is one that these counselors-in-training might choose to repeat with future clients. But the main objective, Ober says, is to get the students to build their personal awareness of grief and loss, which can help them avoid countertransference with future clients and become knowledgeable of their own cultural backgrounds and biases related to grief and loss. For instance, she says, students might learn that their families had specific rules related to grief and loss, such as not talking about the deceased person or not crying about the loss. “We can’t impose those [rules] on clients,” Ober says.

Ober suggests that practicing counselors seek supervision or consultation with other professionals so they can talk through what’s going on with their clients and in their own lives. This process can help counselors become aware of how losses might be affecting them and their work, Ober says.

Most people deal with loss in an effective way, Humphrey says. However, if counselors are feeling “stuck,” Humphrey says they should consider seeking counseling for themselves, just as they would recommend that clients do.

Getting prepared to address grief

Because there are no CACREP standards that deal specifically with grief and loss, Horn says it’s rare that graduate counseling programs require a course on the topic. “It’s really criminal to a certain extent that we do not require students to learn about grief and loss when every client we see will likely present with some element of grief and loss,” she says. “More likely than not, counselors are graduating without having taken formal training on grief and loss. There is preliminary research showing that having some type of formal education on death and dying or grief and loss does reduce anxiety around working with these issues.” For the very reason that it might not have been part of their training, Horn urges counselors to educate themselves on the topic by going to workshops, reading current literature and taking continuing education classes on the topic.

Counselors need to educate themselves not only on how to work with clients experiencing grief and loss but also how to identify it in the first place, Horn says. “Almost every client we see is going to have an element of grief and loss within their story. [When counselors] don’t have the lenses of being able to identify aspects of their story as being grief and loss, I think we miss a larger picture with that client.”

Humphrey recommends that counselors who are just starting out stay theoretically grounded so they will be ready and able to integrate any number of theories into grief work depending on the client’s particular needs. Meanwhile, Humphrey urges more experienced counselors to keep current with work in the field because the thinking concerning how best to address grief and loss has changed through the years.

The advice Newman offers to counselors, regardless of experience level, is to remember that work with grief and loss issues remains tied to the fundamentals of counseling. “It’s not about what I have to say to them, it’s about what they have to say to me. It’s really listening, being as present as you can be with that person, not judging, not thinking I’m the expert,” she says. “It’s giving that respect that [clients] have the expertise for what they’re going through.”

In combination with that expertise, it’s trusting that clients also possess the strength and resilience to carry on, Newman says. “Doing this work gave me so much faith in the human spirit,” she says. “I was face-to-face with people who had to find the strength to get themselves through probably the hardest times of their lives, and I don’t think I’ve met the person yet who curled up in a ball and didn’t do that. There’s sadness attached to it, but it’s inspiring the way that people find their way through. It’s about the resilience of the human spirit. People find strength that they didn’t know they had, and that is inspiring. We’re survivors and we are resilient. And at times, when it looks like it’s the worst time ever, it is the worst time ever — but when you feel that pain, then you begin to find your way through it.”

To contact the individuals interviewed in this article, email:

Interesting in reading more? Click here to read our online exclusive, “Helping military children navigate through grief,” which highlights an organization cofounded by an ACA member that offers camps for kids who have lost a loved one in military service, among other programs.

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

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

 

Countering Fear and Inertia in the Job Search: A Call to Action for Counseling Students, Counselors, and Counselor Educators

Elaine J. Casquarelli May 30, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/US Department of Labor)

The economic crisis of 2008 is still with us. Jobs for mental health and school counselors have been – and continue to be – cut. We hear about the possibility of more terminations to come in the media. Among the rumors of downsizing are some that indicate the trend will soon reverse, but graduating students need jobs now. It is indeed a scary time for professional counselors to be looking for work in their chosen profession. There is hope, however. It is the perfect time for students, counseling professionals, and counselor educators to be working together to strengthen our professional community and create opportunities to do what we do best – provide a forum or our students and clients to heal their pain and suffering.

I have a particular lens through which I enter this conversation. I am a doctoral student in Counseling and Counselor Education who also has the privilege of working with counseling students as a career advisor and coach. In my work, I am confronted with students’ fear every day. Their fear and anxiety are pervasive. Students are afraid there won’t be jobs. They are anxious about competing with their friends and colleagues for the few positions that do exist. They fear they don’t have enough experience. They worry they won’t do well in an interview. If they live in New York, they fear that they will not be able to get a job in which they will be able to earn licensure, or even worse, that they will not be able to find work at all. Some have responded by giving into their fears, and inertia has set in. The fear and anxiety, coupled with the rigor of the last semester of studies, also keeps students from seeking services that will help them find post-graduate counseling positions. Often, the situation feels hopeless.

I contend the situation is not hopeless, but it does necessitate a communal response within the counseling profession. Fostering hope and realization of vocational opportunities requires a clear vision, a willingness to confront our own fears and anxieties, and an unwavering commitment to work together as students, counselors, and counselor educators to promote the wellness of our profession – and ultimately of our students and clients. After all, we have defined our work as, “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (American Counseling Association, 2010). Further, as counselors, we are often tasked with being the holders of hope when our students and clients cannot find hope in their own lives. So, let us commit to the task at hand.

Counseling Students

As a counseling student, you are being initiated into a vocation that includes great responsibilities, difficult challenges, awe-inspiring transformations, and the privilege of walking with others through their struggles and successes. Continually, I am inspired by the compassion, caring, and determination of counseling students in my program. Many come to this profession with a natural desire to help others experience growth, success, meaning, and healing in their lives. I do not think our program is unique in this regard. We spend a lot of time learning to help others move through their struggles and, many times, connect with and feel their pain and suffering. The obstacles our clients face are many, including violence, neglect, and personal and systemic discrimination. Our task is to promote wellness as we invite them to face their concerns, doubts, and insecurities. Regardless of our theoretical perspectives, most of us do this by some combination of (1) promoting insight, (2) eliciting alterations in thoughts, behaviors, and/or emotions, (3) providing access to resources, (4) nurturing connections to supportive communities, and (5) advocating for our students/clients. As counselors in development, we must do what we ask of our clients/students.

In seeking a professional position, we are in essence asking an agency, school, or organization to pay us for the privilege of helping students and clients face their fears and overcome the obstacles life has placed before them. If we are to be bold and courageous enough to walk this walk with students and clients, we must also be courageous enough to do so ourselves. That means, we need to become aware of our own fears and the way they are impacting our lives; challenge and move through the thoughts and emotions that keep us stuck in inertia; seek out the resources available to us through our departments, colleges, universities and communities; nurture supportive connections to the local, regional and/or national counseling communities as well as our personal communities of support; and engage in advocacy on behalf of ourselves and our profession.

Professional Counselors

Most counselors I have been privileged enough to meet enjoy the opportunity to connect with students and promote mentoring relationships. In the past, building such relationships may have felt like a meaningful activity; however, the current economy has rendered mentorship absolutely necessary to the success of students and new professionals, and to the continued vibrancy of the counseling vocation. As professional elders, we have a responsibility take the initiative to cultivate relationships with those who are new to the field and help them navigate their own developing occupational identity, skills, and endeavors.

Mentorship can occur in a variety of venues. We can connect with students through our participation in local, regional, or national counseling organizations. It is often suggested that students attend organizational meetings to connect with counselors. Some students excel at meeting and interacting with others in social and professional settings; however, some students can feel intimidated or anxious about doing so. Therefore, when students do attend organizational meetings it is incumbent upon us to take the initiative to reach out to them, inquire about their interests, foster a professional relationship, and introduce them to other professionals with similar interests. We are often quick to recommend that students take on leadership positions and it is a wonderful treat when they do. Yet, it is important to cultivate relationships with students even when they don’t take on such positions. We have a plethora of professional gifts to offer students, so let us share enthusiastically and unabashedly.

We can also assist students by actively creating job opportunities for them. That is quite a bold statement to make in our current economic state of affairs, isn’t it?  Yet it is possible, particularly for those of us who are mental health counselors in private/group practice.  Let me explain. I’ll begin by recognizing that private practice is not the best setting for some graduating students. Therefore, it will be important for students to consult with their faculty, supervisors, and site hosts to determine the best setting for their own development. However, private practice is a very viable option for some graduating students provided that there is appropriate support for them as they develop their counseling skills. This is where we come in. I encourage those of us in private practice settings to provide invitations and opportunities for new graduates to join the practice and then offer the appropriate supervision and clinical support for their work to continue to flourish. In some states, that means that we need to earn a supervision credential. In other states, it means that we have to incorporate our practice as an LLC with the central mission and activity of providing mental health counseling. It can be helpful to engage in conversations with private practice counselors across state lines to determine the most effective ways to support the growth of new counselors in private practice while simultaneously supporting the wellness of their clients.

Counselor Educators

Again and always, mentorship and advocacy are the primary tasks. Just as counselors are being called to mentor students through attendance and participation in professional organizations, so must we. Counselor educators can require that students attend meetings of local counseling organizations. We can then teach students how to connect with other professionals by attending the meetings ourselves and introducing them to members who have similar interests. It is also essential to teach students about the importance of nurturing community connections within the counseling profession during their first semester of academic training. That will give master’s students the most time to meet other counselors in the field, learn about the mental health needs and services in their communities, and gain a better grasp of the professional requirements of their work. In the end of this process, graduating students will be better informed about the needs of their students and clients and more knowledgeable about the upcoming clinical, administrative, and systemic demands of their work.

We must continue to engage in both legislative and educational advocacy initiatives that result in the creation of more jobs for graduating students. We can do this by engaging in organized efforts to meet with our legislators and by selecting research topics that provide implications for policy development. For example, we might design a research project that investigates the impact of employing fewer school counselors in our K-12 schools. Participation in the development and nurturance of collaborative relationships among students, counselors, and counselor educators can constitute a ripe topic for research. We can only help students and strengthen our professional community by gaining a better understanding of the ways in which collaboration and mentorship impact occupational wellness and competence. We can investigate, articulate, and integrate into training the best practices or competencies for keeping our own occupational fears at bay so that we can indeed be the holders of hope for our clients.

Working Together

We all – students, counselors, and counselor educators alike – need to get out of our comfort zones, walk with or through our fears, connect with one another, and promote wellness in our profession. A commitment to doing so can serve to transform fear into a strong community of learning, practice, research, and advocacy. So let us take a collective deep, centering breath and move forward together in hope and courage.

The wise words of poet Audre Lorde can guide us during this critical time in our professional growth. She wrote the poem in the singular and I have changed her words to the plural, but the message remains the same:

When we dare to be powerful,
To use our strength in service of our vision,
Then it becomes less and less important whether we are afraid.

Elaine Casquarelli is a counselor specializing in career development, LGB concerns and spiritual issues in counseling.  She is currently a doctoral student in Counseling and Counselor Education at the Warner School of Eduction, University of Rochester, and works as a career advisor for graduate students enrolled in counseling and education programs at her institution.  She can be contacted at Elaine.Casquarelli@Warner.Rochester.edu.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Using a wider lens to conceptualize client problems

Heather Rudow April 18, 2012

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

One of the pillars of the counseling is empowering clients to achieve the goals they have set themselves. But over time, counselors have also placed greater focus on international issues and social justice counseling.

Manivong J. Ratts, president of Counselors for Social Justice, a division of the American Counseling Association, calls social justice the “fifth force” in counseling. According to Ratts, social justice recognizes that client problems cannot be understood solely through an intrapsychic lens.

“Social justice counseling calls on counselors to use a wider lens to conceptualize client problems by viewing clients in [the] context of their environment,” says Ratts. “When counselors are able to see clients in [the] context of their environment, they begin to see how larger social, political and economic forces influence client development. Moreover, counselors begin to see how oppressive conditions such as poverty, racism and homophobia negatively contribute to human development issues.”

One way that counselors can broaden their lenses, he says, is by getting involved with organizations that have social justice goals or missions. CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere Inc.) is one such nonprofit organization.

Founded in 1945 with the aim of fighting global poverty and focusing on poor women across the world, CARE often helps people who have gone through traumatic events that have seriously impacted their mental health. Richard Perera, CARE’s communications coordinator, says it is important for organizations such as CARE to provide psychosocial support systems for people who have experienced natural disasters, famine, violence, sexual assaults or poverty or have been displaced from their homes by war. He explains this “can mean direct counseling, but can also mean working through the community.”

For example, says Perera, in emergency camps for Somali refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, CARE provides training to the adult members of the camps so they can provide others with healthy ways of coping with traumatic experiences. Additionally, the knowledge they acquire helps them understand why some of the child refugees might misbehave.

“They don’t [think], ‘Oh, this kid is acting out because they’ve been through a traumatic experience.’ They [typically] just think they’re being bad,” Perera says. “Kids can be resilient, but they need a routine, and they need an environment where they can play and learn.”

Perera says CARE’s top priority is providing the people they help with a place where they feel safe and emotionally supported. He believes this is why the organization resonates with counseling professionals and the reason counselors might consider getting involved with the nonprofit’s endeavors.

“If there comes a time when the U.S. takes a stand [for or against an international issue],” he says, “counselors can be advocates for an enlightened foreign policy.”

One of CARE’s latest aims is supporting President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 request for the International Affairs Budget, which helps alleviate poverty, global hunger and famine, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality. It also enables the United States to respond to humanitarian crises.

“I think of it as an investment,” Perera says of the International Affairs Budget. It doesn’t cost much in comparison to the rest of the budget, he says, and keeping children mentally, physically and emotionally stable in unstable countries helps the entire world to stay safe in the long run.

Ratts says it is important for counselors to take action and support organizations such as CARE as well as the president’s request for the International Affairs Budget because events that occur overseas also have an impact on the United States.

“Poverty is a global phenomenon that permeates all parts of the world,” he says. “More importantly, counselors need to understand that poverty is a global issue that affects us all. We cannot focus solely on local-level initiatives because we don’t live in a vacuum. The growth of technology has helped society to understand that we live in an increasingly global society where international politics can affect us at the local level. For this reason, counselor involvement in such initiatives as CARE to address global poverty is critical because it leads to quality schools, health care and employment. … Social justice-oriented organizations are important in helping to address equity issues that impact our world. These organizations help promote awareness of social injustices and serve as a way to systematically address the social ills of society. I think it is important that counselors be involved with at least one organization that addresses a social issue they are passionate about. Imagine how much better this world would be if all 50,000 members of ACA joined one organization similar to CARE. … As a collective, we would make this world more just and humane.”

In his view, Ratts doesn’t believe that counselor education programs have adequately equipped counselors with necessary social advocacy skills in part because counselor educators are not adequately equipped themselves.

“For the most part, counselor educators are not trained in community engagement and systems-level work,” he says. “Most have been trained under a paradigm that promotes the medical model and intrapsychic ways of helping. This problem is akin to the early days of the multicultural counseling movement when counselor educators were attempting to train graduate counseling students on becoming multiculturally competent but not having the training themselves. Unfortunately, the lack of social justice competence among counselor educators is setting a stage for future students to fail and for clients to leave counseling believing they are the problem when, in fact, their problems may be a result of larger oppressive conditions. “

Developing international and social justice competence would not only enhance the counseling profession, Ratts says, but also help make the world a better place for all citizens.

“Social justice must begin with us,” Ratts says. “Counselors need to develop competence as social justice advocates before they engage in advocacy interventions at the local, state, national and international levels. Counselors, even well-intentioned ones, can do more harm than good when they seek to help others but are not equipped to deal with the complexities of the world. Counselors need to first be multiculturally competent if they seek to address social justice issues. Cultural competence allows counselors to address sociopolitical issues in a culturally appropriate manner. Counselors also need to be cognizant of domestic and global politics. Understanding domestic and global politics can help counselors develop a better sense of whether individual counseling or environmental-level advocacy is needed. Counselors need to allow a community, whether it be domestic or international, to teach them what is needed. Oftentimes, we see counselors coming into a community thinking they know what is best for the community. We see this in higher education settings where well-intentioned faculty develop service-learning opportunities for their students but fail to take the diligence and time needed to truly understand the community. When this occurs, student learning occurs at the expense of the community.”

For more information about CARE’s mission and latest endeavors, visit its website.

For more information about Counselors for Social Justice, visit its website.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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What the future holds for the counseling profession

Compiled by Lynne Shallcross March 1, 2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four issues will continue emerging:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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