Counseling Today, From the President

Research in counseling

By Cirecie West-Olatunji November 25, 2013

CericieAs we move the discipline of counseling into a season of stability, increased professionalism and sustainability, we must place greater emphasis on research in counseling.

There are four primary reasons for this impetus. First, by prioritizing counseling research, we move forward as a discipline to our next developmental step — from the conceptual to the empirical. Second, there is a need for more empirical articles that reflect our pedagogical perspective. Third, as many counseling students have lamented, our discipline still lacks a sufficient number of research studies to provide a foundation for research projects. Finally, counseling research gives voice to our lived experiences as counselors and serves as a buffer against marginalization within the mental health research community.

During the past four decades, counselor educators have articulated the need for humanism and multicultural competence, among other ideals. Appropriately, many of the articles published in ACA journals have been conceptual in nature to explicate new constructs, approaches and paradigms. For example, most beginning counselors today have a clear understanding and appreciation for the complex issues presented when working with diverse clients. Moreover, the majority of our training programs have emphasized the relationship between counselor bias and clinical efficacy. Yet, it is time for us to provide evidence not only that the difference exists, but where and how it exists within the therapeutic relationship. More important, we need to know what interventions have been proved to effectively resolve or diminish obstacles to well-being. We should substantially increase the number of research articles in counseling journals to further our development as a profession and to ensure our place within mental health research.

In addition to increasing the number of empirical articles in counseling journals, we can become more intentional about founding our studies in the basic tenets of our profession. Research that reflects humanistic values such as empowerment, resilience, prevention and holism are sorely needed. Far too often, clinical research is deficit-oriented, marginalizing, hegemonic and limited by an emphasis on the intrapsychic experience. We need to serve as advocates for our clients by fostering more mindful research that reflects our unique disciplinary perspective.

In addition to being more intentional about how we frame our research, we need to increase the volume of research in counseling. I, for one, am tired of receiving papers from students (regardless of the given clinical area or topic) that cite every discipline except counseling. When I ask students why they failed to sufficiently cite counseling journals, they often reply there were few if any counseling citations for the chosen (or assigned) topic. Leaders in the counseling profession need to develop initiatives that encourage researchers to conduct and disseminate more research that informs those within and outside of our community about the value and utility of counseling.

Lastly, counselors must believe that by increasing research in counseling, we self-advocate and take social action against marginalization. Although there are those outside of our discipline who believe that counselors are not capable of girding the profession with sufficient analytical prowess and rigor, I disagree. With sufficient, sustained and concerted effort, we can collectively sponsor a campaign to improve and enhance the quality and quantity of counseling research.

As an organization, ACA is committed to this goal, as evidenced by the establishment of the Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research, under the direction of Will Stroble. The purpose of the center is to advance ACA’s strategic initiative focused on increasing counseling research and making it more accessible to practitioners. As Will continues to unfold the center’s projects, he will be soliciting input, assistance and support from the ACA membership. Please take time to reflect on how you can contribute to the campaign to increase research in counseling, dialogue with others about the possibilities and then take one concrete step. It matters.



    There is great work done in counseling just because of research. Any where What is the importance of research to a counselor?


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