Tag Archives: Counselor Education & Supervision

Counselor Education & Supervision

How to Manage Shame in Supervision

By Erin Goedegebuure February 22, 2024

Woman hiding face by pulling a sweater over her head

Parkin Srihawong/Shutterstock.com

“How could you have been so stupid?” was what my clinical supervisor asked me early in my career as a counselor. This was after I questioned the fit of a model of treatment for a particular family and contacted our consultant with my concerns. At the time, I had graduated from an accredited master’s program, was working toward licensure and was eager to do good work. But this question, and my supervisor’s derision, left an indelible mark on me when I was training to become a licensed counselor.

Research shows that experiencing shame as a counselor-in-training is a normal part of counselor development. It occurs throughout the training process and in various contexts. However, shame can also alter or impede a counselor’s development. According to Ryan Cook and Laura Welfare’s study published in Counselor Education and Supervision in 2018, counselors-in-training limit disclosure of information to instructors and supervisors because of the shame they feel. This was my experience when my supervisor questioned my intelligence: I no longer felt safe to question the process or to share my internal experience as a counselor.

Supervisors’ Role and Responsibilities

The ACA Code of Ethics calls for supervisors to “aspire to foster meaningful and respectful professional relationships,” and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision states that supervisors should operate with the understanding that the supervisory relationship is key for supervision to be effective and for the supervisee to grow and develop. However, few counselors who end up in supervisory roles receive training in how to be an effective supervisor, despite this also being listed in ACA’s ethical code.

Relationships are the backbone of counseling, so perhaps we often assume supervisors will work to develop healthy, productive relationships with their supervisees. But counselors are often promoted to supervisory positions based on how many years they’ve been at a workplace or their productivity and organization skills, not on their ability to foster relationships with colleagues and coworkers.

Authority comes with the position, but trust develops and is earned over time through relational leadership. In his 2020 dissertation on shame and coping in clinical supervision, Conrad Burbank found that supervisors can be a cause of a supervisees’ shame, which was my personal experience. This type of shame impacts not only the supervisee’s own development but also potentially the efficacy of counseling practices. If I am not open and honest with my supervisor about concerns that I have regarding a client because I fear being shamed by the supervisor, it could lead to detrimental outcomes for my client.

In a 2001 article published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, William Hahn hypothesized that shame may be inherent in supervisory relationships. After all, a power differential exists between an experienced counselor and a new counselor. Supervisors and counselor educators need to advocate for healthy relationships in supervision so that new counselors continue to grow and develop, bolstering the profession, and clients are not impacted through their counselors’ avoidance of being shamed.

Steps to Avoid Shaming in Supervision

Supervisions can take action to avoid causing shame in supervision. Here are 10 recommendations to help supervisors identify and manage their supervisees’ shame:

  1. Create a safe atmosphere. Creating a safe environment includes having positive regard for your supervisee, being warm and responsive to their needs, and having a welcoming physical or online space to meet. This environment allows supervisees to feel secure discussing difficult topics and exploring feelings of inadequacy, experiences with countertransference and ethical dilemmas when working with clients. Without a safe atmosphere, supervisees may not disclose and may avoid bringing up these issues. My supervisor’s response, for example, shut down what might have been a productive and important learning moment for me as a new counselor.
  2. Intentionally build the supervisory relationship. As the more experienced member of the supervisory dyad, the supervisor has the responsibility to build the relationship. The supervisor should do so with intentionality and not assume that the relationship will automatically happen. Good relationships are formed when supervisors and supervisees share information about themselves in a mutual way — either formally in supervision meetings or informally at lunches, trainings or other times spent together. Supervisors can also ask their supervisees about their lives outside of counseling. For example, what do they enjoy doing outside of work? Get to know them not only as a counselor but also as a person and be willing to share about yourself with them.
  3. Encourage supervisees to be open, explorative and sometimes disagreeable. The supervisor should encourage supervisees to be open in their thinking, explore their feelings and potentially disagree with the supervisor by modeling these forms of critical thinking during supervision meetings. Disagreements can become a normal part of supervision if done in a professional manner and after a healthy relationship and a safe environment have been established. To do so, supervisors can regularly ask supervisees, “Tell me where you might disagree.”
  4. Discuss the differences between the supervisor and supervisee. Acknowledging differences between the supervisor and supervisee is helpful to normalize and model how to discuss these differences. Cultural and identity differences must be broached to dispel shame that is enacted by society and majority groups onto marginalized individuals. This also acts in parallel process to what supervisees must do with clients who are different from themselves. Supervisors must discuss topics such as age, race, gender identity and sexual identity; if they avoid discussing these differences, supervisees may get the message it is not OK to do so, thereby increasing felt shame.
  5. Invite the supervisee to openly critique the supervision. To normalize the process of the supervisee giving direct feedback to the supervisor, supervisors may want to build in time during supervision to invite the supervisee to openly critique the supervision itself. This also means that the supervisor needs to be willing and able to hear critical feedback. If this proves difficult, the supervisor should consider obtaining supervision themselves. (See number 10 for more information about this.)
  6. Practice well-timed and appropriate self-disclosure. Supervisees may believe that supervisors always know what to do and rarely make missteps or struggle with negative emotions. Appropriate self-disclosure can help to dispel these ideas and normalize the experiences all counselors have working with other people. A well-timed story of how you went through a similar experience may go a long way to assist the supervisee in their own management of shame. Be sure not to fall into the trap of storytelling and reminiscing about past cases and experiences; self-disclosure should be used only for the supervisee’s benefit.
  7. Acknowledge hierarchy and power. Supervisors must openly acknowledge the hierarchical nature of the supervisory relationship and the power differential that exists between the supervisor and supervisee. The supervisee and supervisor can work together to openly discuss their relationship, including the fact that it’s common to experience feelings of shame within supervision. When hierarchy issues emerge, supervisors can immediately reflect back to supervisees how they feel about them.
  8. Recognize how social and organizational structures may shame supervisees, especially those who identify as members of marginalized groups. Counselors do not operate in a vacuum; social and organizational structures can enact shame on different groups or individuals. Supervisors can explore supervisees’ thoughts and feelings on these systemic injustices within the safety of the well-bonded supervisory relationship. Supervisors must believe supervisees when they disclose these experiences and never minimize them.
  9. Understand that shame may need to be explored from a cultural lens. Both power and privilege exist in the supervisory relationship, which can affect not only the experience of shame but also the expression of shame. If supervisors recognize cultural differences (see number 4), then exploring supervisee shame can advance supervision, contribute to the supervisee’s learning and help develop a competent counselor.
  10. Manage your own feelings of shame. Managing a supervisee’s feelings of shame is difficult if the supervisor is also struggling with their own feelings of shame. If you notice countertransference related to supervisees sharing their feelings of shame, consult with colleagues or obtain your own counseling or supervision as needed. This may also have the added benefit of modeling to the supervisee that growth and development in the counseling field are ongoing processes.

Shame can often go unacknowledged by supervisors because they simply do not know it is happening. Therefore, it is important to increase awareness of shame in supervision. Feelings of shame force us to hide parts of ourselves and our actions to make us less vulnerable, but this is detrimental to counselor development, the clients we serve and the counseling profession. Instead, supervisors must help supervisees identify shame and then normalize and process it together.

 


Erin Goedegebuure headshot

Erin Goedegebuure, LPC, is the owner and director at Courtyard Counseling Center in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and a doctoral candidate in counselor education and supervision at Shippensburg University. Her dissertation explores the relationship between shame and self-compassion across the span of counselor development, from individuals thinking of entering the field to those who have been counselors for 20 or more years. To be a participant in her research, please click here. To contact Erin or learn more about her research, please email her at eg9034@ship.edu or visit her website at https://eg9034.wixsite.com/website.


Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Exploring class privilege in counselor education

By Cynthia Miller, Frankie Fachilla and Jennifer Greene-Rooks February 9, 2021

James is a student in the first year of his master’s program in counseling. Typically very conscientious and enthusiastic, he recently started to leave class early without any explanation. Last week, he missed all of his classes and did not contact anyone to explain his absence.

When his adviser calls him to express concern, James says that his car recently broke down and he does not have the money to pay for repairs. He’s been relying on friends to help him get to and from class. He’s been leaving early because that was the only time someone could give him a ride home. Last week, he couldn’t find anyone to give him a ride. He’s been too embarrassed to ask his classmates or his professors for help.

Stephanie is in the final year of her doctoral program and has been applying for teaching positions. Despite good grades, multiple honors within her program, good teaching reviews from students, and strong recommendations, she is having difficulty getting interviews. Stephanie recently received feedback that her curriculum vitae lacks evidence of significant professional involvement. Reviewers have been concerned that she has not shown evidence of attending or presenting at state, regional and national conferences. Although she is a member of the American Counseling Association, she has not joined any divisions or state chapters.

Stephanie is frustrated and discouraged. She has not been able to afford the registration, travel, lodging and meal expenses associated with conferences, nor could she pay for multiple professional memberships. She feels that her financial position during her doctoral studies is being held against her during her job search.

Celia is a single mother of three living in a multigenerational home with her children and her elderly parents. She has worked as a case manager for several years, and her supervisor has been consistently impressed with her work ethic, empathy, creativity and critical thinking. Her supervisor has been encouraging her to pursue her master’s degree for years.

Celia recently met with the program director of a counseling program at a local university. She was excited to learn about the classes she could take and the career possibilities that would be available to her if she enrolled and completed the degree. However, when Celia learned that she would have to complete an unpaid internship, she became discouraged. As the sole provider for her family, she cannot afford to give up her full-time job to do an unpaid internship, and the counseling program did not have any sites that offered internship hours only in the evenings and on weekends. Celia ultimately decided not to enroll.

Stories such as James’, Stephanie’s and Celia’s are familiar to many counselor educators, but these stories remain rarely discussed despite the counseling profession’s rich history of promoting awareness of, and respect for, issues pertaining to multiculturalism, diversity and social justice. Both the ACA Code of Ethics and the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies developed by the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development highlight the need for counselors to be aware of issues of privilege and oppression based on membership in various groups. Counselors are also called to understand how such issues affect the worldviews and concerns of the people they serve, and to work to reduce disparities that are based on privilege. 

As counselor educators and students in counseling training programs, we have observed that conversations about privilege and oppression are common in training but that they generally occur in two ways. First, the conversations typically use a lens that looks outward into societal structures while neglecting to use a lens that looks inward and focuses on how our own educational and professional structures create disparities. Second, such conversations most frequently center on advantages given to a person on the basis of sex, race, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or age, while ignoring socioeconomic class. 

The lack of recognition of class privilege is also reflected in our research. Although a large body of research on privilege based on other criteria exists, there is very little research related to privilege based on class. However, our collective experience leads us to believe that class privilege is embedded in our counseling training programs in ways that create real barriers for entry into the counseling profession for all but the most economically privileged. This strikes us as a significant oversight in the conversation on privilege in general and a crucial issue to address if we are to live up to our ideals as a profession.

Understanding class privilege and classism

Class privilege is generally defined as the tangible or intangible unearned advantages enjoyed by someone of higher class status. At an individual level, indicators of class privilege include such things as the ability to own a home, support a household with one job or one salary, afford child care, pay for a vacation, enjoy frequent meals out or amass savings.

Class privilege exists within the larger construct of social class, which categorizes individuals into groups based on similar levels of wealth, power, resources or status. In the United States, discussions of social class are often considered taboo. As such, social class can be difficult to define. It is important to note, however, that social class does not refer merely to economic status — it also refers to other forms of capital available to an individual. In his 1986 essay “The Forms of Capital,” Pierre Bourdieu identified three different types of capital:

  • Economic capital — command of resources such as money, assets or property
  • Social capital — possession of a network of relationships that provide access to power, recognition or economic or cultural capital
  • Cultural capital — possession of education, knowledge or skills that provide an advantage when trying to obtain a higher social status

In the context of higher education, class privilege can present itself not only through differences in the amount and kind of capital available to students, but also through institutional and programmatic policies and expectations that privilege the holders of different types of capital over those who do not possess that capital. When students lack capital in comparison to their peers, or when they encounter institutional and programmatic policies that assume access to capital that they do not possess, they can experience marginalization and oppression. When marginalization or oppression occurs based on social class, it is referred to as classism

In our experience as graduate students and counselor educators, we have observed multiple ways in which class privilege and classism pervade graduate programs in counseling even as they go unacknowledged. We believe that ignoring students’ social class positions in counselor education programs facilitates microaggressions related to social class and perpetuates a system of oppression that must be acknowledged, explored and addressed if we are to truly live up to our ethical ideals.

Class privilege in counselor education systems

In 2019, a small group of counselor educators and counseling students began an informal discussion on the CESNET Listserv (CESNET-L) concerning the ways in which social class was perceived to create additional privileges and barriers for students in counseling programs. Participants in the conversation identified multiple ways in which class privilege is embedded in counseling programs. Their comments reflected experiences with class privilege based primarily on economic capital, although cultural capital and social capital were also mentioned. A review of that discussion follows.

Class privilege based on economic capital

Class privilege within counseling programs takes many forms, and although it may be overlooked by counselor educators, students are very aware of it. With respect to economic capital, participants in the discussion noted that class privilege is present from the very beginning of the training process when prospective students must be able to afford application fees and pay for required entrance exams such as the GRE graduate school entry exam. In addition, discussion participants pointed to the overall cost of counseling programs as a significant barrier and noted that many programs contain hidden fees that are not included in the advertised cost. These fees include such things as student activity fees, mandatory membership in professional organizations with significant dues, technology fees, fees for comprehensive exams such as the National Counselor Examination or the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination, and graduation fees. Doctoral students, in particular, reported embedded expectations that they would attend conferences without any consideration of their ability to pay for travel, lodging, food and registration fees. 

In addition to the costs cited for applying to and attending counseling programs, there were concerns related to costs of living while enrolled. Participants in the discussion noted that students with dependents must find ways to cover child care or elder care and maintain an income that allows them to continue to pay for food, clothing and other household expenses. Because the majority of counselor training programs offer little in the way of grants or scholarships — particularly at the master’s level — the system appears skewed in a way that privileges those with greater economic capital who can afford the added financial burdens that come with enrollment. 

The unique problem of unpaid internships

The practicum/internship experience also exposes class privilege inherent in counseling programs. Practicum and internship experiences typically take about one year to complete and require students to devote between 10 and 20 hours per week to the experience. While the internship experience is an invaluable part of training, the vast majority of internships are unpaid. Some programs may even have internship policies prohibiting any form of payment.

This system inherently privileges those who can afford to give up full-time jobs to devote themselves to internship. Students who cannot afford that option find themselves trying to complete practicum and internship hours on top of working full time and attending classes. This creates a nearly untenable level of chronic stress and exhaustion that students who are more privileged do not have to bear. 

Class privilege based on cultural capital

Participants in the CESNET-L discussion also identified ways in which access to cultural capital creates advantages or disadvantages in graduate school. Among those identified were the quality of prior educational experiences, family members’ educational experiences and attainment, family expectations and support of educational attainment, and other experiences that supported educational attainment.

As much prior research has indicated, educational achievement is highly dependent on the quality of education beginning at the prekindergarten level and lasting through high school. Every year of educational experience sets the stage for the next and begins to build a set of advantages and disadvantages. Access to high-quality, heavily resourced elementary and high school education provides easier access to a college degree that prepares students adequately for graduate-level work in a counseling program. Gaps at any level leave students struggling to catch up. Students who did not attend high schools or colleges where writing was heavily emphasized, for example, may struggle to succeed in counseling programs that place a premium on strong writing skills.   

Another privilege that helps students access resources in graduate school is having family members or mentors who have enrolled in and completed higher education. Their knowledge can be capitalized on to navigate the educational system of graduate school. There seems to be a relationship between familial expectations and the willingness of students to take on the tough task of graduate school and then to stay enrolled. We are personally aware of students whose family members have not been supportive of their educational endeavors, interpreting the student’s pursuit of higher education as a rejection of the family’s culture. As they try to work on their degree, these students face the unenviable challenge of navigating a graduate culture in which they frequently feel they do not belong, while simultaneously receiving messages that they no longer fit in with their family either.

Class privilege based on social capital

Additionally, the CESNET-L conversation touched on aspects of privilege that are related to social capital or the ability to build social networks that support access within graduate programs and to employment. Generally, social capital is related to extracurricular activities and family occupations that result in networking opportunities. In counselor education programs and employment, social capital is built through program and department social events, conferences that allow and create networking opportunities, and other situations that support access to mentoring. 

The luxury of time is a frequently overlooked form of social capital. Students who do not have outside jobs, caretaking obligations or other responsibilities are able to attend extracurricular events, participate in honor society meetings and attend presentations at agencies in their communities. The same is true for students who have strong support systems that can be called on to help with their other responsibilities and obligations so that they can participate in professional events. Students without the luxury of time to participate in outside events and develop their networks can find themselves at a disadvantage relative to their more privileged peers once they begin searching for jobs.   

Getting to know our students and addressing class privilege

The CESNET-L discussion provided anecdotal evidence for the idea that class privilege is embedded in the structure of counselor education in multiple ways. But how extensive is the problem? In considering that question, we realized that we did not have any good data on who our counseling students really are with respect to class and class struggles. 

In an attempt to answer the question, research teams have formed to gather quantitative and qualitative data about who our counseling students are with respect to their social class and what their experiences have been with class privilege and classism. We hope that data culled from this research will provide the foundation for a more critical and comprehensive examination of our current training system and result in structural changes that make it easier for students from less privileged backgrounds to obtain a counseling degree.

In the meantime, we believe counselor educators can take some steps now to begin addressing class privilege in a more conscious way: 

  • Consider broaching the issue of class privilege with all students. Individual advising should include a discussion of barriers for students related to class. Group conversations during coursework about privilege and oppression can also incorporate class, alongside other forms of privilege due to gender, race or sexual identity. These conversations will help bring class privilege out of the shadows.
  • Implement a more formal process to survey students at different stages in the program to assess their levels of economic, cultural and social capital. These survey results can be incorporated into the program’s evaluation plan. For example, how many students would struggle to complete internship hours during the typical 9-to-5 workday? How many internship sites offer hours outside of that time frame that students can access? Should programs seek relationships with additional alternative sites that offer weekend and evening hours?
  • Develop aggressive fundraising strategies that emphasize the critical role counselors play in addressing the mental health needs of the community. For programs in universities with strong development offices, this may require advocating for greater visibility of the needs of counseling students among the university’s donors. For programs without strong development offices, it could mean advocating for the creation of a development position. Even if more funding for assistantships is not available, strategies can be developed to help students raise funds to attend conferences or other professional development activities. Any degree of financial help will decrease barriers related to economic privilege.
  • Reduce barriers to paid internships. If sites have the ability to pay students for internships, they should be allowed to do so. However, many sites simply lack the funding necessary to pay interns because they cannot bill for services provided by interns. This requires advocacy with managed care organizations at the state and national levels to allow agencies to bill for services provided by students under the supervision of licensed staff.   
  • Create a formal mentorship program in which students who desire mentorship are paired with faculty, graduates or, potentially, more advanced students in the program. Informal mentorship will, by default, favor students with more class privilege (those who have time to attend departmental events or informally attend office hours for faculty). A formal mentorship process decreases these barriers. Formal mentorship programs also create opportunities for the mentors (more advanced students, doctoral students or alumni) to add experience to their résumés.

Final thoughts

Graduate programs in counseling emerged in the mid-20th century, at a time when higher education was less expensive, costs of living were not as high, and families were easier to support on a single wage. Privilege in graduate education on the basis of sex, race, gender identity, age and other characteristics certainly existed at the time these programs were created and still exists today, but much progress has been made in the past few decades in terms of recognizing and actively addressing those barriers. Class privilege, however, has gone largely unaddressed, even as economic disparities widen. 

We acknowledge that the steps outlined above are not representative of an exhaustive list of all possible steps that could be taken to address class privilege in counseling training programs. However, we believe the steps provide a starting point for counselor educators to more fully enact the ethical call to work to reduce disparities by intentionally addressing class privilege in their program structures. We also hope that our ongoing research will lead to a greater understanding of who our counseling students are with respect to their social class positions so that we can create a training system that better meets the needs of students in the 21st century.

 

For additional information about class privilege and our research, visit our website at https://classprivilegeinces.wixsite.com/mysite.

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Related reading, from the Counseling Today archives: “Cultivating social class awareness in the counseling profession

 

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Cynthia Miller is a licensed professional counselor and counselor educator with a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has been a practicing counselor for almost 20 years, working with adults in university, community and correctional settings. Contact her at cynthiamillerlpc@gmail.com.

Frankie Fachilla is a licensed professional counselor with 12 years of full-time counseling experience in community mental health and correctional settings. She now provides trainings on evidence-based practices, supervision and coaching to clinicians in community mental health settings. Contact her at frankiefachilla@gmail.com.

Jennifer Greene-Rooks is a counselor educator with a research background in areas such as multicultural counseling competence, counselor preparation and supervision, school counseling, and leadership. Her background is in school counseling, although she now focuses on the preparation of multiculturally competent, social justice-focused counselors. Contact her at jgreene@txstate.edu.

 

Knowledge Share articles are developed from sessions presented at American Counseling Association conferences.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Behind the book: Counselor Education in the 21st Century

By Bethany Bray January 2, 2019

A counselor educator is much more than a hybrid of counselor and professor. The job requires skills from both of these realms, as well as those of an administrator, mentor, researcher, collaborator, gatekeeper and many others.

It can be overwhelming if a person comes into the role unprepared, write Jane E. Atieno Okech and Deborah J. Rubel, co-editors of the American Counseling Association-published book Counselor Education in the 21st Century: Issues and Experiences.

“The life of a counselor educator is made of many roles and responsibilities and they are subject to a variety of relationships and stressors,” they write in the book’s first chapter. “It is not unusual for new faculty to feel somewhat helpless, confused, overwhelmed or disappointed. And it is not unusual for both new and more experienced counselor educators to experience burnout. Yet the counselor educator has many opportunities within these roles and responsibilities both to prosper personally and to effect positive change that can benefit colleagues, students and clients. New professionals who have an understanding of the reality of these roles and responsibilities and the broader context of higher education and their specific institution will be better able to cope, thrive and make positive changes.”

Okech is a professor of counselor education and chair of the Department of Leadership and Developmental Sciences at the University of Vermont, and Rubel is an associate professor and past discipline liaison at Oregon State University. Counseling Today sent the co-editors some questions via email to learn more.

 

Q+A: Counselor Education in the 21st Century

Responses co-written by editors Jane E. Atieno Okech and Deborah J. Rubel

 

You first met in graduate school. What inspired you to collaborate and create this book, years later?

We have collaborated continuously from the time we were in grad school, so there was no real point at which we decided “Let’s collaborate on a book.” The book was a natural outgrowth of our own development, positions in our universities and experiences. We had collaborated extensively on group work and group work supervision projects, and this was a small break from that. We wished to focus on our holistic experiences as counselor educators. It was also a time and opportunity to connect with many valued peers we have met over the years, including former professors, fellow graduate students, professional colleagues and former students, as well as make some new connections.

 

From your perspective, how has the growth of online graduate programs affected counselor education? What are the pros and cons?

Online education has made training as a counselor or counselor educator more accessible to people who might otherwise not be able to pursue these fields. It has forced counselor educators to be creative and forward-thinking in the development and delivery of counselor education curriculum and training experiences.

The financial structures surrounding online education have in some cases shifted counseling programs from marginal performers at universities to being the financial mainstay. This has benefits as well as drawbacks. Traditional counselor training was targeted towards in-person interactions in small groups of students. While there are exemplary models of online counselor education that push the envelope of human connection across distances, in some cases online counselor education means large numbers of students are receiving minimal interaction and oversight with their instructors and trainers.

The research and scholarship regarding counselor education and training modalities are grounded in the face-to-face model, [which] has yet to catch up to the rapidly expanding practice of online counselor education and supervision.

 

What is one thing you’d like counselor practitioners and master’s level students who are considering going into counselor education to know or keep in mind? Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up?

We would like them to consider the fact that counselor education is dynamic and complex, with counselor educators playing multifaceted roles within the academy (e.g., teacher, supervisor, advisor, mentor, counselor, administrator, etc.). While the profession is in service to the practice of counseling, counselor education is not counseling. It requires learning skills, roles and functions beyond those needed to be a professional counselor.

One main misconception is that a good counselor automatically becomes a good counselor educator. It does not always work out that way. The two professionals are critically different in role and function, and those aspiring to be counselors and counselor educators may want to be cognizant of that.

 

Why is a book on this topic relevant and needed now?

We noted that there wasn’t a book in the field that covered the broad spectrum of the experiences and tasks of counselor education. There were books and readings on the individual aspects of counselor education but not anything that covered all the aspects, settings and dimensions that we and our peers at other institutions encounter on a daily basis.

We both had memories of our early careers where we [thought], “Why have I not heard about this part of my job before?” and “Why was I not taught about this aspect of university life?” In this day and age, it is increasingly important, too, to understand counselor education in the context of the university or college and the university or college in the broader cultural and societal context.

We think that counselor education is expanding and thriving and is well-positioned to play a role in shaping and influencing the cultural context. And we were excited to lend a voice to that expansion and change process through this book.

 

Counselor educators wear many hats – from mentor and supervisor to researcher and administrator. What are some things that are key to balancing it all?

This is a very complex question and the answer relies upon the individual and their values and own view of balance, as well as the institution they work within. What our book encourages counselor educators to do is to never lose sight of their aspirations as counselor educators. As their roles and responsibilities shift over time, [remember to] lean back on the core principles of counseling, wellness and self-care. Our wish was to provide information and narratives that allow readers to understand their counselor educator roles and responsibilities better and to make better choices while attempting to balance their lives as counselor educators, administrators, advocates and leaders, among others.

Deborah’s key to balancing it all is [knowing] that you can’t take care of it all. To excel one needs to know what one values less and what is more important in the moment. Understanding the societal context, the university and the different roles and responsibilities of counselor education make those compromises easier.

Jane’s key to balancing lies, similarly, in having clear priorities and being willing to compromise.

 

What is your favorite thing about being a counselor educator? What would you want people to know about the work you do?

For Jane, the most exciting part of her job is the transforming and energizing experience of teaching and providing clinical supervision. Years of teaching have taught her that in many cases, the lessons don’t end at the end of the day and that a great class and supervision session continues to deepen and transform in terms of meaning, impact and the insight it provides for the educator and the learner. Many of these interactions with students have stayed with her and significantly influenced her teaching and supervision practice, and current students and alumni on whom she has had the same impact.

Deborah loves teaching and supervision but particularly enjoys advising doctoral students. It is very exciting to share their growth process from master’s level clinician to counselor educator, particularly when they find a research passion.

 

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Counselor Education in the 21st Century: Issues and Experiences is available both in print and as an e-book from the American Counseling Association bookstore at counseling.org/publications/bookstore or by calling 800-347-6647 ext. 222.

 

 

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

 

Behind the Book: Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions

By Bethany Bray September 17, 2018

The academic evaluation of graduate students in counseling education programs is straightforward: Their ability to master the material becomes apparent in grades assigned and credits earned.

“However, evaluating trainee competency in the domains of interpersonal behavior, intrapersonal functioning and professional conduct to determine readiness to practice is much more subjective,” write Alicia M. Homrich and Kathryn L. Henderson in the preface to their book Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions, published by the American Counseling Association.

Gatekeeping’s “ethical mandate speaks not only to protecting the clinical professions and the public from harm but also to providing trainees with transparent feedback regarding their competence and their likelihood of success as professional clinicians. During their time of struggle and challenge, effective feedback and remedial support from gatekeepers can offer trainees an opportunity, should they choose to accept it, to achieve success and develop into competent, ethical and professionally effective clinicians.”

An important issue that is sometimes avoided, gatekeeping is of growing interest in the counseling profession and an often-discussed topic at professional conferences, Homrich notes.

Homrich, a professor in the graduate studies in counseling program at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and Henderson, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Applied Behavioral Studies at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, became friends through their mutual interest in the topic. Counseling Today sent the duo some questions to find out more.

 

Q+A: Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions

 

You are both counselor educators. How did you become confident and comfortable with the gatekeeping aspect of the job?

Alicia M. Homrich: I don’t think gatekeeping is ever easy or comfortable. Every step of working with a student who is struggling with intrapersonal issues, interpersonal behavior and/or professional conduct concerns needs to be handled delicately and respectfully.

There are criteria that have made the difference in the graduate program where I work: All faculty are in agreement about our ethical and legal obligation to gatekeep to protect future clients and the reputation of our profession. The second is the intentional formulation of strategies that include very clear standards for student behavior and published policies and procedures [which] students are informed of when they enter the program and throughout their enrollment. This ensures that remediation efforts are not a surprise, if they occur, and are intended to help get the student on the right track.

Other than these two important tactics, we work as a team to make decisions on how to go forward. Group consensus and support for each other increase our comfort level so no one faculty member or supervisor is acting alone. We do the same by educating our site supervisors.

Kathryn L. Henderson: Yes, never easy or comfortable. I find it so important and vital that it is a duty and not a choice. That’s what draws me to this topic. Especially when harm to a client is possible or there’s the concern a student might not be successful in the field after graduation. To me, that’s tantamount to lying by omission or false representation if we ignore serious concerns. It also does a great disservice to our students.

Consulting with colleagues and mentors has been central to the development of my gatekeeping abilities. I find not being alone and having support to be essential.

 

Do you believe that the counseling profession, as a whole, does a good job with gatekeeping?

AMH: I believe the counseling profession does more than our allied professions to educate and inform gatekeepers of their roles, remediation strategies, and ethical and legal mandates. However, in terms of actual implementation of gatekeeping strategies, a lot of variation exists across counseling education programs nationwide.

Some programs are diligent about their obligation to gatekeep — implementing policies, engaging in procedures and remediating or dismissing students or supervisees with personal or professional conduct [that is] inconsistent with profession standards. Other programs avoid the gatekeeping process altogether in order to retain students, avoid potential legal action or sidestep the uncomfortable emotional and time-consuming nature of the gatekeeping process.

Despite this range of engagement, the counseling profession is one of two clinical training tracts that consistently takes gatekeeping seriously. Psychologists have paid the most attention to the responsibility of gatekeeping, as evidenced by task force work and literature. Social work comes third in the lineup, and marriage and family therapy appears to be the least attentive of the clinical professions in examining this issue and providing strategies as measured by their professional literature.

Despite this variation, each profession acknowledges the need for a gatekeeping process in their ethics and standards. A continuum exists across professions that includes very conscientious educators and supervisors versus programs that don’t prioritize or are avoidant of the gatekeeping mandate described by their ethical codes.

 

What resources would you recommend for counselor educators or supervisors who aren’t comfortable with gatekeeping and having tough conversations with counselors-in-training?

AMH: Work with your colleagues to design and implement policies and procedures, and don’t go it alone, especially for serious conversations with trainees. Obtain support for decision-making and action-taking from your professional colleagues, including department chairs, deans and administrators, as well as human resources, some of whom you may have to educate about our ethics and licensure obligations. I have also increased my comfort level by going to workshops hosted by ACA and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), as well as reading every professional article I can find on the topic.

The goal of this book [Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions] has been to bring all of the knowledge and wisdom generated by the four allied mental health professions, along with strategies that work, together in one resource.

KLH: One thing that helps me when I’m struggling with gatekeeping is to reflect on my own personal process and try to hunt for the source of the discomfort. Is it fear of hurting the student or supervisee? Second-guessing myself? Fear of confrontation or conflict? I find that dealing with my own discomfort head-on helps me to process through it more effectively.

As for those tough conversations, I find empathy goes a long way. It does not mean agreeing with a trainee’s choices or actions, but it helps create a connection at times.

 

Are there any misconceptions on this topic — particularly, ones held by counselors — that you want to clear up?

KLH: One misconception, or perhaps a common fear, is that gatekeeping is always a negative experience — and it can be. However, I’ve had many constructive and positive outcomes from gatekeeping. Students sometimes will express gratitude in that no one has ever been that honest with them or they have not felt as if they mattered in the program but do now.

AMH: I agree with Kathryn. The assumption that engaging in gatekeeping is overwhelming and conflictual is inconsistent with my experience. There are plenty of supervisees and students, whether they are the individuals engaged in remediation or not, who are appreciative that there are standards that protect future clients and the reputation of the profession. They also witness experienced members of the profession engaging in the process of protecting current students and supervisees, vulnerable clients and the reputation of the profession for which they are training. They appreciate the action of supervisors and faculty in gatekeeping efforts and go on to value and fulfill this ethical mandate after graduation.

 

In the book’s preface, you write that evaluating a counselor trainee’s personal and professional conduct is subjective, not clearly defined, and “lacks common agreement within and across the mental health professions.” How can this be remedied, in your opinion? Or is it a concept that can’t be standardized?

AMH: I believe it is a concept that can be standardized, at least in the counseling profession. I would love to see ACES initiate a task force that identifies standards for interpersonal, intrapersonal and professional qualities critical for professional counselors and [then] publish a set of best practice standards or a procedural list for the gatekeeping process that is supported by the division and ACA. This would provide a steppingstone or source of support for counselor educators and supervisors.

I have conducted and published a few research projects on this topic in an effort to get the ball rolling. These studies and resulting lists of suggested standards and procedures are covered in the book.

KLH: Yes, I agree totally. The field of psychology has done much more work through the American Psychological Association and its official task forces than [has] the counseling field, which we discuss in the book. Research is emerging that is promising and could inform any potential professional association task forces.

I would love to see ACES or ACA initiate an effort as well to create best practice norms. A set of official best practice standards could also be a tool to advocate to university or agency administrators who may be wary of provoking unhappy students, similar to how the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) standards serve an important advocacy tool for school counselors.

 

What inspired you to collaborate and create this book?

KLH: Our main goal was to create a sort of one-stop shop for tools and resources on gatekeeping and remediation, which Alicia mentioned earlier. Instead of needing to do extensive research on the many aspects of gatekeeping, which can be overwhelming, the book serves as a thorough resource on how to implement gatekeeping.

We hope, in particular, that it serves as a catalyst for new supervisors and doctoral students to undertake this important ethical task. The opportunity for us to collaborate happened at first by chance: We only know each other through meeting at professional conferences. We both would present on the topic and then attend other presentations on the topic, so we got to know one another over the years. And then we became friends.

AMH: The development of our professional collaboration and resulting friendship has been based on our shared passion to improve our profession, demystify the gatekeeping process and encourage counselor educators and supervisors to engage in this vital professional responsibility. We wanted to provide information, strategies and skills that support the implementation of gatekeeping in training. Our friendship developed as we worked together to achieve these goals and came to know each other better.

 

Why do you feel the book is relevant and needed now?

KLH: The literature in the field has developed to a level where compiling the findings in the form of a book to encourage application of the information was logical. This is something that clinical educators and supervisors are actively trying to understand and implement.

For instance, the topic of gatekeeping is growing in popularity. It was scarcely on the map about a decade ago, and then it exploded and continues to be a common topic at conferences. Because of the many ethical and legal issues attached to gatekeeping, it is important that counselor educators and supervisors practice in an informed and progressive way, for the protection of the field and to strive in the best interests of our students and supervisees.

 

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Gatekeeping in the Mental Health Professions is available both in print and as an e-book from the American Counseling Association bookstore at counseling.org/publications/bookstore or by calling 800-347-6647 ext. 222.

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

 

Graduate counseling students: What makes you different?

By Sarah Fichtner September 3, 2018

As a counselor master’s student approaching graduation in December, a few lessons have become ingrained in my mind: “Always advocate on behalf of your clients”; “engaging in self-care is essential”; and “practice in accordance with the ACA Code of Ethics.” At times, when I am lying in bed after a long day, I find myself reflecting on these tasks and whether I did my best to adhere to them.

Although these lessons are crucial for counselors-in-training, I wish one other lesson had been emphasized earlier in my graduate studies: the importance, essentiality and ultimate difference of putting yourself out there in the counseling world and making a name for yourself.

According to CACREP, there are more than 800 accredited counseling programs across the United States, which means that thousands of counselors will be graduating at the same time and applying for many of the same positions. As a novice counselor, I was naïve to this concept. When I entered my graduate program, I quickly began mirroring my peer’s habits. I focused on earning top grades, copying down important concepts in class, establishing my counseling skills through role-plays and researching internship sites. It was not until I attended the New Jersey Counseling Association conference at the end of my first year of graduate school that I realized just how important a young counselor’s identity is. From that moment on, my graduate mindset changed.

I started to go above and beyond to create my own unique “brand.” I found myself researching current trends in the counseling field, editing and re-editing my resume and cover letter, reading the most up-to-date articles and journals, and consulting with my professors about counseling-related opportunities that I could participate in outside of the classroom. I constantly asked myself, “What can I do to separate myself from every other counseling master’s student graduating from an accredited university? What makes my resume special? What makes me different?”

This pursuit to create my own personal brand eventually led me to the American Counseling Association (ACA) 2018 Conference & Exposition in Atlanta this past April. One of my professors at Kean University in New Jersey spoke to my multicultural counseling class about the ACA graduate student essay contest. She passed around a handout encouraging my class to submit a proposal. Immediately, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to define my identity and get my name out into the counseling world. After writing and rewriting my proposal, I finally submitted my essay in December. Because the winners would receive complementary registration to the ACA Conference, I could hardly wait for the winning essays to be announced. Finally, on Feb. 28, I received an email asking for my attendance at the ACA National Awards Ceremony; my essay had been chosen as one of the top entries. I was one step closer to becoming a known face in the counseling world.

Upon arriving at the ACA Conference, I prepared myself to get the most out of my experience. I printed out my resume, picked out my best business attire, scheduled an appointment with the ACA Career Center and promised myself that I would speak to as many people as I could. I was a novice counselor who planned to leave the conference educated on the licensure process, the benefits of a doctorate in counselor education, employment trends, who to contact post-graduation regarding approved supervisors and any other helpful information I could soak up.

Having this goal-oriented mindset opened my eyes to the true kindness and genuineness of the counseling community. Within minutes of entering the conference center in Atlanta, my wildest dreams were exceeded. I was engaging in impromptu, inspirational meetings with fellow master’s students, doctoral candidates, counselor educators and authors. I soon learned that the counseling community is a tightknit group of exceptionally talented and personable individuals. During my four days in Atlanta, the connections I made completely changed my personal and professional life.

There are so many people that made my experience worthwhile, but for the sake of time and space, I will mention just a few. Dedicated representatives from Magnolia Ranch, a rehab facility in Tennessee, engaged in personal conversation with me on multiple occasions. I must have stopped by their expo table at least twice per day, and each time they were just as eager to ask about my professional journey, share their insights on the counseling profession, talk about their contributions to mental health and, of course, answer all my questions about their therapy horses. (I, as a horse owner, could talk about equine-therapy for days.)

Gerald Corey, Michelle Muratori, Jude Austin and Julius Austin, co-authors of the book Counselor Self-Care (published by ACA), each connected with me on a personal level. After attending their presentation on self-care, I was determined to purchase a copy of their new book and get it signed. However, with more than 100 people in attendance at their presentation, I overestimated my chances of purchasing a book. It had quickly sold out. As a Type-A individual, self-care was something I had consistently failed at, and I knew this book would assist me in my quest to accomplish a better self-care plan. Thus, I made it my mission to find a copy of their book.

After stopping by the ACA Bookstore at the conference on multiple occasions, speaking with the authors directly and bargaining with the conference staff to sell me the copy in the display window, I started to feel defeated. It was in that moment that I decided to approach the authors one last time and express my appreciation and gratitude for their work (book or not, the information I had gained from their presentation was priceless). Surprisingly, they thanked me for my kind words, interest in their self-care book, and perseverance and commitment as a counselor-in-training. Then Michelle Muratori dug into her purse and handed me her own personal copy of Counselor Self-Care while all the authors smiled.

I spent the next few minutes chatting with her. We discussed her career as a counselor educator and clinician at Johns Hopkins University. She provided me with such valuable insight, motivation and hope for my future as a professional counselor. Additionally, prior to the book signing, I had the privilege of speaking with Julius Austin. We connected on our similar experiences of being Division I college soccer players and the transition into the counseling profession. He empathized with and understood the many emotions I went through as I left the collegiate world behind.

Finally, during one of the keynote speaker presentations, I sat next to Ed Jacobs. I introduced myself and expressed interest in his role as a program director (at the moment, I didn’t know he was a renowned author and educator in the field of counseling and that he had written the group counseling book used in my graduate program). Our conversation flowed as we talked about his position at West Virginia University, my current clinical work with children and my hopes and dreams for the future. Before we parted ways, he encouraged me to attend his group counseling session, where he would be presenting on group counseling techniques to use with children and adolescents. I made it a point to attend his workshop, and I am so happy that I did.

After the session, I went up to him to thank him for taking the time to speak with me earlier in the day. He smiled and said, “You came.” Then he reached into his bag and pulled out a copy of the book he wrote on individual counseling techniques. He handed it to me and said, “I’m really happy you came and hope we stay in touch.” I was so humbled and touched by his kindness and generosity. I, too, hope our paths will cross again.

When I returned home to New Jersey, I was filled with gratitude, warmth and excitement for my future profession. The conference was more than I could have ever imagined. However, I know that my pursuit to establish a unique identity is an evolving journey. I need to build on the connections I have made. I have reached out to Drs. Muratori, Austin and Jacobs and have been overwhelmed with the thoughtful and efficient responses I have received.

For example, Dr. Jacobs stated that one of his greatest joys is mentoring students and that he would be more than willing to guide me in my journey as a novice counselor. Within days, he had connected me with a counselor educator here in New Jersey; my name was quickly spreading throughout the counseling world. My resume was being reviewed by many professionals, my email inbox was filling up with new messages, and my identity as a counselor-in-training was far greater than that of a master’s student graduating from a CACREP-accredited program. There was a face to my name.

Although this idea of networking may seem like common sense, I cannot tell you how many master’s students leave their graduate programs unsure of what to do next. It is not that they failed to study hard, earn good grades and succeed in their clinical settings, but rather that their identity as novice counselors mirrors that of every other newly graduated student.

So, to all my fellow counseling graduate students, if there is one thing I hope you take away from this article, it is this: Go the extra mile; get involved in as many activities and events as you can; submit journal proposals; do not be afraid to introduce yourself and network with as many professionals as you can; and, lastly, create your own unique brand. Be bold. Be brave.

Understanding this concept early on will only help you in the long run. With the complex social challenges faced by the nation and the world, becoming the best counselor one can be is imperative. By celebrating our uniqueness and crafting our professional brand, we will be best positioned to solve the mental health problems and other social ills that we all face.

 

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Sarah Fichtner is a former Division 1 women’s soccer player for the University of Maryland. She is completing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Kean University in New Jersey and currently works at Hackensack Meridian Behavioral Health as a counselor intern, where she practices from a strengths-based model. Contact her at fichtnes@kean.edu.

 

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  • American Counseling Association members: Advance your career with the resources you need in where you can find hundreds of job listings, complimentary career consultations and other helpful career information and services created specifically for counselors.
  • Find out more about ACA’s upcoming Conference & Expo at counseling.org/conference

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.