The Role of the Professional Counselor in the 21st Century
Michael K. Altekruse, Ed.D., NCC
Northern Kentucky University
Henry L. Harris, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Marielle A. Brandt, Ph.D.
California State University, Sacramento
The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of the counselor and to propose a role for the professional counselor of the 21st century. The role of the counselor is compared with the role of other mental health professionals. A distinction between mental health professionals is presented with an emphasis on a new role for the professional counselor.
Past and Future Roles in Counseling
The purpose of this paper is to develop the role of the professional counselor for the 21st century. To do this, the authors review the role of the various mental health professionals and clarify the unique role and function of the professional counselor of the future. In examining the roles of various mental health professionals, we describe past and current trends in the profession of counseling, and discuss issues involving the preparation and training of professional counselors for actual employment in a variety of settings. Suggestions for practicing in the 21st Century are included.
Differentiating Mental Health Professions
Various professional groups coexist in the field of mental health, performing similar services for their clientele, and all term the process counseling. Historically, the term has been employed generically across mental health disciplines to describe a particular process. In general, counseling refers to a voluntary and confidential process which takes place in the context of a professional relationship, whereby individuals, groups of individuals, or members of a family attempt to gain an understanding of self and others to effectively solve problems and resolve conflicts in their daily lives. Coming from this process-based understanding comes the term counselor that is most often associated with and, therefore, is used to describe the individual who provides counseling services. The general use of the term counseling places the title is that of professional counselor in a rather precarious and confusing situation. In addition to having an obligation to provide exemplary mental health counseling to their clients within the parameters of their professional standards, professional counselors are also obligated to differentiate themselves from other mental health care providers by having to promote their own professional identity as well as promoting the profession of counseling.
Although training, education level, and credentialing vary across disciplines, individuals of distinct mental health professions are often hired to perform the same tasks (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995; Altekruse & Terneus, 1998; West, Hosie, & Mackey, 1988). From bachelor level social workers to master level counselors to doctoral level psychologists, the question remains, how are these professionals different and do they have distinct roles? Despite considerable overlap among counseling-related services provided by various mental health professions, there are basic differences in philosophy, practice, training, and licensure requirements. To begin the investigation of the role of professional counselors, the following section briefly clarifies the general distinctions among three closely related mental health professions, all which provide counseling-related services: clinical social work, psychology, and professional counseling.
Table 1 Comparison of Master’s Level Social Workers, Psychologists, and Professional Counselors
|BASIS OF COMPARISON||CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK||PSYCHOLOGY||PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING|
|Mental Health Counseling||Community Counseling|
|Graduation Requirements||B.S., or Master’s||Doctorate||60 Semester Hours||48 Semester Hours|
|Clinical Hours||900 Clock Hours||1000 Clock Hours||700 Clock Hours|
|Diagnosis & Treatment||Diagnosis & Treatment||Preventive/
|Licensure internship hours||3000 Clock Hours||One Year||3000 Clock Hours||3000 Clock Hours|
Altekruse (2001), Hollis (1999), CACREP (2001), NASW (2001), and APA (2001).
Most social workers specialize in a clinical field such as child welfare and family services, mental health, medical social work, and school social work. These professionals offer psychotherapy or counseling and a range of services in private practice, clinics, public agencies and community organizations. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2000-2001 (U. S. Department of Labor, 2000), social workers often help clients facing life-threatening situations or social problems requiring a quick solution. These issues may include inadequate, housing, unemployment, lack of job skills, financial distress, serious illness or disability, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancy, or antisocial behavior or assisting families with serious conflicts such as those involving abuse (U. S. Department of Labor, 2000).
Bachelor Level Social Workers
Numerous bachelor level social work programs exist, some of which focus on clinical practice (Hollis, 1971/1997). A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the minimum requirement for most entry-level mental health service positions. BSW programs train students for direct service positions such as case workers and require the completion of coursework in the following areas: social work practice, human behavior and the social environment, social research methods, and social welfare policies (U. S. Department of Labor, 2000). Undergraduate programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) require students to complete 480 clock hours of field experience in a setting under the supervision of a social work practitioner (Heffernan, Shuttlesworth, & Ambrosino, 1997). The authors further contend that many social workers remain at this level for the duration of their careers. The fact that social workers with bachelor degrees are in the employment pool and are competing for the same jobs as those individuals who have earned masters degrees lowers the salary range for all mental health workers (Altekruse & Terneus, 1998).
Master Level Social Workers
Master level social workers (MSW’s) have a strong historical foundation in the mental health profession. They were pioneers in obtaining state licensure, and in developing a strong accrediting program (Covin, 1995). Consequently, master level social workers established their professional identity in mental health while counselor education programs initially were specifically focused on training school counselors. MSW programs train students in assessment, case management, and supervision. Typically, MSW programs are two academic years in length and require 900 hours of supervised field experience, or internship (U. S. Department of Labor, 2000). Clinical social workers receive a master’s degree in social work with a clinical emphasis. In 1994, the NASW Board of Directors adopted the following definition of clinical social work:
Clinical social work shares with all social work practice the goal of enhancement and maintenance of psychosocial functioning of individuals, families, and small groups. Clinical social work practice is the professional application of social work theory and methods to the treatment and prevention of psychosocial dysfunction, disability, or impairment, including emotional and mental disorders. It is based on knowledge of one or more theories of human development within a psychosocial context. The perspective of person-in-situation is central to clinical social work practice. Clinical social work includes interventions directed to interpersonal interactions, intrapsychic dynamics, and life-support and management issues. Clinical social work services consist of assessment; diagnosis; treatment, including psychotherapy and counseling; client-centered advocacy; consultation; and evaluation. The process of clinical social work is undertaken within the objectives of social work and the principles and values contained in the NASW Code of Ethics (p.?).
In 1998 the number of social service workers employed was slightly over 600,000 (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000) and in recent years more of them, possessing advanced degrees have engaged in private practice (Heffernan, Shuttlesworth, & Ambrosino ,1997). Furthermore, it appears that most mental health administrators are from a social work background and have a tendency to hire primarily social workers (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995).
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience—from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting, from scientific research centers to mental health care services, “the understanding of behavior” is the enterprise of psychologists (APA web page). Psychologists apply their skills and knowledge in a broad range of areas to include health and human services, education, sports, law and management. Additionally, these professionals tend to specialize in a concentrated area of study.
Bachelor Level Psychology Majors
Bachelor level psychology majors are not trained to be psychologists. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2000), bachelor level psychology majors may assist psychologists and other professionals in community mental health centers, vocational rehabilitation offices, and correctional programs’ with an expectation of having very few opportunities directly related to psychology. Even though most bachelor level psychology majors are not trained for clinical practice, they often can and do obtain entry-level mental health positions.
Master Level Psychology Majors
Master level trainees may be psychological assistants who conduct research and psychological evaluations, counsel patients, conduct administrative duties or obtain jobs as faculty and school psychologists and counselors. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2000), individuals with a master’s degree in psychology may find jobs as psychological assistants in community mental health centers under the supervision of a licensed psychologist (U. S. Department of Labor, 2000). Researchers have demonstrated that in most cases, master level psychology majors find positions as mental health workers and are supervised by psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other mental health providers and can receive licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995). The APA Monitor (“Programs in psychology,” 1995) reported that there are 900 psychology programs in the United. Presently, master level psychology majors are not eligible for licensure as a psychologist in any state because a doctorate degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D) is required, however as noted, many of them have become Licensed Professional Counselors.
Clinical psychologists constitute the largest specialty in psychology and work in counseling centers, private practices, managed practices, hospitals, and clinics. They typically provide intervention for mentally or emotionally disturbed clients, helping them adjust to life; however, they also assist people in times of personal crisis, such as a trauma or loss (U. S. Department of Labor, 2000). The second largest group is the Counseling Psychologists. They receive the same state licensure as Clinical Psychologists and work in some of the same settings. The big difference is that Counseling Psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders while Clinical Psychology is more concerned with more severe pathology and clinical assessment. Clinical and Counseling Psychologist must have doctorates (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) to receive licensure as a psychologist and a majority of states require they limit their practice to areas in which they have developed, through training and experience, professional competence (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000).
According to Nugent (1994) professional counselors are trained to work with a person’s normal developmental conflicts, while other mental health professionals generally are trained to diagnose and treat pathology and work with dysfunctional behavior or chronic mental illness. Furthermore, counselors help people with personal, family, social, educational, and career decisions. Duties are dependent upon the individuals being served and the settings in which they work such as school, career, employment, rehabilitation, and mental health. School counselors help students to understand their interests, abilities, and personal characteristics in order to develop realistic academic and career choices. Furthermore they emphasize preventive and developmental counseling to provide students with enhanced personal, social, and academic growth. Career counselors help students with career development and job hunting. Employment counselors also help people make career decisions. Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with the personal, social, and vocational impact of their disabilities (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000). The Occupational Outlook Handbook (2000) also reported that mental health counselors emphasize prevention and work with individuals or groups to resolve substance abuse, family, couple, and parenting issues, suicide, stress management, self-esteem, career concerns, educational decisions, and issues of mental and emotional health. However, according to research conducted by Altekruse and Sexton (1995), and West, Hosie, and Mackey (1988/1989), counselors and administrators reported that the main duty of the mental health counselor is to diagnose and treat. Although the literature addresses professional and program concerns, another significant element is that of the student’s perspective. In addition to obtaining information from faculty and advisors regarding various mental health programs and employment outlook, students often refer to their university’s career center for guidance regarding career matters.
It is also interesting to note how the counseling field is presented in career literature. For example, U.S. Department of Labor, 2000 described counseling as an entry level position in human services, and that community mental health facilities hire graduates with a bachelor’s degree whose principal job is to assist psychologists by solving urgent problems while substantive mental health care is provided by professional psychologists with advanced degrees. U.S. Department of Labor, 2000 also described professional qualifications of a counselor to include knowledge of social issues, problems, and available resources as well as writing and basic research skills. Prospective counseling students are provided this information regarding the counseling field when they refer to many career centers use this resource.
It is clear that the field of professional counseling is defined and described in various ways. Whether professional counselors’ primary role is to diagnose and treat or to work with normal developmental concerns is debated in the literature. Even the accreditation standards for counselor education programs present distinctly different roles and training for the Community and Mental Health Counselor. This confusion needs to be settled in the development of the role of the 21st century counselor.
Other Mental Health Providers
Other mental health providers certified in areas other than professional counseling (but often include counseling as one of their services) may compete for the same positions as professional counselors. These providers include psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists (AAMFT), marriage and family counselors (ACA), pastoral counselors, and rehabilitation counselors.
Social workers, psychology majors and psychologists, professional counselors, and other mental health professional seem to receive similar education and appear to complete for the same jobs in mental health. The task of the professional counselor of the future is to demonstrate how they are different and what they have to offer the consumer that is better. The role of the counselor of the 21st century needs to be clearly defined and different from other mental health providers.
Role of the Professional Counselor
The American Counselor Association (ACA) historically has proposed preventive developmental counseling as a defining characteristic of counseling. However, a discrepancy seems to exist between philosophy and practice in the field. Kiselica and Look (1993) critiqued mental health counselor education programs as failing to offer courses in prevention. In addition, the authors have suggested that the mental health counselor typically practice as a remedial counselor, and thus, aims to assist in ameliorating clients’ difficulties as they emerge. According to research reported by Altekruse & Sexton (1995), Clinically Certified Mental Health Counselors (CCMHC) respondents reported that their major role was to diagnose and treat clients. These results reinforced a study by West, Hosie, and Mackey (1988), which found that mental health agencies often require and/or expect mental health counselors to diagnose and treat as well as to perform duties that are consistent with the medical model.
However, CCMHC respondents (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995) did not believe they were appropriately trained to perform duties that would eventually be required of them in practice. In most cases they indicated that they had eventually received the training they had been lacking from on-the job experience or from other sources. Such findings support the notion that mental health counselors in the 1990’s were not adequately trained to diagnose and treat nor were they trained in preventive practices.
Based on a review of counselor preparation programs (Altekruse, 2001), it appears that the Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) approved mental health counseling programs (21 total) to train counselors in the medical model while CACREP approved Community Counseling programs and non-accredited counseling programs were not consistent in their training emphasis. In a study completed by Altekruse, (2001), it is clear that non-accredited programs vary among several dimensions such as quality, length of program, supervision required, course work, and number of full-time faculty, to name a few.
Table 1 illustrates a difference in the training of CACREP approved mental health counselors and CACREP approved community counselors. Currently there are only 21 CACREP approved mental health counselor education programs and 121 CACREP approved community counselor programs. However, graduates from these programs may eventually compete for identical positions and may be expected to perform the same duties (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995). Although the CACREP mental health counseling program appears to provide the precise product that present employers desire; specifically, a counselor that ascribes to the medical model (diagnosis and treatment) (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995; West, Hosie, & Mackey, 1988/1989), regardless the employers appear to hire from various disciplines.
According to Altekruse (2001) there are a large group of non-CACREP approved programs in community counseling (205 training programs) and mental health counseling (79 training programs). These programs vary in size, semester hours required, and supervised experiences required. Some appear to accept an unlimited number of students, have programs that are as few as 32 semester hours in length, and require little or no supervised clinical experiences. Graduates from these programs appear to compete for the same positions and are expected to perform the similar duties as graduates from CACREP approved programs that, with very few exceptions, have the more rigorous academic and clinical requirements. In addition to training and practice issues, there are endorsement issues. As a profession, we tend to believe that all mental health professionals are eligible for any type of mental health credentialing or positions irrespective of training or experience and enforce this belief through our recommendations for employment and credentialing.
In October 1997 the American Counseling Association (ACA) adopted the following definition of professional counseling:
The Practice of Professional Counseling: The application of mental health, psychological, or human development principles, through cognitive, affective, behavioral or systemic intervention strategies, that address wellness, personal growth, or career development, as well as pathology.
This definition establishes guidelines for the official ACA role of counseling and seems to endorse a professional that works with the normal population as well as with those with pathology. It does not address directly the preventative/developmental model that has been the model of choice by most counselor education programs. This definition appears to be closer to those presented by other mental health providers that make professional counselors less distinctive in the profession.
The endorsement issue has become so important that it has been included in the CACREP standards and in the most recent ACA Code of Ethics (1997). In support of Dattilio’s (1989) stance of enforcing individuals to advertise themselves according to the degree last obtained from an accredited program, the endorsement issue seems clear. In the senior author’s on-site accreditation visits for the Council for Accreditation and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), counselor endorsement continues to be an area where many programs do not have an adequate policy. The 2001 CACREP standards state:
Section V. C. d: Prior to or during the first term of enrollment in the program, the following occur for all new students: written endorsement policy explaining the procedures for recommendations of students for credentialing and employment… (CACREP, 2001).
Professional counseling students should be informed and must understand that their program faculty will prepare them for a specific expertise and upon graduation, the faculty will only recommend them for positions for which they were trained. This CACREP policy has been in effect since 1979. These policies seem clear and apply not only to employment, but also to certification and licensure.
The counseling profession seems to have a unique situation in that students are trained to be counselors for specific populations such as rehabilitation counselors, school counselors, marriage and family counselors, community counselors, gerontological counselors, career counselors, substance abuse counselors, counselor educators, etc and yet have separate National Board of Certified Counselor certification for many and separate licenses in many states for some of these specialties. Even though, social workers and psychologists also have specialties, they have only one license. This could add to the role confusion that the public has for professional counselors.
Contributing more to this confusion are the different standards CACREP have established for Community Counselors and Mental Health Counselors. The Community Counseling Programs have an emphasis on the preventive/developmental model, which has a 48 semester hour graduation requirement and 700 clock hour clinical experience. On the other hand, Mental Health Counseling Programs emphasis is focused on the diagnosis and treatment model requiring 12 additional graduate hours and 300 more clock hours of clinical experience (see table 1). Do counselor educators recommend a community counselor for a position in a mental health setting or a marriage and family counselor for a case manager position in a rehabilitation setting? If so, then why does the profession of counseling have separate programs of study? The CACREP standards are clear in specifying that recommendations are appropriate only for a position for which the graduate has been prepared. For example, a school counseling graduate should be recommended for a school counseling position at the level for which he/she is prepared (i.e., elementary or secondary) and not for a mental health counseling position in a mental health settings. In addition to the CACREP standards’ long time position on endorsement, the revision to American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (1997) addresses endorsement by stating the following:
Endorsement. Counselors do not endorse students or supervisors for certification, licensure, employment, and completion of an academic or training program if they believe students or supervisors are not qualified for the endorsement. Counselors take reasonable steps to assist students or supervisees who are not qualified for endorsement to become qualified. (Section F.1. h.)
This statement is more specific and inclusive than the CACREP statement. Previously, in the 1988 ACA Ethical Standards, the only statement regarding endorsement is:
Members must develop clear policies within their educational institutions regarding field placement and the roles of the student and instructor in such placement. (Section H. 11.)
An endorsement policy should not only state that a graduate will be endorsed exclusively for a position for which he/she is prepared, but should include information about the training program and what services the program prepares graduates to provide. Graduates must be aware of this policy and seek employment and credentialing in areas for which they are trained. For example, an endorsement policy for a school counselor may read:
An elementary school counselor is trained to work in the elementary school (K-8). The school counselor employs the preventative/developmental model and basically works with normal children who have temporary concerns. The counselor is trained to conduct guidance groups, support groups, theme groups, to refer more serious problems, and to counsel individually with children with adjustment problems. The school counseling curriculum from which this student graduated includes courses in group assessment, group work, theories of counseling, career counseling, research, ethics, multi-cultural counseling, and practicum (100 clock hours, and a 600 clock hour internship in the schools).
If a school counseling student opts to take all of the additional requirements for the community counseling program and an additional internship in the community, that extension of training could be noted and the student could be endorsed for both school and community counseling positions. The Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at University of Nevada at Las Vegas has intentionally designed courses of study that are geared toward specific mental health positions. Additionally, they endorse a graduate only for positions in which the graduate has received specific training. This policy seems to be successful and is a much clearer approach for students and future employers.
An endorsement policy has implications for all mental health professionals and could be a fundamental step in helping eliminate the confusion as to who is trained for what position. If all training programs would endorse their graduates only for positions and credentialing for whom they are trained, the role confusion may cease.
Professional Counselor and Licensure
To add to the confusion of the role of the counselor is the issue of licensure. The ACA Model Licensing Law recommends the following requirements for states that want counselor licensure.
ACA Modeling Licensing Law Requirements
|60 semester hours
CACREP Common Core (8)
|3000 clock hours||Required|
Even though ACA recommended this model law in 1994, only 22 states have laws that approximate this law. There are a total of 46 states and territories that have counseling licensing laws. Requirement in these states in the same categories of the ACA Model law vary greatly.
State Licensing Requirements Summary
|30 to 60 semester hours
|1500 to 4500 clock hours||NBCC related in 45 states and territories
NCE in 38 states
NCMHCE in 6 states
Own test in 3 states
The variation is education requirements and supervised experiences and different testing requirements make reciprocity between states for licensure almost impossible. These differing requirements are also confusing to the public who is not sure what a counselor does and what are the appropriate qualifications.
Present Status of Counselors and Trends
This monograph has presented a brief examination of the mental health profession and of the trends of the professional counseling profession. The members of the professional counseling profession (practitioners and trainers) need to continue to survey what is the expected role of the counselor in the future. For financial reasons (low pay, poor working conditions) and the advent of managed care, the profession is becoming less attractive. Consequently, there are a limited number of good mental health positions available. With so many different professional groups competing for the same positions, professional counselors will need to be better trained in approaches that are applicable and effective to be competitive in the work place. Professional counselors have long endorsed the preventative/developmental model and working with a more normal population. Recently this has changed, as the demands in the mental health workplace have demanded knowledge and skills in diagnosis and treatment. Perhaps a uniform generic core based on the remedial model (diagnosis and treatment) and with an added emphasis on the preventative/developmental model, might place the counselor in a more employable position as a mental health provider in the 21st century.
Presently, professionals identified as having good credentials include: psychiatrists (APA), clinical or counseling psychologists (APA), clinical master level social workers (NASW), psychiatric nurse therapists (APNA), and marriage and family therapists (AAMFT) (Stocker & Walsh, 1995). Neither professional counselors nor any of the divisional professionals from ACA are represented on this list. The public image of the professional counselor needs to be an issue of the profession. As a start, the definition of a mental health counselor in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2000) needs to be changed to better meet the new desired role presented below.
The profession needs to be included as a mental health provider by managed care and insurance companies. This will take a concentrated effort by our professional organizations (ACA and AMHCA) and by each and every professional counselor. Presently, most professional counselors basically provide individual therapy and do very little work in careers, group, and preventative/developmental counseling (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995). This seems to be the same role for other mental health providers. We believe that if the professional counselors of the 21st century want to be competitive they need to be perceived as different from other mental health providers and equally as, if not more effective, in carrying out mental health services. Perhaps, by identifying and emphasizing services that are unique to professional counselors and those in which professional counselors are proven to provide superior service, we would increase our competitive edge, and thus, provide increased marketability in the mental health sector. Professional counselors have long been known to have a special expertise in career, group, and preventative/developmental counseling and yet do not appear to be using this expertise in their work (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995). These could be areas that would distinguish professional counselors from other mental health providers and aptly demonstrate their expertise.
In this monograph we proposed a training model that included a uniform generic core based on the remedial model (diagnosis and treatment) with an added emphasis on the preventative/developmental model. This model would develop a professional counselor that had the skills and knowledge of most all of the other mental health providers reviewed plus those of a preventative/developmental specialist.
A review of the literature, the CACREP standards, and program requirements reflects some confusion over what are a preventative/developmental model and the breath and scope of such a model. Since this is the major difference between the role of the professional counselor and other providers, the model will be presented here.
It is easier to understand the preventative model by discussing each part of the model separately. The preventative model is designed to provide approaches or strategies that will help prevent mental illness. Examples of preventative strategies are growth groups, guidance classes, programs such as “Just say no!” and self-help programs. There are many other programs that help individuals with their problems before they need remedial help. Kiselica and Look (1993) pointed out in their article that even though this is part of a well accepted model in professional counseling that there was not much on prevention in counselor education programs nor did to many professional counselors practice preventative strategies. School counselors are more likely to be involved in preventative strategies than other practicing counselors.
The developmental model is also one that is often misunderstood and overlooked by many practioneers and counselor education programs (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995). This model emphasizes knowledge of each developmental stage and what is normal and abnormal behavior for each stage of development. The professional counselor has knowledge and skills to provide strategies and approaches that are most effective for working with individuals in each developmental stage. Both models require knowledge and skills in very specific areas that are not always taught in most counselor education programs (Altekruse & Sexton, 1995).
The Role of the 21st Century Professionally Competent Counselor
The role of the professionally competent counselor of the 21st century is proposed to be a continued focus on the preventative/developmental model with an added emphasis on diagnosis and treatment strategies. The professionally competent counselor of the future needs the knowledge and skills to work with clients in their respected developmental stages and to provide strategies and approaches that help prevent mental illness. The professionally competent counselor is skilled in group, career, marriage and family, and specialty counseling. In addition this counselor has the ability and skills to diagnose and treat. It comes as no surprise that the element of diagnosing is looked upon with caution and skepticism by a segment individuals in the counseling profession. According to Mead (1994), some counselors believe that diagnosis is utilized primarily for economic reasons and is not an essential element of the counseling process. Seligman (1983) declared years ago “for some counselors, the process of attaching a diagnostic label to a client is uncomfortable; it is anti-ethical to their view of the counselor as an individual who promotes positive growth and who does not emphasize past emotional difficulties” (p. 601). More recently, Hohenshil (1996) postulated that many counselors follow a credo that the profession should continue to simply espouse the developmental model; a model that has traditionally differentiated counseling from social work, psychology and psychiatry
The question remains, are we willing to take a step forward and move beyond training and practicing from the traditionally developmental model to a more inclusive diagnostic and treatment component? The answer seems obvious because there are quite a number of licensed professional counselors employed in both the public and private agencies who routinely diagnose and treat clients experiencing normal developmental problems and those with more serious mental concerns (Hohenshil, 1996). Experienced counselors recognize that a diagnosis is often a helpful tool in discovering information that may lead to developing a more effective treatment plan for their clients (Hohenshil, 1993).
Finally, in order to diagnose and access correctly, as Dattilio (1984) explained, one must have good clinical skills and an accurate understanding of personality and behavioral disorders. Practicing counselors and counselor training programs must keep in mind that the DSM -IV is an important mechanism used in diagnosing mental illness and could create as much harm as good if implemented by incompetent individuals (Dattilio, 1984).
The professionally competent counselor of the future is aware of research and uses approaches that are based on positive outcomes. They have the appropriate license or certification and adhere to the appropriate ethical codes. They maintain an active professional development and renewal and are active consumers of the professional literature always striving for improvement.
The counselor of the new millennium must continue to strive to become more culturally responsive and competent when working with clients from diverse backgrounds. Projections suggest that at some point between 2030 and 2050 African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans groups will constitute a majority of the U.S. population (United States Census Bureau, 2000). The most significant change will occur in the Asian and Hispanic groups. Although Hispanics will become the majority minority group, the Asian population will grow at a slightly higher rate (Aponte & Crouch, 1995).
Baruth and Manning contend (1991) that the majority of active counselors today are very likely to be middle class Caucasians who received their educational preparation at institutions that provided training for counseling middle class Caucasian Americans clients. This training was and may be considered appropriate for counselors preparing to work solely with mainstream Caucasian American clients; however the possible lack of training and clinical experiences with culturally diverse clients indicates the need for an improved understanding of culturally relevant approaches. Effective multicultural counseling not only requires the counselor to understand concepts related to culturally diverse populations (Baruth & Manning, 1991), but equally significant, counselors must consistently engage in a process of exploring their values and beliefs regarding individuals from culturally different backgrounds. Counselors should strive to avoid the stigma of becoming culturally encapsulated. According to Wrenn (1962), the culturally encapsulated counselor is one who disregards and works under the mistaken assumption that theories and techniques are equally applicable to all people. This type of counselor is insensitive to the actual experiences of clients from culturally different backgrounds and therefore may cause harm inadvertently to some clients by treating every client the same (Gladding, 1999). Ultimately counselors from all racial and ethnic groups must work to understand clients from the context of their culture.
Computers, counseling related interactive training videos, and other forms of computerized technology will also impact the counselor of the 21st century. Traditionally computers have been associated with science and business industries, however now more than ever before they are having an impact on counselors and will continue to do so. Counselors are currently using computers to help in following areas such as record keeping, marketing, billing, documenting client records, career counseling, clinical assessment and diagnosis, and also to provide on-line individual and group counseling services (Neukrug, 1999). Electronic mail (E-mail) is another computerized avenue that counselors are using to communicate with one another and in some cases E-mail is being used to provide mental health services to clients (Hannon, 1996).
Sampson, Kolodinsky, and Greeno (1997) indicate the delivery of counseling services via the internet has several benefits and promises which could possibly (1) enhance client access to counseling services in remote areas and encourage people to seek out counseling through self-help resources; (2) improve record keeping and monitoring of clients; (3) enhance counseling referrals; and (4) increase choices for case conferencing and supervisions. Counselors of the 21st century must also recognize the limitations and potential dangers such as: (1) confidentiality and privacy concerns for clients; (2) inappropriate counselor interventions; (3) misuse and abuse of computer applications by inadequately trained counselors; and (4) counselors knowingly misrepresenting their credentials to prospective clients (Sampson, Kolodinsky, & Greeno (1997). We encourage counselors of the 21st century to embrace computerized technology within the counseling process, but also recognize the limitations.
Suggestions for Counselor Education
Students can be molded into effective professionally competent counselors for the 21st century by designing a curriculum specifically for professional counselors with an emphasis on application. This unique curriculum should be based on effective skills and knowledge identified to be needed to be an effective professional counselor and should be based on effective outcome research curricular experiences that appear to meet the role of the counselor for the 21st century include: Counseling research, Ethics/legal issues, Clinical services (practicum and internship), Career counseling, Marriage and family counseling, Life span development and application, Prevention strategies, Diagnosis and treatment, Informational services, Counseling theories, approaches, and techniques, Multicultural counseling related issues.
The purpose of this monograph was to examine issues and trends, which are impacting the professional counselor role for 21st century. The authors chose what they saw as the most pertinent issues. To address all issues would take much more space than was available. The present status of the profession of professional counseling appears to be in a state of transition. This is time for the profession to make some changes in training and in the delivery of professional counseling. Professional counselors of the future need to utilize their strengths and demonstrate to their consumers that they have something important to offer. It is time to clearly define the professional counselor’s role and to communicate this role to legislators and to the various publics. The authors propose that the professional counselor for the 21st century be prepared to utilize the remedial model (diagnosis and treatment) with an added emphasis on preventative/developmental strategies.
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Aponte & Crouch _________________________????????? I have this book at home.
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