Professional standards and codes of ethics require counselor educators to adhere to gatekeeping policies (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2005; Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2009). Gatekeeping has been described as the process of monitoring and evaluating a counselor trainee's competence to enter the counseling profession (Corey, Haynes, & Moulton, 2003). Lumadue and Duffey (1999) noted that graduate programs play a vital role in gatekeeping. Gatekeeping has been defined as the process whereby counselor educators intervene when students are not prepared with knowledge, skills, and values necessary for the practice of counseling (Ziomek-Daigle & Bailey, 2010).
Both CACREP and ACA require counselor educators to serve as gatekeepers for the counseling profession and to provide remedial assistance to students, which may include guidance in choosing another area of study (ACA, 2005; CACREP, 2009). Moore and Urwin (1991) and Bernard and Goodyear (2004) commented that counselor educators are gatekeepers; thus, they are decision makers regarding whether students are competent enough to receive their graduate degrees and enter the counseling profession and whether students have deficiencies that warrant intervention and potential dismissal.
Gatekeeping practices, namely student selection, retention, and remediation, have been intermittently discussed in the counselor education and counseling psychology literature for the past 40 years (Baldo, Softas-Nall, & Shaw, 1997; Bernard, 1975; Bradley & Post, 1991 ; Forrest, Elman, Gizara, & Vacha-Haase, 1999; Frame & Stevens-Smith, 1995; Keppers, 1960; Lumadue & Duffey, 1999; Olkin & Gaughen, 1991; Sweeney, 1969; Vacha-Haase, 1995). In fact, Bernard (1975) described due process procedures to dismiss unsuitable students and recommended that students be provided with written program manuals upon admittance. Iovacchini (1981) examined the impact of academic due process decisions and provided competencies and characteristics that students should be able to demonstrate. A decade later, gatekeeping practices and procedures (Baldo et al., 1997; Frame & Stevens-Smith, 1995; Lumadue & Duffey, 1999; Olkin & Gaughen, 1991) emerged in the counselor education literature.
Olkin and Gaughen (1991) suggested a process for identifying and evaluating students who have academic deficits and offered recommendations for due process and dismissal of students who were deemed incompetent. Similarly, Frame and Stevens-Smith (1995) developed a framework related to gatekeeping and an evaluation form that is included in student handbooks and referenced in course syllabi. Finally, Baldo et al. (1997) encouraged the use of faculty review committees to facilitate a process through which faculty members might identify and report students' progress without becoming the target of students' reactions; this was a more extensive process than those previously proposed, requiring consistent tracking of students' progress and ongoing feedback from the faculty.
Lumadue and Duffey (1999) incorporated the advantages of the previous practices and added a behavior-specific student evaluation instrument. Faculty at Southwest Texas State University (see Lumadue & Duffey, 1999, p. 105) went a step further and devised an instrument that was based on standards of the 1995 ACA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (Frame & Stevens-Smith, 1995). Although several authors (e.g., Baldo et al., 1997; Frame & Stevens-Smith, 1995; Lumadue & Duffey, 1999; Olkin & Gaughen, 1991) have expanded on existing practices with the hope of improving the gatekeeping process, few researchers have explored these practices through research, much less investigated faculty members' perceptions and experiences regarding the process of gatekeeping in counselor education. This lack of depth in the research is the basis of the rationale for this study.
Despite ethical and professional mandates that necessitate gatekeeping, not all counseling program faculty engage in adequate gatekeeping procedures, and the practice of gatekeeping varies across programs (Bradley & Post, 1991; Forrest et al., 1999; Olkin & Gaughen, 1991; Vacha-Haase, 1995). Currently, a single conceptual framework, theoretical model, or pedagogical paradigm that assists the gatekeeping and remedial concerns of counselor educators does not exist (Bemak, Epp, & Keys, 1999; McAdams & Foster, 2007).
Some counselor educators have attributed their avoidance of student evaluations to their fear of potential confrontations and being subjected to unwanted legal matters as a result of carrying out a student dismissal decision (McAdams, Foster, & Ward, 2007). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to gather and review multiple considerations regarding gatekeeping and remediation practices and to generate a theory regarding gatekeeping practices in counselor education.
Researchers have attested to the "goodness of fit" of qualitative methodology with the field of counseling and counselor education (Merchant, 1997; Newsome, Hays, & Christensen, 2008). According to Gay and Airasian (2000), qualitative research should be used when researchers are interested in describing a particular occurrence or capturing the essence of participants' perspectives of a specific phenomenon in terms of their beliefs, behaviors, and practices. Because naturalistic inquiry is also suited for exploratory research about which little is known, qualitative methodology, in particular grounded theory, is appropriate for use when gathering information and constructing a theoretical explanation of a phenomenon based on participants' lived experiences (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Forrest et al. (1999) noted that grounded theory methodology is especially appropriate in developing theoretical explanations about impairment issues.
Consequently, we used grounded theory procedures in this study to investigate counselor educators' beliefs, behaviors, and practices related to gatekeeping.
Purposeful sampling is often used in qualitative research for sample selection that is based on knowledge or experience of the group, and when participants are selected because they possess common characteristics and have the potential to offer information that directly pertains to the purpose of the investigation at hand and to help formulate the theory (Gay & Airasian, 2000; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Consequently, criteria for participation in this study included being a counselor educator who was currently teaching in a master's-level, CACREP-accredited program, thus ensuring compatibility among program standards, courses offered, and programs of studies.
At the beginning of this investigation, we used electronic mail to contact all program coordinators in CACREP-accredited …