A Readiness Hierarchy Theory of Counselor-in-Training

Article excerpt

This article speaks to the relationship between counselors-in-training level of efficacy (achievement), their cognitive style (assimilator/accommodator) and their level of readiness (disposition). Further discussion is given to the roles of supervisors as it relates to counselors-in-training levels of readiness and cognitive style. It is hoped that such a discussion which incorporates both the established and emerging theories of counselors-in-training will provide clarity for challenges within the counseling supervision process.

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In 1998, the American Counseling Association (ACA) approved nine knowledge base outcomes for clinical supervision. Counselor development is one of the knowledge bases that address various components of counselors-in-training experiences; specifically, knowledge outcomes. Integrated into these outcomes are: critical transition points, learning styles, experience levels, skill development levels, and cognitive levels. The complexity of counselor development makes it impossible to view it as a uniform or linear concept. The aforementioned issues of this construct may be divided into at least three aspects, with each raising a question. The first includes the counselor's-in-training cognitive level: Is it dualistic or relativistic? The second aspect is the readiness level in which the counselor-in-training exists: Is the trainee essentially in the dependent stage or the growth stage? The third aspect is the counselor's-in-training efficacy level: What are the thoughts that quantify their perceptions of their efficacy. Unfortunately, supervision literature limits its discussion on the relationship between cognition, readiness and efficacy.

As stated earlier, counselor development is complex; however, supervision literature has yet to ask the question: What underscores stage development of counselors-in-training. The answer is the constructs of assimilation and accommodation. To understand how the constructs of assimilation and accommodation influence counselors-in-training acquisition of an organized framework for counseling that assures internal consistency in case conceptualization, treatment planning, counseling practice and expected outcomes within the supervisory process may propel a more adequate response to supervision challenges within the trainee-client-and-supervisor triad (Magnuson & Wilcoxon, 1998; Neufeldt, Iverson, & Juntunen. 1995).

Counselor Efficacy

Beutler, Machado, & Neufeldt (1994) identified counseling self efficacy as stable and reliable characteristics that could be used for selecting and training counselors. According to Bandura, (1991) self efficacy is "peoples beliefs about their capabilities to exercise control over their own level of functioning and other events in their lives" (p. 257). Counselor self efficacy is directly correlated to both cognitive development and counselor readiness.

Researchers have found strong correlation between both counselors'-in-training level of efficacy and level of readiness in the therapeutic process. Readiness defines the affect of counselors-in-training. Specifically, their disposition, which is how they cope with uncertainty, the choice of task difficulty, the degree of risk taking and the quality of performance. Counseling competence, as noted by Lauver and Harvey (1997), "develops from the merging of three elements: the person (who the counselor is), counseling knowledge (what the counselor knows), and counseling skills (what the counselor can do)" (p.4). The three elements maintain ongoing reciprocal influences. Thus, while the person guides the level of knowledge and skills, skills determine performance and affect development; thereby generating a matrix of counselor competence.

Furthermore, Stolenberg & Delworth, (1987) explained further that the three elements are motivated by eight domains of professional competencies. They are intervention skills, assessment techniques, interpersonal assessment, client conceptualization, individual differences, theoretical orientation, treatment goals and plans, and professional ethics. …