An Investigation of School Counselor and School Counselor Trainee Activities

Article excerpt

The leaders of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the professional organization that creates policy and advocates for school counselors, state:

"[professional school counselors design and deliver comprehensive school counseling programs that promote student achievement. These programs are comprehensive in scope, preventative in design and developmental in nature (. ..). The ASCA National Model[R] brings professional school counselors together with one vision and one voice, which creates unity and focus toward improving student achievement" (ASCA, 2005 [paragraph] 1).

The advantages of developmental, comprehensive school counseling programs (CDSC) have been espoused for decades (Gysbers, 2004), yet these programs were slow to emerge. In 1997, the ASCA Standards were developed to identify and monitor student competencies with a focus on student growth in the academic, career, and personal/social domains (ASCA, 2003). In 2001, the governing council of the American School Counseling Association took these Standards to the next level through the development of a template for professional school counselors to use in designing their own CDSC program. The result is the ASCA National Model[R] (ASCA).

Despite the ASCA's active campaign to promote awareness of the benefits of a CDSC program, many professional school counselors have not yet instituted a comprehensive, developmental school counseling program in their schools. In one study (Oberman & Studer, 2008), 51% of the surveyed school counselors reported that they had not instituted a CDSC program in their schools, 26% of the participants reported having a comprehensive, developmental counseling program in place, and 23% reported that they were in the process of implementing this type of program. School counselor training is disjointed when trainees are supervised by professional school counselors who work in a program that reflects a traditional, reactive school counseling program, but receive training in a CDSC perspective from their school counselor education program. As one high school counselor stated to a class of school counseling students who were learning about the benefits of a CDSC program, "you can forget everything you are learning in your classes since you will never use any of it when you enter the schools." It was clear from this statement that there was a disconnect between the philosophy of this practicing school counselor and those of the training program goals.

School Counselor Performance Standards and CDSC Programs

When the ASCA National Standards were first developed, there was some uncertainty as to whether the Standards were written for school counselor practitioners or for K-12 students. This confusion was clarified in the ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs in which it was stated that these competencies were designed "for students, not programs" (ASCA, 2003, p. 10). However, because school counselors serve as leaders of their program and are responsible for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of their services, school counselor performance standards are also addressed in this document. Consequently, these standards were formatted into an evaluation document entitled School Counseling Standards: School Counselor Competencies that "... is organized and consistent with the ASCA National Model[R].... [and] will equip the school counselor with the skills to establish, maintain and enhance the developmental school counseling program in all three domains (academic, personal/social, and career" (ASCA, n.d. [paragraph] 6). Although graduates from school counseling programs are expected to fulfill the same roles and effectively perform the same competencies as their more experienced colleagues, the reality is that many competencies are not mastered until years of experience are attained.

The Trainee in a CDSC Program

Several researchers investigated school counseling programs that relate to the ASCA National Model[R]. …