It was 1960. After 2 years of teaching high school story, I had decided to get a master's degree. My options were social studies education, educational administration, or something else. The first two options were unappealing to me. A third option came to my attention by happenstance. Colleagues at the rural high school in west central Wisconsin where I was teaching had entered school guidance programs, which aroused my curiosity about their new-found field of study. That summer, I entered the office of Tom Soldahl, a doctoral student in the Personnel and Guidance Program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and asked to be enrolled for two summer sessions. He helped me prepare a schedule for the summer and later taught one of my classes. The first summer was to be an exploratory adventure from which I would determine whether or not the correct decision had been made.
Forty-one years later, I find myself reflecting back on how it all started while attempting to devise a strategy for writing this article. I made the correct decision. That happenstance choice turned out to be the beginning of a career that eventually took turns I could not imagine in 1960.
The school counseling profession was engaged in a boom period at that time, as was the field of education generally. There was excitement about schools and learning (Bruner, 1960; Conant, 1959). The present article focuses on the history of the profession while I lived it for 40 years and my perceptions of the future.
Exciting Times at Mid-Century
The National Defense Education Act of 1958 was the primary impetus for the boom mentioned above. Federal funds were made available for education in general and counselor education in particular in very large amounts for a period of close to 20 years (Baker, 2000). Programs such as the one at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis were taking advantage of the opportunity. The number of school counselors was increasing, partly due to support from federal funds; the number of counselor educators and counselor education programs was proliferating; and the field was awash with scholarly thinking and publishing of theories, models, and research.
I found myself in an enthusiastic environment. There were jobs and ideas. I was introduced to the "guidance point-of-view" by faculty members such as C. Gilbert Wrenn, Willis E. Dugan, W. W. Tennyson, Donald Blocher, and doctoral students such as Tom Soldahl, Joe Hogan, Herb Burks, Sunny Hansen, Jim Winfrey, and Loren Benson.
At the time, I was naively unaware of the national reputations of my faculty members and of the University's counseling and student personnel programs. It was the institution of E. G. Williamson, who had been identified widely as the primary proponent of nondirective counseling. His supposed rival was Carl Rogers, then at the University of Wisconsin, whose viewpoint was labeled nondirective counseling. Rogers' model seemed to be the most influential one in our programs, although the program was deemed to be eclectic (Smith, 1955). I emerged from the program in my individual counseling heavily influenced by Carl Rogers' presentations.
The school guidance education received during the summers of 1960 to 1963 caused me to become a more student-centered teacher. I felt better about my teaching and my teacher-student relations. The small rural school in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, where I taught started a fledging guidance program in the early 1960s. Among a high school faculty of 12, there were four of us preparing to be, or prepared as, school counselors, and one of my colleagues, Ken Ames, took charge of the guidance program in an office that was a remodeled boy's lavatory.
School Counseling Career
In 1963, I accepted a new teaching position in Janesville, a small city in south central Wisconsin that was the home of Parker Pen Company and a Chevrolet Fisher Body assembly plant. The community had one comprehensive high school in which there were about 2,000 students in a one-story sprawling building designed for about 1,500. The baby boomer generation was attending school in record-breaking numbers!
There were two and one-half counselors in the high school at the time. In the summer of 1964, I applied for and filled an opening in the guidance program for the half-time counselor and began my school counseling career. I had a caseload of more than 700 students. Anyone who has ever held a half-time position knows that they are defined poorly, and one usually is expected to perform according to full-time criteria in both positions.
Becoming a school counselor was both exciting and challenging. Although somewhat isolated from centers of learning, I was able to keep up to date via journals such as The School Counselor, The Personnel and Guidance Journal, and The Vocational Guidance Quarterly and periodic workshops, particularly at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Those workshops exposed me to the ideas of Gail Farwell, R. E. Hosford, and Phil Perrone. Farwell spoke strongly about counselors advocating for themselves. That is, he recommended leaving jobs rather than submitting to inappropriate assignments. He felt that there were plenty of job opportunities. Hosford introduced me to behavioral counseling for the first time, and I found it very interesting. Perrone championed vocational guidance, later to be known as career guidance, which seemed very appropriate in my high school setting.
My office, separate from the counseling suite, had formerly been for the school nurse and had a bathroom which some of my colleagues borrowed now and then. On a couple of occasions, they were trapped within when I, unknowingly, entered the office with a student client and sheepishly opened the door and excused themselves when leaving.
The three counselors at Janesville High School were each assigned to a class of students. I had the class of 1966. We were responsible for scheduling all students over the summer (without pay) and making schedule adjustments in the fall--all by hand. Lunch-room monitoring, student council advising, junior and senior proms, senior-class awards day, and graduation were all among the assignments. There was not enough time to engage in proactive guidance programming. Therefore, all counseling activities were individual and reactive. They ran the gamut from changing schedules to personal and educational/vocational counseling.
Matters improved considerably when a new second high school opened in 1967. The student-to-counselor ratio had been reduced by 50%, there were comfortable new private offices in the counseling suite, there were three counselors in each school, and my school had administrators who supported our efforts to fulfill the goals of our counselor education programs.
In the mid-1960s, considerable federal funding was still available for school guidance, and one way of taking advantage of it was through what were known as National Defense Education Act (NDEA) guidance institutes. They were designed to upgrade school counseling by enhancing the knowledge and performance of working counselors and increasing the number of appropriately prepared counselors in times when shortages existed. Most counselor education programs conducted summer NDEA guidance institutes and some had one-year institutes. School counselors from all over the nation applied for admission, and each summer thousands of the fortunate ones would pack up and cross the country to attend their respective institutes while being paid tax-exempt money for themselves and their dependents.
In the summer of 1966, I had been elevated to a full-time school counseling position. I thought I had found my niche professionally and imagined myself as a school counselor until retirement. Efforts to attend a summer institute fell short in 1966. I was an alternate at the Universities of Montana and Arizona and San Diego State. The following summer, my quest for a summer institute was successful, and the Baker family of four packed up and "shuffled off to Buffalo." The Counselor Education Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo selected 30 school counselors from Kansas, Montana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere to participate in an institute for which the primary theme was counseling the college-bound student. We were introduced to work of Robert Carkhuff, Stanley Cramer, Albert Ellis, Leo Goldman, James C. Hansen, Edwin L. Herr, and John D. Krumboltz, among others.
The fall semester of 1967 at Janesville's Parker High School followed my sojourn to SUNY Buffalo for the NDEA summer guidance institute. Student-to-counselor ratios of about 300 to one and new group guidance ideas acquired during the summer allowed me to engage in proactive guidance programming for the first time. Individually, I conducted get-acquainted interviews with all my student advisees and established working alliances with them. In many instances the students would not have sought me out unless they had a good reason. I also was able to form guidance groups. At the time, my guidance group experience was limited to topics related to acquiring and processing information about going to college. The groups were received well, especially when the topic was financial aid.
Initially, the NDEA summer institute experience was perceived as a great vacation opportunity. Instead, it was a defining moment for me. The readings and class interactions awakened a sleeping scholar within me, and the counselor education faculty eventually extended an invitation to consider returning to Buffalo for doctoral studies. Since I had not previously given any thought to doctoral studies, another year was required to make a decision and get our affairs in order. In the summer of 1969, we shuffled off to Buffalo again--to stay.
The Buffalo Years
University campuses in the late 60s were replete with student unrest and counter-culture thinking. It was a unique time for a person from the "silent generation," born during the Great Depression of the 1930s and educated in the 1950s, to find himself on an urban northeastern university campus after a dozen years of working and living in the rural upper Midwest. The Buffalo years exposed me to many sources of intellectual stimulation within the program and from without in the community, country, and world of those very exciting and challenging times!
The established school counseling models were being challenged by students whose needs were changing. The "now generation," born after World War II and educated in the 1960s, was manifesting expressions of alienation and of oppression. A very common response from contributors to the professional counseling literature was a spate of articles calling for counselors to be change agents (Cremin, 1965; Hansen, 1968; Harris, 1967; Menacker, 1974, 1976; Ponzo, 1974; Rousseve, 1968; Sue & Sue, 1973, Vontress, 1966).
A unifying theme in these writings was that counselors should not rely on passive, reactive listening and responding models of helping because students needed help dealing with dysfunctional systems that were impeding them. Helping student clients to adjust to dysfunctional systems or to cope with them independently was viewed as insufficient responding. Advocates of the change agent model urged school counselors to get out of their offices and help students in active ways. They were to be advocates for their clients in circumstances where the clients could not cope without assistance. The social advocacy writings of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in school counseling seem to be very similar in tone and beliefs to those of the late 60s and early 70s (Herring, 1997; Lee & Walz, 1998).
I found myself engaged in doctoral studies at a time when the field was awash with interesting ideas. This was the first generation of counselor educators spawned by the infusion of new money from the National Defense Education Act of 1958. At the 1971 American Personnel and Guidance Association Convention in Atlantic City, I witnessed a panel of five counselor educators who had recently published books about elementary school counseling. I was introduced to the early writings of Robert R. Carkhuff, John D. Krumboltz, and William Glasser and viewed a very interesting film in which Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, and Albert Ellis interviewed a woman named Gloria.
The number of school counselors and counselor education programs had grown dramatically by 1970, and the field of elementary school counseling was blossoming. Yet, as often is the case during boom times, many scholarly leaders in the field were more or less doing their own things by pursuing their own ideas of what was best for counseling in general and school counseling in particular. The were carving out their own niches, and a few were seeking evidence of whether or not their ideas had merit through empirical research efforts. Consequently, there was no theme for unifying school counseling practice at the time. This was a lost opportunity at an opportune time.
The change agent writings influenced my dissertation research. I found that, of the practicing counselors and counselors-in-training who responded to my inventory, helping clients help themselves rather than taking an active part in the process was the preferred counseling response (Baker & Hansen, 1972). School counselors most often preferred to be helpful by using their counseling skills from within their counseling offices
I also was influenced considerably by the Human Resource Development (HRD) model of Robert R. Carkhuff (1969a; 1969b), as were my student colleagues. We learned to use Carkhuff's five-point rating scale in research and practicum supervision. Carkhuff's emphasis on facilitating clients' expressions of feelings and accurately responding to them seemed to be a very important dimension in the helping process.
The Academy Calls
In 1971, I became an assistant professor in the Counselor Education program at Penn State University. We moved from suburban Buffalo to State College, a university town nestled in a valley between mountain ranges in central Pennsylvania, where we stayed for 23 years. Within 2 years, I had assumed responsibility for advising students enrolled in the secondary school counseling track, teaching their introductory course, supervising their internships, and supervising practicum for some of them.
I arrived at Penn State with 12 years of experience as a high school teacher and counselor and all of the knowledge and skills acquired while a doctoral student at SUNY Buffalo. Yet, I was still seeking answers and ideas. Fortunately, I encountered faculty colleagues at Penn State who introduced me to important themes and ideas that have had enduring influences on me and on the profession.
Ed Herr was the department head. He had recently presented a paper in which he promoted organizing basic education around a career education theme (Herr, 1969). In this way, and through scholarly and professional leadership efforts thereafter, he attempted to promote implementation of Super's (1969) career development theory. Ken Hoyt's (1977) influence was concurrently being felt in the federal government, and, among other outcomes of his influence, funds were available for career resources centers in the public schools and for hiring paraprofessional helpers for school counseling programs. Ed Herr and others with an interest in applying career development theory principles to counseling practice continue their efforts to this day (Hansen, 1997; Herr & Cramer, 1996; Osborne, Brown, Niles, & Miner, 1997).
Lloyd Sundblad, a fellow assistant professor, introduced me to a book recently published about microcounseling (Ivey, 1971). For me, it was the answer to what seemed to be missing in the preparation of counselors during my master's and doctoral programs. The client centered and HRD models seemed to focus on what the end product of the training should be and provided excellent examples via typescripts, audio recordings, and films. Ivey (1971) provided a stepped program: (a) identify the counseling skills, (b) teach them one at a time sequentially, and (c) blend them together eventually. Allen Ivey's ideas had considerable influence on me and on many others at the time, and he continues to influence the field through his ongoing efforts to build upon the microcounseling model and make it applicable in changing times (Ivey & Ivey, 1999).
Another fellow assistant professor, John Horan, introduced me to the merits of behavioral counseling. He was especially adamant about restricting one's counseling repertoire to interventions that had been tested empirically. Among those whose work he cited as examples of his position were John D. Krumboltz, Carl Thoresen, and Michael Mahoney. Mahoney provided a basic meaningful theme--power to the individual--while Krumboltz and Thoresen (1969) published a book of useful behavioral counseling strategies. A decade later, Cormier and Cormier (1979) published the first edition of their book of strategies in which they united behaviorism with cognitive psychology--producing cognitive-behavioral counseling strategies. They also seemed to integrate microcounseling concepts with cognitive-behavioral strategies and noted a relationship between the earlier work of Albert Ellis and cognitive-behavioral counseling. Their book is in its fourth edition (Cormier & Cormier, 1998).
A third assistant professor colleague, Don Keat, who advised the elementary school counseling track students at Penn State, introduced me to an approach to child counseling which he referred to as HELPING (Keat, 1974). HELPING is an acronym for (a) health issues; (b) emotions and feelings; (c) learning and school related concerns; (d) personal relationships; (e) imagery and interests; (f) cognitive thoughts--need to know; and (g) guidance of acts, behaviors, and consequences. Basing his approach on the work of Arnold Lazarus, Keat promoted a multimodal approach to counseling and therapy. Rather than focusing on only the presenting problem, Keat would have counselors focus on assessing the client's functioning across seven different categories or modes. Treatment plans may then be multimodal with implementation of strategies for helping clients within each mode where the assessment uncovered something that merited a helping response. The multimodal approach to helping clients appears to have remained an important consideration for school counselors (Keat, 1990).
There were additional writings in the 708 that had a lasting influence on me and on the school counseling profession. Gerard Egan (1975) published the first edition of his book that introduced the concept of viewing the counseling process as a series of stages each with its own primary goals and skills. He provided counselors and counselor educators with a flexible road map for learning how to counsel and for engaging in the counseling process. His book is now it its sixth edition (Egan, 1998).
One of my teaching assignments over 23 years at Penn State was a course entitled Use of Tests in Counseling. Teaching this course led to my acquiring a solid foundation in an area, tests and measurement, that had been a weakness during graduate studies. One text that I used was Leo Goldman's (1971) classic Using Tests in Counseling. Another classic attributed to Goldman (1972) was his metaphor about the relationship between using tests in counseling and a failed marriage. He recommended making test score reports more user friendly and making counselor education in this arena more rigorous--or else limit test interpretation to a few well-prepared specialists.
The issue has been revisited in the professional literature once each decade since Goldman's (1972) criticism was published (Goldman, 1982, 1994; Prediger, 1994; Zytowski, 1982, 1994). There was agreement that tests score reports had become more user friendly than was the case previously. On the other hand, there is little or no evidence that counselors were appropriately prepared. Whether or not the marriage has failed is still unclear, and the relationship between tests and counseling still appears to be an endangered one.
While teaching the introductory course for school counseling at Penn State, I discovered a recently published book that depicted school counseling just as I envisioned it should be. The author did so in a manner that identified the major components of school counseling, highlighted the primary foci (i.e., levels of prevention and treatment), and offered ways to evaluate one's guidance program. Merville Shaw's (1973) School Guidance Systems became an important component in my teaching and writing efforts, and his work is a major contributor to my own school counseling text.
The boom in school counseling started to wane during the '70s. Economic hard times combined with declining enrollments in the public schools. School districts were forced to reduce their faculties, and, in a number of instances, school counseling positions were eliminated. The number of new positions for school counselors declined. Faced with declining enrollments and difficulty placing school counseling graduates, a number of counselor education programs discovered that there was a demand for community counselors that they could meet.
Beginning with Arbuckle's (1970) challenge, a spate of articles promoting accountability was published in the counseling journals (Bardo, Cody, & Bryson, 1979; Bernkoff, Hartley, & Ware, 1975; Carr, 1977; Crabbs & Crabbs, 1977; Hays & Linn, 1977; Helliwell & Jones, 1975; Miller & Grisdale, 1975; Pellegreno & Engen, 1975; Pine, 1975). The foci of these articles was on emphasizing how important accountability was for school counselors, chiding counselors for having shown insufficient interest in evaluation and accountability, urging them to become motivated to be accountable and learn how to do so, and providing suggestions for being accountable.
Developmental guidance gained momentum in the 1980s as a means of organizing school counseling around a guidance curriculum (Gysbers & Henderson, 1994; Paisley & Hubbard, 1994). Developmental guidance programming seems to focus primarily on counselors as trainers/consultants who work cooperatively with teachers in their classrooms to provide developmental guidance programs and also deliver their own group guidance curricula. Developmental guidance programs could be scheduled like English, science, and other classes and are accountable for achieving specific, stated goals and objectives. Career education and career development theory appear to have a strong influence on developmental guidance as does the psychological education movement (i.e., a psychologically based curriculum) promoted by Mosher and Sprinthall (1971). Developmental guidance seems to be a marriage between career and psychological education principles. In 1990, Waklee-Lynch reported five states had developed uniform school counseling program plans based on the developmental guidance concept.
An Invitation That Could Not Be Refused
In the late 1980s and the 1990s, school enrollments increased, and the economy became very healthy. By 1996 the effects of an echo baby boom were beginning to occur (Goetz, 1997; Morrissey, 1996). Enrollments in school counseling preparation programs became healthy again, and jobs were plentiful in many areas of the country. In 1994, I accepted a position at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. My wife and I moved to a part of the country in which we never before imagined we would live. We were not the only northerners south of the Mason-Dixon line. NC State and its sister programs in the region found themselves in the midst of a massive shortage of teachers, administrators, and counselors.
At this time, I was also the editor of The School Counselor and later of Professional School Counseling. Serving in this capacity helped me to feel the pulse of school counseling in the last decade of the 20th Century through the ideas that were being shared by individuals who submitted manuscripts for publication consideration.
Much was going on in the counseling profession generally and the school counseling profession in particular, and I am uncertain about whether or not I am able to look back on the 1990s with the historical clarity that I think I have about the previous four decades. It seems as if the profession, being freed from the defensive stance imposed on it in the 1970s and 1980s, has been able to look within and ahead.
A review of the issues of The School Counselor and Professional School Counseling published during my stint as editor from 1993 to 1999 brought to my attention several themes that may depict the state of school counseling in the 1990s. The broad variety of topics covered indicated to me an extensive breadth of challenges that school counselors faced at the close of the century. Among the themes that seemed to occur most often was one that I labeled as concern about finding ways to help at-risk students. The inventory of topics covered in articles devoted to helping at-risk students was very extensive: runaways, victims of sexual violence, clients at risk of committing suicide, victims of bullying, students with parents having severe mental illnesses, homeless youths, biracial children and their parents, emotionally disabled students, students with ADHD, inhalant users, students with mental disorders, students at risk of AIDS, school phobic students, students disenfranchised by grief and sudden sorrow, students who are deaf and hard of hearing, students who have emotionally troubled teachers, sexual-minority youths, drop outs, blind or visually impaired students, students with potential for engaging in childhood aggression, victims of sexual assault and nonconsensual sexual activity, students in dysfunctional families, and students whose grandparents have Alzheimer's disease.
My take on all of these articles about helping at-risk students is that school counselors are challenged to find ways to help a broad array of clients who are at risk of one or more of a variety of difficulties. Statistically, they represent a minority of the counselors' client loads, yet they apparently present the greatest challenges. The challenge to find ways to meet the needs of these students suffering from what appears to be an increasing array of problems, places school counselors in a position where the call for instituting preventive developmental guidance programming seems to be an increasingly difficult goal to achieve.
Another theme that surfaced from reviewing the articles was the recommendation of new models with modifications in the traditional model for school counseling. Several articles promoted solution-focused or brief counseling, family counseling systems, and school-family-community linked services or partnerships. It may be of interest to the profession to find out whether or not these proposed model enhancements might be at least partial solutions to the challenges posed by the array of at-risk students described above.
Diversity and multiculturalism is a theme that crossed several articles. Diversity and multiculturalism are important themes within the broader counseling profession as well. Diversity and multicultural writings often tend to lead to calls for social activism in school counseling. Again, one wonders whether or not this is also an approach that would lead to alleviating the challenge of serving at-risk students.
As the profession enters a new millennium, the process of looking within and ahead continues. Through the efforts of their leaders and members, professional counseling organizations are attempting to enhance the profession. A decade ago, representatives of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), and the American Counseling Association (ACA) began an attempt to implement a uniform set of state licensure/certification standards for school counselors based on the standards of the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; Cecil, 1990). Their efforts have not yet been realized.
More recently, ASCA published the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) that are supposed to shift the focus from counselors to counseling programs. Through this effort, ASCA has attempted to place the emphasis on student achievement in the school counselor's role; that is, school counselors are viewed as collaborators with teachers and administrators (Dahir, 1997). ASCA's goal presents a focus on helping students to be successful in school. Is this compatible with the apparently strong challenge to help at-risk students? I am not sure if it is or is not.
The Education Trust with funding from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund initiated an effort to serve students better by revamping the preparation of school counselors (Guerra, 1998). The idea is to transform school counseling via changes in the counselor education programs so they will be more responsive to student needs. The Education Trust has been interested in promoting high achievement and enhancing career development opportunities for all students at all levels. An important outcome goal is to provide enhanced services for youths in low-income communities. This is surely a worthy goal. Is it is compatible with the apparent demand to meet the needs of at-risk students in the categories written about in the professional school counseling journals? I don't know for sure.
ASCA president Mark Kuranz (2001) encouraged school counselors to be advocates for children and school counseling programs. He calls for counselors to articulate a strong and consistent voice in their communities about their passion for their work and for the students and families they serve. He believes advocacy requires: (a) taking legally and ethically appropriate risks, (b) acquiring advocacy skills, (c) making a commitment to act on one's principles, and (d) demonstrating empowerment. He appears to be trying to encourage counselors at grass root levels to believe in their work and act constructively on that belief.
Looking into a Crystal Ball
Predicting the future is risky business. Ask those who held investments in the stock market in mid-2000. What follows are my thoughts about the immediate future for the school counseling profession. Obviously, there is considerable activity at the level where professional leaders and scholarly movers and shakers continuously strive to enhance and change school counseling for the better. On the other hand, I do not see enough going on at the grass roots level to convince me that things will be changing very much, very fast, very soon.
When visiting school counseling interns in rural and urban schools of north central North Carolina, I witness circumstances that are more like they were in the schools 10, 20, and 30 years ago than they are different. Most school counselors are responsible for scheduling although many now have computers and are able to do so much more efficiently. The process still takes too much of their time and continues to make them appear to be gatekeepers from the students' perspective (Baker, 1982).
Few secondary and middle schools have study halls. Therefore, it is very difficult for counselors to initiate small group counseling or developmental guidance group programming. Most teachers are still unwilling to excuse their students for guidance groups or to allow counselors to encroach upon their class time to offer developmental guidance units. Elementary school teachers are generally more willing to allow counselors to present development enhancing programs in their classes; however, this is nothing new. Such has been the case since the inception of elementary school counseling 40 years ago. Clearly, the growing pressure on teachers to prepare their students to do well on increasingly important standardized achievement tests that are used for school, school district, state, and national accountability purposes is lessening the willingness to share their class time with counselors.
Many school administrators still view their counselors as part of the administrative team and are unfamiliar with the national and state standards for preparing counselors or the efforts to re-invent school counseling. Therefore, counselors are often viewed as resources to be used to fulfill their administrative needs and goals. Time spent on these activities is stolen from achieving counseling goals and depicts counselors as administrators in the students' minds.
Many school counselors do not belong to professional counseling associations and do not seem to know about efforts to enhance the profession. They do not seem to be inclined or equipped to try to influence school systems away from the status quo. They get caught up in responding to crises and reacting to demands placed upon them by students, parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards. These demands usually are related to various individual cases and require reactive, remedial responses.
For years, I have been an advocate of the elimination of a teaching requirement for school counselors based on having trained individuals without such experience successfully and finding insufficient data supporting such a requirement (Baker, 1994). Having stated that, I must confess that it now appears to me that counselors who have not had teaching or related experience appear to be less likely to engage in proactive developmental guidance programming. This seems true especially if there is resistance from teachers and considerable demand for reactive, remedial responding to the needs of at-risk individuals. Competing demands for their time and resistance from teachers create situations where counselors who already have less confidence in their classroom teaching and managing skills than in their individual counseling skills will more likely put off planning and implementing developmental group guidance efforts. They fall into a routine of responding to the numerous demands for their skills in individual interactions and find that there is plenty to do and probably not enough time to do it. Developmental group work becomes the road less traveled.
These are not the comments of a pessimist. I am by nature an optimist. My view of school counseling is probably most appropriately labeled realistic optimism. The efforts of professional associations, scholars, and funding agencies to improve school counseling are needed and should be encouraged and nurtured. Unfortunately, their efforts often do not reach the grass roots level. If they do reach the grass roots level, it is not in a consistent, systematic, inclusive manner. Often, professional leaders and scholars seem to be preaching to a congregation of true believers and not reaching those needing to be converted.
As a realistic optimist, I predict that improvements will occur slowly and inconsistently over the decades to come if circumstances remain as they are. Economic hard times may lead to stagnation or regression. The efforts of professional organizations, scholars, and funding agencies to improve school counseling that are well received will trickle down to some of the counselors and school systems some of the time through a variety of avenues.
If I could have my way, positive, constructive change would occur more systematically and quickly. Discovering a way to accomplish this goal has been on my mind, and the answer has escaped me for years. Writing this article brought the challenge to discover a method or methods to deliver change quickly to my consciousness again.
This article closes with a serious, though possibly far fetched, proposal. Perhaps the way to bring about productive change systematically and quickly is to find one or more charismatic, motivating leaders who would promote the 21st Century guidance point-of-view everywhere from the grass roots schools and communities to the national media outlets. Before dismissing this idea, think about where school counseling would be today if it were being promoted by Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, or Mahatma Gandhi.
Charismatic motivators may be able to initiate grass roots efforts that are not presently occurring systematically across the United States. Once motivated, school counselors might be more willing to join and to work with their local, state, and regional professional organizations. Perhaps in this way, ideas and actions focusing on constructive change may then explode from the grass roots upward instead of trickling down gradually and inconsistently.
Is the glass half full or half empty? For this realistic optimist, it is half full. Individually and collectively, school counselors provide considerable worthwhile human services in spite of working conditions. Yet, circumstances and outcomes could be so much better than they are, and counselors and counselor educators are presently aware of a number of ways of making those improvements. How does the profession implement these wonderful ideas expeditiously and systematically? In my opinion, this is the question that raises the primary challenge to the school counseling profession at the present time. Reflecting on this challenge causes me to wish I were one of those charismatic individuals capable of having a monumental influence on others.
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Stanley B. Baker, Ph.D., is a professor in the Counselor Education program at North Carolina State University at Raleigh. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org…