Gender Issues in Counselor Preparatory Programs: A Relational Model of Student Development

By Comstock Dana L.; Duffey, Thelma H. et al. | Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Gender Issues in Counselor Preparatory Programs: A Relational Model of Student Development


Comstock Dana L., Duffey, Thelma H., St. George, Holly, Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development


The authors present a model of student development that illuminates the process students undergo as they deal with gender issues in counselor training. The model is based on the foundational concepts of the Relational-Cultural Model. Methods of teaching are discussed to provide counselor educators with strategies for facilitating mutual growth with patience and compassion.

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The incorporation of gender issues in counselor preparatory programs has been the subject of much discussion. In June of 1995, Patricia Stevens-Smith edited a special section on "Gender Issues in Counselor Education," in the journal of Counselor Education and Supervision. This special section addressed the need for gender inclusion in counselor preparatory programs and the multifaceted challenges this presents to students and educators; however, it lacked a description of student development in response to gender issues, which is crucial to facilitating learning in this area. Daniluk, Stein, and Bockus (1995) emphasized that counseling programs have an ethical responsibility to facilitate gender sensitivity, or gender awareness because it is an important component of the development of cultural competence.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) requires that counseling programs provide an understanding of the cultural context of relationships. Such contexts include issues and trends related to "racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage, nationality, socioeconomic status, family structure, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious and spiritual beliefs, occupation, and physical and mental status" (CACREP, 2001, p. 26). According to these CACREP standards, counselor education programs are required to infuse issues of diversity, including gender, into their curricula (Hartung, 1996; Hoffman, 1996; McRae & Johnson, 1991; Midgette & Meggert, 1991).

Counselors-in-training are urged to examine gender in relation to a patriarchal system and to examine how such a system affects the lives of men and women (Hoffman, 1996; Levant, 1997; Stevens-Smith, 1995). In doing so, counselor educators decrease the likelihood that students will commit clinical errors that could possibly be a source of trauma, oppression, and shame (Daniluk et al., 1995; Hoffman, 1996; Vasquez & Eldridge, 1994). Daniluk et al. emphasized the importance of exploring gender issues by warning,

   To provide a curriculum that excludes gender as a critical
   component of analysis, that disregards the professional
   literature related to the gendered experiences of
   our male and female clients, and that does not encourage a
   personal, in-depth exploration of gender bias in terms of
   student values, beliefs, and perceptions, is to graduate
   counseling professionals who are ill prepared to work
   effectively with a full range of male and female clients.
   (p. 297)

To date, there is limited information regarding student development that addresses the process men and women undergo as they deal with gender issues in counselor preparatory programs. James (as cited in Daniluk et al., 1995) said that in response to gender issues, students go "from resistance to ambivalent acceptance to transformation to resistance, and so forth" (p. 301). Given the call for competency in this area, a more descriptive gender-based developmental model is needed to understand the process of self-awareness and enhanced relational development that is possible through studying gender issues. Hartung (1996) noted that this process poses a difficult and complex task for both students and faculty. In our experience as counselor educators, we have found this to be the case.

In this article, we address challenges both counselor educators and students face as they explore gender-related consciousness-raising course material as a facet of understanding diversity. A model for understanding female and male students' development, in response to gender awareness, is also presented. …

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