Factors Influencing Counselor Educators' Subjective Sense of Well-Being

By Leinbaugh, Tracy; Hazler, Richard J. et al. | Counselor Education and Supervision, September 2003 | Go to article overview
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Factors Influencing Counselor Educators' Subjective Sense of Well-Being


Leinbaugh, Tracy, Hazler, Richard J., Bradley, Carla, Hill, Nicole R., Counselor Education and Supervision


A national survey of 230 counselor educators was conducted to examine issues that encourage or discourage these educators to continue as faculty members. Three of the 5 factors (Organizational Control, Internal Control and Rewards, and Time and Effort Management) identified in a factor analysis of the 91-item, author-developed questionnaire (Pluses and Minuses of Being a Counselor Educator) were found to be correlated (p < .01) with the Memorial University of Newfoundland Scale of Happiness (M. J. Stones & A. Kozma, 1994). The factors and their relationship to counselor educators' sense of well-being are discussed in relation to potential actions for institutions and individuals.

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It was an innocent question from someone whose only experience with higher education was as an undergraduate student. Listening to two faculty members commiserate about work and the possibility of seeking other work, the friend asked, "Why would anyone want to quit a faculty position when all you have to do is show up to teach a few days a week?"

It is hard to answer such a question from someone who does not understand the pressures, over time, of being a counselor educator. The tension between (a) teaching and research and (b) continuous conflict between the demands of personal/family life and the requirements for professional success produce significant stress (Abouserie, 1996; Endres & Wearden, 1996) that would not be recognized by individuals who are not involved in the profession. Occupational stressors negatively affect professionals in all occupations; these stressors may be especially detrimental, however, in the academic environment where faculty members are responsible for the psychological and experiential development of students in the personally and professionally demanding counseling profession (Lease, 1999). These stressors may well be connected to potential trends in the attrition rates of counselor educators.

Although there is little conclusive data on trends in counselor educator employment, several issues give some cause for concern. Salaries for counselors working in schools, the private sector, and consulting have been suggested as a reason that qualified individuals may not enter or may leave counselor education faculty positions (Maples, Altekruse, & Testa, 1993; Paisley & Borders, 1995). Recent surveys have also found that counselor education faculty may be aging; more than half were over 50 years old, and three fourths had received tenure (MohdZain, 1995), findings indicating that retirement might be another factor in estimating potential position openings. The projected need for more counselors in an increasingly complex society (Bradley & Cox, 2001) only adds to the apparent need to attract and retain high-quality counselor educators in the future. Success may depend, in part, on the degree to which such individuals will Find a high quality of life in the profession.

Work expectations, aspirations, rewards, and prospects in higher education seem to be key components of occupational satisfaction (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000). Extrinsic factors such as salary and promotion, collegial relations, course loads, and university support are the most visible rewards offered in higher education (Olsen, 1993). These rewards are provided by others and seem quite reasonable, but they are often considered major sources of stress by counselor educators (Olsen & Sorcinelli, 1992; Sorcinelli, 1994). Intrinsic rewards, on the other hand, seem to be more consistently tied to faculty satisfaction. The sense of autonomy, altruism, personal growth, challenge, and accomplishment seem to be major factors in how people feel about their work (Olsen & Sorcinelli, 1992; Sorcinelli, 1994).

Lower productivity, decreased student interactions, and less involvement in university and department decision making can be expected when the internal and external rewards offered by colleagues and administration do not match the expectations of the faculty member (Klenke-Hamel & Mathieu, 1990).

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