Ethical Consideration of Counselor Education Teaching Strategies

By Morrissette, Patrick J.; Gadbois, Shannon | Counseling and Values, January 2006 | Go to article overview
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Ethical Consideration of Counselor Education Teaching Strategies

Morrissette, Patrick J., Gadbois, Shannon, Counseling and Values

Counselor educators rely on a variety of teaching strategies to augment clinical instruction and enhance student learning. Such strategies include action methods, audio/video material, and self-exploration. While using these strategies, educators are responsible for remaining sensitive to fundamental ethical issues, varied student needs, and academic/ professional standards. Despite appearing straightforward and routine, this aspect of counselor education requires ongoing appraisal to ensure adherence to ethical guidelines, program integrity, and student well-being. This article reviews various teaching strategies, discusses ethical implications associated with each strategy, and provides preliminary guidelines to enhance counselor educator ethical practice and student well-being.


Counselor educators have a number of teaching strategies at their disposal. These strategies can be separated into action methods (e.g., role-plays), audio/video material (e.g., counseling skill demonstrations), and self-exploration methods (e.g., journaling). Typically, action methods and audio/video review occur within a group setting, whereas self-exploration exercises are completed independently. That said, however, a combination of methods is not unusual. For example, students may participate in role-plays and reflective journaling simultaneously. The purpose of combining both approaches is to help students understand how personal issues can influence their clinical work and vice versa.

The intention of this article is to encourage dialogue and further consideration regarding the interfacing of ethics and teaching strategies. Toward this end, we review the extant literature, discuss the ethical implications associated with teaching strategies, and provide preliminary guidelines designed to enhance ethical practice and student well-being.

From the outset, four points must be emphasized. First, not every counselor education program endorses or uses the strategies reviewed herein. Clearly, specific strategies and preferences vary among programs. Second, we do not intimate that close scrutiny of teaching activities does not occur within counselor education programs. Third, teaching strategies available to counselor educators are extensive (see Table 1), and providing a review and contrast of each method is beyond the scope of this article. Finally, although we differentiate between teaching strategies and clinical supervision, both are usually integrated in counselor education programs.

Literature Review

Our literature review confirms the popularity of classroom teaching strategies and provides insight regarding various perspectives and method utilization. The underlying purpose of varying teaching strategies is to augment theoretical instruction and enhance student learning. These teaching strategies are used to demonstrate specific elements of the counseling process and to underline the importance of counselor self-awareness and personal growth (Auxier, Hughes, & Kline, 2003; Morrissette, 1999).

Although the potential value of teaching strategies appears within the extant literature, there seem to be minimal research and suggestions to guide ethical practice while ensuring student well-being. For example, there are questions regarding the degree to which students should be required versus encouraged to participate in experimental classroom exercises. Brina (2003) focused on anxiety-generating methods and wrote that "facing students with shocking materials within a university context can produce a cognitive engagement at least as great as that achieved by less 'risky' modules" (p. 523). Such strategies must be used judiciously in order to accommodate individual learning styles, age, culture, and student and faculty vulnerability. Research conducted by Furr and Carroll (2003) revealed that some counselor education students were surprised by the degree of personal exploration and intense self-examination.

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