Cluster Analysis of Impaired Counseling Students: A Survey of Master's Level CACREP-Accredited Programs

By Li, Chi-Sing; Lampe, Richard et al. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Cluster Analysis of Impaired Counseling Students: A Survey of Master's Level CACREP-Accredited Programs


Li, Chi-Sing, Lampe, Richard, Trusty, Jerry G., Lin, Yu-Fen, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


We investigated how a set of behavioral indicators aided in identifying impaired counseling students who were subjected to remediation and termination. The cases of remediation and termination were then examined using cluster analysis to identify clusters of impaired students. Thirty-five academic unit leaders of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) were surveyed and information from 86 cases of impaired students was collected. Three clusters of impaired students were identified based on their behaviors. They were labeled a) Interpersonal Relationship Problems, b) Overt, Relationship Problems with Resistance, and c) Covert, Lying and Addictive Behavior.

In concordance with the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics (2005), counselors are required "to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients" (A.1, p. 4), and at the same time to be "alert to the signs of impairment from their own physical, mental, or emotional problems and refrain from offering or providing professional services when such impairment is likely to harm a client or others" (C.2.g, p. 9). Counselors have the responsibility to protect their clients and be concerned about their welfare. According to the above code of ethics, accountability to the public and the maintenance of professional standards should be of utmost concern to counselors. Evident in the code of ethics are standards related to the issue of impairment in the profession. Through the code, counselors are encouraged to be cognizant of the potential negative impact that impairment may have on clients.

Supervisory Ethical Guidelines and Student Impairment

In addition to the professional guidelines discussed above, the ethical standards of ACA (2005) offer guidelines specifically for counselor educators in counseling programs for screening impaired counselors in training:

Through ongoing evaluation and appraisal, supervisors are aware of the limitations of supervisees that might impede performance. Supervisors assist students and supervisees in securing remedial assistance when needed. They recommend dismissal from the training program, applied counseling settings, or state or voluntary professional credentialing processes when those supervisees are unable to provide competent professional services. (Section F.5b, p. 14)

In addition, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) Ethical Guidelines for Counseling Supervision includes the following instruction: "Supervisors should not endorse a supervisee for certification, licensure, completion of an academic training program, or continued employment if the supervisor believes the supervisee is impaired in any way that would interfere with the performance of counseling duties (ACES, 1993, 2.13)." These guidelines outline requirements for supervisors to assess students on academic and personal limitations, to provide remedial assistance, and to dismiss or discontinue those who are unable to provide competent services.

Addressing Impaired Students: CACREP Requirement

Universities need well-established systems to address impaired students. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs standards (CACREP) state similar requirements to counselor educators: "When evaluations indicate that a student is not appropriate for the program, faculty should assist in facilitating the student's transition out of the program and, if possible, into a more appropriate area of study" (CACREP, 2001; Section II F, p. 5). Furthermore, the draft of the revised CACREP standard (CACREP, 2009) supports the same directive. Therefore, it is important for universities to have a system in place to identify impaired students, assure appropriate intervention, and support the student in the process of remediation and or termination from the program.

The Challenge and the Struggle of Counselor Educators

Wilkerson (2006) reviewed current literature and asserted that there is evidence to suggest that many programs are not prepared to respond at length when issues of impairment arise. …

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Cluster Analysis of Impaired Counseling Students: A Survey of Master's Level CACREP-Accredited Programs
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