Counselor Educators' Perceptions of Training Requirements

Article excerpt

Counselor educators were surveyed regarding their perceptions of a proposed increase in the required number of semester hours for community counselors from 48 hours to 60 hours. Twenty-four participants (49%) indicated a preference for keeping the current 48 semester hour requirement; whereas 25 participants (51%) chose the other given option of 60 hours. Participants were also asked about the advantages and disadvantages of both 48-hour and 60-hour counselor training programs and themes from these open-ended responses were coded and analyzed. Common themes and implications, and recommendations for future research, are presented.

Training requirements for professional counselors have wide variation across the country based on state licensure and national accreditation standards. Semester hour degree requirements vary from 48 hours to 60 hours (Lum, 2007). With the role and responsibilities of professional counselors becoming more complex, determining the required number of hours to adequately prepare future counselors is important.

The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP, 2007) is considering changes to accredited counselor education preparation programs. Historically, CACREP (2001) has accredited community counseling programs that include 48 semester hours of training with specified course requirements. Currently, CACREP (2007) is recommending a change to a 60 semester hour training program in 2013. Presently, 24 states require 60 semester hours of training for licensure and two additional states will be added to that list in a few years (Lum, 2007). Lum also noted that there are 19 states currently requiring 48 hours of training for licensure and any change in training hour requirements will have consequences on training programs in those states.

Philosophy of Change

Current trends suggest counselor education programs could be more inclusive in their overall training activities, thus pointing to the potential need for expanded training requirements. Gates, Schaefle, Smaby, Maddux, and LeBeauf (2007) pointed out that although faculty in counselor education programs continue to teach basic counseling skills, they continue to strive for improving the multicultural competency of future counselors. Howard, Inman, and Altman (2006) noted that faculty and supervision in training programs seek ways to identify critical incidents, from the perspective of counseling students, and to understand how they affect learning. In addition to focusing on the skills development of counseling trainees, Brown, Dahlbeck, and Sparkman-Barnes (2006) suggested that counselor trainees learn effective ways to engage in collaboration between different entities such as schools and community mental health centers. Paladino and Davis (2006) noted that counselors in training should be prepared to work with emerging previously underserved populations including the multiple heritage population. CACREP (2007) has also called for the inclusion of substance abuse, social justice, and advocacy courses in counselor training programs. All of these suggestions support the expansion of training programs to meet the needs of future clients. Understanding the perceptions of counselor educators in relation to the semester hour training requirements will help uncover the advantages and disadvantages of increasing the hour requirements.

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to determine the perceptions of counselor educators in regard to the number of hours that should be required for master's degrees in counselor education in the area of community counseling. A second purpose of this study was to determine counselor educators' perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of increasing the semester hour requirement from 48 to 60 hours. Through this study, we sought to answer the following research questions: Is a 48-hour degree sufficient for training counselors or is a 60-hour degree needed? …