Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Reported Interpersonal Violence and Disposition Decisions: The Impact of Client and Counselor Variables

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Reported Interpersonal Violence and Disposition Decisions: The Impact of Client and Counselor Variables

Article excerpt

Client sex, intake counselor sex, intake counselor experience, and client counseling history significantly predicted disclosure of violence experiences. Counselor sex, counselor experience, and client's experience with counseling predicted intake disposition. Predictors for disposition at termination were number of sessions attended, counselor sex, and counselor experience. Implications for counseling center settings are discussed.


Interpersonal violence victimization such as rape, childhood sexual abuse, or physical abuse can be a life-altering experience. In the college population, childhood and adolescent experiences of sexual assault have been shown to be associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and the increased likelihood of being revictimized in adulthood for women (Gidycz, Hanson, & Layman, 1995). Clients at a university counseling center who reported physical, sexual, or emotional abuse have been found to be more depressed, to be more symptomatic, and to score higher on the Borderline Personality Scale of the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory than were nonabused clients (Braver, Bumberry, Green, & Rawson, 1992). In another study of university students, Duane, Stewart, and Bridgeland (1997) found that promiscuity, attempted suicide, involvement in juvenile crime, and perpetration of sexual assault were reported more frequently by participants who had been sexually abused as children than by those who had not been. Only recently have studies focused on the victimization of both college men and women. Results of this research suggest that women are more likely than men to be sexually victimized and that the prevalence of physical victimization is similar for men and women (Duane et al., 1997; Sandberg, Jackson, & Petretic-Jackson, 1987; Worth, Matthews, & Coleman, 1990).

The task of responding to the needs of students who are survivors of such violence presents many challenges for university counseling centers. For the past decade, many researchers have noted increases not only in the number of students seeking assistance with serious issues but also in the severity of the concerns presented (Bishop, 1990; Gallagher, 2000; Magoon, 1989). Stone and Archer (1990) noted that physical and sexual violence are among the concerns increasingly being reported.

The greater demand for counseling center services caused by these student concerns has led many centers to grapple with how best to allocate already limited resources. In a study of 42 counseling centers with internship training programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), 81% had adopted a policy of limiting the number of client sessions, with a median of 12 sessions (Lawe, Penick, Raskin, & Raymond, 1999). The average rate of referral for services outside the university among participating centers was 16%. Gilbert (1992) stressed the importance of counseling centers clearly articulating their mission and honoring the ethical obligation of knowing the limitations of services they can provide.

With the increase both in demand for services and the severity of symptoms, it is critical that counseling centers screen for experiences of victimization among clients in order to engage in informed decision making regarding disposition of services. Previous research suggests that the sex of the counselor may be relevant to the issue of disclosure on the part of clients. However, some studies have found that male counselors felt more discomfort around, and provided significantly more avoidance responses to, the issues of sexual victimization (Courtois, 1988; Latts & Gelso, 1995). Adams and Betz (1993) also reported that male counselors held a narrower view of incest than did female counselors, were more likely to believe that incest claims may be fantasy, and were less optimistic that the survivor could overcome the problem.

The purpose of this study was to explore the current impact of interpersonal violence on college counseling centers and their clients. …

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