Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

University Counseling Centers at the Twenty-First Century: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

University Counseling Centers at the Twenty-First Century: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Article excerpt

The author examines the historical foundations of the university counseling movement, including the origins of professional affiliation, training, and education. The article also reviews existing literature that attempts to determine changes the university counseling profession must address to remain viable on the dynamic, pluralistic, 21st-century campus.


The purpose of this article is to examine the university counseling movement in the twenty-first century. Looking to the future implies that we must also understand our past. As a profession, questions we can explore are, Who are we? How did we get here? What services do we provide, and how do we provide them? What changes are needed? These questions a historical perspective and an examination of the principles that shaped the university counseling profession. Documentation of change is readily accessible, both in society and in higher education. On the other hand, one need only look into the political, economic, demographic, and technological realms of the present to understand the numerous transitions currently sweeping through higher education. This article addresses both the historical foundations of the university counseling center and the current and future challenges that are forcing the profession to redefine itself.

It is perhaps ironic to note that during one of the greatest economic expansions in the history of the United States, higher education--and consequently university counseling centers--has experienced severe retrenchment. External forces affecting the practice of college and university counseling include shifting demographics, increased competition for resources, health and safety needs, and a public focus on outcome measures. The past decade has borne witness to a number of position cuts in university counseling centers nationwide, as many have had their services outsourced to local agencies (Kincade, 2001). Counseling centers that have survived intact struggle with underfunding and are being asked to provide more services with fewer resources. Unfortunately, the retrenchment is further complicated by research findings indicating that students seem to be under greater stress than at any time in recent years (Bishop, Bauer, & Becker, 1998; Gilbert, 1992). Others have hypothesized that the most striking difference between today's college students and students of 20 to 30 years ago is their profound isolation from positive adult role models and from their cultural roots (Garrison, 1995; Hersch, 1998). At the same time, recent high-profile articles have criticized counseling center professionals' qualifications and effectiveness in addressing severe mental health issues, including suicide, diagnosis, and treatment planning (Chisolm, 1998). Rather than respond defensively, professionals in the field must respond proactively to the issues raised both by the media and by a rapidly evolving global, information technology age (Archer & Cooper, 1998). As counseling professionals, we must first understand our roots so that we learn from our collective past. The university counseling profession, including the American College Counseling Association (ACCA), the American Counseling Association (ACA), and others, must also carefully study and respond to our present dynamic era to ensure future growth and prosperity.

Historical Background

During the 1930s and 1940s, debate emerged regarding counseling models and the role of university counseling. Some educators argued that counseling was best provided by faculty, especially by those who showed an interest in the counseling field (Patterson, 1928). Others believed that faculty should receive general training in counseling to handle "normal" academic concerns and that trained professional counselors could most appropriately respond to students with psychological problems (Lloyd-Jones & Smith, 1938). Thus, confusion existed regarding both the nature of counseling and about those best equipped to deliver it. …

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