Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

The Transformative Potential of Counseling Education

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

The Transformative Potential of Counseling Education

Article excerpt

Transformative learning and development in adult education, as defined in humanistic and critical perspectives, are examined. The transformative potential of counseling education is explored in terms of (a) program philosophy, (b) pedagogy and curricular features, and (c) student outcomes. Challenges for a transformative approach to counseling education are discussed.


Significant learning and development that involve second-order or total-system changes may be considered transformative. Ideas on transformative teaching and learning can be found in the adult education literature. Most perspectives on transformative education are based on either a humanistic student-centered philosophy of adult development or critical paradigms that emphasize social change (Brookfield, 1987; Daloz, 1986; Mezirow, 1991). In both perspectives, transformative education is associated with a change in worldview as a result of deep shifts in ways of knowing and ways of being. Given that developmental and humanistic perspectives inform many counseling education programs and that the counseling enterprise is concerned with facilitating change, certain goals and values, as well as pedagogical practices in counseling education, may be considered congruent with transformative education.

In this article, I explore the transformative potential of counseling education, with reference to ideas and practices in transformative education. I examine the possibility of transformative counseling education under (a) program philosophy, (b) pedagogy and curricular features, and (c) student outcomes. Drawing on teaching experience with two graduate counseling education programs over a span of 20 years, I offer observations and then discuss the challenges for a transformative approach to counseling education.


Although counseling education programs tend to endorse a developmental perspective, with many identifying specifically with a humanistic orientation, other historical developments have had an impact on the philosophical commitments of those involved in delivering counseling education programs. Professionalization, credentialing requirements, and program accreditation have emphasized a comprehensive knowledge base and competence in skills of counseling practice. Many counseling educators refer to their master's-degree programs as preparing students to become scholar-practitioners, with some subscribing to a scientist-practitioner model that is more prevalent in doctoral programs. Another major development is the call for diversity and multiculturalism (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). Depending on the level of commitment of program faculty, multiculturalism has influenced program philosophy in counseling education to varying degrees. In still other programs, faculty are interested in spirituality and the relationship between counseling and values (Koch, 1998; Miller, 1999). This last trend suggests a program philosophy that may be considered holistic. Within these varying program philosophies, one may be able to identify strands that are consistent with the goals and values of transformative education. A crystallization of program philosophy reflecting these goals and values is described below.

A humanistically oriented counseling education program that emphasizes the development of the personhood of the counselor would focus on the student's self-understanding and the use of self in the process of learning and potentiating positive development in others. This focus as the cornerstone of a program's philosophy is associated with the goals and values of reflective practice (Hoshmand, 1994; Schon, 1987). Reflexivity and a willingness to address personal issues that can enter into all aspects of one's learning and counseling practice are expected. As much as possible, the curriculum and program experience are designed to facilitate the personal growth of the student. Moreover, students may be encouraged to seek personal therapy as an adjunctive experience. …

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