Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

An Examination of the Clinical Preparation of School Counselors

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

An Examination of the Clinical Preparation of School Counselors

Article excerpt

Clinical training is considered the capstone experience (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, 2001) for preservice counselors. This exploratory study examined pedagogical practice for clinical preparation in a purposeful sample of 59 school counseling internship syllabi. A qualitative analysis revealed wide diversity in content regarding supervision, student assignments, and, in particular, onsite requirements.


Faculties in medicine and human services have always considered internship an essential component of clinical training (Bernard & Goodyear, 1998). Jackson et al. (2002) suggested that internship is a significant part of a student's academic experience and the first opportunity to practice in the real world, and Hoffman (2001) described internship as the "most valuable preservice learning that they will encounter" (p. 3). Regarding the training of school counselors, Crespi (2002) addressed the need for a yearlong school counseling internship. Just as clerkships and residency training are conceptualized as the foundation for solidifying legal and medical training, so too must internship training be for school counselors (Crespi, 2002).

Correspondingly, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2001) has set baseline national standards for counselor preparation that highlight internships as essential. CACREP has asserted that internship (and practicum) experiences "are considered to be the most critical experience elements in the program" (p. 66). Furthermore, internship is "a distinctly defined, post-practicum, supervised 'capstone' clinical experience" (p. 103). Several authors (Brott & Myers, 1999; Coy & Sears, 1991) have suggested that clinical training defines the scope of practice and the responsibilities for which one is trained and sets a foundation for professional identity.

Even though there is no dispute about the importance of clinical training and internship, little inquiry has examined the pedagogy of clinical training and/or internship. One of the few investigations about internship in school counseling programs was a survey about supervision and pedagogical practices on a national sample of 186 programs. In that study, Stickel (1995) found considerable diversity in training requirements. She also raised questions about the inadequate preparation of site supervisors and the lack of consistency in expectations (e.g., clinical practice, course requirements) for preservice school counselors. In fact, Stickel and others (Hoffman, 2001; Jackson et al., 2002; Pitts, 1992) have suggested that this gap in the research about clinical training and the internship experience leaves school counselor educators with little guidance. Hoffman challenged school counselor education faculty to assess their programs on whether they provide students the optimal internship learning experiences.

Patton (2002) suggested that exploratory research is a reasonable beginning point in areas where "few definite hypotheses exist and little is known about the nature of the phenomenon" (p. 193). The purpose of the current research was to explore pedagogical practices used in internships in school counselor training programs.


Data Sources

Internship syllabi from 59 school counseling programs were the data source. Syllabi were chosen as the data source for clinical preparation because they represent a standardized contract between students and faculty (Garavalia, Hummel, Wiley, & Huitt, 1999) and "information-rich cases" (Patton, 2002, p. 46). Miller (1997) advocated for the analysis of institutional documents and suggested that they "are one aspect of the sense-making activities through which we reconstruct, sustain, contest, and change our senses of social reality" (p. 77).

All school counseling master's-degree programs (N = 314) listed in Hollis and Dodson's (2002) Counselor Preparation 1999-2001 met criteria for initial inclusion in the sample. …

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