Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Pressing Issues in College Counseling: A Survey of American College Counseling Association Members

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Pressing Issues in College Counseling: A Survey of American College Counseling Association Members

Article excerpt

The authors conducted a survey of members of the American College Counseling Association to ascertain the experiences and opinions of college counselors on several pressing issues within the college counseling profession. Survey results from 133 respondents indicated that counseling centers may benefit from increasing the number of group counseling interventions by increasing the multicultural competence of services provided, by implementing crisis/disaster mental health initiatives, and by more effectively consulting with other professionals on campus.


Counselors working in university and college counseling centers need to continually adapt to trends in higher education and in social science research. Over the past several years, recommendations and guidelines for improving the quality of college counseling services have been provided by several authors (Bishop, 1990, 2006; Cooper, 2003; Davis & Humphrey, 2000; Hodges, 2001; Stone & Archer, 1990). These authors have been consistent in the themes emphasized, including the need to adequately address (a) the apparently increasing average severity of clients' presenting conditions, (b) increased workloads for counseling center personnel and administrative pressures to "do more with less," (c) the need to market the usefulness of counseling center services on campus (i.e., collaboration and networking with other campus offices), (d) multicultural competence of services, and (e) crisis management and disaster mental health services. Issues such as these have shaped much of the discussion in the field over the past 2 decades. Although there is currently some evidence that many counseling centers are responding adequately to these issues (Guinee & Ness, 2000), there is also evidence that more needs to be done (e.g., Davidson, Yakushka, & Sanford-Martens, 2004). To ascertain current practices, we conducted a survey of college counseling professionals regarding issues identified in the literature as being the most pressing in their profession. These issues are highlighted briefly in the following paragraphs.

Severity of Client Symptoms

A concern frequently cited in the literature over the past 2 decades is the apparently increasing severity of mental health symptoms presented by clients in college counseling centers (e.g., Benton, Robertson, Tseng, Newton, & Benton, 2003; Bishop, 2006; Erdur-Baker, Aberson, Barrow, & Draper, 2006). Although this apparent trend may be due to several confounding factors, such as the increased use of psychotropic medication among college students, one consequence of the trend has been an increase in the demand for counseling center services. As a result, college counseling centers have had to implement various procedures such as session limits, waiting lists, and psychiatric consultation that collectively resemble practices of community mental health agencies (Rudd, 2004).

Institutional Pressures and Increased Workloads

Paradoxically, as counseling center resources appear to be in greater demand, fiscal and administrative policies for student services ha higher education institutions have become more conservative. Institutions of higher education have moved toward increased accountability, which requires that staff increase their workload to generate required data and reports. In short, personnel at many counseling centers have been asked to "do more with less," a dynamic that creates significant challenges (e.g., Bishop, 1990). We, therefore, thought it was important to ascertain the average workloads and current job satisfaction of college counselors and to ask how they have adapted practices to handle increased demands for services (Bishop, 2006).

Collaboration and Advocacy With Other Campus Offices

College and university administrators may sometimes make decisions that adversely affect the quality of counseling services provided to students (e. …

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