Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

A Guide to Just and Fair Remediation of Counseling Students with Professional Performance Deficiencies

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

A Guide to Just and Fair Remediation of Counseling Students with Professional Performance Deficiencies

Article excerpt

Ethical standards for counselor training require remediation of students with professional performance deficiencies. However, standards fail to specify the type or extent of remediation necessary to safeguard students' legal rights or justify dismissal if remediation is unsuccessful. Critical assessment of remedial practices in counselor preparation has occurred primarily in the courts when the constitutionality of specific practices was challenged. Prompted by a recent court challenge and its implications for curricular and policy change (C. R. McAdams, V. A. Foster, & T. J. Ward, 2007). this article examines court-tested methods of student remediation and presents them as a guide for developing just and fair student remediation policies.

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A counseling student was dismissed from a public university (at which the authors are faculty members) on the grounds of deficient professional performance after engaging in unethical behavior during a clinical practicum and then failing to satisfy the requirements of a remedial program implemented by the counseling program faculty. Following the dismissal, the student brought a lawsuit against members of the counselor education program and the university. Among the charges was that the program and the university had violated the student's constitutional right to due process, which prohibits deprivation of individual freedom (in this case, freedom to continue in the program) without due process of law. In a federal jury trial, the court ruled in favor of the university and counseling program, upholding the dismissal decision. The court cited as evidence of due process that the counseling program had followed appropriate criteria and procedure including the remedial efforts it had executed in an attempt to correct the performance deficiencies prior to the dismissal (Plaintiff v. Rector and Board of Visitors of The College of William and Mary, 2005). Under appeal, the lower court's ruling was upheld, thus ending a 3-year litigation process.

This particular court case demonstrates that when counselors-in-training are found to be deficient in their professional performance, counselor education programs typically have a legal obligation to provide remedial assistance (McAdams, Foster, & Ward, 2007). Furthermore, ethical standards for counselor training and practice call for remediation as a first response to students and supervisees who have demonstrated professional performance deficiencies. Standard F.5.b. of the ACA Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association (2005) and Standard 2.12 of the Ethical Guidelines for Counseling Supervisors of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (1993) specify that deficient trainees are to be provided with remedial assistance when needed and that dismissal should be considered as an option only after remedial efforts have failed. They do not, however, specify the type and extent of remediation necessary to safeguard a trainee's legal rights or to justify a dismissal decision if remediation is unsuccessful. The determination as to whether or not counselor trainees are receiving appropriate and sufficient opportunities to correct professional performance deficiencies remains, at best, a nebulous one that renders counselor educators and supervisors vulnerable to both ethical and legal scrutiny.

Professional Performance Assessment

Professional performance in counselor education refers to a student's ability to function effectively in a professional capacity (Kerl, Garcia, McCullough, & Maxwell, 2002). The term has been attributed to personal characteristics in individuals that either enable or restrict that ability. Frame and Stevens-Smith (1995) identified nine such characteristics considered to be necessary for the effective performance of professional counselors: (a) openness to new ideas, (b) flexibility, (c) cooperativeness with others, (d) willingness to accept and use feedback, (e) awareness of own impact on others, (f) ability to deal with conflict, (g) ability to accept personal responsibility, (h) ability to express feelings effectively and appropriately, and (i) attention to ethical and legal considerations. …

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