Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Wellness and Counselor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Wellness and Counselor Education

Article excerpt

Given the emotional nature of the counseling profession, stress, fatigue, and burnout are constant threats. Although such difficulties cannot be eliminated, counseling training can ensure that future counselors are ready to deal more effectively with such issues. The authors present 10 suggestions for promoting student wellness during counselor training.

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Promoting wellness in counselor training is dramatically different from a traditional academic focus on the content of course work in which there is little to no thought given to the personal wellness of the student. Some counselor educators may address the crucial nature of developing counselor self-awareness and the use of self as a therapeutic tool, but even these directions of training can be considered without a conscious effort to improve the overall wellness of counselor trainees. For example, the ideas of self-awareness and self as a therapeutic tool can potentially be used as "hammers" to beat down a harried (and unaware) student just as they might be introduced as more gentle tools of encouragement and support. Given our personal view of the importance of holistic counselor wellness, we have chosen to use this article as an opportunity to expand on counselor and student counselor wellness. We have developed 10 concrete, specific suggestions that are linked to the introduction of a philosophy of wellness in counseling training.

We firmly believe that the most effective counselors will inevitably be individuals who are continually working to enhance personal wellness (cf. Myers & Sweeney, 2005), and on the basis of this assumption, we assert that a sustained effort to promote student wellness and personal health provides an appropriate starting point for the counselor educator. This is especially important because the beginning graduate student may not yet have integrated this same belief. Undergraduate education in most fields requires only a student's attention to developing a knowledge base of competence. With term papers, midterm examinations, and final examinations, students are repeatedly asked to document cognitive knowledge of their subject matter. At this level of education, there is usually little attention given in the classroom or elsewhere to the personal and emotional development of the student.

Although graduate counseling programs do not abandon cognitive learning, they are also charged with teaching concrete, interpersonal counseling skills. Before graduation, counseling students must develop skills to deal effectively with clients' relational and emotional difficulties. The concerns of their clients can also trigger discomfort and stress for student counselors. The skills that we, as counselor educators, are teaching can be developed neither directly from information in books nor in the absence of a counselor trainee's personal growth. As a result, effective learning of counseling skills must occur within the context of an ongoing effort to develop counseling students' personal wellness. No two counseling students can (or should) be at the same point in their personal awareness, growth, and wellness. Shortly after beginning a graduate program in counseling, however, students do realize that awareness, growth, and a movement toward wellness are essential if they are to confront their own personal obstacles to counseling effectiveness.

TEN WAYS TO ADDRESS WELLNESS IN COUNSELOR TRAINING

The following 10 suggestions, generated from our own experience as well as from the counseling literature, represent an initial effort to ensure that counseling students will address wellness issues during graduate training. Specific ideas are included with each general suggestion.

1. Introduce Wellness Directly

We suggest that new graduate students may not have learned the extent to which personal growth and change will be required in their graduate counseling training. Because growth and change are central to an ongoing effort to maintain wellness, we believe the obvious first step toward promoting a wellness-oriented counselor training program is to provide students with an informed consent statement. …

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