Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk: A Grounded Theory of Effective Program Implementation

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk: A Grounded Theory of Effective Program Implementation

Article excerpt

Comprehensive, developmental school counseling programming has been associated with numerous benefits for students and is considered current best practice. A qualitative, grounded theory study was conducted to investigate eight professional school counselors employed across grade level, geographic setting, and region within the United States. This article presents this research and the emergent model for successful comprehensive, developmental school counseling program implementation. Implications for school counselor education and practice, as well as future research, are discussed.


Studies that examine the practice of school counselors who are implementing comprehensive J school counseling programs are absent from school counseling literature (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2004; Fitch & Marshall, 2004; Littrell & Peterson, 2005; Sink & Yillik-Downer, 2001). Norm Gysbers, considered an architect of the school counseling profession (ASCA, 2005a), wrote the following:

   My vision for guidance and counseling is for
   every school district in the United States to
   have a fully implemented comprehensive guidance
   and counseling program, serving all students
   and their parents and staffed by active,
   involved school counselors working closely
   with parents, teachers, administrators, and
   community members. (Gysbers, 2001, p. 103)

Since the 1970s, the vision for the school counseling profession has been to develop and implement comprehensive, developmental school counseling programs (CDSCPs) in every school (Green & Keys, 2001; Gysbers, 2001). This emphasis developed in response to concerns that school counselors were seen as ancillary, expendable service providers. The roles of school counselors were left to be determined by school administrators and were limited to responding to crises and engaging in minor administrative procedures (Gysbers) that served a small number of students. In contrast, when school counseling practice is conceptualized and implemented as a program, it places school counselors in the center of education and makes it possible for them to be active, involved, integral, and transformative (Gysbers). Lapan, Gysbers, and Petroski (2003) noted, "Comprehensive guidance and counseling programs have provided school counselors K-12 with the organizational structure to focus efforts, organize work schedules, and allocate time necessary for implementing proactive school counseling activities and services that promote critical aspects of student development" (p. 196).

In the 1980s, CDSCP models were established and refined as a means to guide the practice of school counselors in their quest to turn vision into action and serve all students in a systematic and integrated way (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000). Recently, ASCA articulated the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) and the ASCA National Model[R] (ASCA, 2005b), thus establishing a set of developmental student competencies and a common framework for developing, implementing, and evaluating a CDSCP.

The CDSCP is now regarded as an effective means to deliver services to all students (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Green & Keys, 2001; Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Hughey, 2001; Lapan et al., 2003). Research findings indicate that more fully implemented CDSCPs have positive effects on overall student development, including academic, career, and emotional development, academic achievement, as well as school climate (Fitch & Marshall, 2004; Lapan, Gysbers, & Sun, 1997; Nelson, Gardner, & Fox, 1998; Sink & Stroh, 2003). In addition, a range of activities and interventions conducted by school counselors have been linked to positive changes for students in several areas including academic performance, school attendance, classroom behavior, and self-esteem (Whiston, 2007).


Despite the establishment of CDSCP models, there remains wide variation in school counselor practice. …

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