Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Wellness of Counselor Educators: An Initial Look

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Wellness of Counselor Educators: An Initial Look

Article excerpt

This study with 180 counselor educators showed that, overall, educators appeared to have high levels of wellness. However, differences related to academic rank, children in the home, gender, and marital status were found. Perceived stress and number of children were found to have a negative impact on wellness. Implications for wellness are discussed.

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Counselor educators are charged with a number of important roles pertaining to counselor trainee development: educators, mentors, supervisors, monitors of personal and professional growth, and gatekeepers for the profession. As part of their jobs, they are responsible for promoting the wellness of students and, thus, ultimately of professional counselors. Wellness includes being emotionally, mentally, and physically stable; being self-aware of possible impairments and biases; as well as being able to recognize stress and engage in appropriate coping methods (Mahoney, 1991). The need for wellness in counseling students and professionals was well articulated by Witmer and Young (1996), who stated, "Well counselors are more likely to produce well clients" (p. 151), whereas an unwell or impaired counselor may do harm to a client. It is the responsibility of student and professional counselors to be aware of impairment (see American Counseling Association [ACA], 2005; Standards C.2.g. and F.8.b.) and take action to prevent or remediate impairment when it occurs.

Meyer and Ponton (2006) observed, "Resiliency in counselors is not an accident. Rather it is the cumulative effect of counselors' healthy decision making" (p. 200). Regardless of whether this decision making begins prior to counselor training, positive personal growth is expected of all who enroll in counselor education programs. The responsibility of counselor educators assisting counseling students in the journey to self-awareness and wellness is stressed by various counseling organizations such as the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES, 2005) whose purpose is "to advance counselor education and supervision in order to improve the provision of counseling services in all settings of society" (para. 4) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2001) standards, where counselor educators are charged with assessing, evaluating, and promoting personal growth in counselor trainees. Counselor educators have an ethical obligation to teach self-care, provide opportunities for personal growth, and be models of wellness and competence (Meyer & Ponton, 2006). Although counselor educators are charged with this task of modeling wellness and self-care, not much is actually known about their wellness.

Mahoney (1991) emphasized the need for all professional helpers to devote attention to their personal wellness. Echoing the earlier statement by Witmer and Young (1996), Hill (2004) declared, "Well counselor educators may be more likely to produce well counselors" (p. 136), stressing the importance of educators focusing on their own mental, physical, and emotional stability in order to effectively evaluate and assess the wellness of their students. To date, several studies of counseling students' (e.g., Myers, Mobley, & Booth, 2003; Smith, 2006) and one study of professional counselors' wellness (Mobley, 2003) have been conducted, with few researchers directly examining the wellness of counselor educators. Studies with counselor educators have been focused on stress levels, job satisfaction, and mentoring relationships. For example, Bruce (1995) emphasized the need for counselor educators to serve as role models, particularly for female students. More recently, Hill (2004) explored the challenges faced by pretenured faculty from a wellness perspective and summarized recommendations based on the connection between wellness and job satisfaction in academia. It appears that counseling professionals assume that counselor educators, who serve as role models to both students and future counseling professionals, are well and are able to role model self-care. …

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