Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Creating Personal Dispositions for a Professional Counseling Program

Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Creating Personal Dispositions for a Professional Counseling Program

Article excerpt

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs requires counselor training programs to undergo systematic evaluation of trainees, This evaluation can be challenging at times. The authors posit the use of dispositions as a tool for ongoing assessment of student development by detailing the process used to establish dispositions in a counselor training program, Using an N = 1 intensive case study approach, they provide information about the relevance of dispositions in counselor training, the origin of dispositions for the program, and ongoing efforts to evaluate the dispositions in terms of their relevance to student growth. Implications for counselor training and curriculum development are discussed,

Keywords: dispositions, counselor training programs, systematic evaluation


The first ethical standard of the ACA Code of Ethics mandates that the primary obligation of professional counselors is the welfare of their clients (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2005). Implied within that ACA Code of Ethics standard is the need for counselor education programs to effectively monitor and assess the development of their students (Foster & McAdams, 2009). This requirement is further enhanced by the 2009 Standards adopted by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the accrediting body for counselor training programs. CACREP (2009) requires counselor training programs to maintain "a developmental, systematic assessment of each student's progress throughout the program, including consideration of the student's academic performance, professional development, and personal development" (Section IV, Standard B). To this end, counselor identity development is one of the knowledge bases counselor educators use as outcome measures of effective training (Thompson, 2004).

Meara, Schmidt, and Day (1996) postulated that integrity, discernment, acceptance of emotion, self-awareness, and interdependence with the community are personality characteristics helping professionals should strive to achieve in their daily clinical work. These characteristics are designed to supplement the knowledge and skills necessary to be competent professionals. Relationship building, knowledge of human development, application of psychological theories, and assessment are considered a vital part of the development of an effective and competent professional counselor (Young, 2009).

Gaubatz and Vera (2002) pointed out that student development can be complex and many training programs struggle with effective screening procedures. Faculty members may be aware of problematic students but may be hesitant to address these concerns, in part because of the lack of an assessment designed to address student development (Foster & McAdams, 2009). One such assessment is the development of personal dispositions. Dispositions are core values, attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs needed to become an effective and competent professional (Damon, 2007). We assert that counselor education programs need a set of dispositions as frameworks for evaluating students, guiding student development, and screening for admissions. This article presents the background and one faculty group's process of developing a set of personal dispositions for those purposes through an N = 1 intensive case study approach.

History of Dispositions

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

In 2001, NCATE began using a performance-based accreditation system. With this change came more rigorous and focused methods of assessing teacher preparation. One of the new aspects of the method is the measurement and evaluation of professional dispositions (NCATE, 2007). According to NCATE's (2010) glossary of terms, professional dispositions are "professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and nonverbal behaviors as educators interact with students, families, colleagues, and communities. …

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