Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Master Counselors as Teachers: Clinical Practices of Counselor Educators

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Master Counselors as Teachers: Clinical Practices of Counselor Educators

Article excerpt

Using a mixed methods design, we surveyed 117 counselor educators to explore their clinical practices and their perceptions of the impact of clinical practice on teaching, supervision, research, and service. The results indicate that clinical practice had the greatest influence on their supervision and teaching. A negative relationship between years served as a counselor educator and hours engaged in counseling was found. Through qualitative analysis, we identified several themes related to counselor educators' decisions to engage in clinical practice, among them staying relevant, enhancing teaching and supervision, and staying current in the field. Implications for counselors and counselor educators are discussed.


In advising 18th century critics, Alexander Pope admonished those who evaluated his poetry, stating, "Let such teach others who themselves excel" (Pope, 1717/1994, p. 4). The clear implication was that those who influence a field to a great degree should be experts in that field. In the field of higher education, Pope's quote is often juxtaposed with the oft-cited criticism by George Bernard Shaw (1903), "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches" (p. 334). Today there still persists the debate that has taken place through the centuries about the necessity of teachers having practiced what they teach. Mastery of practice is considered a foundation for effective teaching of any subject. Because teachers structure the learning process, deciding when and how learning takes place (Carnell, 2007), their backgrounds and experiences are relevant to their classroom decision-making. In counselor education, the delivery of content and process of learning is likely influenced by the instructor's professional counseling experiences. If demonstration of competence is a core teaching issue, how important is continuing clinical experience for practicing counselor educators?


Buskist, Benson, and Sikorski (2005) identified these qualities of highly effective teachers: "(a) being highly knowledgeable themselves in the subject matter being taught; (b) establishing rapport with their students, thereby increasing students' receptivity to the teacher's message; and (c) communicating information clearly and at the students' level of understanding, regardless of the complexity of the subject matter" (p. 115). They highlighted the ability of master teachers to make subject matter relevant to current experience and knowledge. Relevance encourages student engagement and understanding. Both university faculty and students cited being creative by using interesting, relevant, and personal examples as among the top six qualities of master teachers (Buskist, Sikorski, Buckley, & Saville, 2002).

Traditionally, education has focused on the transfer of information from teacher to learner, mostly through pedagogical practices of lecture and teacher-centered activities. However, the ability of teacher and students to co-construct knowledge so as to enhance learning and critical thinking appears to be the most salient goal of education (Halpem, 2002). Several approaches to education have emerged from this perspective, such as cognitive apprenticeship, reflexivity, constructivist-developmental theory, reflective judgment, and other developmental models. These approaches emphasize the mutual process of learning through apprenticeship, modeling, contextual practice and observation, live and video demonstrations, disclosure of real experiences in the field, and active engagement of all members of the learning community (Eriksen & McAuliffe, 2011; Kress & Eriksen, 2011; McAuliffe, 2011; Seely Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Sinacore, Blaisure, Justin, Healy, & Brawer, 1999).


Skovholt, Jennings, and Mullenbach (2004) sketched a portrait of the master therapist based on their longitudinal study of 10 therapists who other professionals identified as masters in the field and who had practiced counseling for at least 20 years. …

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