Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Assessment Use by Counselors in the United States: Implications for Policy and Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Assessment Use by Counselors in the United States: Implications for Policy and Practice

Article excerpt

The appropriate administration and interpretation of assessment instruments in all realms of counseling has been highlighted in no less than 13 documents and standards (Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling, 2013). In fact, assessment is one of eight common core curricular areas mandated by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2009); is one of the main content areas assessed by the National Counselor Exam (National Board for Certified Counselors [NBCC], 2012b); and is highlighted in all counseling-related codes of ethics, including those of the American Counseling Association (ACA; 2005) and NBCC (2012a).

In their Standards for Qualifications of Test Users, ACA (2003) identified that competence in testing is acquired through education, training, and experience and that master's-level counselors with course work in assessment are qualified to use objective measures. They further argued that, with additional specialized training, counselors can administer projective tests, intelligence tests, and clinical diagnostic tests. Such tests are sometimes called Level C or advanced (American Psychological Association [APA], 1954; Turner, DeMers, Fox, & Reed, 2001). This argument is consistent with the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, APA, & National Council on Measurement in Education, 1999), which stipulates that qualifications for assessment use should stem from experience, training, and credentials and should be in compliance with the code of ethics of the individual's professional organization. Accordingly, test publishers typically require verification of a potential test user's level of education, training, and credentials. Such practices have largely been recognized by ACA as acceptable (Naugle, 2009) and relatively consistent with guidelines set by APA (Turner et al., 2001).

Despite the aforementioned standards that suggest that counselors should be able to give and interpret a wide range of assessment instruments, there are significant roadblocks to assessment use by counselors (Naugle, 2009; Watson & Sheperis, 2010.) Psychologists generally have considered only their training as suitable for the administration of some types of tests (Society for Personality Assessment, 2006; Turner et al., 2001), and some state licensure boards have attempted to define competency as synonymous with psychology licensure (Association of Test Publishers, 2007; Watson & Sheperis, 2010). Multiple states, including Alaska, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Califomia, do not allow counselors to administer intelligence tests, whereas additional states (e.g., Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Tennessee, and Texas) do not allow counselors to use projective tests (California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, n.d.; Licensed Professional Counselor Act, 1999; Naugle, 2009). In fact, a survey of U.S. states and Canadian provinces found that 67% of states and provinces had restrictions on the administration of psychological testing by nonpsychologists (Dattilio, Tresco, & Siegel, 2007).

Unfortunately, the establishment of competency and the right to use tests has also been hampered by counselors and counselor educators themselves. For instance, a random sample of 641 counselors and counselor educators rated CACREP's common core curricular area of assessment as one of the least beneficial of all eight CACREP core standards (McGlothlin & Davis, 2004). In addition, counseling students have expressed dismay and fear about assessment courses (Davis, Chang, & McGlothlin, 2005; Wood & D'Agostino, 2010), whereas counselor educators have expressed a lack of desire to teach such courses (Davis et al., 2005). Similarly, researchers suggest that practicing counselors do not view assessment as a main focus of counseling and feel inadequate and poorly trained in this area (Ekstrom, Elmore, Schafer, Trotter, & Webster, 2004; Fischer & Chambers, 2003; Mellin, Hunt, & Nichols, 2011; Villalba, Latus, & Hamilton, 2005). …

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