Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Barriers to Counseling among Human Service Professionals: The Development and Validation of the Fit, Stigma, & Value (FSV) Scale

Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Barriers to Counseling among Human Service Professionals: The Development and Validation of the Fit, Stigma, & Value (FSV) Scale

Article excerpt


Preventing and ameliorating vicarious traumatization, compassion fatigue, and burnout among mental health professionals is critical if clients are to receive effective services (Brownlee, 2016; Corey, Muratori, Austin, & Austin, 2017; Mayorga, Devries, & Wardle, 2015; Whitfield & Kanter, 2014; Wolf, Thompson, Thompson, & Smith-Adcock, 2014). Some of the many self-care activities that have been shown to be useful in this capacity include: reading for leisure, eating well, journaling, going on vacation, having a hobby, creative writing for self-awareness, practicing relaxation techniques, meditating, exercising, practicing mindfulness, avoiding traumatic events on media outlets, seeking supervision, establishing appropriate boundaries with clients, and developing a strong support system. However, the one self-care activity that most mental health professionals agree is most critical if human service professionals are to be effective is attendance in their own personal counseling (Byrne & Shufelt, 2014; Daw & Joseph, 2007; Norcross, 2010; Norcross, Bike, Evans, & Schatz, 2008; Norcross & Guy, 2005; Neukrug, Milliken, & Shoemaker, 2001).

Personal Counseling: A Critical Self-Care Activity

Multiple reasons underlie the importance for human service professionals to seek personal counseling (Knight, 2013; Malikiosi-Loizos, 2013; Norcross, 2010; Orlinsky, Schofield, Schroder, & Kazantzis, 2011). First, counseling may help limit countertransference and thus ensure that the personal issues of professionals do not interfere with their work with clients (King & O'Brien, 2011; Murphy, 2013). Working on one's own issues in counseling tends to increase self-awareness, improve the ability to deal more effectively with one's emotions (emotional intelligence), increase the ability to be insightful concerning clients' problems, sharpen helper skills, decrease the likelihood of unethical work, and increase empathy and strengthen other working alliance skills. Also, being in one's own counseling can limit compassion fatigue or vicarious traumatization and thus help rejuvenate the human service professional and ensure the provision of optimal services for clients (Cole, Craigen, & Cowan, 2014; McClam & Varga, 2014). Finally, because human service professionals should be positive role models for clients, being in their own counseling can help ensure that they are presenting themselves in their best light (Neukrug, 2016).

Helpers' Rates of Attendance in Counseling

Attendance in counseling by mental health professionals tends to be high. For instance, a survey of 206 human service professionals revealed that 74.8% (n = 154) were either currently in, or had received, personal counseling (Neukrug, et al., 2001). Among these human service professionals, individual counseling was most common (94.7%; n = 145), followed by group counseling (38.7%; n = 59), couples counseling (26.7%, n = 45), family counseling (26%; n = 40), and "other" type of counseling (1%; n = 4). Further, 57.1% (n = 88) of these human service professionals utilized more than one type of counseling. Also, female human service professionals were more likely to attend counseling than males (77% to 65%). It was also found that 47% (n = 73) of human service professionals attended personal counseling services prior to receiving professional training, 41.3% (n = 64) attended during their training, and 31.6% (n = 65) attended after they had completed their training. Human service professionals attended counseling for a variety of reasons, with life transitions, (17.3%; n = 72), family issues (16.8%; n = 70), and personal growth (16.6%; n = 69), being the most prevalent.

Studies of related mental health disciplines have reported similar findings to that of human service professionals. For instance, McCarthy, Pfohl, & Bruno (2010) found that 44% of counselor trainees had been in counseling, while Neukrug and Williams (1993) discovered that 80% of counselors had attended personal counseling. …

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