Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Collaborating with the Peace Corps to Maximize Student Learning in Group Counseling

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Collaborating with the Peace Corps to Maximize Student Learning in Group Counseling

Article excerpt

This article explores a model partnership with a counseling education program and the Peace Corps. Counselor education students in a group counseling course developed and implemented a singular structured group session with clients not typically used (e.g., non-counseling students) to maximize student learning and implement group counseling skills. Group services were provided to returning Peace Corps volunteers with diverse cultural experiences who were in career and life transitions. In addition, the authors provide strategies for developing similar partnerships between counselor education programs and other agencies.

Keywords: group counseling, counselor education, Peace Corps, volunteers, student learning

Group counseling is a core element of accredited master's-level counselor education programs, as noted in the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs Training Standards (CACREP, 2009). During the group counseling course, students often learn the process of participating in and leading experiential process groups, typically with other counseling students (McDonnell, Toth, & Aldarondo, 2005). While process groups are beneficial to student learning, student learning could be maximized by going one step further and providing group counseling to non-counseling students. The authors propose that rather than waiting until students' clinical coursework (e.g., practicum, internship) to provide counseling services to non-counseling students, participating in a model partnership with the Peace Corps could foster such student learning. This experience offers master's-level group counseling students the opportunity to provide group counseling to noncounseling students under intense supervision. In addition, students provide a service to Returning Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), who traditionally face a myriad of challenges transitioning back into the United States from their international service (Bosustow, 2006; Callahan & Hess, 2012; Christofi & Thompson, 2007; Gaw, 2000; Szkudlarek, 2010).

The first section of this article summarizes the importance of student learning through experiential group counseling, especially with non-counseling students. Additionally, the authors discuss RPCVs and their potential needs following deployment. The second section of this article describes the partnership between a counselor education program and the Peace Corps that has evolved over several years to include group counseling services to RPCVs. The logistical aspects involved (e.g., class assignments) are offered as a model for future adaptation, as well as overall trends in group members' and facilitators' feedback. Finally, the authors provide suggestions for counselor education programs to implement similar partnerships with their local organizations and other programs on campus.

Background of Partnership

The partnership between a counselor education program and the Peace Corps developed with consideration of the needs of counselor education students and RPCVs. The authors discuss training standards and ethical considerations in relation to teaching group counseling through the use of experiential groups. Non-peer group members-in this case RPCVs-are described in both their unique diverse experiences and the challenges they face that are suitable for group exploration. Group counseling students and RPCVs are explored through thenunique needs from and contributions to the partnership.

Group Counseling Students

Experiential process groups have been used in counselor education programs to help students learn basic group counseling skills and learn about themselves (Anderson & Price, 2001; Lennie, 2007; McDonnell et al., 2005; Osbom, Daninhirsch, & Page, 2003). Group counseling courses should teach students skill sets in group leadership, and also provide students with experiential opportunities to practice the skills they acquire (Furr & Barret, 2000). By incorporating experiential opportunities into a group counseling course, instructors increase student knowledge and understanding of group dynamics, group leadership skills, and group concepts (Akos, Goodnough, & Milsom, 2004). …

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