Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Animating Research with Counseling Values: A Training Model to Address the Research-to-Practice Gap

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Animating Research with Counseling Values: A Training Model to Address the Research-to-Practice Gap

Article excerpt

The persistent research-to-practice gap poses a problem for counselor education. The gap may be caused by conflicts between the humanistic values that guide much of counseling and the values that guide research training. In this article, the authors address historical concerns regarding research training for students and the conducting of research by faculty, and report on an effective research education model animated with values that guide clinical, supervisory and pedagogical identities within counselor education.

Keywords: research-to-practice gap, research training, counselor education, research education, master's-doctoral collaborative research group

Research is a fundamental part of counseling and counselor education (Huber & Savage, 2009). The structure of the scientist-practitioner model embraced by counseling and other social science fields endeavors to create a useful dialogue between research producers and research consumers that leads to effective evidence-based practice (Lambie & Vaccaro, 2011). Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that this dialogue is not actually occurring (Murray, 2009). The breakdown in productive dialogue has roots both in the types of research being produced and in practitioners' ability to utilize published research (Bangert & Baumberger, 2005; Murray, 2009). This disconnect has resulted in rising concern about the utility and efficacy of research conducted within counselor education for those in practice. Termed the research-to-practice gap, it is a conspicuous problem for the field of counseling at a time when demand for a research-informed evidence base to guide clinical practice is increasing (Moran, 2011).

Furthermore, research in counseling seems disconnected from the essential values that have guided the field (Sperry, 2009). This may be due to a fundamental divide between the values that shape counseling and those that shape research. Mariage, Paxton-Buursma, and Bouck (2004) have suggested that using values as a lens to approach research and practice will serve to "animate" (p. 534) these processes in new ways. Animating both the content and the process of research with counseling values may produce results that are more meaningful to both counselor educators and counseling practitioners. Ideally, the result will be coherent and systemic research designed to solve today's complex problems.

The research-to-practice gap is acknowledged as a problem throughout the helping professions (Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010). In counselor education, the gap appears to be amplified by the tenuous nature of the relationship that both practitioners and academics have with research. For practitioners, research is often seen as irrelevant to day-to-day practice and incapable of addressing the complexities of real-world work (Murray, 2009). This perspective is reflected in the conclusion of a methodological review of research articles published in the Journal of Counseling & Development {JCD) between 1990 and 2001, which states that "many ACA [American Counseling Association] members will most likely find it difficult to comprehend and evaluate the usefulness of much of the research published by JCD" (Bangert & Baumberger, 2005, p. 486). Murray (2009) has concluded that most practitioners view research and practice as two entirely unrelated arenas.

For counselor educators, the relationship with research also appears tenuous. Faculty members are charged with two primary tasks relating to research: (1) training practitioners who are capable of utilizing research, and (2) contributing to the counseling knowledge base through publishing original research. The effectiveness and productivity of counselor educators with both of these tasks is in question. A recent study highlighted that faculty do not appear to consistently demonstrate productive engagement with their own research. From 20042009, almost 50% (47.9%) of faculty in programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) published two or fewer articles in refereed journals, and almost 20% (18. …

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