Do Counselor Education Programs Promote Wellness in Their Students?
Roach, Leila F., Young, Mark E., Counselor Education and Supervision
It is widely accepted that counselor impairment presents a problem in the counseling profession (M. E. Young & G. W. Lambie, 2007). Wellness as a unifying philosophy in counselor education may be a way to prevent impairment and burnout in students and professionals. Although counselor educators strive to promote a wellness philosophy in students, their efforts may be largely unsuccessful. This study examines the influence of counselor education programs on counselor wellness by investigating broad trends in levels of wellness among students at 3 points in their training and offers insights into the influence of wellness in the training of today's counselors.
The professional organizations representing the counseling profession support an emphasis on wellness of counselors and counseling students (American Association for Counseling and Development, 1991; American Counseling Association, 2005; Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, 1993; Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2001; Myers, 1992). However, counselor education programs may be lagging in adopting these values and seem to lack systematic ways to both evaluate the wellness of prospective candidates and improve wellness in current students (Hensley, Smith, & Thompson, 2003). Several studies (Hosford, Johnson, & Atkinson, 1984; Market & Monke, 1990; McKee, Harris, & Swanson, 1979) found that most admissions' procedures focused on a limited number of criteria such as Graduate Record Examination scores, undergraduate grade point average, letters of recommendation, and interviews that had low-positive correlations with academic success and the attainment of counseling skills. Bradley and Post (1991) found that, although programs had procedures in place to evaluate academic success, few had procedures in place to effectively monitor students' personal issues. Since Bradley and Post's study, several researchers have outlined counselor characteristics; behavioral expectations; and review policies designed to address improving wellness, personal growth, and development of students (Baldo & Softas-Nall, 1997; Frame & Stevens-Smith, 1995; Lumadue & Duffey, 1999; Torres-Rivera et al., 2002). Still, there is limited research on the use of wellness as a criterion for selection, monitoring impairment, or retention.
The problem of counselor impairment, often a result of anxiety, job stress, and burnout, is well documented in the literature (Emerson & Markos. 1996: Hazler & Kottler, 1996: Herlihy, 1996: O'Halloran & Linton, 2000: Olsheski & Leech, 1996: Sheffield, 1998; Young & Lambie, 2007). Burnout has been defined as "physical and emotional exhaustion, involving the development of negative self-concept, negative job attitudes, and loss of concern and feeling for clients" (Pines & Maslach, 1978, p. 234). Burnout is an occupational hazard that not only affects the counselor but also could contribute to a diminished ability to act in a manner that promotes the well-being of others (Stebnicki, 2000). The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that counselors are often reluctant to admit they have a problem and often do not seek help for this condition, thus continuing to work even when impaired (Kottler, 1993). According to Frame and Stevens-Smith (1995), counselor educators must be concerned about impairment in the students they are training and potential harm to clients. The inherent danger of impairment offers a powerful argument for the necessity of promoting and monitoring wellness in counseling students.
Associated with the notion of wellness are two related terms in the counselor education literature: personal awareness and personal development. Personal awareness refers to consciousness of one's strengths and limitations and one's thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs (Witmer. 1985). Personal development, as we use it, refers to personal and professional growth due to knowledge and experience. …