The Centennial of Counselor Education: Origin and Early Development of a Discipline

By Savickas, Mark L. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

The Centennial of Counselor Education: Origin and Early Development of a Discipline


Savickas, Mark L., Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


July 7, 2011, marks the centennial of counselor education as a formal discipline. In recognition of its 100th birthday, this article describes the origins of the discipline, beginning with its prehistory in the work of Frank Parsons to establish vocational guidance in the Boston schools. Parsons (1908) coined the term vocational guidance, using it for the first time in his First Report to Executive Committee and Trustees of the Boston Vocational Bureau. With the publication of his book Choosing a Vocation the following year, Parsons (1909) originated counseling as a discipline separate from its roots in social work and the practice of "friendly visits" (Richmond, 1917).

Several teachers in the Boston schools quickly became interested in the new profession of counseling, with its initial focus on vocational guidance. However, educational programs that taught guidance and counseling as a separate discipline did not exist. To fill this gap, Parsons planned to offer training to teachers and employment personnel. He had outlined an educational program for counselors at the same time that he had planned the Boston Vocational Bureau. Although the Bureau became part of the Civic House, the training plan was taken up by the Boston YMCA. The YMCA issued an eight-page circular announcing a School for Vocational Counselors with Parsons as dean and Ralph Albertson, Lucinda Wyman Prince, and Philip Davis as faculty (Brewer, 1942). The Boston YMCA scheduled the first course in vocational guidance to begin October 5, 1908. The announcement for the course explained that it aimed "to fit young men to become vocational counselors and manage vocation bureaus in connection with YMCAs, schools, colleges and universities, and public systems, associations and businesses anywhere in the county" (Zytowski, 2001, p. 60). Unfortunately, Parsons died on September 26, 1908. In deference to Parsons's wishes, the course was subsequently taught by Ralph Albertson, a close friend and colleague of Parsons. Albertson worked as superintendent of personnel at Filene's Department Store and was later recognized as a pioneer in the field of human resources. Beginning on November 8, 1908, the YMCA course met on 16 Saturday evenings, with attendance varying between 16 and 25 (Brewer, 1942).

* Boston Public Schools Course for Counselors

On the basis of the success of the YMCA's informal course, the Boston School Board authorized Superintendent Stanton Brooks on June 7, 1909, to invite the Vocational Bureau, founded by Parsons and then directed by Bloomfield, to help design a vocational counseling service for schoolchildren. To staff the service, the Vocational Bureau and a School Committee designed a course in vocational guidance for teachers in the Boston schools. Three mass meetings were held with teachers and one with principals in the fall of 1909 and the spring of 1910 to recruit volunteers (Bloomfield, 1911). Following these meetings, the principal of each school in Boston, with the exception of one elementary school, appointed a teacher or group of teachers to be known as "vocational counselors." Each teacher volunteered to serve as a vocational counselor, in addition to his or her regular duties, and further agreed to attend the training course (Brewer, 1942). The course taught by Bloomfield began in the fall of 1910. The Boston School Vocational Counselors, as they were called, met twice a month during the school year to study principles and methods of guidance. During these meeting at the Boston English High School, they discussed educational opportunities in the city and the vocational problems faced by their students and graduates. As part of their in-service training, the 117 officially appointed vocational counselors were to personally study the home, street, and other influences on the vocational direction of one student in their own classroom. The counselors were required to keep records for comparison and systematic study. …

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