Are We Going in the Right Direction? Concerns about School Counseling

By Reiner, Summer M.; Hernandez, Thomas J. | Michigan Journal of Counseling, Fall-Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Are We Going in the Right Direction? Concerns about School Counseling


Reiner, Summer M., Hernandez, Thomas J., Michigan Journal of Counseling


School counseling is at a crossroads. External pressures, such as education reform, the development of a single counselor identity, and serving the needs of all stakeholders, are exerted on school counseling. In 2009, the Journal of Counseling and Development published a special edition specifically asking, "Where lies the future?" for school counselors (Dahir, 2009). School counseling, as a specialization of the counseling profession, appears to be experiencing a crisis of identity. Historically, school counselors viewed their role as mediating the physical, personal, social, and behavior obstacles impeding students' academic success (Erford, 2011; Schellenberg, 2008). Currently, there is an attempt to shift school counselors to become education reform leaders focused on academic achievement of youth (Erford, 2011; Schellenberg, 2008). The departure from the traditional role of the school counselor seems to be redesigning the school counselor as an academic interventionist (Baker, 2001). Essentially, the crisis appears to be centered on whether school counselors are educators (with knowledge of counseling theories and techniques), or counselors (working within an educational environment), and whether academic achievement or holistic student development is the primary focus of school counselors. The future of school counseling may depend on which road is selected during this crisis of identity. While it has been acknowledged that there is more than one possible pathway in the future development of school counseling (Dahir, 2009), we believe that the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has selected an avenue of identifying school counselors as educators primarily focused on academic achievement that could be potentially devastating to school counseling.

Background

School counselors clearly have responsibilities to the counseling profession and to the students of the schools in which they work. This past decade, school counselors were pressured by ASCA leadership to change their role within schools. This intentional role change seems to be influenced by education reform efforts, and how ASCA leadership has interpreted the call for change.

Role and Identity

Historically, over the past century, role ambiguity has been a central issue for school counselors, yet the ASCA leadership has suggested, "professional identity is not a central concern to ASCA" (Kraus, Kleist, & Cashwell, 2009). Perhaps it is in the opinion of ASCA leaders that they have sufficiently met their goal to "create one vision, one voice for school counseling programs " (ASCA, 2005; ASCA, 2012). The question remains, whose vision and voice? The vision and voice does not seem to be aligned with the other counseling organizations, including the American Counseling Association (ACA), which is the largest organization that represents counselors, and a parent organization of ASCA. ACA has been working to establish a professional identity that can be shared by all counselors, no matter their specialty (ACA, 2010; Kraus et al., 2009, p.60), including school counselors. The 20/20 representatives, which included such groups as CACREP, NBCC, Chi Sigma Iota, and the divisions of ACA (including the ASCA leadership), identified seven principles "critical to the mission of continuing to move the counseling profession forward" (ACA, 2010). The Principles were endorsed by 29 of the organizations that represent the specialty areas, in addition to the certifying and accrediting bodies, within the counseling profession. ASCA, however, declined to support the seven principles, but indicated that if the statements were to be operationalized, and ASCA believed that the statements represented the views of ASCA, that they would sign on at that time (R. S. Wong, personal communication, July 30, 2009). After the seven principles were adopted by the other counseling organizations, the 20/20 representatives used the Delphi Method to create a visioning statement, "Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals" (ACA, 2010, para. …

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