School counseling is a complex and demanding component of the counseling profession. With an increase of social and emotional stressors, children and youth of today face numerous challenges. These challenges ultimately affect children in school. With an increase of suicides, drug abuse, gang involvement, and violence amongst youth, a high demand for school counseling supervision is needed (Henderson, 1994). Parents and teachers often turn to school counselors for guidance in helping troubled youth.
Effective supervision is a benefit for novice as well as experienced school counselors. However, there is a lack of supervision in school counseling in comparison to clinical counseling (Wood & Rayle, 2006). Duties of school counselors have increasingly become much more vast due to cost reduction in education, retirement, increase in student enrollment, and an increase in societal issues such as the economic recession. Many novice and experienced school counselors are facing many more problems in the schools today than ever before. The lack of qualified supervision provided to school counselors force those in the profession to rely on self judgment, consultation, and having ethical knowledge about certain situations that may arise (Henderson, 1994).
A study conducted by Wiggins (1993) found “more than 28% of the total group of experienced counselor participants were independently rated as low in effectiveness, 10 years previously, they were still rated in that manner and still employed as counselors” (p. 382). This study reinforced the urgency in the need for supervision for school counselors. If an effective supervision model was put in place, surely after 10 years, an improvement in performance by these experienced counselors would have been documented.
According Herlihy and Corey (1996), the ACA Code of Ethics stated school counselors have a responsibility to monitor their effectiveness, seeking supervision when appropriate. Despite this mandate, an enormous majority of professional school counselors are not involved in any clinical supervision once they are employed as a school counselor. Luke and Bernard (2006) proposed “using a 3 (focus of supervision) x 3 (supervisor role) x 4 (CSCP domain) matrix for an effective school counseling supervision model which is described as an extension of Bernard’s (1979, 1997) Discrimination Model” (p. 283).
The discrimination model was initially created as a teaching model for use with apprentice supervisors. It is a theoretical model and is based on technical eclecticism. The discrimination model focuses on three separate foci of the supervisee’s competence: intervention skills; conceptualization skills; and personalization skills. Three supervisory roles are also a focus: teacher, counselor and consultant (Ladany & Bradley, 2010). The school counselor model of supervision with the discrimination model is the chosen model employed for my school counselor supervision practice.
Intervention, conceptualization, and personalization skills are the three identified areas of focus (Ladany & Bradley, 2010). Intervention skills are the observable counselor behaviors and activities that the supervisee utilizes in the counseling relationship. Such skills are described as everything from a simple head nod, greeting of the client, to how the supervisee utilizes empathy and other counseling skills. The next area of focus, conceptualization skills include the counselor’s ability to choose an appropriate intervention, to make sense of what a client is presenting, to find and organize client themes, and to establish process and outcome goals.
Finally, personalization skills are observed by the supervisor and focus on the individuality of the supervisee. Personalization skills include the personal style and chosen theoretical approach to counseling by the trainee, which includes personality, cultural background, countertransference, and the connection with clients served (Ladany & Bradley, 2010). Although some conceptualization and personalization skills may be observed directly, they are more often interpreted by the supervisor and initially require discourse between counselor and supervisor to become clear (Luke & Bernard, 2006).
The supervisor’s roles consist of three areas of focal point. They include that of a teacher, counselor, and consultant. The role of a teacher by the supervisor includes the supervisor providing instruction, modeling, giving feedback, and conducting evaluation to assist the trainee in developing growth (Ladany & Bradley, 2010). The supervisor employing the role of a counselor involves the supervisor asking supervisees to reflect on an activity, on their thoughts, or on their internal reality.
When supervisors adopt this role, they are not telling supervisees how to proceed; rather, they are assisting the supervisee to take advantage of a critical moment for reflection (Luke & Bernard, 2006). Lastly the supervisor serves as a consultant. In this role the supervisor and supervisee collaborate and share responsibility for the supervisee’s growth. The supervisor acts as a resource and encourages the supervisee to trust their own thoughts, insights, and feelings in their work (Luke & Bernard, 2006).
The extension of the discrimination model to better adapt to the needs of school counseling supervision incorporates four domains: large group guidance; responsive counseling and consultation; individual advisement; and programmatic planning, coordination, and evaluation, also known as systems support (Gysbers & Henderson, 2001). These four domains are identified by the American School Counselor Association as the key components of an effective comprehensive school counseling program.
Implementation of the discrimination model of supervision begins with the incorporation of the four domains of the comprehensive school counseling program. First, the supervisor identifies which of the four domains or a combination of domains will be the focus of supervision. When examining the three major areas of focus of the discrimination model, an additional set of skills are reviewed as it relates to intervention, conceptualization, and personalization skills (Luke & Bernard, 2006). When observing the use of intervention skills in counseling and consultation; classroom guidance skills, conduction of a needs assessment, and the ability to coordinate initiatives for staff would be additional focus during supervision. Similarly, conceptualization skills would include the supervisee’s understanding of the relationship among various activities conducted by school counselors, planning a school wide function, deciding which components would be most helpful for a career day, developing a plan for evaluation of services, and choosing a developmentally appropriate classroom intervention.
Finally, supervisee personalization skills would include how novice school counselors conduct themselves in a variety of contexts that is not limited to just individual counseling, such as leading large groups and asserting themselves in advocacy situations (Luke & Bernard, 2006). The implementation of the discrimination model of supervision in a school setting for novice school counselors mirrors the same frame work that is used for supervising clinical work but extends the focus of supervision to include the intervention, conceptualization, and personalization skills that relate directly to the four dimensions of a successful comprehensive school counseling program. Supervisors’ roles also expand using the discrimination model of supervision in school counseling.
Supervisors use the four dimensions of the comprehensive school counseling program to assist with the development in particular skills not only in counseling interventions but also in advising sessions and negotiations with parents and school administrators. Supervisors assist supervisees in reflections and feelings about district-sponsored mandated programs and how these thoughts and feelings impact their performance (Luke & Bernard, 2006).
Supervisors utilize all roles as teacher, counselor, and consultant and may need to change focus depending on the intervention and skills being developed. In conclusion, this extension of the discrimination model of supervision for school counselors prove to provide beneficial guidance and assistance to novice school counselor professionals. This model of supervision helps to combine the counseling and therapy focus seen mostly in clinical supervision with the requirements of school counseling skills needed to operate an effective comprehensive school counseling program.
Gysbers, N. & Henderson, P. (2001). Comprehensive guidance and counseling programs: A rich history and a bright future. Professional School Counseling, 4, 246-256. Henderson, P. (1994). Supervision of school counselors. ERIC Digest. Retrieved from ERIC
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