Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mentoring Promotion/Tenure-Seeking Faculty: Principles of Good Practice within a Counselor Education Program

Researchers: L. DiAnne Borders, J. Scott Young, Kelly L. Wester, Christine E. Murray, José A. Villalba, Todd F. Lewis, & A. Keith Mobley

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Source (Journal name, date of publication):

Counselor Education & Supervision, March 2011, volume 50, pages 171-188.

What was the purpose of this research?

The authors describe a successful program for mentoring junior faculty in one counselor education department.

If applicable, who were the participants, and what were they asked to do?

Five promotion/tenure-seeking faculty members (PTSFs) employed in the department at the time the article was written reviewed lists of mentorship examples and provided written feedback about their mentorship experiences. The five PTSFs also provided feedback about what worked well and what could be improved.

Major findings or points:

The authors developed a model of mentoring PTSFs based upon 10 basic principles developed by Sorcinelli (2000): communicate expectations for performance, give feedback on performance, enhance collegial review processes, create flexible timelines for tenure, encourage mentoring by senior faculty, extend mentoring and feedback to graduate students who aspire to be faculty members, recognize the department chair as a career sponsor, support teaching, support scholarly development, and foster a balance between professional and personal life. The authors identified the most salient mentoring activities that occurred in the Department and used these examples to illustrate the 10 principles. The PTSFs’ reactions to the mentoring experiences and suggestions for improvement were also provided.

Major caveats:

This mentoring program was implemented at a single university; other universities will have different needs and should alter the model accordingly. The authors describe some informal aspects of mentorship that are difficult to quantify and might be difficult to replicate.

What does this research mean for counseling practice, settings, and/or training?

This model is a useful framework for mentoring PTSFs in counselor education departments and can be modified to fit the unique culture of a university. Mentorship activities generate positive consequences for senior faculty and PTSFs. The authors encourage other counseling departments to develop and implement a clear mentoring plan, have frequent conversations about senior faculty involvement with mentoring, be flexible, and emphasize open communication.


counselor education, mentor, promotion, tenure

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Latest volume of Sexuality Counseling Guidebook by CED 691 students is available

Students in the Fall 2011 Sexuality Counseling course are pleased to present Volume VI of the Sexuality Counseling Guidebook, which focuses on the topic of "Good Sex." Topics included in the guidebook include attraction, positive sexual communication, spirituality, and sexual self-esteem, among others. This volume, along with the previous five volumes, can be downloaded from Dr. Murray's faculty web-page: Students in CED 691 this semester were: Jenifer Aronson, Elizabeth Doom, Paulina Flasch, Callie Gordon, Susan Henkel, Kate Jessup, Adam Kim, Jenna McGown, Bill Molen, Tom Peake, and Lindy Snyder

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tarasoff and Duty to Warn in North Carolina

Title of Study:

Tarasoff and Duty to Protect in North Carolina


A. Keith Mobley & Eugene Naughton, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Source (Journal name, date of publication):

North Carolina Counseling Association (2011)

What was the purpose of this research?

This conceptual article reviews the Tarasoff case and its implications for counselors practicing in the state of North Carolina. Implications for preventing and reacting to possible dangerous clients are discussed.

If applicable, who were the participants, and what were they asked to do?


Major findings or points:

The Tarasoff Decision provided the basis for the “duty to warn” clause found in the ACA Code of Ethics and many state statutes. However, the state of North Carolina has not always held up the “duty to warn” ethic, as demonstrated by a number of court cases reported in this article. In particular, prior case law has required that mental health providers protect the health of the public when a client is under their control in a mental health facility. However, LPC’s lack the authority to involuntarily commit or release a client on the bases of his/her propensity for violence.

Major caveats:

Where a lack of legal guidance in NC supports a “duty to warn,” ACA clearly states this ethic’s importance. The authors provide several points that might assist clinicians in making proactive and reactive choices. However, the authors to not provide a one-size fits all answer to solving ethical issues. In the end, the practitioner’s ability to protect himself or herself is up to the discretion of the counselor and is subject to North Carolina law that does not have a cut and dry solution in regard to the counselor’s “duty to warn.”

What does this research mean for counseling practice, settings, and/or training?

Counselor educators and counselors alike can benefit from reading the proactive and reactive guidance provided by the authors. The authors explain the importance of informed consent, knowing your client, being able to detect violent clients, creating a plan for when violent clients arise, and for aligning appropriate professionals for consultation and supervision. In addition, steps for reactive services are also included which include reminding and including the client in situations where confidentiality may be broken, develop a safety plan for all parties involved, positioning key supervisors and legal consultants to aid in the decision-making process, and maintaining accurate and up-to-date paperwork to fully protect one’s clients and ability to practice counseling.


Tarasoff; Ethics; ACA; North Carolina case law; Duty to Warn

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Acculturation and Psychosocial Adjustment of African Adolescent Refugees in the United States: The Role of Social Support

By Bellah Kiteki, PhD, LPC


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of social support in psychosocial adjustment of African adolescent refugees during resettlement in a host country. Though a link has been established among acculturation attitudes, social support, and psychosocial adjustment with adolescent refugees in new environments, these aspects have not been examined with African adolescent refugees in the United States. In the Multicultural Acculturation Model proposed by Kovacev and Shute (2004), social support (defined as the positive regard received or perceived from others) from parents and peers were found to be key determinants of psychosocial adjustment of adolescent refugees. Therefore, this study was designed to investigate the roles of parents and peers in the adjustment of African adolescent refugees in the U.S.


Participants were African adolescent refugees resettled in Greensboro and High Point in Guilford County, North Carolina. The adolescents had to have lived in the U.S. for at least one year and no more than ten years, be enrolled in school grades seven through twelve, and have basic understanding of English.

Data Collection Procedures

Participants were informed about the study through a formal presentation by the researcher. Details about the reason they were the target group were explained, the need for parental consent before participation (for those under 18 years) and assent, and each participant receiving $5 Wal-Mart gift card upon completion of all study measures. Time was allocated for participants to ask questions during the presentation. Signed copies of consent forms were returned after two weeks and all participants signed assent forms before they took the measures.


  1. Research Question 1. To investigate relationships among acculturation attitudes, social support, and psychosocial adjustment among African adolescent refugees. Relationships were found between social support and psychosocial adjustment. Parental support had a strong relationship with global self-worth and peer support had a strong relationship with peer social acceptance, respectively. Therefore, for African adolescent refugees in the sample, both parents and peers played an integral role in their adjustment in a new environment. With acculturation attitudes, a relationship was only found between peer support and integration but no relationship was found with assimilation (preference for mainstream/majority culture than original culture), separation (preference for original than mainstream/majority culture), and marginalization (no preference for mainstream/majority or original culture).
  2. Research Question 2. To examine which one of the four acculturation attitudes (integration, assimilation, separation, and marginalization) is the best predictor of psychosocial adjustment. Findings indicated that acculturation attitudes failed to predict psychosocial adjustment, that is, none of the four predictors significantly predicted psychosocial adjustment.
  3. Research Question 3. To examine which one between social support variables (parental and peer) is the best predictor of psychosocial adjustment. Results indicated that parental support was the best predictor of psychosocial adjustment followed by peer support.
  4. Research Question 4. To examine mean differences in psychosocial adjustment by gender and duration of time lived in the U.S. Results showed that duration of time spent in the U.S. positively impacted adolescents’ adjustment; the longer they lived in the U.S., the higher their psychosocial adjustment.


Findings in this study may not be generalized to African adolescent refugees in other parts of the U.S. due to the small sample size of participants. Participants in the study were selected from two mid-sized cities in the South East and may not be representative of adolescents resettled in other cities. Also, some countries of origin for participants were more highly represented than others, this difference in numbers also contributed to differences in some of the findings.


Community and school counselors working with African adolescent refugees need to be aware of the strong relationship between parental and peer support in the adjustment of adolescent refugees in a new environment. This knowledge will provide avenues of involvement and collaboratively working with parents either in schools or within the community to enhance positive adjustment of African adolescent refugees. Because of the importance of parents in their children’s adjustment from the study findings, counselors could involve parents as needed in the counseling sessions when working with African adolescent refugees.

Due to the integral role of peers in adolescents’ adjustment, school counselors and teachers could involve mainstream peers (as well as African adolescent refugees who have been in the U.S. for a longer period of time) by fostering peer relationships in helping those who may be relatively new arrivals during their adjustment. Adolescent refugees may be of great help to their peers who are new arrivals because they understand their backgrounds and some of the cultural issues they may have to deal with.

Additionally, community counselors need to be aware that differences in adjustment may arise between adolescents who are new arrivals and those who may have lived in the U.S. for a slightly longer period of time.

School personnel need to be aware of the important role of parents in passing on cultural values and heritage to their children. Therefore, they could involve parents in school activities that their children participate in during the school year. Setting aside days that are solely dedicated to cultural activities and events by students may be an avenue to involve parents in the activities of their children.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Research Summary: Promoting Counseling Students’ Advocacy Competencies through Service-Learning


Christine E. Murray (UNCG), Amber L. Pope (UNCG), and Clay Rowell (North Georgia College and State University)


Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, Fall 2010

The full-text of this article can be found at the following web-site:

The Purpose of this Study:

The researchers conducted an action research evaluation of a multi-class service-learning and advocacy project carried out in the UNCG Department of Counseling and Educational Development during the Fall 2008 semester. Through the “Your Sex Life, Your Career, Your Mental Health…Your Vote” ( project, students created policy guides relating to the 2008 Presidential election.

About the Participants:

Students in the doctoral-level career counseling class and the masters-level sexuality counseling class were invited to provide qualitative feedback about the project through five rounds of data collection. The participants were asked to describe the benefits and challenges they experienced through the service-learning project, their suggestions for improving the project, and the extent to which they thought that the assignment was a valuable learning experience.

Major findings:

  • Some of the benefits students reported receiving through the project included applying information from the courses to the “real world,” learning about public policies relevant to counseling, and increasing their skills in advocacy and their beliefs in the value of advocacy for the counseling profession.
  • The main challenges the students experienced included organizational challenges, finding meaning in the assignment, and feeling overwhelmed by it at times.
  • Some of the identified strategies for improving the project included linking it more closely to the rest of the course and addressing certain organizational and communication challenges.
  • Several students indicated that they believed the project was useful for learning, service, and developing new skills.

Major caveats:

Action evaluation studies are often carried out by researchers who are also instructors. However, this arrangement could have biased the researchers in their analysis and interpretation of the data. The researchers took steps to ensure that they would not know which students provided feedback, but students still may not have felt fully comfortable providing feedback knowing it would go back to their instructors. In addition, this project was carried out in one university, and certain course- or university-specific variables may make it difficult to generalize these findings to other institutions.

What does this research mean for counseling training?

The researchers offer several recommendations for counselor educators interested in incorporating similar service-learning advocacy projects into their courses. First, counselor educators should consider the unique development levels of their students to ensure that the assignment is suitable to their needs. Second, counselor educators should tie the project directly to other aspects of the course, such as readings and course discussions. Finally, counselor educators should be prepared to assist students stay organized and use their time effectively to ensure the success of the project.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Promoting Self-Esteem in Adolescents: The Influence of Wellness Factors

Jane E. Myers and José A. Villalba, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Counseling and Educational Development; John T. Willse, Universtiy of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Educational Research and Measurement
Journal of Counseling & Development, 89(1), 2011
What was the purpose of this research?
The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which wellness factors are predictive of components of self-esteem in adolescents.
Who were the participants, and what were they asked to do?
140 high school students from a private school in the Southeastern US participated in the study. Participants completed three online surveys: a demographics form, the Five Factor Wellness Inventory, and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventories-School Form.
Major findings:
The study findings support the original hypothesis that wellness factors are predictive of self-esteem in adolescents. Specifically, perceived ability to cope, perceived social support, and perceived creativity were found to be positively related to self-esteem. The Coping Self, one of the wellness factors from the Indivisible Self Wellness Model, was consistently related to all four components of self-esteem from the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, suggesting that it has the most effect on self-esteem.
Major caveats:
The study participants were recruited from a single private school, and it should not be assumed that the finding apply outside of that setting before follow up studies have been performed.
What does this research mean for counseling practice?
The study provides an indication of which areas of wellness are most salient in addressing adolescent self-esteem. Focusing interventions in areas of coping, social support, and creativity may be more helpful than interventions in other areas. The demonstrated link between self-esteem and academic performance may also provide leverage to school counselors in getting school administrations to support wellness counseling services.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Substance Abuse and Dependency Risk: The Role of Peer Perceptions, Marijuana Involvement, and Attitudes Toward Substance Use Among College Students


Todd F. Lewis & A. Keith Mobley, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Source (Journal name, date of publication):

Journal of Drug Education, 40(3), 2010

What was the purpose of this research?

To determine whether certain “risk profiles” of college students can distinguish between college students having low versus high potential for meeting criteria for a Substance Use Disorder.

If applicable, who were the participants, and what were they asked to do?

Participants included 78 (out of 116 referrals) college students recruited from the Substance Information Program from a North Carolina University across two academic years. Students were administered the Alcohol and Other Drug survey and the Substance Abuse Subtle Symptom Inventory for Adolescents-2 (SASSI-A-2).

Major findings or points:

Students who were more likely to meet criteria for a substance abuse disorder were more prone to misperceiving alcohol and marijuana norms than students less likely to be classified as meeting criteria for a substance abuse disorder. In particular, students who view marijuana as a norm was a strong indicator of high risk of meeting criteria for a substance abuse disorder. In addition, being male, a college student who endorsed substance use, and coming from a social system accepting of substance use indicated a higher probability of meeting criteria for a substance abuse disorder.

Major caveats:

Three-fourths of the sample was college freshmen. College freshmen may face unique challenges different than more seasoned college students that may influence different substance use behaviors (e.g., being in a novel setting, conforming to social norms, etc.). The sample size limited the researchers’ ability to measure the effects of socio-demographic variables. For example, the population was mostly white. With such a small sample size the researchers were unable to determine the effects of factors such as ethnicity in relationship to the variables in this study. More research is needed to determine the extent to which ethnically diverse clients experience social norms and substance use as they pertain to the propensity to abuse substances.

What does this research mean for counseling practice, settings, and/or training?

Practitioners might consider further assessing students on college campuses who both report using marijuana and who view peers as using marijuana, as these clients may be more at risk for abusing substances, including substances other than alcohol. College students who score high on measures of substance abuse probability (e.g., variables of the SASSI-A-2), may possess attitudes toward substance use that are difficult to impact. The authors recommend Motivational Interviewing as a way to decrease client resistance by addressing the pros/cons of substance use and gently highlighting discrepancies in behaviors and cognitions in regard to alcohol use and attitudes. Finally, the authors recommend campus programming that support psychoeducational groups to provide students with structure that provides a safe atmosphere and peer feedback to facilitate change.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Moral Commitment in Intimate Committed Relationships: A Conceputalization from Cohabiting Same-sex and Opposite-sex Partners."

Amber Pope, PhD, LPC, NCC

The purpose of this study was to operationalize the construct of moral commitment as consistent with Johnson's Tripartite Model of Commitment in samples of cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex partners. Moral commitment, the idea that one ought or feels obligated to stay in his/her relationship, is a central construct in Johnson's model which has not been defined in relationships outside of the marital context. This study intended to advance counselor's understanding of moral commitment in diverse intimate partnerships, and to continue to build on the research exploring the dimensions and determinants of commitment.

Participants were those who self-identified as having been in an intimate committed relationship with their partner for at least one year and who were currently cohabiting with their partner.

Data was collected in three steps as described below:
1.      Participants generated statements of moral commitment in response to the prompt: "I ought or feel obligated to stay in my relationship with my partner because..."
2.     Participants structured the statements generated in step one. Participants were asked to rate each statement of moral commitment based on how true it was to their experience to their relationship with their partner, and to sort the statements of moral commitment (which were printed onto small index cards) into piles based on similarity. The data in this step was analyzed to create conceptual maps of the statements of moral commitment generated by participants.
3.     Participants came to campus for focus groups to analyze and interpret the concept maps. Two focus groups were held, one for cohabiting same-sex partners (N =7) and one for cohabiting opposite-sex partners (N=6). Participants were presented with the conceptual maps and asked to determine groupings of statements of moral commitment (i.e., clusters). The participants then labeled each cluster to create the final cluster solution. Finally, the participants were asked to identify each cluster as being most descriptive of personal, moral, or structural commitment (i.e., the three dimensions of commitment as proposed by Johnson in his Tripartite Model).

Major findings:
·      Same-sex and opposite-sex partners’ typed at least one cluster in the final cluster solution as most descriptive of moral commitment, lending support to Johnson’s Tripartite Model.
·      Same-sex and opposite-sex partners conceived of clusters consistent with the person-specific obligation component of moral commitment, containing items descriptive of one’s obligation to one’s partner (i.e., “I ought to stay …because ending the relationship would hurt him or her.”).
·      Same-sex partners conceived of a cluster, “Generativity,” containing two items (i.e., “I ought to stay… because I want to have a child with him/her,” and “…because our relationship is a model for others in our social network.”) they described as related to values associated with same-sex relationship, whereas opposite-sex partners did not associate these two items with any cluster in their final cluster solution.
·      Same-sex and opposite-sex partners conceived of similar clusters of moral commitment, that they described containing statements (i.e., “I ought to stay… because I am committed to staying in our relationship;” “…because I believe most relationship problems can be worked out”) indicative of the values that keep them hopeful for a better future during relationship difficulties.


The results of the methodology should be used mainly for descriptive purposes and to inform future assessment strategies. The sample was mostly white, female, middle class, highly educated, and reported high relationships satisfaction, so generalizability of the results is limited.  The results of this study should not be considered comprehensive of all major variables impacting moral commitment.

Counselors need to be aware that the dimension of moral commitment may be a salient factor in enhancing the relationship stability and positivity in diverse types of intimate relationships. Clients' ideas of moral commitment may be influenced by external forces, such as religiosity or social pressure, and counselors should help clients deconstruct their values and beliefs. Counselors can help clients make personal decisions about moral commitment by locating the problem in the dominant culture vs. the individual. Social constructivist approaches to counseling, such as feminist therapy or solution-focused therapy, may be particularly suited to help clients examine their feelings of moral commitment. Both groups conceived of clusters of moral commitment that contained items describing values and beliefs that helped them stay hopeful during rough times in their relationships, thus counselors may want to assess for such beliefs and draw on them to increase positivity when their clients are experiencing relationship difficulties. Commitment seems to function similarly in cohabiting same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, but counselors need to remain aware of the unique social context in which these relationships are located. In particular, same-sex partners may feel an obligation to stay in their relationship to be a positive role model for other same-sex partnerships, and due to the effort and decision-making that goes into have children together in a same-sex relationship. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Personal, Relational, and Contextual Resources and Relationship Satisfaction in Same-Sex Couples

Title of Study:
Personal, Relational, and Contextual Resources and Relationship Satisfaction in Same-Sex Couples
Amber L. Pope, Christine E. Murray and A. Keith Mobley; University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The Family Journal, 18(2), 2010
What was the purpose of this research?
The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which personal, relational, and contextual resources affect positive relationship satisfaction with same-sex couples.
Who were the participants, and what were they asked to do?
This study’s 95 participants were individuals involved in same-sex intimate partnerships over the age of 18. Participants completed an on-line survey assessing their demographic backgrounds, the extent to which they received support from various personal, relationship, and contextual resources, and their levels of relationship satisfaction.
Major findings:
Participants that lived together with their partners reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction and more personal/relationship resources than those participants who were not living with their partners. Compared to heterosexual participants in previous studies, the participants in this study demonstrated greater variability in the perceived support they received from contextual resources, which may reflect that they have less support from their families-of-origin and seek support elsewhere. In addition, only relationship resources were found to contribute to relationship satisfaction, whereas previous studies with heterosexual participants suggested that both personal and relationship resources contributed to relationship satisfaction.
Major caveats:
The sample studied was out of convenience, which makes it difficult to apply the findings to persons outside of the study. In addition, all of the data were based on self-reported information, meaning that they could have been subject to participants wanting to respond in more socially desirable ways.
What does this research mean for counseling practice?
Counselors need to be aware that relationship resources can increase relationship satisfaction. Focusing on resources in counseling as opposed to deficits might help clients better meet their personal and relationship goals. In addition, counselors can focus on relationship resources that may contribute to the enhancement of both personal and contextual resources.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Power and Gender in the Supervisory Relationship

(Note: Doctoral students in CED 781a Counseling Supervision during Fall 2010 completed abbreviated literature reviews on a topic of individual interest. They wrote both a research summary and a summary for practitioners. Here, we present the summaries for practitioners. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions for future summaries. L. DiAnne Borders)

By Elizabeth Likis-Werle, MS, LPC
Researchers and practitioners agree that power is inherently present in supervision, that power plays an important part in the supervisory relationship, and that how power is experienced can affect relationship dynamics and professional growth. What is lacking is consistent information on exactly how power interacts with gender and is experienced by both supervisors and supervisees. Is there a difference in same sex vs. opposite sex dyads in supervisor perceptions or supervisee assertiveness? To what extent do other factors like personality, culture, and individual variables contribute to power and gender differences in supervision?
Because of gendered socialization over the years, women supervisors may be reluctant to claim power as within their capacity or may not be aware of their own personal power. Some women may use power but may be less willing to identify it, as it may be viewed as a less feminine trait. The agreement on what to call power is inconsistent across disciplines, which makes measuring it difficult. Though there are a few measurements that capture the essence of power language, they are outdated and use masculine-oriented terms. We need a more relational, female infusion of terms used to describe power such as influence, social power, interpersonal interactions, empowerment, and relational connection. It would serve the counseling and supervision fields more effectively if we could embrace the term power and acknowledge its contribution to the process. Then we could measure how power is truly used and experienced in therapeutic interactions and remove the stigma of women claiming themselves as powerful, help supervisees develop more fully.
Some of the obstacles in applying our knowledge of power dynamics are:
· The research on power in supervision has small sample sizes which may have been too small to show significance differences
· Many of the studies were more than 15-20 years old. In fact, the most cited study and one of the most comprehensive studies involving gender and power in supervision was published twenty years ago (Nelson & Holloway, 1990)
· There is also conflicting information about male and female preferences for what kinds of power they use. Some of the findings indicate that, though there are not differences in supervisor style based on gender, the language used in does supervision differ depending on the gender of the supervisee. Specifically, female supervisees were less likely to get support to assert themselves from both male and female supervisors and, when given the chance, female supervisees were more likely to defer power
The question remains that if practitioners across the fields of counseling, sociology, communication, management, psychology, and social work agree theoretically and conceptually that power differentials exist and that gender plays a role in this, how then do we make progress to address the needs of female supervisees? Here are some tips for supervisors:
· Supervisors need to increase awareness of their biases around females.
· Adapt more collaborative language and style to empower female trainees in supervision.
· Become familiar with feminist supervision models to help address power imbalances.
· Recognize the need for connection and intimacy as a significant part in fostering development and growth in female supervisees.
· Check out Szymanski's (2005) Feminist Supervision Scale addressing the gender and power differentials in supervision.

For further reading, see:

Falender, C. A. (2010). Relationship and accountability: Tensions in feminist supervision.
Women & Therapy, 33, 2-41.
McHale, E., & Carr, A. (1998). The effect of supervisor and trainee therapist gender on supervision discourse. Journal of Family Therapy, 20, 395-411.

Nelson, M. L. (1997). An interactive model for empowering women in supervision. Counselor Education & Supervision, 37, 125-139.

Nelson, M. L., & Holloway, E. L. (1990). Relation of gender to power and involvement in supervision. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 37, 473-480.

Szymanski, D. M. (2005). The Feminist Supervision Scale: A rational/theoretical approach. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27, 221-232.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gender and Supervision

(Note: Doctoral students in CED 781a Counseling Supervision during Fall 2010 completed abbreviated literature reviews on a topic of individual interest. They wrote both a research summary and a summary for practitioners. Here, we present the summaries for practitioners. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions for future summaries. L. DiAnne Borders)

By Lori Notestine

When many of us think about supervision, we think about how best to improve the counseling skills of our supervisees and how to help grow their skills as clinicians. The many things that run through our minds include building a relationship, giving constructive feedback, being supportive and challenging, and providing a space for growth. What may not be on our minds as we prepare for and provide supervision is the effect of gender on the interaction between the supervisor and supervisee.

Gender, primarily that of the supervisee, has been shown in numerous studies to have some effect on supervision. Although many other factors are often at play, gender has been shown to have an effect on supervision in the following ways:

  • Communication style and messages are the most prevalent differences.
  • Males have more task oriented speech.
  • Female supervisees ask for more opinions, analyses, and evaluations of their work.
  • Males ask for more suggestions from supervisors.
  • Females are significantly more likely to have their suggestions built on or accepted.
  • Males are encouraged to send more high-power messages than are female supervisees.
  • Males perceive supervisor/supervisee relationships as better.
  • Females give more praise and supportive comments to supervisors of both sexes than do male supervisees.

Implications for Practice

When it comes to identifying ways to include the topic of gender in supervision, it can be difficult to think about how to address this matter directly. In a study examining the effects of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in supervision, Gatmon, Jackson, Koshkarian, Martos-Perry, Molina, and Patel (2001) identified one crucial aspect to consider when thinking about these issues within supervision. These researchers suggested that addressing these issues in a positive manner within supervision, whether the issues were specifically related to the supervisor, the supervisee, or the client, was critical to positive outcomes. The authors also noted that addressing these issues in a discriminatory or prejudicial way had negative effects on supervisory outcomes.

Some tips for discussing gender within supervision and addressing other gender related issues include the following:

  • Use a developmental model of supervision and address issues within the context of the supervisee’s developmental level. For example, Bernard’s Discrimination Model may be used to facilitate growth in supervisees through interacting as a teacher, counselor, and consultant. A supervisee in the early stages of development may need the supervisor to fill a more concrete teaching role, whereas a more advanced supervisee may require the supervisor to be more of a consultant.
  • Be sensitive to the effects of power differentials on supervisees.
  • Use gender fair practices.
  • Be appreciative of and celebrate both feminine and masculine characteristics.
  • Be vigilant of any ways that gender may impact and/or influence the supervisory relationship.
  • Monitor interactions with supervisees to avoid any unintentional gender biases.
  • Attend to the dynamics of interactions with both male and female supervisees and develop effective strategies for encouraging the development of supervisees’ professional identity.
  • Finally, when you have a supervisee who is of a different gender (or culturally different in any way), be sure to address these potential issues early in the supervisory relationship.

For Further Reading

*Most recommended for supervisor practitioners

*Gatmon, D., Jackson, D., Koshkarian, L., Martos-Perry, N., Molina, A., Patel, N. et al. (2001). Exploring ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation variables in supervision: Do they really matter? Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 29, 102-13.

*Granello, D. (2003). Influence strategies in the supervisory dyad: An investigation into the effects of gender and age. Counselor Education and Supervision, 42, 189-202.

*Nelson, M., & Holloway, E. (1990). Relation of gender to power and involvement in supervision. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 37, 473-81.

Paisley, P., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services. (1994). Gender issues in supervision.

Sells, J., Goodyear, R., Lichtenberg, J., & Polkinghorne, D. (1997). Relationship of supervisor and trainee gender to in-session verbal behavior and ratings of trainee skills. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 406-412. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.44.4.406.

Vonk, M., & And, O. (1996). Female MSW students' satisfaction with practicum supervision: The effect of supervisor gender. Journal of Social Work Education, 32, 415-19.

*Walker, J., Ladany, N., & Pate-Carolan, L. (2007). Gender-related events in psychotherapy supervision: Female trainee perspectives. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 7, 12-18.

Worthington, E., & Stern, A. (1985). Effects of supervisor and supervisee degree level and gender on the supervisory relationship. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32, 252-262. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.32.2.252.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cognitive Complexity for Clinical Supervisors

(Note: Doctoral students in CED 781a Counseling Supervision during Fall 2010 completed abbreviated literature reviews on a topic of individual interest. They wrote both a research summary and a summary for practitioners. Here, we present the summaries for practitioners. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions for future summaries. L. DiAnne Borders)

By Laura Shannonhouse

Researchers indicate that counseling students with higher levels of cognitive complexity (CC) are able to take multiple perspectives, apply counseling skills more effectively, reflect more deeply on their own thinking, and recognize their own limitations. Cognitively complex counselors remain objective, accept client ideas, encourage exploration, have more confidence, tolerate ambiguity, avoid stereotyping, describe their clients in interactional terms, and form more complex case conceptualizations. Since CC is important for practitioners to consider both for the sake of the supervisees and in their own work, some practical knowledge about CC is provided.

Though CC is defined in various ways, there is consensus that there are concrete clinical gains associated with increases in CC. Granello (2010) described cognitive complexity as “the ability to absorb, integrate and make use of multiple perspectives.” Since CC tends to be domain specific (an individual may be able to think more complexly about some topics than others), it is vital for counselors supervising others’ development to become familiar with how higher (or lower) levels of CC manifest in one’s counseling if they are to effectively mentor.

CC tends to increase during counselor training, and supervisors can take steps to assess their supervisees’ current CC in order to present experiences which can foster that growth. Owen and Lindley (2010) presented sample questions that may be used in supervision to assess and promote various aspects of CC. Their paradigm incorporates three major aspects that should be developed: identification of session activities (understanding what is going on), metacognitions (reflecting on and evaluating the counseling relationship), and epistemic cognitions (views on knowledge). For practitioners, the underlying theme is one of intentionality in understanding one’s supervisees and in selecting methods to encourage their growth. Malikiosi-Loizos and colleagues reported that specific supervisory approaches work more effectively with counselors in different levels of CC.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives has been used to foster CC development. Incorporating this ubiquitous educational theory enables supervisors to include questions and interventions that target CC in their supervisees. Granello and Underfer-Babalis (2004) stated that minimal training is required to understand the interventions used at each stage; supervisors can quickly understand this model and the intuitive nature is often appealing. Many of the applications are specifically tailored for group supervision. Practitioners should note that those who have used Bloom’s taxonomy for group supervision report an increased awareness of the need to attend to their own cognitive development.

There is also an argument that pre-existing characteristics position counselor trainees to develop higher order levels of thinking faster. Supervisors should recognize and foster the following: drawing upon accumulated experiences, taking multiple perspectives, and valuing ambiguity along with specific counseling techniques and the general wellness of their supervisees. Researchers have indicated that counseling experience, supervisory experience, counselor education experience, and higher degrees all contribute to one’s level of CC. Of personal significance to practitioners, Granello (2010) reported “how counselors think changes with experience.” Specifically, there appears to be a shift in practitioner CC between 5-10 and greater than 10 years of experience. Awareness of this pattern when observing colleagues and during one’s own career journey should help a practitioner’s personal development of CC.

CC, while a difficult construct to measure, is an important way to conceptualize the cognitive domain of counselor development (and has implications for the emotional and relational domains as well). The articles listed below contain several models of CC development, some of which can easily be implemented in supervisory contexts.

Recommended Readings for Practitioners:

Granello, D. H. (2010). Cognitive complexity among practicing counselors: How thinking changes with experience. Journal of Counseling and Development, 88, 92-100.

Granello, D. H., & Underfer-Babalis, J. (2004). Supervision of group work: A model to increase supervisee cognitive complexity. Journal of Specialists in Group Work, 29, 159-173.

Jennings, L., & Skovholt, T. (1999). The cognitive emotional, and relational characteristics of master therapists. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46, 3-11.

Malikiosi-Loizos, M., Gold, J., Mehnert, W., & Work, G. (1981). Differential supervision and cognitive structure effects on empathy and counseling effectiveness. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 4, 119-129.

Owen, J. & Lindley, L. D. (2010). Therapists’ cognitive complexity: Review of theoretical models and development of an integrated approach for training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 4, 128-137.