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.