When you hear the title, “school counselor,” you might think of someone who makes student schedule changes and hands out college applications. While school counselors are responsible for scheduling and post-graduation guidance, they do a lot more than that. Per the American School Counselor Association (ASCA): “school counselors are certified/ licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling, making them uniquely qualified to address all students’ academic, career and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success.”

Not only has the role of school counselor grown, so has the need for school counselors across the country. The ASCA recommends a ratio of 1 school counselor to every 250 students. As of 2014, there were only 3 states in the U.S. that met that recommendation, with the majority of states well over a ratio of 1:400. In Colorado, the ratio was 1:395.

School districts and states across the country have taken notice of the deficit in school counseling, and many have made funding available in an attempt to fix the problem. Since 2008, Colorado has allocated over $13 million through the School Counselor Corps Grant Program (SCCGP) to secondary schools and school districts with particularly high dropout rates and low graduation rates to increase the amount of school counselors and counseling opportunities for their students.

In 2015, the U.S Department of Education awarded over $24.8 million in grants for 67 school districts across 26 states for school counseling and school mental health services. In late 2016 in Indiana, Lilly Endowment Inc. issued a request for proposals from schools in need of counseling resources, and will potentially award up to $30 million in funding across the state to hire more counselors and improve school counseling services.

What does this mean for jobs in school counseling? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 22,500 new jobs in the field, and an 8% growth overall by 2024. How can you prepare yourself for a job in school counseling? You need a Master’s degree in school counseling, which you can earn here at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver in our Counseling Psychology Master of Arts program. Our program prepares students for the School Counselor License in Colorado through the Colorado Department of Education, and allows you to work as a school counselor for children and young adults (up to age 21). Through this degree program, students have the opportunity to take interdisciplinary coursework in the areas of counseling and child development, and to complete a supervised practicum and internship in a school setting.

March 3rd, 2017 – One of my favorite teaching texts is a short quote from Terry and Renny Russell, two brothers who came of age exploring the canyons and rivers of the desert southwest. In their book On The Loose they write: “One of the best-paying professions is getting ahold of pieces of country in your mind, learning their smell and their moods… It feels good to say ‘I know the Sierra’ or ‘I know Point Reyes.’ But of course you don’t—what you know better is yourself, and Point Reyes and the Sierra have helped”.

My personal interests and educational background is grounded in the natural sciences so the brother’s reference to “pieces of country” resonates with my academic and lived experience. The natural world, ecological processes, and nature-based metaphors are important sense making strategies in my teaching. When I walk into a classroom with the eyes of a naturalist I’m often looking for interconnections, patterns, unique contributions of individuals, and shifting centers of generative energy; for me the components of a vibrant classroom ecology.

In the field of curriculum studies Christy Moroye calls the similarities between the inner dispositions of the teacher and the external curriculum of texts, assignments, and assessment the “complimentary curriculum”. In essence, the heart of the teacher and the pedagogical space are one and the same, which creates an authenticity that students sense and are drawn to. There is little difference, except location, between my curiosities about the natural world and my observations of interconnected learning in a college classroom. I don’t intend to reduce student and teacher behavior in the classroom to the scientific and mechanistic metaphor of ecology; that would not do justice to the complexity of deep learning as faculty and students mutually interrogate a text, and each other, as they form and sharpen their instructional relationship.

To paraphrase the Russell brothers, it feels good to say that I know the classroom or I know my students. This type of pedagogical knowing is contingent on a sort of deep observational intimacy similar to the way the brothers learned to read and respond to the land they were traveling through. In the classroom this close read of learners is essential to effective teaching as faculty adjust, revamp, and retool their curriculum and instructional style to more effectively match their instructional intentions to the varied learning needs of students. But as the opening quote suggests, knowing the classroom is only half of the story. The rest of the narrative is the process by which deep observation and instructional intimacy changes the self-perception of the teacher.

Teachers teach with the hope of changing students intellectually and emotionally but change can and does happen both ways; at the end of a class the teacher is changed commensurate with her level of deep engagement with students. Again paraphrasing Terry and Renny Russell, it feels good to say that I know the classroom or I know my students. But of course I don’t—what I know better is my teaching self and my students have helped.

Last month Jonah Li., one of our talented Counseling Psychology grad students, presented “Building Rapport Across Cultures.”
at the 2017  DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS). In his presentation Jonah discussed a perception-changing counseling experience that he had with a challenging client.

Researcher: Jonah is a master’s student in Morgridge College of Education’s Counseling Psychology program.

Current Research: My research interest is in using positive psychological interventions and spirituality to build resilience and promote well-being among diverse clients and ethnic minorities, including international students and Asian students, in the lens of multicultural counseling.

My current research mainly falls into two areas: positive psychology and multicultural counseling. For positive psychology, I aim at building resilience and promoting well-being for clients in face of difficulties. One representative research, which is my master’s thesis, is exploring the moderating roles of subjective happiness and meaning in life on the relationship between perceived stress and well-being and distress. For multicultural counseling, I aim to discover strengths, positive experiences, quality of life  promotion, and quality relationship promotion among diverse clients, including LGBT clients, college students, international students, patients with Parkinson’s disease, couples etc.

Collaborators: To achieve the above research directives I work with Dr. Chao, Dr. McRae, and Dr. Owen and their research teams. While working with them I have had the opportunity to learn more about the life stories of minority groups.

DURAPS Presentation: My presentation covers a counseling experience that I had while working as a clinic counselor during the 2016 fall quarter. I was a year and a half into my master’s program when I met a middle-aged Caucasian male client who was dealing with problematic gambling behaviors and romantic relationship concerns. During our first two sessions I faced challenges in building rapport with my client in terms of my age and counseling competence. I am an international student originally from Hong Kong and also dealt with some challenges relating to my racial identity. During our sessions I heard responses like

“That movie I watched was really inspiring…oh sorry! I forgot to tell you that you were not even born that time!”
…and
“I have seen different therapists, including useful therapists and useless therapists…”

To face these challenges I used unconditional positive regard and showed a caring attitude toward my client. Concurrently, I calmed myself and tried to work with my client by exploring his gambling issues and investigating the pros and cons of his behavior. From there, my client gradually built more trust in me, feeling that my work had a positive impact on his process. He even started asking for my opinion about his problems. In later sessions, I initiated cultural dialogues and showed my humility, asking questions like

“how would my cultural identity play a role in our relationship?”
and
“you may know more about that than me. Tell me about your experience about that.”

These questions helped further address our cultural differences and helped me build rapport with my client. Finally, my client provided positive comments about my work and requested that I be his counselor for the next quarter. The whole clinic team witnessed the difference of our rapport and the client’s perception towards me, which was a really encouraging experience in my counseling practice.

Research Advice:

Think critically. This is the most important part of doing the research, in terms of research questions, designs, methods, analyses, and writing the results. You may not want to ask the repeated questions that were addressed by other researchers or not significant in the literature or practical in society, but they are incredibly important. Thinking critically helps form a good research question and generates a quality research study.

Want to present your research at DURAPS? GSG welcomes complete or work-in-progress submissions. Be sure to submit your abstract by 2/27!

Second year Ph.D candidate, Brooke Lamphere, has a long history with the University of Denver (DU). In 2010 she completed her Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Sociology and Psychology. She then went on to complete her Master of Arts in Sports and Performance Psychology through the Graduate School of Professional Psychology here at DU in 2013. As a DU Alumna and second year Ph.D student in the Counseling Psychology program, Brooke knows and appreciates the connections the university makes within the greater Denver community. Connections that support marginalized and underrepresented populations, which she cites as a major factor in her decision to continue her education here. Brooke highly values the support received from faculty who encourage her to personalize and take ownership of her degree at DU. Her positive experiences in her undergraduate and Master’s programs at the university, combined with the emphasis on collaboration over competition in Morgridge, made it easy for her to choose the Counseling Psychology program for her doctoral work.

Brooke was first attracted to the field of counseling psychology based on her wide interest about the human condition, and her specific interests in strengths-based approaches to treatment, social justice, and multiculturalism in the field. She also likes being able to combine her interest and experience in sport, health, and positive psychology under one discipline. She loves the environment of working and studying in a university, and hopes to pursue a career in academia, both in research and teaching.

Brooke has had some interesting and eye-opening experiences in her clinical training thus far. She currently works as a psychology graduate student trainee at AF Williams Family Medicine Clinic, where she works with a diverse client-base present with a wide variety of physical and mental health issues. AF Williams Family Medicine works under an integrated healthcare model, in which all aspects of physical and mental health can be addressed by a collaborative team under one roof.  Brooke also has experience working with Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Health Hospital programs for adults with eating disorders, and other comorbid mental and physical health issues. This experience has broadened Brooke’s perspective, both personally and professionally, and reminded her to practice consistent self-care and self-compassion.

Brooke is very actively involved in research teams in the department, and has co-authored several manuscripts, one of which was recently accepted into the Journal of Health Psychology. She has completed extensive work with Dr. Trisha Raque-Bogdan on the psychology of cancer survivorship and the utility of self-compassion. She also works with the Marsico Institute lab on their Early Learning Trajectories team, and as a team member in Dr. Jesse Owen’s Relationships and Psychotherapy research lab.

For prospective students who are looking for a counseling psychology graduate program, Brooke recommends not only finding a fit with research interests and career goals, but selecting a program that aligns with your personal and professional value system. Brooke feels that the Morgridge College of Education and the University of Denver create opportunities to work collaboratively toward our goals of fostering an inclusive and socially just academic environment that respects and honors diversity in experience, interest, and identity.


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