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The purpose of Educational Counseling in Higher Education - Part 1

Updated on May 6, 2015

Owing to the advantage of psychometric technologies, post-World War II psychologists were able to form a vision for the college counseling center where college students would have access to educational-vocational counseling and personal adjustment counseling services after it was a prewar remit of mental hygiene clinics.

A combination as such aimed at helping students “make more satisfactory educational and career decisions”, and resolve “typical life problems” (McCarthy, 2014, p. 1). The innovation was nevertheless a bone of contention among psychologists. Carl Rogers was suspicious of the combination due to the fac that the interpretation of the tests “transformed therapists into directive authorities” and “made clients defensive and less inclined to make and act on their own growth-enhancing insights” (p. 8). Rogers’ argument points to an overreliance on quantitative measures that compromise the validity of the data collected by counselors from their clients. The approach was considered to be unable capture the variables underlying students’ life problems. The crux of the matter was therefore to engage in building collaborative relationships for an in-depth understanding of the social variables that have a bearing on their academic achievement and personal growth and development.

The emphasis on collaboration in counseling is highlighted in the 20/20: a vision for the future of counseling; an initiative that aims at planning the future of counseling. Therein, counseling is defined as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (Kaplan et al, 2013, p. 368).

The purpose of 20/20 was not to critique or reconcile previous definitions, but to provide a concise and lucid one that could be understood by the wider audience without a background in counseling. The fact that 29 counseling associations out of 31 reached a consensus on the aforementioned definition was unprecedented in the recent history of the counseling profession. This implied an agreement on what counseling is and what counselors do. After the 20/20 initiative, the modus vivendi and modus operandi of the profession emanates from its aggregate leadership and not from external parties that wish to limit or define the activities of counselors. While the definition is pithy, it is also inclusive and connotes a professional relationship based on collaboration that foregrounds the empowerment of diverse individuals to live a meaningful and healthy life.

Evidence from the literature indicates an increase in psychological problems amongst college students which culminate in a soaring demand for counseling services. Statistics show that there was a 40% increase in the use of counseling services at the University of Columbia since 1995, 50% at MIT between 1995 and 2000, 48% at the State University of New York increase over the last between 2000 and 2003; and a 55% increase at University of Cincinnati between 1997 and 2003 (Kitzrow, 2003). According to recent statistics (Gallagher, 2011, cited in Pompeo et al, 2013) 10.6% of college students were seeking counseling at their campus counseling Center compared to 9% in 2008 (Gallagher, 2008, cited in Pompeo et al, 2013). Moreover 95% of college counseling directors reported a surge in the number of students having severe psychological problems.


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