Kent State University
Western Michigan University
The purpose of this study was to explore how doctoral students are monitored while supervising master's level students during pre-practicum and practicum courses. Empirical evidence was obtained through a survey indicating how counselor education programs utilize doctoral students and implications for counselor education, the counseling profession in general are discussed.
The Use of Doctoral Students in Counseling Techniques and Practicum Courses:
A Study of CACREP Programs
Faculty in doctoral programs often uses doctoral students to supervise master's level students during theories and techniques labs, courses and practicum. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) justifies the use of doctoral students to supervise master's level counselor-trainees in its 2001 standards. In relation to individual and group practicum, CACREP standards specifically stated that student supervisors must have "(1) completed practicum and internship experiences equivalent to those within the entry-level program; (2) completed or are receiving training in counseling supervision; and (3) are themselves supervised by program faculty with a faculty/student ratio of 1:5” (CACREP, 1994 - Section III. B. 1-3; and CACREP, 2001 - Section III. B. 1-3).
Programs are also required to provide curricular experiences and theory of counselor supervision (Section II.C.2), as well as opportunities for doctoral students to collaborate with faculty in supervision (Section II.E.). Many interpret this last standard as allowing doctoral students to provide supervision to master's level counselor-trainees (West, Bubenzer, Brooks, & Hackney, 1995).
Even though CACREP standards state that doctoral students can be used to supervise master's students, the procedures for preparing doctoral students for such experiences are left primarily to individual counseling programs. This lack of procedures is particularly crucial since the majority of CACREP counseling programs expect master's level practicum trainees to be competent in basic attending skills, case documentation, and working with diverse populations (Bradley & Fiorini, 1999). Without such procedures, some master's level supervisees' may be receiving inadequate supervision that could lead to possible client harm. A uniform training model may be needed to ensure that all doctoral students have the ability to prepare competent master's students.
A 2003 review of the counseling literature produced virtually no articles or research on the supervision activities of doctoral students assigned to master level counseling techniques and practicum courses. Hence, the purpose of this study was to examine the use of doctoral students in supervising master's level students. More specifically this study explored the prevalence of doctoral student supervision of master's level students enrolled in counseling techniques and practicum courses, the prerequisites of doctoral students to beginning supervision with master's students, and the monitoring process. This in turn, may provide a framework for implementing CACREP (2001) standards regarding doctoral student supervisory responsibilities. The three research questions that guided this study are as follows:
1. What doctoral courses and experiences are required before students begin supervising master's level students?
2. How are doctoral students monitored when they are supervising master's level students?
3. How often do faculty meet with their doctoral students who are engaged in master's level supervision?
At the time of this investigation, CACREP had a total of 39 accredited doctoral programs. The selected population of this study included all CACREP accredited doctoral programs except the institution that is affiliated with the authors (N=38). Since CACREP counseling programs are required to have a department liaison, each liaison from these 38 institutions was selected to respond to our survey.
A questionnaire titled Doctoral Students Supervision / Facilitation Survey was utilized (See Appendix). This survey was designed by the authors to obtain descriptive information about the use of doctoral students who supervise master's level students. CACREP liaisons were initially asked if their doctoral students supervised master's level students and in what capacity. If their doctoral students did provide such supervision, the liaisons were asked to indicate what course work and experiences are required before the doctoral students begin supervising. Lastly, this survey inquired about the monitoring practices of the doctoral supervisors.
Three counselor educators, with at least four years of experience, and who all had taught doctoral students in counselor education, evaluated the instrument for face validity, readability, and clarity. These counselor educators suggested that video conferencing could be added to question four that asks “how are your doctoral students monitored when they are supervising master's student?” The suggestion was added in the final version of the instrument.
A survey, cover letter, and return stamped envelope were mailed to the CACREP liaisons at each of the 38 CACREP-accredited doctoral programs. Each liaison was asked to complete and return the Doctoral Students Supervision / Facilitation Survey. A second postal mailing was sent to non-respondents six weeks later. Twenty-nine of the 38 surveys (76.3%) were obtained after the second mailing and used for this study. Respondents represented the five geographic regions recognized by the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES).
The results of the Doctoral Students Supervision / Facilitation Survey showed that 96.6% of the returned surveys used doctoral students in a supervisory capacity with master's level students. The majority of programs (93.1%) used doctoral students to provide supervision for master's level practicum, while 65.5% of the programs surveyed used doctoral students to provide supervision for master's level theories and techniques labs / courses.
What Doctoral Courses and Experiences are Required Before Students Begin Supervising Master's Level Students?
Table 1 provides a summary of the percentages of doctoral CACREP accredited programs that required each of the CACREP core content/clinical areas as a prerequisite to supervision. Table 1 shows 96.6% of the programs indicated that a course in counselor supervision was required before doctoral students begin supervising master's level students. Slightly over half (58.6%) of the programs required a course in advanced counseling theory and a doctoral level practicum (65.5%). The least common content/clinical areas required were doctoral internship (37.9%), advanced group dynamics (31%) and doctoral residency (24.1%). The results also revealed that some institutions stressed experiential factors before allowing doctoral students to engage in supervising master's level students. The majority of programs (65.5%) required post-master's clinical counseling experience and experience in being a counselor supervisor (62.1%) before doctoral students could engage in supervision. Only 24.1% of the programs surveyed indicated that professional counselor licensure was needed before supervising master's level students. One program (3.2%) stated that doctoral students were required to undergo personal counseling before supervising other students.
How Are Doctoral Students Monitored When They Are Supervising Master's Level Students?
Table 2 indicated that the majority of doctoral students are monitored through face-to-face group meetings with faculty (89.7%) and face-to-face individual meetings with faculty (82.8%). Written reports were found as monitoring practices in 48.3% of the institutions. Findings also indicated that various modes of technology were used as monitoring practices of doctoral students engaging in supervision (i.e., e-mail [31.0%], telephone conversations [27.6%], and video conferencing [17.2%]).
How Often Are Faculty Meeting With Their Doctoral Students Who Are Engaged In Master's Level Supervision?
Table 3 revealed that 79.3% of faculty meet with their doctoral students who are supervising master's students weekly. Only 3.4% meet with students twice a term and 17.2% meet with students two times a week.
This study has provided a description of the use of doctoral students in counseling supervision. Findings indicated a high use of doctoral students to supervise master's level practicum students. Also of interest was that slightly more than half of counseling programs retain doctoral students to supervise master's students in counseling procedure courses. Given that counseling techniques courses provide master's students opportunities to practice their skills through role-plays and other experiential exercises; doctoral students are able to engage in supervision activities without subjecting "real clients" to undue harm. Moreover, using doctoral students in this capacity can serve as a screening device in identifying supervisory limitations or weaknesses among doctoral supervisors before they enter into supervisory relationships with practicum students. A possible explanation for this finding is that some counseling programs may not have a sufficient number of doctoral students to be used for practicum and the counseling procedures courses. Since CACREP (1994) standards require that practicum students receive weekly individual and/or triad and group supervision, priority may be given to the practicum course.
CACREP liaisons of counselor education doctoral programs also seem to be in agreement that a supervision course should be required before supervising master's students. However, what is not known is exactly what information is being disseminated to doctoral students in regards to supervision models, multicultural supervision, etc. Bradley and Fiorini (1999) found that faculty rely heavily on feedback from on-campus clinical supervisors to monitor student progress in practicum. If doctoral students are used in this capacity, other advanced training courses may also need to be a priority in preparing doctoral students in the monitoring and assessment of practicum supervisees.
Another noteworthy finding that arose from this study was that only 31% of the counselor education programs surveyed required doctoral students to have taken a course in Advanced Group Dynamics. CACREP (2001) standards state students must have "forty hours of direct work with clients, including experience in individual and group work" (Section III. G. 1.). In addition, CACREP (2001) standards do not specify that a master's level internship must include direct work; rather, it states that "the internship provides an opportunity for the student to perform, under supervision, a variety of counseling activities that a professional counselor is expected to perform" (Section III. G.) with "240 hours of direct service with clients appropriate to the program of study" (Section III. G. 1.).
Many times the master's level practicum, adhering to CACREP (1994) standards, may only include 20% group work, which is only 10 hours of direct counseling work. Therefore, with only 31% of the counselor education programs requiring an Advanced Group Dynamics course of students who supervise master's level students in practicum, doctoral students may not adequately be able to address group issues with their practicum supervisees.
Also of interest was the finding that only one program required their doctoral students to undergo personal counseling before supervising master's students. One interpretation of this finding could be that some doctoral programs may rely on master's training programs to address personal growth issues. However, this could also underscore the continued reluctance of counseling programs to include personal counseling in preparing effective counseling professionals in general and competent clinical supervisors in particular. Current literature indicates that although course content and experiential learning are important aspects of counselor training, personal counseling is often necessary for self-exploration and self awareness (Corey, 2000). If doctoral student supervisors do not address their “unfinished business” prior to assuming supervision responsibilities, they may project these issues unto their supervisees, which would ethically or possibly legally interfere with the supervisory relationship.
Lastly, the majority of the monitoring practices of doctoral students lie in face-to-face group meetings (89.7%) and face-to-face individual meetings (82.8%). The supervision seems to take place mostly on a weekly basis (79.3%). Technological advances such as e-mail and video conferencing were not practiced more heavily; especially with the CACREP (2001) standards stating that "technological competence and computer literacy" be included within the Professional Identity common core curriculum area (CACREP, 2001 - Section II. K. 1. c.). It is the author's assumption that the future of counselor education may incorporate more modes of technology in monitoring students due to advances in technology, accessibility of software applications, and cost effectiveness of technological tools.
This study found that doctoral students are often used to supervise master's level students either in theories and techniques courses/labs and/or during practicum. According to the authors, the best-case scenario appears to be doctoral students who are clinically experienced, have undergone doctoral education in supervision, group, and individual dynamics, and are closely monitored. The worst-case scenario is doctoral students who have recently begun a doctoral program, have only experienced clinical work during their master's level practicum and internship, and are infrequently monitored. The fact is that there are both cases happening today while still adhering to CACREP standards.
Implications of this study result in counselor education programs examining their doctoral students in terms of competencies for supervision. The job of the counselor education profession is not only to maintain minimum standards of practice, but also to ensure the highest quality of training for students. A reevaluation of the use of doctoral students in counselor education programs is in the best interest of the future of the profession and provides protection against legal and ethical implications.
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Doctoral Students Supervision / Facilitation Survey
Please complete the following questions pertaining to your counselor education program and its use of doctoral students in supervision.
1) Do your doctoral students provide supervision for
master's level students? _____Yes _____ No
If so, in what capacity do your doctoral students supervise master's level students?
_____ Provide supervision for master's level Practicum
_____ Provide supervision for master's level theories and techniques lab / course
If you checked YES to any of the above, please continue.
2) Check what doctoral courses are required before your doctoral students begin this supervision (Please place a "P" to indicate that the course is required prior to supervision or place a "D" to indicate that the course can be taken during supervision):
_____ Counselor Supervision _____ Advanced Counseling Theory
_____ Doctoral Residency _____ Advanced Group Dynamics
_____ Doctoral level Practicum _____ Doctoral level Internship
3) Check what experiences are required for doctoral students to supervise master's students (Please place a "P" to indicate that the experience is required prior to supervision or place a "D" to indicate that the experience can be fulfilled during supervision):
_____ Undergone personal counseling
_____ Post Masters clinical counseling experience
_____ Experience in being a counselor supervisor
_____ Professional counselor licensure
4) How are your doctoral students monitored when they are supervising masters students?
_____ Face to face individual meeting _____ Telephone conversation
_____ Face to face group meeting _____ Written report
_____ E-mail _____ Video conferencing
5) Check when during the semester (if any) do you meet with the doctoral students who are engaged in master's level supervision?
_____ 1 time a term _____ 2 times a month
_____ 2 times a term _____ Weekly
_____ Monthly _____ 2 times a week
6) Indicate if there is there any other monitoring of these doctoral students by the professors:
7) Has a doctoral student been dismissed from your program
based on their inabilities to supervise master's students? _____ Yes _____ No
a) Check how often does this refusal occurs:
_____ Every 4 years or more _____ Every 2 years
_____ Every 3 years _____ Yearly
b) Check for what reason(s) this refusal occurs:
_____ Academic problems _____ Knowledge deficiencies
_____ Behavioral / Emotional issues _____ Problems with basic
Thank you for your time and cooperation in our study!
Prerequisite Courses and Experiences for Supervision of Master's Level Students (N=29)
Frequency of Responses
Monitoring Method N %
Counselor Supervision 28 96.6%
Advanced Counseling Theory 17 58.6%
Advanced Group Dynamics 09 31.0%
Clinical Program Components
Doctoral Level Practicum 19 65.5%
Doctoral Level Internship 11 37.9%
Doctoral Level Residency 07 24.1%
Post-Master's Clinical Counseling Experience 19 65.5%
Experience in Being a Counselor Supervisor 18 62.1%
Professional Counselor Licensure 07 24.1%
Undergo Personal Counseling 01 03.2%
Methods of Monitoring Doctoral Students' Supervision (N=29)
Frequency of Responses
Monitoring Methods N %
Face-to-face group meetings 26 89.7%
Face-to-face individual meetings 24 82.8%
Written reports 14 48.3%
E-mail 09 31.0%
Telephone conversations 08 27.6%
Video conferencing 05 17.2%
Frequency of Faculty Meeting With Doctoral Students (N=29)
Frequency of Responses
Monitoring Methods n %
Weekly 23 79.3%
Two times a week 05 17.2%
Twice a term 01 03.4%