Counseling psychology is a psychological specialty that encompasses research and applied work in several broad domains: counseling process and outcome; supervision and training; career development and counseling; and prevention and health. Some unifying themes among counseling psychologists include a focus on assets and strengths, person–environment interactions, educational and career development, brief interactions, and a focus on intact personalities.
What is counseling?
The term “counselling” is of American origin, coined by Rogers, who, lacking a medical qualification was prevented from calling his work psychotherapy. In the U.S., counselling psychology, like many modern psychology specialties, started as a result of World War II. During the war, the U.S. military had a strong need for vocational placement and training. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Veterans Administration created a specialty called “counseling psychology”, and Division 17 (now known as the Society for Counseling Psychology) of the APA was formed. The Society of Counseling Psychology unites psychologists, students and professionals who are dedicated to promote education and training, practice, scientific investigation, diversity and public interest in the field of professional psychology. This fostered interest in counselor training, and the creation of the first few counseling psychology PhD programs. The first counseling psychology PhD programs were at the University of Minnesota; Ohio State University; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Missouri; Teachers College, Columbia University; and University of Texas at Austin.
In recent decades, counseling psychology as a profession has expanded and is now represented in numerous countries around the world. Books describing the present international state of the field include the Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy in an International Context; the International Handbook of Cross-Cultural Counseling; and Counseling Around the World: An International Handbook. Taken together these volumes trace the global history of the field, explore divergent philosophical assumptions, counseling theories, processes, and trends in different countries, and review a variety of global counselor education programs. Moreover, traditional and indigenous treatment and healing methods that may predate modern counseling methods by hundreds of years remain of significance in many non-Western and Western countries.
Process and outcome
Counseling psychologists are interested in answering a variety of research questions about counseling process and outcome. Counseling process refers to how or why counseling happens and progresses. Counseling outcome addresses whether or not counseling is effective, under what conditions it is effective, and what outcomes are considered effective—such as symptom reduction, behavior change, or quality of life improvement. Topics commonly explored in the study of counseling process and outcome include therapist variables, client variables, the counseling or therapeutic relationship, cultural variables, process and outcome measurement, mechanisms of change, and process and outcome research methods. Classic approaches appeared early in the US in the field of humanistic psychology by Carl Rogers who identified the mission of counseling interview as “to permit deeper expression that the client would ordinarily allow himself”
Professional training process
Counseling psychologists are trained in graduate programs. Almost all programs grant a PhD, but a few grant a MCouns, MEd, MA, PsyD or EdD. Most doctoral programs take 5–6 years to complete. Graduate work in counseling psychology includes coursework in general psychology and statistics, counseling practice, and research. Students must complete an original dissertation at the end of their graduate training. Students must also complete a one-year full-time internship at an accredited site before earning their doctorate. In order to be licensed to practice, counseling psychologists must gain clinical experience under supervision, and pass a standardized exam.