Counselor Education for Personal Identity and Growth

Counselor education focuses on educating and training students to become professional helpers who have a professional counselor identity, as well as the knowledge, values, and skills to provide counseling service. Counselor education is unique in the sense of growth expectations because counselors-in-training learn to counsel through a developmental process. Through this process, counselors-in-training begin to develop a helper identity could be educated and trained to understand professional issues, the context of helping, the development of personal qualities that facilitate helping, and the integration of skills into practice.

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There are multiple characteristics that make an effective counselor. Compassion, respect, and personal presence are just to name a few. These expectations of counselors-in-training are unique in the sense of counselor education because these are not qualities that an individual can particularly fake. It takes an individual with an innate desire to help others, what is commonly called as the “it” factor, that cannot be learned. The ability to understand the emotional state of another person and have a desire to alleviate the suffering of another is compassion. To listen to a person without judgment and to have regard for the feelings, wishes, and rights is respect. To be mentally and physically present with a goal to participate to the conversation is personal presence. Counelors-in-training have this expectation to “access their own history, experience, vulnerabilities, and struggles and use them to resonate with their clients’ pain…” (Niño, Kissil, & Cooke, 2016. p.610). During the presentation of The Counselor as Person and Professional, Gerald Corey states, “may be your greatest technique by far is not the theory you hold, but the person you are and how you can be a better person, a fuller person and radiate the love you have and the gifts that you’ve been given.” Our connection with our client is unique because we desire to put in their shoes or their position in life to help them solve current situations together.

In Learning to Be a Counselor: A Prepractium Point of View, “although many participants recounted that counseling was their calling or their destiny, several indicated that they were not sure that counseling was a good fit for them” (Woodside, et al. 2007, p.25). Another example is Naslund’s doctoral dissertations in which she states three particular phases of self-discovery (2015, p.2). Naslund recounts trying to fit the mold and expectations she believed her mentors required with a feeling of frustration and defeat (2015, p.2) It may seem as though you are alone in your situation, but based on these articles it is evident that the feeling of self-doubt and questioning if this was the right field for you is a common endeavor. There is a fear on what counseling will be like, if we have the skills to work with clients, or if we will hurt clients. We develop a fear of being incompetent and define our vulnerability. Being aware of this uncertainty and pushing forward in moments of doubt is essential to what counselors do. Counselors need to expect and embrace being uncomfortable because that is what we are asking our clients to do. It is apart of the process and, ultimately, it is going to help us connect better with our clients.

Through each study, there is a reoccurring theme that studying will not provide everything you need to know. It is not until the practicum that everything comes together and you begin to apply what you have learned. MacCluskie and Ingersoll (2001) accurately represent this development process by using an analogy of the strands in a rope. This analogy of a rope represents each strand as an experience and with each new experience an entire rope is formed. As previously mentioned, Naslund’s doctoral dissertation explains her practicum experience contributed the most to personal growth and development (2015, p.2). It was this circumstance, which leads her to abandon her expectations of a counselor and mold herself into a genuine and present counselor (Naslund, 2015, p.2). What makes counselor education unique is the fact there is not a word-for-word book or written down lines from the professor that a counselor-in-training will be provided. The developmental process and growth through the study of counseling will provide as a guide to your own words to genuinely speak to your clients.

Counselor education is unique in the regard to the growth expectations of counselors-in-training because we develop our innate ability to connect with humanity, experience a journey of self-doubt, and establish ourselves as a counselor through practicum. It is through each of these paramount experiences that an individual truly understands the meaning of becoming a counselor. There is an emphasis placed on counselors-in-training to study the material and experience, but there is an underlying factor when it comes to great counselors -a desire to help people work through life’s challenges. Choosing to become a professional counselor is a commitment to not only others, but a commitment to yourself.


  • Gerald Corey (Author), (2010). The counselor as person and professional. Alexandria, VA: American counseling association. [Streaming video]. Retrieved from database
  • MacCluskie, K. C., & Ingersoll, R. E. (2001). Becoming a 21st century agency counselor: Personal and professional explorations. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Naslund, M. N. (2015). Counselor education: A personal growth and personal development experience (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, Fargo, North Dakota.
  • Niño, A., Kissil, K., & Cooke, L. (2016). Training for connection: Students’ perceptions of the effects of the person-of-the-therapist trainingon their therapeutic relationships. Doi: 10.1111/jmft.12167
  • Woodside, M., Oberman, A. H., Cole, K. G., & Carruth, E. K. (2007). Learning to be a counselor: A prepracticum point of view.


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