Students, Faculty Tackle the Future of Counseling at ACES Conference

The Association for Counselor Education and Supervision came to Counseling@Northwestern’s hometown of Chicago on Oct. 5-8, 2017, for four days of continuing education for counselors, master’s and doctoral candidates, and prospective students. Six Counseling@Northwestern faculty members and five students presented at the event, including Dr. Anita Neuer Colburn who received the Research in Counselor Education and Supervision Award.

The theme of the conference was “Forging the Future of Professional Counseling,” and the event focused on challenging topics that the discipline is currently facing. One such topic is litigation in some states that permits counselors to refuse service to clients whose values are in conflict with their own. Such litigation conflicts with the American Counseling Association’s (2014) Code of Ethics, which explicitly compels counseling professionals to welcome diverse clients and only refer them to a different practitioner in cases where the counselor lacks appropriate training to work with the clients’ present issues. Once the client is referred to a different practitioner, counselors are required to seek training and supervision for issues presented by clients for which they are not adequately trained to address. Dr. Joy Whitman and Dr. Neuer Colburn, along with several of their colleagues, facilitated a three-hour preconference workshop to assist clinical supervisors in helping their supervisees “hold the tension” when faced with such ethical dilemmas.

Counseling@Northwestern is leading the way in innovation for online programs, and with the future of counseling being the conference’s theme, their presence was only more fitting.  Dr. Eric Beeson, along with a group of students and alumni, touched on this topic by presenting a study examining the sense of community in online counseling programs. A fear of many potential students of online programs is that they will not have enough connection with peers and faculty. Dr. Beeson’s study proved otherwise, and he reported how students in an online program feel a higher sense of community in their programs when they are engaged and involved, showing that the future of counseling does have a place online.

In addition, Dr. Neuer Colburn received the Research in Counselor Education and Supervision Award. The award recognizes a publication that was especially important for the development of knowledge in the field of counselor education and supervision. Her study detailed the results of a Delphi Study and Content Analysis using two panels of “expert” supervisors to determine the most important clinical supervision competencies for doctoral students to master before graduation. She worked with three different qualitative coding teams to develop the initial list presented to the experts, and invited them to add more as they saw fit. This type of research is crucial to educating the counselors of the future. Counseling@Northwestern faculty are invested in making sure that they are preparing tomorrow’s counselors in the best way possible.

A unique aspect of this event for Counseling@Northwestern was the presence of master’s level student presenters. Typically, master’s students do not participate in national conferences and presentations as often as doctoral students. However, faculty in the program see this as a missed opportunity and routinely invite students to attend and present. Five students participated in the presentations, exemplifying the community aspect of the Counseling@Northwestern program. Because the faculty are so involved in many aspects of the counseling field, there are more opportunities for students to be involved as well. This not only enhances their education and brings it to life, but also shows that there is a future for counseling education online.

Professional conference attendance is important for both students and faculty. They provide opportunities to gain important knowledge, share new findings, re-connect with important colleagues, meet new people, interview for jobs, interview for doctoral programs, and find rest and renewal in having fun with people who understand the field.

Citation for this content: Northwestern University’s Online Masters in Counseling program.