Exploring counselors’ use of research in practice: a CQR study

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lindsey K. Umstead (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
L. DiAnne Borders

Abstract: Research is a fundamental part of the counseling field that both informs practice and enhances and unifies the profession (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011; Kaplan, Tardyvas, & Gladding, 2014; Steele & Rawls, 2015). Counselors are encouraged by the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics (2014), as well as other relevant codes of ethics (e.g., American School Counselors Association, 2016; American Mental Health Counselors Association [AMHCA], 2015), to use counseling practices founded in rigorous research methodologies and to monitor their effectiveness. Moreover, counselors face increased pressure to demonstrate their effectiveness and deliver measurable outcomes to support the services they provide to clients (Lenz, 2015; Lloyd-Hazlett, 2018). In fact, both mental health and school counselors are expected to demonstrate accountability via consumption of, application of, and engagement in research in their professional roles (e.g., AMHCA, 2015; Burlingame, Lambert, Reisinger, Neff, & Mosier, 1995; Cook et al., 2017; Sexton & Whiston, 1996; Whiston & Sexton, 1998). Accordingly, research is a critical part of counseling practice, both in terms of counselors’ professional duties in their jobs and their ethical obligations to clients and the profession. Importantly, these trends reflecting the necessity of research in counseling demonstrate the growing need for counselors to use research within their clinical practice with clients and students. However, several researchers in counseling and related fields have indicated that many clinicians continue not to use research in practice despite their professional and ethical responsibilities to do so (e.g., Bauman et al., 2002; Bezyak, Kubota, & Rosenthal, 2010; Maras, Splett, Reinke, Stormont, & Herman, 2014; Wester, Mobley & Faulkner, 2006; Wester, Wachter Morris, & Umstead, 2018; Young & Kaffenberger, 2011). Critically, this gap in research use among counselors illustrates the gap between counseling research and practice that many scholars in counseling have discussed for decades (e.g., Anderson & Heppner, 1985; Haring-Hidore & Vacc, 1988; Lee, Dewell, & Holmes, 2014; Martin & Martin, 1989; Murray, 2009; Rowell, 2006). Moreover, while several researchers have called attention to deficiencies in research training in counseling, particularly at the master’s level (e.g., Granello & Granello, 1998; Huber & Savage, 2009; Jorgensen & Duncan, 2015a, b; Umstead, 2018), it is unclear how research training influences counselors’ use of research in practice. The extant research pertaining to research use in practice among clinicians, including counselors, predominantly examines this construct in terms of evidence-based practices (e.g., Bauman et al., 2002; Bezyak et al., 2010; Maras et al., 2014; Wester et al., 2006; Wester et al., 2018). Although useful, this research may limit the current understanding of how counselors actually use research in their work with clients and students. Accordingly, more study of how counselors’ personal experiences of using research is warranted. Moreover, because master’s-level counselors comprise the majority of practicing counselors in mental health and school settings, research exploring research use among these specific practitioners is necessary. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of mental health and school counselors’ research use in counseling practice with clients and/or students, as well as their perceptions of how factors related to training and practice-related supports and barriers influenced their current use of research in practice. The following research questions were addressed through this study: (1) What are counselors’ experiences of using research in their clinical practice? (2) How do master’s-level counselors describe their research training experiences as influencing their current use of research in their practice? and (3) What do counselors identify as current supports and barriers to their use of research in practice? To answer these research questions, Consensual Qualitative Research methodology (CQR; Hill, 2012) was used to explore counselors’ experiences of using research in practice and obtain rich, in-depth descriptions of their experiences. Following eight individual interviews with master’s-level clinical mental health and school counselors, five domains emerged during data analysis to provide insight into the research questions. These domains included the following: (1) research use in counseling practice, (2) research training experiences, (3) factors influencing research use in counseling practice, (4) research as part of one’s counselor identity, and (5) other. Each domain consisted of between one and seven categories. Research findings, study limitations, and implications for counseling practice, counselor training, and future research are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Counselor Education, Counselors, Research Training, Research Use in Practice
Counseling $x Research
Counselors $x Training of
Counseling $x Study and teaching

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