Counseling practicum plays an important role in the raising of professional and competent counselors. But unfortunately, it mostly doesn’t satisfy its role in student counselors. This is because of the presence of certain problems.
I have highlighted 8 common problems that are associated with counseling practicum and what can be done about them.
8 Problems of Counseling Practicum
1. Paucity of qualified counselor trainers
Most lecturers of guidance and counseling do not practice guidance and counseling— they only teach it. While this doesn’t look like a problem, it is.
Because they don’t practice they only know the theories and what they have read from books. They have overcome very little or no challenges in the field, and they have had little or no success in resolving client issues.
As a result, they miss out on some nitty gritty details that only come with practice. And they can only give PART of what they have leading to even worse student counselors.
Lecturers of guidance and counseling should not be left to lecture only. As part of their duty and as a way of retraining, systems should be set that would ensure they get to practice counseling clients.
Also, systems of incentives should be established for lecturers as they get more professional certifications thereby encouraging the culture of skill upgrade.
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2. Paucity of qualified practicum supervisors
Most institutions where student counselors are placed for practicum either possess a few resident counselors who have a lot of responsibilities that they forget to supervise the student counselors, or…
They do not have resident counselors at all and student counselors end up being supervised by individuals who aren’t counselors (that’s if supervised).
Either of these ends is another problem affecting the effectiveness of the counseling practicum exercise.
Since very little can be done in increasing the number of resident counselors in placement sites, universities should ensure they send lecturers to supervise the activities of the student counselors severally before the end of the practicum exercise.
3. Problems associated with placement sites
A lot can go wrong by simply placing student counselors in practicum sites that are not supportive. Some problems that can affect counseling practicum as a result of the placement sites include
- Absence of a sufficient number of clients for student counselors throughout the practicum duration
- Difficulty in accessing the practicum sites due to their locations
- Absence of facilities for counselors; most basically, adequate counseling office space.
- Student counselors not being embraced by staff (and students) of the host site
- Overwhelming population in host institutions (e.g in public schools) makes the activities of student counselors extra tedious.
Placement sites should be visited before placing student counselors to determine if they are suitable to host the students and also to give the institutions some orientation on how to assist in making the stay of the student counselors productive.
4. Lack of counseling tools and resources
Apart from the lack in the host institution, most universities do not provide student counselors with tools and resources that will ease their work in the practicum site.
Some of these tools include psychological tests, relevant textbooks, registers, reference manuals, or even templates of letters that could be written to the parents of minors who come for counseling if need be.
Being their first time practicing, if student counselors are left to bootstrap everything, they are more prone to make simple mistakes that established counselors have made already. The purpose of the mentorship is thereby defeated.
While preparing to send students for practicum, universities should gather as many resources as they can get that will make student counselors more effective in assisting clients.
An FAQ manual can also be given to students to answer common questions and provide smart solutions to common issues that might come up during the counseling practicum exercise.
Another approach is that the host institution can be contacted to assist in making relevant tools and resources available to student counselors.
5. Wrong timing of counseling practicum
Another issue that affects counseling practicum is the wrong timing of the exercise. Schools form the bulk of the sites where student counselors are sent for practicum, and sometimes the academic calendar of universities does not match the calendar of secondary schools.
During my counseling practicum, I got to the school two weeks before they commenced their terminal exams and students and staff gave little attention to us because they were all focussed on the exams.
While choosing the time for counseling practicum, the universities should ensure that they are considerate of the host institutions’ calendars.
6. Wrong attitude of student counselors towards counseling practicum
Many student counselors do not take counseling practicum as a serious activity. Many of them see it as another course that should just be passed.
Because of this, they don’t give themselves to the “drilling” the exercise is meant to provide.
Some student counselors do not go to the site they have been placed, others go late, others do not counsel any client and just formulate reports, and several others.
Although heightened supervision will help this situation, a more lasting solution is to give proper orientation to student counselors about the objectives and needs of the counseling practicum exercise.
Once they can see for themselves why it is necessary, they will commit to giving it their best. This will also be solved when other foundational issues affecting guidance and counseling as a whole are addressed.
7. Wrong attitude of society towards guidance and counseling
This is one of the foundational issues I just talked about. Society to a good extent does not believe in the effectiveness of guidance and counseling. And this affects everything.
It affects the reception counselors receive in the host institutions, the willingness of clients to come for counseling, and the commitment of student counselors to the exercise.
The word is advocacy. Intensified advocacy! Counselors must advocate for their profession or nobody will. Advocacy is not a movement that produces immediate change but if continued, it makes all the difference.
8. Inadequate funding of counseling practicum
Every problem affecting the counseling practicum we have highlighted so far can only be sufficiently addressed with lots of financial resources. Getting financial resources also answers to adequate advocacy because no institution will spend money on any cause they don’t see necessary.
Issues of Counseling Practicum
The issues involved in counseling practicum include the paucity of qualified counselor trainers, paucity of qualified supervisors, wrong practicum placements, insufficient tools and resources, wrong timing of counseling practicum, the wrong attitude of student counselors, the wrong attitude of society and inadequate funding.
The lasting solutions to the problems affecting counseling practicum are adequate preparations, intensified orientation, and intensified advocacy! Once these are done at various quarters, a lot will be set in place and the counseling practicum will fully serve its intent.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.