University responsible for local counselors

In response to recent proposals made by the Obama Administration to reduce gun violence, the American School Counselor Administration applauds President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for their dedication to making the nation and its schools safer.

Kwok-Sze Wong, executive director of ASCA, spoke on behalf of the association in a statement released Jan. 16 this year.

“We appreciate the administration’s quick action in taking steps to make our students safer,” Wong said. “We urge Congress to follow suit and pass reasonable measures to ensure our nation’s schools are as safe as possible.”

The Obama Administration is calling on Congress to help schools hire up to 1,000 more school counselors, school resource officers, school psychologists and school social workers, as well as make other investments in school safety.

The administration is proposing to help 8,000 schools put in place strategies to prevent violence and improve school climate by reducing bullying, drug abuse, violence and other problem behaviors.

The ASCA provides professional development, publications and resources, research and advocacy to more than 31,000 professional school counselors around the world, some of whom have been or currently are being educated at Murray State.

Alan Bakes, assistant professor and coordinator of programs in counseling at the University, said the vast majority of the school counselors in the region have been trained at Murray State.

“We offer a master’s degree in school counseling, so it’s very specific” Bakes said. “We follow the national model set by the ASCA that targets the academic category and the social and career categories. I think, in the past, the social and emotional areas have kind of been neglected, and so we are really working hard to ensure that those who we train are competent and able to deal with the mental health issues that students in the school setting may have.”

Bakes said Murray State is currently working toward a national accreditation for the counseling program. He said they have incorporated a 600 hour internship in addition to a 150 hour practicum, so students must now have 750 hours of supervised clinical experience in the schools in order to receive their degree.

The counseling program at Murray State is also working closely with the West Kentucky Counseling Association as they continue to train graduates and professional counselors.

“We have done a number of presentations through the West Kentucky Counseling Association and this spring I will be doing a presentation on supervision,” Bakes said. “I will be training the school counselors to be able to better supervise counseling students.”

Bakes said his presentation will be at the region’s annual conference held at Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz, Ky., from March 21-22.

Susan Bloomdahl, assistant professor of education, said the diverse backgrounds of counselor education faculty are one of the best contributions to the learning experience and quality of education offered to the students.

“The counselor education faculty represent a diverse background of counseling knowledge, research and personal experiences that enhance course material,” Bloomdahl said. “Each of us represent varying counseling foci based partly on our own cultural experiences, and therefore have greater ability to incorporate the importance of cultural understanding in the counseling profession. Because it is based on experience, students can obtain a more informed viewpoint about working with diverse populations.”

Bloomdahl said the ASCA believes more student support services in schools and increased support for mental health programs can help prevent future incidents of violence in schools by identifying and helping students who exhibit behavior which could signal the potential for violent acts. Murray State’s counseling program and its students are doing all they can to advocate this philosophy, she said.

Story by Alex Berg, Staff writer.