Erase the lines of demarcation: The counselor, the psychologist, and the assessment process

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    Cedar Rapids, Iowa


    University of Iowa

    What was once desirable is now mandatory-teamwork between the psy- chologist and counselor. Because the fundamental function of either profession is basically the same, delineation of job responsibilities may become difficult. Suggestions are offered to reduce the incidence of this problem by reshaping at the training program level. Guidelines also are provided to en- hance the working relationship between the psychologist and counselor.

    One can assume that the school counselor and school psychologist exist in order to provide special services to students in need of them. No one seems threat- ened by this assumption; however, if one begins to specify the kinds of services, problems occur. The professional literature is replete with articles concerning the roles of the school counselor and the school psychologist; however, no one role has been accepted by either profession. Each profession has proceeded tentatively in defining the role, but the tentative steps taken to define one role have usually resulted in delimiting the role of the other profession. Gray (1963) stated that each helping profession within the school would like to broaden its own role and define a narrow place or function for the other groups. She felt that the situation was present because each group was concerned with improving its own profes- sional status and competency and that when each group stopped having growing pains, there would be fewer attempts to draw sharp lines around the role of the other professions.

    A brief perusal of literature concerning the relationship of the school counselor and psychologist (Arbuckle, 1967; Bardon & Bennett, 1974; Nugent, 1973; Shaw, 1967) would indicate that each professions growing pains have become chronic. It was suggested by Arbuckle (1967) and Shaw (1967) that a substantial core of the functions of each profession is essentially the same, and that perhaps one cannot draw clear lines of demarcation. The establishment of a closer relationship and mu- tual responsibilities was advocated by these authors, in contrast to Nugent (1973), who suggested that functions must be sharply distinguished. Bardon and Bennett (1974) state that the more each specialty narrows its focus, the less likely it is to help the school improve in overall effectiveness. They also report that in actuality pupil personnel workers function according to the number of specialists employed by the school. If there is only one pupil personnel worker on the scene, he/she will assume many roles. It is when there is more than one worker on the scene that the helpers lose sight of their reason for existence.

    In July of 1975, 15 area education agencies (AEAs) were established in Iowa in order to provide better services to children in need of special services and pro- grams; and in November of 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) became a law. The results of these two events have been the establishment of guidelines for assessment procedures, support services programs, etc. These guidelines are based upon financial reports, professional opinions, and legal rulings. Because the legal rules seem to impose or demand procedural formal-

    Requests for re rints should be sent to Kathryn Clark Gerken, College of Education, The University of Iowa, !owa City, IA 52242.


  • 398 Psychology in the Schools, J u l y , 1978, Vol. 16, No. 3.

    ism, an attempt was made to provide descriptions of the services various support personnel should provide and the procedures they should follow. Thus, those heavy lines of demarcation are appearing again and the results are not positive. The counselor and the psychologist claim to be helpers who are concerned about the welfare of students ; however, some parent and teacher conferences have become sports arenas where each helper attempts to assume dominant position over the other.

    Legal rules do, of course, affect the conduct of the counselor and the psycholo- gist in the assessment process, but they do not demand separatism and formalism of actions. What is demanded is what should always have been provided-adequate service to all children. Martins (Note 1) interpretation of P. L. 94-142 indicates that a sharing between the disciplines is necessary to obtain a complete evaluation of the childs problems, and that interdisciplinary assessment is mandatory. The way to provide this is not to draw heavier lines of demarcation relative to the role of the counselor and psychologist, but to erase the lines. Kirp and Kirp (1976) suggest that the legalization of the school psychologists world may afford an opportunity to reshape relationships with other school professions, students, and parents. We feel that a reshaping of the relationship between the counselor and the psychologist can take place, and that by combining their skills these profes- sionals can provide the best consultation service relative to the assessment process.

    One way to accomplish this reshaping is to alter the training programs. As Nugent (1973) suggested, core courses for psychologists and counselors need to be similar in order to cover the broad sociological, psychological, and ethical back- ground needed in both disciplines. A seminar which provides opportunities to share knowledge, skills, personal beliefs, and values should be available in the training programs of all school support personnel. Simulated parent conferences and staffings in which the support personnel must work together could be conducted. It is ob- viously more judicious to confront each other during the training program than during a staffing in the schools.

    Bardon and Bennett (1974) report that the ratio of guidance counselors to pupils is more favorable than for any other pupil personnel worker. Thus, it would appear counselors have a greater potential to provide direct service to pupils. This is the case in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as the counselor to pupil ratio is 1:500, with 23 counselors serving 27 schools; whereas the psychologist to pupil ratio is 1:2,150, with 17 psychologists serving the 27 elementary schools in Cedar Rapids as well as other schools within the AEA. The counselor is usually in a specific elementary school five days a week, while the psychologist is in a specific elementary school only one day a week. Not only is it desirable that the counselors and psychologists work together during the assessment process, but it becomes imperative. The following are guidelines indicating how the counselor and psychologist can work together in such a system to insure that each interaction with parents and/or teachers becomes an opportunity for sharing and learning.

    CounseEor-Psychologist Teamwork During early contacts the counselor and psychologist should take time to

    share personal beliefs and values, as well as professional training, goals, and expertise. Such discussions personalize the reIationship and foster the adoption of team objectives.


  • The Counselor, the Psychologist, and the Assessment Process 399

    2. A predetermined portion of the psychologists time each week should be

    (a) follow up or feedback on previous cases (b) reviewing records of children referred for specialized services (c) strategies for implementing, revising, or evaluating recommendations (d) feedback and support for developing new counseling programs or

    revising those in existence. Both the psychologist and counselor should be involved in early parental

    contacts regarding children to be evaluated. The parent should be encouraged to meet with the counselor-psychologist team to secure permission for assessment. Discussion might include :

    designated for consultation with the counselor. Discussion might include :


    (a) the nature of the assessment (b) how the assessment will be presented and conducted (c) how the results will be disseminated to school personnel and parents (d) parental rights regarding the evaluation.

    4. The counselor and psychologist should view the referred child separately and/or mutually previous to consultation and discuss any differences in their perceptions.

    5. The counselor and psychologist should consult together with teachers desiring assistance for techniques and ideas to use with specific children or in class- room management.

    6. The counselor and psychologist could cosponsor and conduct parent edu- cation groups, staff in-service programs, or student groups or children with special needs.

    7. The counselor and psychologist must share in the responsibility of ob- taining and transmitting information in staff ings and parent conferences. Leader- ship of such meetings may be rotated.

    It is the responsibility of both professionals to communicate in clear, understandable language. Information that is not understood by parents and school personnel is not useful.

    9. When personality conflicts, training deficits, illness, or time restrictions develop, a counselor-psychologist team should delegate some of their responsibilities to each other.


    What the above guidelines imply is a commitment by both professionals to set aside the time required to develop and nourish the relationship. P. L. 94-142 demands that this time be relinquished, but the reward for the time invested is a better understanding of the assessment procedure by parents, school personnel, and students, which increases the probability of positive changes for students.

    REFERENCE NOTE 1. MARTIN, R. Implicat ions of recent legislation and litigation o n the education of the handicapped.

    A presentation to the Workshop on Pathways to Career and Community Adjustment for the Handicapped, Austin, TX, January, 1977.

  • 400 Psychology in the Schools, July, 1978, Vol. 16, No. 3.


    BARDON, J. I., & BENNETT, V. C. GRAY, S. W.

    Counselor, social worker, psychologist: Lets ecumenicalize. Personnel and Zuidance Journal, 1967, 46, 532-538.

    School psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974. The psycchologist in the schools. New York: Holt. Rinehart. & Winston. 1963.

    KIRP, 1). L., & K I R P ~ L. M.

    NUGENT, F. A.

    The legalization of the schoolpsychologists world. Journal of School

    School counselors, psychologists, and social workers: A distinction. Psychology in Psychology, 1976, 14, 83-89.

    the Schools, 1973, 10, 327-333. SHAW, M. C.

    UNITED STATES PUBLIC LAW, P. L. 94-142, Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 1975.

    Role delineation among the guidance professionals. Psychology in the Schools, 1967, 4, 3-13.


    Universzty of South Carolina

    The application of Rational-Emotive Therapy in the practice of consultee- centered consultation is discussed. The consultants task is to identify those irrational beliefs which are impeding consultee job-effectiveness and to help modify these beliefs. Several common consultation problems and techniques for their management are presented. As a result of rational consultation, consultees may abandon their irrational ideas and solve their problems, may rationally accept the problem and avoid unpleasant feelings, or may directly teach clients rational concepts discussed during the consultation sessions.

    Columbia Area Mental Health Center

    Consultation has been a major activity of school psychologists for several years. Although the traditional approach to school psychology involved provision of diagnostic and remedial services, it became apparent that direct services could not efficiently deal with referral needs. A variety of approaches to school consul- tation have been developed, including the psychoeducational diagnostic model, the behavior modification model, the mental health consultation model, and the organi- zational development model (Meyers, Martin, & Hyman, 1977).

    One type of mental health consultation, consultee-centered consultation (Cap- lan, 1963), focuses on the consultee, rather than on the specific situation or client with which the consultee is having difficulties. The consultee-centered consultation approach to the delivery of school psychological services provides a means of in- creasing the population reached by the school psychologist. The goals of the process are to enable consultees to manage their clients more effectively and therefore to function more effectively in the future (Hollister, 1967; Simmons, Note l).Con- sultee-centered consultation usually focuses on providing consultees with insight into their behavior in relation to clients (Caplan, 1970) ; thus, a major objective is a change in the consultees behavior (McGehearty, 1969). Consultation sessions in- volve talking about the consultees problems and attempting to detect distortions and omissions in the consultees perceptions (Zax & Specter, 1974). Caplan (1963) states that these distortions and omissions provide consultants with their basic

    The authors wish to express their appreciation to Francis T. Miller and Maxie C. Maultsby, Jr. for their suggestions in the preparation of this manuscript.

    Requests for reprints should be sent to Susan G. Forman, Dept. of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.


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