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Sep 14, 2015

“Research” Identity Crisis?

This year I am co-teaching a Research and Evaluation class which is comprised of a variety of clinical mental health and school counselor master’s students, as well as taking an advanced class in multivariate statistics and research methods. While sitting in a master’s level class, I can’t help but think back to my days as an undergraduate: sitting in a tiny, windowless room; crunching data into SPSS—only after our professor required us to do all the calculations by hand. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience. My master’s program experience was more focused on practicing counseling and I only took one research methods class. Overall, my exposure to applied research in counseling was limited, therefore my understanding was limited.

            As graduate student counselors, most of our time is spent on developing skills and knowledge of our profession. Little emphasis is placed on conducting independent research. Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying the curriculum should be changed—I liked the curriculum! However, I noticed along the way, there seems to be a general disassociation when it comes to our research identity and graduate students in counseling. Many students are anxious to learn statistics or quantitative research methods. I don’t blame them; I would felt the same way at the time. But, we don’t have to play into the “soft science” stereotype. What I mean by that is having a research identity is a means of sharing knowledge—which plays to a larger part into our professional identity and presence in society. I am now at a point in my professional development were computer software, statistical analysis, and research methods are starting to make sense. (All those hours in a lab weren’t all for nothing!) It helps me tie it all together when I think of research as another vehicle towards advocacy. It makes me wonder how we can better frame or introduce these topics to our future graduate students in counseling. 
Monica Paige Band is a counselor working in Northern Virginia and holds a certification in Rehabilitation Counseling. Monica is also a doctoral student, studying Counselor Education and Supervision at Marymount University. Her interests include multicultural issues, motivational interviewing, clinical supervision processes, as well as career and professional development. 

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