Since last semester I’ve been working with a faculty member in my program on a research article about suicide assessment. More accurately, she invited me to be one of the co-writers for the article, which was a surprise and has been a remarkable learning experience thus far. It was also timely since I was taking the two required courses for research that included quantitative statistics. For most of my classmates, learning about statistics in the context of research was daunting and dispiriting. However, what I learned was helpful and necessary as I read dozens of articles for the writing I needed to do. And I, finally, was not skipping over the methods and results sections because I finally understood the terminology and the numbers.
Besides being asked to be a co-writer, the faculty member also invited me to be a part of a panel discussion at the annual conference for the American Association of Suicidology in Chicago this past March. Not only was I honored to be asked, the same faculty member sought funding so I may attend at no cost to myself. I share all this because I sense that many graduate students in counseling programs do not necessarily value or understand what it means to be a scientist-practitioner. Many, understandably so, want to earn their degree or certification and get to the work of counseling. For many, they are already counseling clients so why does it matter to read and understand research articles (except for that paper that must be written for a class)?
Jones and Mehr (2007) wrote, “The scientist-practitioner model is founded on the ideology that trained professional psychologists should be knowledgeable in both research and clinical practice. Emphasis should be placed on the successful integration of science and practice, where the relationship between the two variables is carefully considered…Furthermore, there are three vital assumptions of the scientist-practitioner model. The first assumption is that professionals with knowledge and skills related to research will facilitate effective psychological services. The second assumption identified research as imperative to the development of a scientific database. Last, the creators of the scientist-practitioner model assumed that direct involvement in clinical practice by researchers will result in studies on important social issues. Each assumption incorporates the integration of science and practice.” (p. 766)
I believe it matters for the following reasons: Understanding and incorporating research that supports sound therapeutic approaches makes us better at what we do. (I know that there’s an on-going debate about empirically supported treatments but this shouldn’t keep me from seeking out what’s being studied and written while also engaging in critical thinking for application and usefulness.); contributing to the body of research helps us to be more thoughtful and engaged. Also, as professional counselors, we have as much to share as researchers do! And think of it, when you co-write an article, you increase your professional presence; and doing research with faculty makes our educational process so much richer. Most of all, I enjoyed getting to know the faculty member and other presenters in a more congenial context. In some ways, this replicates what we should be doing as counselors is to seek on-going consultation and support from colleagues throughout our professional lives.
Reference: Jones, J.L. & Mehr, S. L. (2007). Foundations and assumptions of the scientist-practitioner model. American Behavioral Scientist, 50(6), 766-771.
Elena Yee is a counselor-in-training at Rhode Island College, completing the last year of her Counseling Program in Providence, Rhode Island. She is looking forward to bringing together her years of experience in Student Affairs to the vocation of clinical mental health counseling to serve marginalized and under-represented students on college campuses. She is interested in how stereotype threat, microagressions and campus culture affect the mental health of such students and what counselors can do to support them in their retention and eventual graduation. You can learn more about Elena at http://theviewfromherebyelenatyee.blogspot.com