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SOC-OFE Masters Students - Field Experience Manual: Appendix B. Skills and Student Development FAQs

Skills Support and Development

What is skills development?

Delivery of facilitative communication skills is one of the primary tasks of counselors. As such, the Walden counseling programs embrace the task of making sure students are able to identify, define, and execute foundational and advanced counseling skills. Skills of focus in the curriculum include, but are not limited to, opening and closing counseling sessions, rapport building, feeling identification, case conceptualization, information gathering, and documentation.

What is the role of the Skills Development committee?

The Skills Development committee, which is composed of the skills development coordinator and a group of counseling faculty members, works to support students who have specific skill needs that may not have been sufficiently addressed in the online or residency classrooms.

What happens if my field experience course instructor or the director of field experience notifies me that I need to work with the skills coordinator?

If a student is referred to the Skills Development committee, a teleconference meeting will be held with the student, course instructor, director, and skills coordinator. During this meeting, the instructor will address the noted areas of concern, and the student will be provided the opportunity to present additional context and perspective. Based upon the identified needs noted by the student, instructor, and/or site supervisor, the skills coordinator will work with the student to develop a skills plan that targets the specific needs, and a timeline will be established for the completion of the skills plan. Following the meeting, the skills coordinator will submit the formal skills plan and assignment timeline to the student, and the student will work with the skills coordinator or Skills Development committee member to complete the skills plan. The skills coordinator will provide the director of field experience regular updates on the student’s progress completing the plan. The student will not be permitted to continue in their field experience until they have satisfactorily completed the skills plan. Upon successful completion of the plan, the student will be eligible to resume field experience coursework and fieldwork. Should additional skills concerns be identified during the skills support process and/or successful completion not be made on the initial skills plan, further support will be required prior to resuming field experience. 

What is a skills plan?

A skills plan is an opportunity for students to demonstrate that they have strengthened their overall skills competencies. It typically identifies a few specific skills that need particular attention. Skills plans—whether for residency, field experience, or online classroom support—include several steps, which may include all or some of the following assignments:

  1. Review their previously submitted work product.
  2. Review counseling video and transcripts available in the Walden Library.
  3. Compare/contrast their work with the Walden resources.
  4. Produce a video and transcription of a mock counseling session.
    • Within the transcription, students will identify the time at which the required skills (as provided to them via a specific skills rubric) are evidenced in the video and submit all the skills plan work products to a location identified by the Skills Development committee member working with the student.

The Skills Development committee member assigned to work with the student and the skills coordinator will make themselves available to respond to any questions the student may have.

Student Support and Development

What is student development?

There are a number of professional skills and characteristics that are important for students who provide services to children, adolescents, and adults, as well as to professional organizations, in a variety of settings. These interpersonal/professional skills include, but are not limited to, adherence to the 2014 American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics, professional deportment, sensitivity to client issues, and appropriate use of supervision. Walden University students and graduates are not expected to be at the pinnacle of expertise but rather are willing and able to demonstrate competent knowledge, skill, and professional dispositions across the curriculum. Accordingly, student development is the ongoing process of examining one’s beliefs, attitudes, values, skills, and behaviors with the goal of forming a counseling professional identity that consistently demonstrates the professional dispositions of responsibility, fitness, maturity, and integrity.

What are professional dispositions?

The commitments, characteristics, values, beliefs, interpersonal functioning, and behaviors that influence the counselor's professional growth and interactions with clients and colleagues characterize professional dispositions (see 2016 CACREP Standards). Based upon current counseling ethical guidelines (2014 ACA Code of Ethics), current counseling accreditation criteria (2016 CACREP Standards), and current counseling published literature, the School of Counseling requires all students to consistently demonstrate each of the following professional dispositions:

RESPONSIBILITY

  1. Engagement: Student punctually attends scheduled meetings, actively contributes in required academic settings, and promotes other students’ learning.
  2. Accountability: Student accepts personal contributions to academic, skills, and comportment deficiencies and acts responsibly to enhance professional effectiveness.

FITNESS

  1. Relationships: Student interacts with others in a professional manner and effectively navigates interpersonal differences.
  2. Sensitivity: Student attends to the feelings, experiences, and perceptions of others and consistently honors their autonomy.
  3. Impartiality: Student displays contextual and cultural competency by valuing the fundamental rights, dignity, and worth of all people—including respect for age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, veteran status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law or as defined by potential clients’ experience.

MATURITY

  1. Discipline: Student exhibits ability to control personal stress, self-disclosure, and excessive emotional reactions that interfere with professional functioning.
  2. Awareness: Student manifests alertness of how personal beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors affect others and uses sound judgment to properly assess situations.
  3. Growth: Student exhibits willingness to engage in self-examination, challenge assumptions, and integrate feedback to reach an acceptable level of competency.

INTEGRITY

  1. Communication: Student displays respectful tone and uses open, honest, and accurate statements in dealing with others.
  2. Congruence: Student demonstrates ability to acquire and integrate ethical codes, accreditation standards, and institutional policy into one’s repertoire of professional behavior in all settings.

What is the role of the student development coordinator?

Counseling students who exhibit behaviors that are outside of these ethical codes that violate university Code of Conduct, that reflect diminished capacity to perform professional functions, or that risk harm to a client or others will be referred to the School of Counseling’s student development coordinator. The goal of this referral is to help students address personal concerns that have the potential to affect professional competency by offering remediation, feedback, and further training and supervision. The student development coordinator discusses the identified behaviors with the student and then seeks professional consultation with leading counselor education faculty to ensure the student receives timely and personalized support, or to assist the student in securing remedial assistance when needed—such as through a Student Development Plan (SDP). Examples of behaviors that require completion of a SDP to resume field experience include, but are not limited to, problematic interdisciplinary teamwork; imposing values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors onto others; inaccurate or dishonest advertising; behavior that compromises the training experience or grades assigned; inaccurate representation of credentials or educational degrees; improper use of public social media; deficient ethical decision-making; improper client referral/termination; unapproved use of developing or innovative techniques/procedures/modalities; inappropriate diagnosis; practicing outside boundaries of competence; neglected professional disclosure; insufficient informed consent; or inadequate records and documentation.

What is a Student Development Plan (SDP)?

The SDP is a collaborative process between the student and the School of Counseling’s Student Development Committee, academic leadership, and university offices. The purpose of the SDP is student retention and remediation by facilitating student self-growth (self-examination and challenging of assumptions to enhance professional effectiveness) and development of key professional dispositions—especially engagement, accountability, relationships, sensitivity, impartiality, discipline, awareness, growth, communication, and congruence. Please read Section 3: Expectations of Students (pages 13-29) in the current Counseling Student Program Guide for a complete description of the student development process, including SDP Levels and Dynamics, SDP Consultation and Creation, SDP Implementation and Procedures, SDP Completion and Outcomes, and Transition and Dismissal of Students.

How do I contact the student development coordinator?

Please email socstudentdevelopment@mail.waldenu.edu.