The Parallel Roles of Counselor Educators and Counselors-in-Training: Parenting During the Pandemics
By Regina Gavin Williams and Angie Smith
It is essential for counselor educators to teach graduate students various skills and tools that they can use to better support the career navigation of parents/guardians during the multiple pandemics we are facing, namely the coronavirus, continuous racial injustice, and ongoing economic inequality. It is also important for counselor educators to consider their multiple roles as well as those their students assume, such as those with identities as both students and parents. Additionally, counselor educators must recognize that there is a parallel process between parenting and teaching and must remain aware of the fact that their day-to-day challenges and struggles may, in many cases, mirror those of their counselors-in-training. In this article, we outline microskills as well as the importance of building community and resiliency that counselor educators can keep in the forefront as they teach and support their students. We follow up by providing additional professional and personal suggestions for counselor educators.
Counselor educators can draw from the counseling literature and training to incorporate microskills, while working with counselors-in-training who may be experiencing both the student and parenting roles during the multiple pandemics. As students may struggle with the overload of operating in multiple roles simultaneously, counselor educators can serve as role models and demonstrate active listening skills, attending, reframing, reflection of feeling, and a combination of theories and techniques, for example, as they seek to listen and better understand students’ experiences (Corey, 2017). In turn, counselor educators can model how counselors-in-training might utilize counseling microskills in working with clients who are parents/guardians, as well as when at home in their own parenting roles.
Building Community and Promoting Resiliency
In working with graduate students, identifying ways to build community and promote resilience can be essential to surviving multiple pandemics. Instructors can play a key role in promoting resilience and offering support by opening up dialogue in virtual synchronous spaces for students to discuss their current context, capacity to engage in multiple roles, and limitations as related to expectations and healthy boundaries. For example, if a student has limited support and is parenting a newborn and a toddler, while attending three classes and working full-time simultaneously, offering a space to share and identify or name this experience as one that is stressful, challenging, and potentially overwhelming can help the student to feel heard and understood. From this example, in offering support, counselor educators may highlight the graduate students’ strengths in their current scenario and explore with them opportunities to draw from coping strategies and previous experiences that may have been difficult in the past.
Professional Suggestions for Counselor Educators
In addressing current and future implications of parenting during multiple pandemics, we would like to offer professional suggestions for counselor educators to keep in mind while working with counselors-in-training:
- Unpack the client's parenting issues: Help counselors-in-training discover opportunities to examine how parenting issues have affected their clients' careers during the pandemics. For example, challenge counselors-in-training to explore clients' financial implications to child-rearing while working from home. What else do counselors-in-training need to know in order to better understand the parental experiences of their clients?
- Explore clients' career-related concerns: In contrast to the above, help counselors-in-training explore the impact of working from home on their clients' parenting. How have these unprecedented career challenges impacted the role as a parent/guardian? How might parenting needs be met if career concerns were resolved? Instruct counselors-in-training to take the time to emphasize the value and importance of multiple roles and validate current experiences.
- Acknowledge multiple roles of clients: After acknowledging the impact of each role on the other, reiterate to counselors-in-training the importance of acknowledging the client’s multiple roles while also exploring how the client navigates these intersections in the context of the career concern. What roles might be most salient to the client as they navigate career concerns?
- Focus on strengths: Teach counselors-in-training career tools that may help parents/guardians explore and identify their strengths as both a parent and a professional in an effort to provide positive support in both roles. For example, administer the CliftonStrengths Assessment, 16 Personality Factors Questionnaire, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as an effort to help clients gain insight.
Personal Suggestions for Counselor Educators
In considering current and future implications of parenting during multiple pandemics, we would like to offer several personal suggestions for counselor educators to explore further in their own lives:
- Reflect on your needs as a counselor educator and parent: Take a moment to pause, reflect, and rest, as you are able, throughout your day. Identify your needs, which could be physical, spiritual, and/or emotional. How can meeting these needs benefit your own parenting role?
- Identify and develop your community: Support systems are essential during this time. Find a community of like-minded working parents who can serve as role models and a support system, especially during challenging times.
- Consider your own multiple roles and identity as counselor educator: The counselor educator role may only be one of many roles you move through on a daily basis. For some, the counselor educator role is simultaneously intertwined with the parent, partner, sibling, friend, volunteer, and many more. As a parent, what resources and support structures can you draw upon during challenging times to help you continue to thrive in all your roles including your career?
Navigating Multiple Pandemics and Roles
It is our hope that these tips might be relevant to counselor educators preparing their students to work with parents/guardians who are navigating multiple roles during the pandemics. It is also our hope to provide support for both counselor educators and counselors-in-training as they navigate these challenging times and multiple roles.
Corey, G. (2017). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (10th ed.). Thomson Higher Education.
Regina Gavin Williams, PhD, NCC, LCMHC, is an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. Her research focuses on the career and college readiness and adult self-sufficiency of adolescents aging out of the foster care system, support for foster caregivers, and assisting adolescents with post-secondary education and career decision-making. Her teaching interests include career counseling, multicultural and gender issues in counseling, and supervised practicum in counseling. She can be reached at email@example.com
Angie Smith, PhD, LCMHC-S, ACS, NCC is an Associate Teaching Professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her experience as well as research and teaching interests include career counseling and development, online teaching and learning modalities, supervision in counseling, college counseling, and student development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org