Becoming a Professional Counselor: Preparing for Certification and Comprehensive Exams


Sheri A. Wallace & Michael D. Lewis

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  • Dedication

    For Breanna Lynn Miller—possibly future counselor—but, in any case, the future.


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    This book provides a comprehensive review of the counseling profession. The eight content areas presented are those prescribed by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and represent material covered by a dozen or more graduate courses. Since the guide's first publication in 1990, thousands of students have used it to supplement course notes and textbooks in preparation for examinations—with great satisfaction and success.

    Each chapter begins with an outline of the content area based on the American Counseling Association Standards of Preparation for counselor training programs. The outline provides an overview of the chapter content. A summary of the content area, a list of learning objectives, a time line of important events, and a list of key terms and names are provided. Several assessment instruments are also included: fill in the blanks and matching tests, a case study analysis, and a multiple-choice test (which provides practice for the NBCC exam). An answer key follows the tests. This guide also provides a comprehensive glossary and reference section.

    Because of the tremendous volume of information to be covered, you may find new material in each section of the chapters. Do not expect to find every answer in the chapter summary. If you identify weak areas, you may want to review your course notes or textbooks to strengthen your knowledge base. For further reading, you might refer to the comprehensive reference section provided in this volume.

    In addition to the content material, Study Tips are included to maximize mastery of the text and to increases the likelihood that you will successfully complete your upcoming exam. The perforated pages of the book can be removed and reorganized to suit individual preferences and needs. This format lends itself to class or study group work as well. We wish you success and welcome you to the world of professional counseling.

    Sheri A.WallaceMichael D.Lewis


    We would like to express our thanks to the many individuals who contributed to the preparation of this manuscript. We are especially appreciative of Jim Nageotte and the staff at Sage Publications, who offered us encouragement and guidance throughout the project. Special thanks to A. J. Sobczak, our copy editor, not only for his patience but also for his keen eye and attention to detail.

    In appreciation of their patience and pride, Sheri Wallace would like to thank her children, Brian (and his wife Carielynn), Jim, Sheila, and Mindy Miller. She offers thanks to her mother, Eileen Wallace, who has remained a constant source of support and encouragement. Finally, she expresses deep gratitude to her partner, Jon C. Huenink, for his inspiration, intellectual support, and unwavering belief in her abilities.

    We also want to thank our readers and to wish you success in the world of professional counseling. In dedicating yourself to helping people make educated and informed choices in their lives, you are joining one of the more important service professions.

    In recognition of your dedication and as a testament to his own, Dr. Michael Lewis has established a scholarship at Governors State University to support the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of mental health. His royalties from the sale of this book will help fund that scholarship.

  • Study Tips

    Whether you are using this manual to prepare for a counselor certification examination or to get ready to take your doctoral comprehensive exams, some general guidelines for study may help you to use your preparation time more effectively.

    General Guidelines

    If you are to be successful in reaching your goal—that is, passing a major exam—you must first make it the number one priority in your life. Once this commitment has been made, set up a study schedule for yourself. It is unrealistic to assume that you can cram all your studying into the week or the weekend preceding the exam. Plan to spend a couple of hours a day for 6 to 8 weeks prior to the examination date. This will allow you to make a comprehensive review of the material rather than a panic-stricken attempt to cram it all in at the last minute.

    Time Management

    Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is to waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it. (Lakein, 1973, p. 11)

    Once you have decided to make preparation for the exam your top priority, block out a time every day to spend studying. If you choose an 8-week schedule, you can devote one week to each content area, approximately 10 hours if you take weekends off. When possible, choose your most productive time of day. For example, if you are a “morning person,” plan your study time early in the day. This may involve rearranging your schedule to revolve around your study time, but remember that it is only temporary, and the rewards will be substantial.

    As you begin to study each content area, gather the materials you will need. In addition to the chapter of this book related to each area, you may have course notes, textbooks, and so on that you will want to have available. Although some of the content areas represent material taught in several courses, we have attempted to review each area comprehensively through the summaries and various study exercises. There may, however, be an answer you do not understand or that you disagree with, or a particular topic in which you think you are deficient. Having additional resources at your fingertips will save time and frustration. Lakein, in his best-seller How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (1973), suggests a number of techniques that you may find helpful.

    Work smarter, not harder. Make effective use of your time by taking a few minutes each day to plan and organize. Break each task down into small steps. These chapters lend themselves to these steps: (a) read the summary, (b) study the time line, (c) look up terms in the glossary, (d) complete the matching test, and so on. If you are having trouble getting started, choose one task that can be accomplished in about 5 minutes and start with that. Promise yourself a short break or a small reward after accomplishing the 5-minute task. This may well be enough to get you going in the study session.

    Be prepared to use time that is usually wasted. Carry study materials with you at all times. The perforated pages of this book can be easily torn out and folded to fit into a purse or pocket. When there is an unexpected delay such as a traffic jam, or if you must wait for an appointment or meeting, use the time to review your study materials instead of pacing or complaining.

    Stress the benefits. When motivation to study becomes a problem, it might help to consider two types of benefits to be expected: (a) pluses that will start when you have completed your studying and passed the exam, and (b) minuses that will stop once you have passed. In the plus category, you might include self-satisfaction, better job opportunities, advancing in your program of study, and a pay increase, among others. Minuses that will stop might include worrying about whether or not you will pass, being stymied in your program of study or your job, and self-doubt. Make a list of the benefits and keep it in view in your study area.

    Avoid procrastination. Before you actually begin an organized program of study, or once you have been involved in it for a week or two, you may find myriad reasons for not following your plan. When this happens, you need to figure out what escape routes you are using and close them off temporarily. You also can give yourself a pep talk, stressing the benefits. If you find that you are never “in the mood” during your designated study time, you may need to revise your schedule to take advantage of times when you are more open to studying. Sometimes it helps to make a commitment to another person. Joining a study group or finding a partner with whom to study once a week may force you to stick to your resolve to master one area per week.

    The Wellness Approach

    Wellness is a way of life—a lifestyle you design to achieve your highest potential for well-being. (Travis & Ryan, 1988, p. xiv)

    The wellness model stresses self-responsibility and self-appreciation. It is a holistic approach that involves taking care of not only your physical self but also your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects. Focusing on one to the exclusion of others leads to imbalance and, eventually, illness.

    Holistic approach. When trying to achieve your highest potential academically and mentally, don't forget to take care of the rest of your needs. Students preparing for major exams often overexert themselves mentally while neglecting other important areas of their lives. The result may be ineffective studying, information overload, and poor performance. Physical illness at the time of, or shortly after, an exam is not uncommon.

    Instead, take a holistic approach to your exam preparation. You may decrease your sleep to create more time for studying, so be sure your sleep time is restful and undisturbed. Use sleep time to process information and motivate yourself, either by suggesting thoughts to yourself before falling asleep or by listening to a tape. One of the authors used a self-hypnosis tape with suggestions related to study motivation and successful passage of comprehensive exams with great results.

    Stress management. Studying for exams is very stressful, so consider some stress management techniques. Be sure to engage in aerobic exercise regularly. This not only keeps you in shape but also increases energy and promotes feelings of well-being. Control your diet by eliminating or reducing caffeine, alcohol, sodium, and sugar. These substances, especially when taken in excess, may contribute to illness, lack of energy, and mood swings.

    Use some form of relaxation every day. This may be self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, listening to music, reading, or any other activity that gives you a feeling of relaxation and well-being. Although you may have to curtail some social activities temporarily, a well-planned study schedule should allow some time for fun and social interaction. To ease your frazzled nerves, pay special attention to your emotional needs during times of intense study. Spiritual outlets can help you keep things in perspective as you appeal to a higher power either within or outside yourself.

    National Counselor Exam

    The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is an independent, not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1982. The purposes of the NBCC are to establish and monitor a national certification process for professional counselors. The NBCC maintains a registry of those counselors who have met its standards in training, experience, and performance on the National Counselor Examination (NCE), and it makes this list available to the public. Although certification is a voluntary process, no fewer than 35 states use NCE scores as a criterion for licensure of professional counselors.

    Purpose of Certification

    According to the 1997 NCE application packet, there are five purposes for counselor certification: (a) to promote professional accountability and visibility; (b) to identify to their peers, and also to the public, those counselors who have met NBCC standards; (c) to advance cooperation among those organizations involved in professional credentialing activities; (d) to encourage National Certified Counselors (NCCs) to continue their professional growth and development; and (e) to ensure that national standards are developed by professional counselors rather than by legislators.

    Testing Procedure

    The NCE is offered twice per year (spring and fall) at a number of sites throughout the country, with at least one site in each state. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice items that must be completed within 4 hours. In the past, the exam was divided into eight sections of 25 questions each. The sections corresponded with the eight core areas prescribed by the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP):

    • Human Growth and Development
    • Social and Cultural Foundations
    • Helping Relationships
    • Group Work
    • Career and Lifestyle Development
    • Appraisal
    • Research and Program Evaluation
    • Professional Orientation and Ethics

    Beginning in 1995, the NBCC changed the format of the NCE. The basis for the changes in the exam was a study conducted by NBCC, which resulted in the publication of A Work Behavior Analysis of Professional Counselors (1993). The current exam still consists of 200 multiple-choice questions; however, it is no longer divided into sections. Although the same content areas are stressed, questions from the content areas may appear in any order throughout the 200 items. Additionally, the current NCE is based on the following five work behaviors:

    • Fundamental Counseling Practices
    • Counseling for Career Development
    • Counseling Groups
    • Counseling Families
    • Professional Practice
    Test Format

    The NCE is a multiple-choice test similar to the practice tests in this book. The NBCC does not release information regarding test items, nor does it make old forms of the NCE available; therefore, the items in this volume have not been prepared by the NBCC but are similar to those practice items that are included in the NBCC Preparation Guide for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NBCC, 1994).

    Because of the multiple-choice format, it is imperative that you read each question carefully. Often one particular word or emphasis may change the meaning of the question. Mark the best answer for each question. If you are unsure, try to eliminate choices that are obviously wrong, then pick the one that seems most correct. You will not be penalized for guessing, so be sure to choose an answer for every question. If time allows, go back over your answers. Use caution in changing answers, because often your first inclination is correct.

    Comprehensive Exams

    If your doctoral program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), your course of study should correspond closely to the content areas of the NBCC exam. Although individual departments are free to determine the nature of their comprehensive exams, most likely the format will be essay rather than multiple choice. The study materials in this volume nevertheless should prove helpful as a review of the core areas.

    Depending on the information given by your department, you may need to modify the study plan suggested here, but the basic elements should remain the same. Given the intensity of preparation for qualifying exams, the formation of study/support groups is highly recommended. This book can serve as an organizational guide for the study group. Individuals in the group can work through one chapter of this study guide each week, then meet to process and discuss the information. The case studies may be especially useful in helping students to conceptualize and apply general ideas. Group members also can make up sample essay questions for one another to answer and quiz one another on pertinent references.

    Whether you aim to become a national certified counselor or to be accepted as a candidate for the Ph.D. in a counseling or related educational program, you will find this book a useful organizational tool and guide for your studies.

    Good luck!


    • abnormal behavior: maladaptive behavior that interferes with optimal functioning and growth of the individual and, ultimately, the society.
    • abuse: mistreatment of one human being by another, as in child abuse or spouse abuse, or misuse of a substance, as in alcohol or drug abuse.
    • accreditation: a professional credential applicable to programs deemed to have met certain established qualifications or standards.
    • achievement test: an appraisal instrument designed to measure formal (i.e., school) learning.
    • ageism: discrimination or negative attitude toward persons based on the fact that they are elderly.
    • androgyny: a characteristic of a human being incorporating both masculine and feminine attributes in one personality.
    • aptitude battery: a set of appraisals designed to predict achievement prior to instruction or selection.
    • attending: a particular type of behavior displayed by a counselor toward a client that includes appropriate eye contact, body language, and verbal following free from value judgments and distractions.
    • attitude test: an appraisal instrument that measures the tendency to respond favorably or unfavorably toward specific groups, institutions, or objects.
    • behavioral view: a theory of helping that focuses on observable and measurable behaviors and precise goals set by the clients, sees clients as products of their environments, and seeks to change environmental contingencies so as to change client behavior.
    • career counseling: a type of individual, adult counseling that focuses on career development needs by promoting the self-discovery and decision-making skills needed to make effective career and lifestyle choices.
    • career development: a life-span process that involves searching for the psychological meaning of vocationally relevant acts and of work itself.
    • career guidance: a type of vocational education that normally occurs in school settings and consists of an organized program to promote self-understanding, understanding of work and society changes, leisure awareness, and avenues for self-fulfillment.
    • certification: a title control process by which an agency grants recognition to an individual who has fulfilled the standards of the agency, thereby earning the right to use the title “certified.”
    • classical conditioning: a model of learning that involves the conditioning of new stimuli to existing responses.
    • client-centered: a theory of helping that emphasizes the process of being, rather than the outcome, with the counselor facilitating in the process of helping clients find their own direction.
    • cognitive therapy: a theory of helping that assists clients in identifying automatic, illogical, and irrational thoughts and generating more adaptive alternative thoughts that lead to more satisfying behaviors.
    • cohesiveness: an aspect of group dynamics that refers to the attractiveness of the counseling group for its members.
    • confidentiality: the ethical responsibility of the counselor to safeguard clients from unauthorized disclosure of information about themselves.
    • consultation: a helping relationship involving collaboration between two professionals, the consultant and the consultee, focusing on issues that cause human problems in the consultee's workplace.
    • counselor: a helper who is trained to work with normal populations to prevent problems or to remediate them at their early stages, taking a developmental, educational approach to assist clients in achieving more effective personal, social, educational, and career development and adjustment.
    • culture: a way of life of a people; the sum total of their beliefs about and procedures for coping with their environment. Cross-cultural counseling takes into account the cultural, social class, racial, and ethnic differences between counselor and client.
    • data, people, and things: part of the classification system in the DOT based on interest requirements. Jobs are classified on a continuum from low to high interest in ideas and information (data), interpersonal relations (people), and physical objects (things).
    • disabled: physically, mentally, or emotionally handicapped.
    • discrimination: the act of treating people differently because of their age, gender, race, or culture.
    • DOT:Dictionary of Occupational Titles, a publication that contains an alphabetically arranged list of occupation titles and their descriptions.
    • empathy: a counselor skill that involves reflecting the client's feelings in such a way as to demonstrate understanding of the client by the counselor.
    • ethics: a set of standards of right or wrong that have been established by a profession.
    • evaluation: a judgment of the worth or value of a particular process, technique, or program.
    • experimental design: the conceptual framework within which a research project is conducted; a research plan that serves to establish the conditions for the comparisons required by the hypotheses of the experiment and to enable the experimenter, through statistical analysis of the data, to make a meaningful interpretation of the results of the study.
    • external validity: the generalizability or representativeness of the findings of a research project (i.e., the extent to which the results of an experiment can be generalized to different subjects, settings, and measuring instruments).
    • feedback: the verbalization of an individual's perceptions and reactions to another's verbal or nonverbal behavior.
    • genuineness: a counselor response that demonstrates the ability to be real or honest with clients; counselor verbalizations are congruent with inner feelings.
    • group dynamics: the area of social psychology that focuses on advancing knowledge about the nature of group life; social forces and interplay operative within the group at any time.
    • group process: the study of how groups work; the continuous, ongoing movement of the group toward the achievement of its goals.
    • group roles: members' functions within the group; task and maintenance roles help groups move toward goals, whereas personal/individual roles detract from the group when self-orientation is at odds with the group.
    • informed consent: an ethical standard that requires group leaders to clearly identify for members the nature and goals of the group and the responsibilities and rights of the members.
    • intelligence test: an appraisal instrument designed to measure IQ.
    • interest inventory: a series of items having no correct answers but designed to indicate one's preference for one activity over another.
    • internal validity: criteria for evaluating the soundness of causal relationships in a research study (i.e., for deteiTnining whether or not the independent variable made a difference).
    • intervention: a facilitative response by the counselor to the client.
    • learning theory: explanation of human development that focuses on perception, learning, and cognition; includes classical, operant, and vicarious conditioning.
    • licensure: the process by which an agency of government grants permission to an individual to engage in a given occupation upon finding that the applicant has attained the minimal degree of competency necessary to ensure that the public health, safety, and welfare will be reasonably well protected.
    • life-career rainbow: a career development tool that depicts the life span in terms of six life roles and five life stages.
    • lifestyle: an individual's total way of being in the world, including aspects of work, home/family, and leisure life.
    • malpractice: the failure to render proper service, through ignorance or negligence, resulting in injury or loss to the client; departing from usual practice or not exercising due care.
    • maturation: the process of growth and development.
    • mean: a measure of central tendency sometimes referred to as the arithmetic average; found by summing all values and dividing by the number of cases.
    • median: the midpoint in a series of measurements after all values have been placed in sequence.
    • norms: in group counseling, standard rules of conduct in the group, either formal or informal, visible or invisible, spoken or unspoken. In appraisal, the distribution of scores obtained from a standardized group (i.e., representatives of specified populations).
    • OOH: Occupational Outlook Handbook, a resource guide published by the U.S. Department of Labor that contains career information for use in guidance.
    • operant conditioning: a type of learning in which the individual actively operates or acts on the environment to achieve some goal.
    • prejudice: an irrational attitude or behavior directed against an individual or a group, or an individual's or group's supposed characteristics.
    • prevention: counselor activities aimed at reducing the incidence and severity of problems. Primary prevention, aimed at total populations, promotes the development of healthy behaviors through information and education. Secondary prevention, or early intervention, is aimed at high-risk groups or persons in the early stages of a problem and focuses on reducing the duration and/or intensity of the disorder. Tertiary prevention (i.e., rehabilitation or treatment) is designed to facilitate a full, effective return to the highest possible level of functioning.
    • privileged communication: a legal concept that means clients are protected by state law from having their confidences revealed in a court of law without their permission. Note: Laws differ by state and do not apply equally to all helping professionals.
    • professional orientation: attitude adopted by professional counselors toward their counseling and related professional activities that includes voluntarily adhering to, supporting, and contributing to the achievement and improvement of the goals, objectives, and behaviors deemed appropriate by the members of the profession.
    • qualitative data: measures based on ordinal scales (unequal differences between successive categories of the trait being measured) or nominal scales (derived from mutually exclusive categories without regard to order).
    • quantitative data: measures based on ratio scales that have equal intervals and an absolute zero.
    • reflection: a counselor response that restates the client's statement, communicating its content and affect with accuracy and equal intensity.
    • registry: a publicly distributed list of names of persons who have met some identified set of minimum qualifications.
    • reinforcement: the consequence of a behavior that increases the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring; in positive reinforcement, stimuli are presented; in negative reinforcement, stimuli are removed.
    • reliability: the extent to which individual differences are measured consistently as determined by coefficients of stability, equivalence, stability and equivalence, and internal consistency or homogeneity.
    • research: organized scientific efforts that seek the advancement of knowledge.
    • respect: a counselor response that demonstrates to the clients that the counselor has faith in their ability to solve their own problems.
    • roles: functions assumed by someone due to their place in a family (family roles), their longevity (age roles), or their gender (sex roles). Too many different functions cause role conflict and role strain; successful balance of roles leads to role integration.
    • sampling: selecting a representative portion of a population to participate in a research study.
    • self-actualization: the inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways that serve to maintain or enhance the organism.
    • sexism: discrimination against persons (especially women) because of their gender.
    • stages: periods of growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and decline in development and their relationship to chronological age.
    • standards of counselor preparation: a set of guidelines established by ACES to which counselor training programs must adhere in order to be accredited by the CACREP.
    • statistics: a science concerned with the presentation, analysis, and interpretation of data obtained from samples of observations.
    • stereotyping: making a judgment about a person or group based on a preconceived notion rather than fact.
    • trait theory: a way of classifying individuals according to a series of personality constructs, or traits, that can be used to predict behavior under given circumstances.
    • trait-and-factor: a matching approach to career development that assumes that success in a chosen field may be achieved by matching an individual's personal characteristics with the characteristics required for a particular occupation.
    • unconditional positive regard: a counselor's nonpossessive caring or acceptance of the individuality of each client.
    • validity: the extent to which measurements or items correspond with criteria.
    • variable: an attribute that is regarded as reflecting or expressing some concept or construct and that takes on different values. Dependent variables are those that are consequences of antecedent variables and are the object of research studies. Independent variables are the antecedent variables that are manipulated in research studies to determine their effect on the dependent variables.
    • vicarious conditioning: learning that takes place by observing the behavior of others (i.e., models).

    Appendix A: National Board for Certified Counselors Code of Ethics


    The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is a professional certification board which certifies counselors as having met standards for the general and specialty practice of professional counseling established by the Board. The counselors certified by NBCC may identify with different professional associations and are often licensed by jurisdictions which promulgate codes of ethics. The NBCC code of ethics provides a minimal ethical standard for the professional behavior of all NBCC certificants. This code provides an expectation of and assurance for the ethical practice for all who use the professional services of an NBCC certificant. In addition, it serves the purpose of having an enforceable standard for all NBCC certificants and assures those served of some resource in case of a perceived ethical violation.

    The NBCC Ethical Code applies to all those certified by NBCC regardless of any other professional affiliation. Persons who receive professional services from certified counselors may elect to use other ethical codes which apply to their counselor. Although NBCC cooperates with professional associations and creden-tialing organizations, it can bring actions to discipline or sanction NBCC certificants only if the provisions of the NBCC Code are found to have been violated.

    The National Board for Certified Counselors. Inc. (NBCC) promotes counseling through certification. In pursuit of this mission, the NBCC:

    • Promotes quality assurance in counseling practice
    • Promotes the value of counseling
    • Promotes public awareness of quality counseling practice
    • Promotes professionalism in counseling
    • Promotes leadership in credentialing
    SOURCE: National Board for Certified Counselors, National Board for Certified Counselors Code of Ethics. Reprinted with the permission of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. © Copyright 1997.
    Section A: General

    1. Certified counselors engage in continuous efforts to improve professional practices, services, and research. Certified counselors are guided in their work by evidence of the best professional practices.

    2. Certified counselors have a responsibility to the clients they serve and to the institutions within which the services are performed. Certified counselors also strive to assist the respective agency, organization, or institution in providing competent and ethical professional services. The acceptance of employment in an institution implies that the certified counselor is in agreement with the general policies and principles of the institution. Therefore, the professional activities of the certified counselor are in accord with the objectives of the institution. If the certified counselor and the employer do not agree and cannot reach agreement on policies that are consistent with appropriate counselor ethical practice that is conducive to client growth and development, the employment should be terminated. If the situation warrants further action, the certified counselor should work through professional organizations to have the unethical practice changed.

    3. Ethical behavior among professional associates (i.e., both certified and non-certified counselors) must be expected at all times. When a certified counselor has doubts as to the ethical behavior of professional colleagues, the certified counselor must take action to attempt to rectify this condition. Such action uses the respective institution's channels first and then uses procedures established by the NBCC or the perceived violator's profession.

    4. Certified counselors must refuse remuneration for consultation or counseling with persons who are entitled to these services through the certified counselor's employing institution or agency. Certified counselors must not divert to their private practices, without the mutual consent of the institution and the client, legitimate clients in their primary agencies or the institutions with which they are affiliated.

    5. In establishing fees for professional counseling services, certified counselors must consider the financial status of clients. In the event that the established fee status is inappropriate for a client, assistance must be provided in finding comparable services at acceptable cost.

    6. Certified counselors offer only professional services for which they are trained or have supervised experience. No diagnosis, assessment, or treatment should be performed without prior training or supervision. Certified counselors are responsible for correcting any misrepresentations of their qualifications by others.

    7. Certified counselors recognize their limitations and provide services or use techniques for which they are qualified by training and/or supervision. Certified counselors recognize the need for and seek continuing education to assure competent services.

    8. Certified counselors are aware of the intimacy in the counseling relationship and maintain respect for the client. Counselors must not engage in activities that seek to meet their personal or professional needs at the expense of the client.

    9. Certified counselors must insure that they do not engage in personal, social, organizational, financial, or political activities which might lead to a misuse of their influence.

    10. Sexual intimacy with clients is unethical. Certified counselors will not be sexually, physically, or romantically intimate with clients, and they will not engage in sexual, physical, or romantic intimacy with clients within a minimum of two years after terminating the counseling relationship.

    11. Certified counselors do not condone or engage in sexual harassment, which is defined as unwelcome comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature.

    12. Through an awareness of the impact of stereotyping and unwarranted discrimination (e.g., biases based on age, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation), certified counselor guard the individual rights and personal dignity of the client in the counseling relationship.

    13. Certified counselors are accountable at all times for their behavior. They must be aware that all actions and behaviors of the counselor reflect on professional integrity and, when inappropriate, can damage the public trust in the counseling profession. To protect public confidence in the counseling profession, certified counselors avoid behavior that is clearly in violation of accepted moral and legal standards.

    14. Products or services provided by certified counselors by means of classroom instruction, public lectures, demonstrations, written articles, radio or television programs or other types of media must meet the criteria cited in this code.

    15. Certified counselors have an obligation to withdraw from the practice of counseling if they violate the Code of Ethics, or if the mental or physical condition of the certified counselor renders it unlikely that a professional relationship will be maintained.

    Section B: Counseling Relationship

    1. The primary obligation of certified counselors is to respect the integrity and promote the welfare of clients, whether they are assisted individually, in family units, or in group counseling. In a group setting, the certified counselor is also responsible for taking reasonable precautions to protect individuals from physical and/or psychological trauma resulting from interaction within the group.

    2. Certified counselors know and take into account the traditions and practices of other professional disciplines with whom they work and cooperate fully with such. If a person is receiving similar services from another professional, certified counselors do not offer their own services directly to such a person. If a certified counselor is contacted by a person who is already receiving similar services from another professional, the certified counselor carefully considers that professional relationship as well as the client's welfare and proceeds with caution and sensitivity to the therapeutic issues. When certified counselors learn that their clients are in a professional relationship with another counselor or mental health professional, they request release from the clients to inform the other counselor or mental health professional of their relationship with the client and strive to establish positive and collaborative professional relationships that are in the best interest of the client. Certified counselors discuss these issues with clients and the counselor or professional so as to minimize the risk of confusion and conflict and encourage clients to inform other professionals of the new professional relationship.

    3. Certified counselors may choose to consult with any other professionally competent person about a client and must notify clients of this right. Certified counselors avoid placing a consultant in a conflict-of-interest situation that would preclude the consultant serving as a proper party to the efforts of the certified counselor to help the client.

    4. When a client's condition indicates that there is a clear and imminent danger to the client or others, the certified counselor must take reasonable action to inform potential victims and/or inform responsible authorities. Consultation with other professionals must be used when possible. The assumption of responsibility for the client's behavior must be taken only after careful deliberation, and the client must be involved in the resumption of responsibility as quickly as possible.

    5. Records of the counseling relationship, including interview notes, test data, correspondence, audio or visual tape recordings, electronic data storage, and other documents are to be considered professional information for use in counseling. Records should contain accurate factual data. The physical records are property of the certified counselors or their employers. The information contained in the records belongs to the client and therefore may not be released to others without the consent of the client or when the counselor has exhausted challenges to a court order. The certified counselors are responsible to insure that their employees handle confidential information appropriately. Confidentiality must be maintained during the storage and disposition of records. Records should be maintained for a period of at least five (5) years after the last counselor/client contact, including cases in which the client is deceased. All records must be released to the client upon request.

    6. Certified counselors must ensure that data maintained in electronic storage are secure. By using the best computer security methods available, the data must be limited to information that is appropriate and necessary for the services being provided and accessible only to appropriate staff members involved in the provision of services. Certified counselors must also ensure that the electronically stored data are destroyed when the information is no longer of value in providing services or required as part of clients' records.

    7. Any data derived from a client relationship and used in training or research shall be so disguised that the informed client's identity is fully protected. Any data which cannot be so disguised may be used only as expressly authorized by the client's informed and uncoerced consent.

    8. When counseling is initiated, and throughout the counseling process as necessary, counselors inform clients of the purposes, goals, techniques, procedures, limitations, potential risks and benefits of services to be performed, and clearly indicate limitations that may affect the relationship as well as any other pertinent information. Counselors take reasonable steps to ensure that clients understand the implications of any diagnosis, the intended use of tests and reports, methods of treatment and safety precautions that must be taken in their use, fees, and billing arrangements.

    9. Certified counselors who have an administrative, supervisory and/or evaluative relationship with individuals seeking counseling services must not serve as the counselor and should refer the individuals to other professionals. Exceptions are made only in instances where an individual's situation warrants counseling intervention and another alternative is unavailable. Dual relationships that might impair the certified counselor's objectivity and professional judgment must be avoided and/or the counseling relationship terminated through referral to a competent professional.

    10. When certified counselors determine an inability to be of professional assistance to a potential or existing client, they must, respectively, not initiate the counseling relationship or immediately terminate the relationship. In either event, the certified counselor must suggest appropriate alternatives. Certified counselors must be knowledgeable about referral resources so that a satisfactory referral can be initiated. In the event that the client declines a suggested referral, the certified counselor is not obligated to continue the relationship.

    11. When certified counselors are engaged in intensive, short-term counseling, they must ensure that professional assistance is available at normal costs to clients during and following the short-term counseling.

    12. Counselors using electronic means in which counselor and client are not in immediate proximity must present clients with local sources of care before establishing a continued short or long-term relationship. Counselors who communicate with clients via Internet are governed by NBCC standards for Web Counseling.

    13. Counselors must document permission to practice counseling by electronic means in all governmental jurisdictions where such counseling takes place.

    14. When electronic data and systems are used as a component of counseling services, certified counselors must ensure that the computer application, and any information it contains, is appropriate for the respective needs of clients and is non-discriminatory. Certified counselors must ensure that they themselves have acquired a facilitation level of knowledge with any system they use including hands-on application, and understanding of the uses of all aspects of the computer-based system. In selecting and/or maintaining computer-based systems that contain career information, counselors must ensure that the system provides current, accurate, and locally relevant information. Certified counselors must also ensure that clients are intellectually, emotionally, and physically compatible with computer applications and understand their purpose and operation. Client use of a computer application must be evaluated to correct possible problems and assess subsequent needs.

    15. Certified counselors who develop self-help /stand-alone computer software for use by the general public, must first ensure that it is designed to function in a stand-alone manner that is appropriate and safe for all clients for which it is intended. A manual is required. The manual must provide the user with intended outcomes, suggestions for using the software, descriptions of inappropriately used applications, and descriptions of when and how other forms of counseling services might be beneficial. Finally, the manual must include the qualifications of the developer, the development process, validation date, and operating procedures.

    16. The counseling relationship and information resulting from it remains confidential, consistent with the legal and ethical obligations of certified counselors. In group counseling, counselors clearly define confidentiality and the parameters for the specific group being entered, explain the importance of confidentiality, and discuss the difficulties related to confidentiality involved in group work. The fact that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed is clearly communicated to group members. However, counselors should give assurance about their professional responsibility to keep all group communications confidential.

    17. Certified counselors must screen prospective group counseling participants to ensure compatibility with group objectives. This is especially important when the emphasis is on self-understanding and growth through self-disclosure. Certified counselors must maintain an awareness of the welfare of each participant throughout the group process.

    Section C: Measurement and Evaluation

    1. Because many types of assessment techniques exist, certified counselors must recognize the limits of their competence and perform only those assessment functions for which they have received appropriate training or supervision.

    2. Certified counselors who utilize assessment instruments to assist them with diagnoses must have appropriate training and skills in educational and psychological measurement, validation criteria, test research, and guidelines for test development and use.

    3. Certified counselors must provide instrument specific orientation or information to an examinee prior to and following the administration of assessment instruments or techniques so that the results may be placed in proper perspective with other relevant factors. The purpose of testing and the explicit use of the results must be made known to an examinee prior to testing.

    4. In selecting assessment instruments or techniques for use in a given situation or with a particular client, certified counselors must carefully evaluate the specific theoretical bases and characteristics, validity, reliability, and appropriateness of the instrument.

    5. When making statements to the public about assessment instruments or techniques, certified counselors must provide accurate information and avoid false claims or misconceptions concerning the meaning of the instrument's reliability and validity terms.

    6. Counselors must follow all directions and researched procedures for selection, administration and interpretation of all evaluation instruments and use them only within proper contexts.

    7. Certified counselors must be cautious when interpreting the results of instruments that possess insufficient technical data, and must explicitly state to examines the specific limitations and purposes for the use of such instruments.

    8. Certified counselors must proceed with caution when attempting to evaluate and interpret performances of any person who cannot be appropriately compared to the norms for the instrument.

    9. Because prior coaching or dissemination of test materials can invalidate test results, certified counselors are professionally obligated to maintain test security.

    10. Certified counselors must consider psychometric limitations when selecting and using an instrument, and must be cognizant of the limitations when interpreting the results. When tests are used to classify clients, certified counselors must ensure that periodic review and/or retesting are made to prevent client stereotyping.

    11. An examinee's welfare, explicit prior understanding, and consent are the factors used when determining who receives the test results. Certified counselors must see that appropriate interpretation accompanies any release of individual or group test data (e.g., limitations of instrument and norms).

    12. Certified counselors must ensure that computer-generated test administration and scoring programs function properly thereby providing clients with accurate test results.

    13. Certified counselors who develop computer-based test interpretations to support the assessment process must ensure that the validity of the interpretations is established prior to the commercial distribution of the computer application.

    14. Certified counselors recognize that test results may become obsolete, and avoid the misuse of obsolete data.

    15. Certified counselors must not appropriate, reproduce, or modify published tests or parts thereof without acknowledgment and permission from the publisher, except as permitted by the fair educational use provisions of the U.S. copyright law.

    Section D: Research and Publication

    1. Certified counselors will adhere to applicable legal and professional guidelines on research with human subjects.

    2. In planning research activities involving human subjects, certified counselors must be aware of and responsive to all pertinent ethical principles and ensure that the research problem, design, and execution are in full compliance with any pertinent institutional or governmental regulations.

    3. The ultimate responsibility for ethical research lies with the principal researcher, although others involved in the research activities are ethically obligated and responsible for their own actions.

    4. Certified counselors who conduct research with human subjects are responsible for the welfare of the subjects throughout the experiment and must take all reasonable precautions to avoid causing injurious psychological, physical, or social effects on their subjects.

    5. Certified counselors who conduct research must abide by the basic elements of informed consent:

    • fair explanation of the procedures to be followed, including an identification of those which are experimental
    • description of the attendant discomforts and risks
    • description of the benefits to be expected
    • disclosure of appropriate alternative procedures that would be advantageous for subjects with an offer to answer any inquiries concerning the procedures
    • an instruction that subjects are free to withdraw their consent and to discontinue participation in the project or activity at any time

    6. When reporting research results, explicit mention must be made of all the variables and conditions known to the investigator that may have affected the outcome of the study or the interpretation of the data.

    7. Certified counselors who conduct and report research investigations must do so in a manner that minimizes the possibility that the results will be misleading.

    8. Certified counselors are obligated to make available sufficient original research data to qualified others who may wish to replicate the study.

    9. Certified counselors who supply data, aid in the research of another person, report research results, or make original data available, must take due care to disguise the identity of respective subjects in the absence of specific authorization from the subjects to do otherwise.

    10. When conducting and reporting research, certified counselors must be familiar with and give recognition to previous work on the topic, must observe all copyright laws, and must follow the principles of giving full credit to those to whom credit is due.

    11. Certified counselors must give due credit through joint authorship, acknowledgment, footnote statements, or other appropriate means to those who have contributed to the research and/or publication, in accordance with such contributions.

    12. Certified counselors should communicate to other counselors the results of any research judged to be of professional value. Results that reflect unfavorably on institutions, programs, services, or vested interests must not be withheld.

    13. Certified counselors who agree to cooperate with another individual in research and/or publication incur an obligation to cooperate as promised in terms of punctuality of performance and with full regard to the completeness and accuracy of the information required.

    14. Certified counselors must not submit the same manuscript, or one essentially similar in content, for simultaneous publication consideration by two or more journals. In addition, manuscripts that have been published in whole or substantial part should not be submitted for additional publication without acknowledgment and permission from any previous publisher.

    Section E: Consulting

    Consultation refers to a voluntary relationship between a professional helper and a help-needing individual, group, or social unit in which the consultant is providing help to the client(s) in defining and solving a work-related problem or potential work-related problem with a client or client system.

    1. Certified counselors, acting as consultants, must have a high degree of self awareness of their own values, knowledge, skills, limitations, and needs in entering a helping relationship that involves human and/or organizational change. The focus of the consulting relationship must be on the issues to be resolved and not on the person(s) presenting the problem.

    2. In the consulting relationship, the certified counselor and client must understand and agree upon the problem definition, subsequent goals, and predicted consequences of interventions selected.

    3. Certified counselors acting as consultants must be reasonably certain that they, or the organization represented, have the necessary competencies and resources for giving the kind of help that is needed or that may develop later, and that appropriate referral resources are available.

    4. Certified counselors in a consulting relationship must encourage and cultivate client adaptability and growth toward self-direction. Certified counselors must maintain this role consistently and not become a decision maker for clients or create a future dependency on the consultant.

    Section F: Private Practice

    1. In advertising services as a private practitioner, certified counselors must advertise in a manner that accurately informs the public of the professional services, expertise, and techniques of counseling available.

    2. Certified counselors who assume an executive leadership role in a private practice organization do not permit their names to be used in professional notices during periods of time when they are not actively engaged in the private practice of counseling unless their executive roles are clearly stated.

    3. Certified counselors must make available their highest degree (described by discipline), type and level of certification and/or license, address, telephone number, office hours, type and/or description of services, and other relevant information. Listed information must not contain false, inaccurate, misleading, partial, out-of-context, or otherwise deceptive material or statements.

    4. Certified counselors who are involved in a partnership/corporation with other certified counselors and/or other professionals, must clearly specify all relevant specialties of each member of the partnership or corporation.

    Appendix: Certification Examination

    Applicants for the NBCC Certification Examinations must have fulfilled all current eligibility requirements, and are responsible for the accuracy and validity of all information and/or materials provided by themselves or by others for fulfillment of eligibility criteria.

    Approved October, 1997


    Reference documents, statements, and sources for the development of the NBCC Code of Ethics were as follows:

    The Ethical Standards of the American Counseling Association, Responsible Uses for Standardized Testing (AAC), codes of ethics for the American Psychological Association and the National Career Development Association, Handbook of Standards for Computer-Based Career Information Systems (ACSCI) and Guidelines for the Use of Computer-Based Career Information and Guidance Systems (ACSCI).

    National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. • 3 Terrace Way, Suite D • Greensboro, NC 27403–3660

    (336) 547–0607 • Fax (336) 547–0017 • • email:

    Appendix B: Ethical Guidelines for Group Counselors

    Approved by the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) Executive Board, June 1, 1989


    One characteristic of any professional group is the possession of a body of knowledge, skills, and voluntarily, self-professed standards for ethical practice. A Code of Ethics consists of those standards that have been formally and publicly acknowledged by the members of a profession to serve as the guidelines for professional conduct, discharge of duties, and the resolution of moral dilemmas. By this document, the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) has identified the standards of conduct appropriate for ethical behavior among its members.

    The Association for Specialists in Group Work recognizes the basic commitment of its members to the Ethical Standards of its parent organization, the American Association for Counseling and Development (AACD) and nothing in this document shall be construed to supplant that code. These standards are intended to complement the AACD standards in the area of group work by setting and by stimulating a greater concern for competent group leadership.

    The group counselor is expected to be a professional agent and to take the processes of ethical responsibility seriously. ASGW views “ethical process” as being integral to group work and view group counselors as “ethical agents.” Group counselors, by their very nature in being responsible and responsive to their group members, necessarily embrace a certain potential for ethical vulnerability. It is incumbent upon group counselors to give considerable attention to the intent and context of their actions because the attempts of counselors to influence human behavior through group work always have ethical implications.

    The following ethical guidelines have been developed to encourage ethical behavior of group counselors. These guidelines are written for students and practitioners, and are meant to stimulate reflection, self-examination, and discussion of issues and practices. They address the group counselor's responsibility for providing information about group work to clients and the group counselor's responsibility for providing group counseling services to clients. A final section discusses the group counselor's responsibility for safeguarding ethical practice and procedures for reporting unethical behavior. Group counselors are expected to make known these standards to group members.

    SOURCE: The Association for Specialists in Group Work, Ethical Guidelines for Group Counselors. © Copyright 1989 by American Personnel & Guidance Association. Reprinted with permission from the American Counseling Association. No further reproduction authorized without written permission of the American Counseling Association.
    Ethical Guidelines
    • Orientation and providing Information: Group counselors adequately prepare prospective or new group members by providing as much information about the existing or proposed group as necessary.
      • Minimally, information related to each of the following areas should be provided.
        • Entrance procedures, time parameters of the group experience, group participation expectations, methods of payment (where appropriate), and termination procedures are explained by the group counselor as appropriate to the level of maturity of group members and the nature and purpose(s) of the group.
        • Group counselors have available for distribution, a professional disclosure statement that includes information on the group counselor's qualifications and group services that can be provided, particularly as related to the nature and purpose(s) of the specific group.
        • Group counselors communicate the role expectations, rights, and responsibilities of group members and group counselor (s).
        • The group goals are stated as concisely as possible by the group counselor including “whose” goal it is (the group counselor's, the institution's, the parent's, the law's, society's, etc.) and the role of group members in influencing or detennining the group's goal(s).
        • Group counselors explore with group members the risks of potential life changes that may occur because of the group experience and help members explore their readiness to face these possibilities.
        • Group members are informed by the group counselor of unusual or experimental procedures that might be expected in their group experience.
        • Group counselors explain, as realistically as possible, what services can and cannot be provided within the particular group structure offered.
        • Group counselors emphasize the need to promote full psychological functioning and presence among group members. They inquire from prospective group members whether they are using any kind of drug or medication that may affect functioning in the group. They do not permit any use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs during group sessions and they discourage the use of alcohol and/or drugs (legal or illegal) prior to group meetings which may affect the physical or emotional presence of the member or other group members.
        • Group counselors inquire from prospective group members whether they have ever been a client in counseling or psychotherapy. If a prospective group member is already in a counseling relationship with another professional person, the group counselor advises the prospective group member to notify the other professional of their participation in the group.
        • Group counselors clearly inform group members about the policies pertaining to the group counselor's willingness to consult with them between group sessions.
        • In establishing fees for group counseling services, group counselors consider the financial status and the locality of prospective group) members. Group members are not charged fees for group sessions where the group counselor is not present and the policy of charging for sessions missed by a group member is clearly communicated. Fees for participating as a group member are contracted between group counselor and group member for a specified period of time. Group counselors do not increase fees for group counseling services until the existing contracted fee structure has expired. In the event that the established fee structure is inappropriate for a prospective member, group counselors assist in finding comparable services of acceptable cost.
    • Screening of Members: The group counselor screens prospective group members (when appropriate to their theoretical orientation). Insofar as possible, the counselor selects group members whose needs and goals are compatible with the goals of the group, who will not impede the group process, and whose well-being will not be jeopardized by the group experience. An orientation to the group (i.e., ASGW Ethical Guideline #1) is included during the screening process.
      • Screening may be accomplished in one or more ways, such as the following:
        • Individual interview
        • Group interview of prospective group members
        • Interview as part of a team staffing
        • Completion of a written questionnaire by prospective group members.
    • Confidentiality: Group counselors protect members by defining clearly what confidentiality means, why it is important, and the difficulties involved in enforcement.
      • Group counselors take steps to protect members by defining confidentiality and the limits of confidentiality (i.e., when a group member's condition indicates that there is clear and imminent danger to the member, other, or physical property, the group counselor takes a reasonable personal action and/or informs responsible authorities).
      • Group counselors stress the importance of confidentiality and set a norm of confidentiality regarding all group participants' disclosures. The importance of maintaining confidentiality is emphasized before the group begins and at various times in the group. The fact that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed is clearly stated.
      • Members are made aware of the difficulties involved in enforcing and ensuring confidentiality in a group setting. The counselor provides examples of how confidentiality can non-maliciously be broken to increase members' awareness, and helps to lessen the likelihood that this breach of confidence will occur. Group counselors inform group members about the potential consequences of intentionally breaching confidentiality.
      • Group counselors can only ensure confidentiality on their part and not on the part of the members.
      • Group counselors video or audio tape a group session only with the prior consent and the members' knowledge of how the tape will be used.
      • When working with minors, the group counselor specifies the limits of confidentiality.
      • Participants in a mandatory group are made aware of any reporting procedures required of the group counselor.
      • Group counselors store or dispose of group member recourse (written, audio, video, etc.) in ways that maintain confidentiality.
      • Instructors of group counseling courses maintain the anonymity of group members whenever discussing group counseling cases.
    • Voluntary/Involuntary Participation: Group counselors inform members whether participation is voluntary or involuntary.
      • Group counselors take steps to ensure informed consent procedures in both voluntary and involuntary groups.
      • When working with minors in a group, counselors are expected to follow the procedures specified by the institution in which they are practicing.
      • With involuntary groups, every attempt is made to enlist the cooperation of the members and their continuance in the group on a voluntary basis.
      • Group counselors do not certify that group treatment has been received by members who merely attend sessions but did not meet the defined group expectations. Group members are informed about the consequences for failing to participate in a group.
    • Leaving a Group: Provisions are made to assist a group member to terminate in an effective way.
      • Procedures to be followed for a group member who chooses to exit a group prematurely are discussed by the counselor with all group members either before the group begins, during a pre-screening interview, or during the initial group session.
      • In case of legally mandated group counseling, group counselors inform members of the possible consequences for premature self termination.
      • Ideally, both the group counselor and the member can work cooperatively to determine the degree to which a group experience is productive or counterproductive for that individual.
      • Members ultimately have a right to discontinue membership in the group, at a designated time, if the predetermined trial period proves to be unsatisfactory.
      • Members have the right to exit a group, but it is important that they be made aware of the importance of mforming the counselor and the group members prior to deciding to leave. The counselor discusses the possible risks of leaving the group prematurely with a member who is considering this option.
      • Before leaving a group, the group counselor encourages members (if appropriate) to discuss their reasons for wanting to discontinue membership in the group. Counselors intervene if other members use undue pressure to force a member to remain in the group.
    • Coercion and Pressure: Group counselors protect member rights against physical threats, intimidation, coercion, and undue peer pressure insofar as is reasonably possible.
      • It is essential to differentiate between “therapeutic pressure” that is part of any group and “undue pressure,” which is not therapeutic.
      • The purpose of a group is to help participants find their own answers, not to pressure them into doing what the group thinks is appropriate.
      • Counselors exert care not to coerce participants to change in directions which they clearly state they do not choose.
      • Counselors have responsibility to intervene when others use undue pressure or attempt to persuade members against their will.
      • Counselors intervene when any member attempts to act out aggression in a physical way that might harm another member or themselves.
      • Counselors intervene when a member is verbally abusive or inappropriately confrontive to another member.
    • Imposing Counselor Values: Group counselors develop an awareness of their own values and needs and the potential impact they have on the interventions likely to be made.
      • Although group counselors take care to avoid imposing their values on members, it is appropriate that they expose their own beliefs, decisions, needs, and values, when concealing them would create problems for the members.
      • There are values implicit in any group, and these are made clear to potential members before they join the group. (Examples of certain values include: expressing feelings, being direct and honest, sharing personal material with others, learning how to trust, improving interpersonal communication, and deciding for oneself.)
      • Personal and professional needs of group counselors are not met at the members' expense.
      • Group counselors avoid using the group for their own therapy.
      • Group counselors are aware of their own values and assumptions and how these apply in a multi-cultural context.
      • Group counselors take steps to increase their awareness of ways that their personal reactions to members might inhibit the group process and they monitor their countertransfer-ence. Through an awareness of the impact of stereotyping and discrimination (i.e., biases based on age, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, or sexual preference), group counselors guard the individual rights and personal dignity of all group members.
    • Equitable Treatment: Group counselors make every reasonable effort to treat each member individually and equally.
      • Group counselors recognize and respect differences (e.g., cultural, racial, religious, lifestyle, age, disability, gender) among group members.
      • Group counselors maintain an awareness of their behavior toward individual group members and are alert to the potential detrimental effects of favoritism or partiality toward any particular group member to the exclusion or detriment of any other member(s). It is likely that group counselors will favor some members over others, yet all group members deserve to be treated equally.
      • Group counselors ensure equitable use of group time for each member by inviting silent members to become involved, acknowledging nonverbal attempts to communicate, and discouraging rambling and monopolizing of time by members.
      • If a large group is planned, counselors consider enlisting another qualified professional to serve as a co-leader for the group sessions.
    • Dual Relationships: Group counselors avoid dual relationships with group members that might impair their objectivity and professional judgment, as well as those which are likely to compromise a group member's ability to participate fully in the group.
      • Group counselors do not misuse their professional role and power as group leader to advance personal or social contacts with members throughout the duration of the group.
      • Group counselors do not use their professional relationship with group members to further their own interest either during the group or after the termination of the group.
      • Sexual intimacies between group counselors and members are unethical.
      • Group counselors do not barter (exchange) professional services with group members for services.
      • Group counselors do not admit their own family members, relatives, employees, or personal friends as members to their groups.
      • Group counselors discuss with group members the potential detrimental effects of group members engaging in intimate inter-member relationships outside of the group.
      • Students who participate in a group as a partial course requirement for a group course are not evaluated for an academic grade based upon their degree of participation as a member in a group. Instructors of group counseling courses take steps to minimize the possible negative impact on students when they participate in a group course by separating course grades from participation in the group and by allowing students to decide what issues to explore and when to stop.
      • It is inappropriate to solicit members from a class (or institutional affiliation) for one's private counseling or therapeutic groups.
    • Use of Techniques: Group counselors do not attempt any technique unless trained in its use or under supervision by a counselor familiar with the intervention.
      • Group counselors are able to articulate a theoretical orientation that guides their practice, and they are able to provide a rationale for their interventions.
      • Depending upon the type of an intervention, group counselors have training commensurate with the potential impact of a technique.
      • Group counselors are aware of the necessity to modify their techniques to fit the unique needs of various cultural and ethnic groups.
      • Group counselors assist members in translating in-group learnings to daily life.
    • Goal Development: Group counselors make every effort to assist members in developing their personal goals.
      • Group counselors use their skills to assist members in making their goals specific so that others present in the group will understand the nature of the goals.
      • Throughout the course of a group, group counselors assist members in assessing the degree to which personal goals are being met, and assist in revising any goals when it is appropriate.
      • Group counselors help members clarify the degree to which the goals can be met within the context of a particular group.
    • Consultation: Group counselors develop and explain policies about between-session consultation to group members.
      • Group counselors take care to make certain that members do not use between-session consultations to avoid dealing with issues pertaining to the group that would be dealt with best in the group.
      • Group counselors urge members to bring the issues discussed during between-session consultations into the group if they pertain to the group.
      • Group counselors seek out consultation and/or supervision regarding ethical concerns or when encountering difficulties which interfere with their effective functioning as group leaders.
      • Group counselors seek appropriate professional assistance for their own personal problems or conflicts that are likely to impair their professional judgment and work performance.
      • Group counselors discuss their group cases only for professional consultation and educational purposes.
      • Group counselors inform members about policies regarding whether consultations will be held confidential.
    • Termination from the Group: Depending upon the purpose of participation in the group, counselors promote termination of members from the group in the most efficient period of time.
      • Group counselors maintain a constant awareness of the progress made by each group member and periodically invite the group members to explore and reevaluate their experiences in the group. It is the responsibility of group counselors to help promote the independence of members from the group in a timely manner.
    • Evaluation and Follow-up: Group counselors make every attempt to engage in ongoing assessment and to design follow-up procedures for their groups.
      • Group counselors recognize the importance of ongoing assessment of a group, and they assist members in evaluating their own progress.
      • Group counselors conduct evaluation of the total group experience at the final meeting (or before termination), as well as ongoing evaluation.
      • Group counselors monitor their own behavior and become aware of what they are modeling in the group.
      • Follow-up meetings might be with individuals, groups, or both to determine the degree to which: (i) members have reached their goals, (ii) the group had a positive or negative effect on the participants, and (iii) members could profit from some type of referral. Information is requested for possible modification of future groups. If there is no follow-up meeting, provisions are made available for individual follow-up meetings to any member who needs or requests such a contact.
    • Referrals: If the needs of a particular member cannot be met within the type of group being offered, the group counselor suggests other appropriate professional referrals.
      • Group counselors are knowledgeable of local community resources for assisting group members regarding professional referrals.
      • Group counselors help members seek further professional assistance, if needed.
    • Professional Development: Group counselors recognize that professional growth is a continuous, ongoing, developmental process throughout their career.
      • Group counselors maintain and upgrade their knowledge and skill competencies through educational activities, clinical experiences, and participation in professional development activities.
      • Group counselors keep abreast of research findings and new developments as applied to groups.
    Safeguarding Ethical Practice and Procedures for Reporting Unethical Behavior

    The preceding remarks have been advanced as guidelines which are generally representative of ethical and professional group practice. They have not been proposed as rigidly defined prescriptions. However, practitioners who are thought to be grossly unresponsive to the ethical concerns addressed in the document may be subject to a review of their practices by the AACD Ethics Committee and ASGW peers.

    • For consultation and/or questions regarding these ASGW Ethical Guidelines or group ethical dilemmas, you may contact the Chairperson of the ASGW Ethics Committee. The name, address, and telephone number of the current ASGW Ethics Committee Chairperson may be acquired by telephoning the AACD office in Alexandria, Virginia at 703/823–9800.
    • If a group counselor's behavior is suspected as being unethical, the following procedures are to be followed:
      • Collect more information and investigate further to confirm the unethical practice as determined by the ASGW Ethical Guidelines.
      • Confront the individual with the apparent violation of ethical guidelines for the purposes of protecting the safety of any clients and to help the group counselor correct any inappropriate behaviors. If unsatisfactory resolution is not reached through this contact then:
      • A complaint should be made in writing, including the specific facts and dates of the alleged violation and all relevant supporting data. The complaint should be included in an envelope marked “CONFIDENTIAL” to ensure confidentiality for both the accuseds) and the alleged violator(s) and forward to all of the following sources:
        • The name and address of the Chairperson of the state Counselor Licensure Board for the respective state, if in existence.
        • The Ethics Committee, c/o The President, American Association for Counseling and Development, 5999 Stevenson Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22304
        • The name and address of all private credentialing agencies in which the alleged violator maintains credentials or holds professional membership.

    Appendix C: Responsibilities of Users of Standardized Tests: American Association for Counseling and Development (Rust Statement Revised) (AACD/AMECD Policy Statement)


    During the past several years, individual APGA members have been under increasing pressure from their various constituencies to define, provide and employ safeguards against the misuse of standardized tests. APGA as an organization has also been challenged by individuals and agencies to provide leadership in the face of growing concern about the effects of testing on clients of all ages and all subpopu-lations, and in all settings.

    At the 1976 APGA convention, the board of directors requested action on the development of a statement on the responsible use of standardized tests. A committee representing all APGA divisions and regions spent two years studying the issues and developing the following statement.

    To furnish perspective for the work of this committee, a review of relevant literature was conducted and each member of the committee received copies of numerous position papers, reports, articles and monographs that added to understanding the issues and the consequences of alternative principles.

    Among these papers were the interim report of the 1975–76 APGA Committee on Standardized Testing: the 1972 APGA/AMEG Statement on the Responsible Use of Tests; position papers of individual divisions and of other professional organizations such as the American Educational Research Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education; journal articles; and conference presentations.

    The committee's statement is intended to be sensitive to current and emerging problems and concerns that are generic to all APGA divisions/regions and to address these problems and concerns with principles that are specific enough to serve as a template to develop division/region statements addressed to the specific disciplines/settings of individual divisions/regions.

    SOURCE: American Association for Counseling and Development/Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, The Responsibilities of Users of Standardized Tests. © Copyright 1989 by American Association for Counseling and Development/Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development. Reprinted with permission from the American Counseling Association. No further reproduction authorized without written permission of the American Counseling Association.
    Target Audience

    The statement is intended to present the position and address the needs of the professional members of APGA divisions and regions. Although this position may provide guidance for test developers, teachers, administrators, parents, press or the general public, it is not designed to represent these audiences. The statement is built on the assumption that test data of themselves are neutral and that guidelines are needed to promote constructive use of tests.

    Organization and Focus

    The statement is organized into eight sections: Introduction, Decision Rules, Test Selection, Qualifications of Test Users, Test Administration, Scoring of Tests, Test Interpretation and Communication. Each section is directed toward the various uses and decisions that must be made by the test user (e.g., whether to test, which test(s) to use, what data to obtain, how to interpret, etc.). The committee developed a classification system for the uses of standardized tests and treated only those issues that fit into the use classification scheme.

    The next step was to define issues related to the classification system. Issues were sought from individuals, professional statements, literature and the popular press. Issues were examined in terms of their relevance to APGA members and to their importance in terms of the possible consequences to the person(s) tested.

    Only the principles underlying each issue are specified. These principles are appropriate as standards for all APGA divisions and regions. Divisions and regions are encouraged to develop their own statements, expanding on each principle with specific procedures and examples and appropriate to their members. The principles are grouped around similar issues and are indexed for easy reference.

    Decision Rules

    In human service agencies, decisions about client needs may be made on the basis of direct observation or historical information alone. Further refinement of direct observation and historical data can often be obtained by employing standardized tests.

    Deciding whether to test creates the possibility of three classes of errors relative to the agency functions of description, diagnosis, prescription, selection, placement, prediction, growth evaluation, etc.

    First, a decision not to test can result in mis-judgments that stem solely from inadequate data.

    Second, tests may be used well, producing data that could improve accuracy in decisions affecting the client but that are not utilized.

    Third, tests may be misused through inappropriate selection, improper administration, inaccurate scoring, incompetent interpretation or indiscriminate, inadequate, or inaccurate communication.

    To reduce the chance for errors, the responsible practitioner will always determine in advance why a given test should be used. This provides protection and benefits for both the client and the agency. Having a clearly developed rationale increases the probable benefits of testing by indicating how a particular set of information, when used by an individual or set of individuals, will contribute to a sounder decision without prejudice to either the client or the agency.

    The guidelines that follow are intended to provide decision rules to help agencies and practitioners avoid charges of irresponsible practice.

    Defining Purposes for Testing
    • Decide whether you will be testing to evaluate individuals, groups or both.
    • Identify your interests in the particular target population in terms of the agency's purposes and capabilities.
    • Determine limits to diagnosis, prediction or selection created by age, racial, sexual, ethnic or cultural characteristics of those to be tested.
    • Develop specific objectives and limits for the use of test data in relation to each of the component service areas of placement/selection, prediction (expectancies), description/diagnosis and growth studies (assessing change over time).
    • Placement. If the purpose is selection or placement (selection is a simple in-out sort of placement), the test selector and interpreter must know about the programs or institutions in which the client may be placed and be able to judge the consequences of such placement or exclusion for the client.
    • Prediction/expectancies. If the purpose is prediction, the persons deciding to test and/or interpret the results must understand the pitfalls of labeling, stereotyping and prejudging people. Ways to avoid these potentially invidious outcomes should be known.
    • Description/diagnosis. If the purpose is diagnosis or description, the selector or interpreter should understand enough about the general domain being measured to be able to identify those aspects adequately measured and those not.
    • Growth/change assessment. If the purpose is to examine growth, the person designing the study and interpreting the results needs to know the many problems associated with such measurement:
      • the unreliability of change measures;
      • the pitfalls in using norms as reference points;
      • the associated problems of articulation and comparability;
      • the limitations of scoring scales, such as grade equivalents, that may not have the comparable meaning which they appear to have at different scale levels.
    Determining Information Needs
    • Assess the consequences for the clients of both testing or not testing.
    • Determine what decisions can be made with existing information to avoid unnecessary data-gathering efforts.
    • Limit data gathering to those functions or aptitude, achievement, interests/attitudes/values and perceptual-motor skills that are directly relevant in making decisions about delivery of services to a particular individual or group.
    • Identify whether the test being considered can provide acceptable levels of precision (reliability) for the decision being made.
    • Identify whether the data obtained can be cross-validated against other available data as a part of the decision-making process.
    • Determine the amount and form of data to be shared on the basis of maximum relevance to the agency's purposes and capabilities.
    Identifying Users of Test Information
    • Data should be prepared so that they can be comprehended by the persons using the data for decision-making.
    • Limit access to users specifically authorized by the law or by the client.
    • Identify obsolescence schedules so that stored personal test data may be systematically reclassified and relocated to historical files or destroyed.
    • Process personal data used for research or program evaluation so as to assure individual anonymity.
    Qualifications of Test Users

    All professional personnel and guidance workers should have formal training in psychological and educational measurement and testing. Nevertheless, it is unreasonable to expect that this training necessarily makes one an expert or even that an expert always has all the knowledge and skill appropriate to any particular situation. Thus, questions of user qualifications should always arise when testing is being considered.

    Those who participate in any aspect of testing should be qualified to do so. Lack of proper qualifications leads to misuse, errors and sometimes damage to clients. Each professional is responsible for making judgment on this matter in each situation and cannot leave that responsibility either to clients or to those in authority.

    In many instances information or skills that may be lacking can be acquired quite readily by those with a background of professional training and experience. In all instances it is incumbent upon the individual to obtain that training or arrange for proper supervision and assistance when engaged in, or planning to engage in, testing.

    The requisite qualifications for test users depend on four factors: (1) the particular role of the user; (2) the setting in which the use takes place; (3) the nature of the test; and (4) the purpose of the testing.

    These factors interact with each other but may nevertheless be considered separately for the purposes of these standards.

    Roles of Test Users, Selectors, Administrators, Scorers and Interpreters

    A test user may play all of these roles or any subset of them when working with other professional personnel. In some situations each role may be the responsibility of a different person. The knowledge and skills that pertain to these roles are listed under the sections so headed. The general principle is that the test users should engage in only those testing activities for which their training and experience qualify them.

    Settings and Conditions of Test Use

    Counselors and personnel workers should assess the quality and relevance of their knowledge and skills to the situation before deciding to test or to participate in a testing program.

    Characteristics of Tests

    Tests differ in many ways, and users need to understand the peculiarities of the instruments they are using.

    Purposes of Testing

    The purpose of the testing dictates how the test is used and thus may influence requisite qualifications of users beyond those entailed by their testing roles. Technically proper use for ill-understood purposes may constitute misuse.

    Test Selection

    Tests should be selected for a specific measurement purpose, use and interpretation. The selection of tests should be guided by information obtained from a careful analysis of the following major considerations:

    • What are the characteristics of the population to be tested?
    • What knowledge, skills, abilities, or attitudes are to be assessed?
    • What are the purposes for testing?
    • How will the test scores be used and interpreted?

    When complete answers to these questions have been obtained, selection or development of tests should be directed toward obtaining measures that are congruent with the stated needs for assessment in terms of the purposes, content, use interpretation and particular characteristics of the individuals who are to be tested.

    Selection of tests must also be guided by the criteria of technical quality recommended by the measurement profession and published by APA/AERA/NCME in 444“Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing” (1985). Full recognition and analysis of these considerations should become the focus of a process to select appropriate tests. The responsible test selector will:

    Select Appropriate Tests
    • Select tests that have been demonstrated, to the satisfaction of professional specialists, as appropriate for the characteristics of the population to be tested.
    • Select tests that are within the level of skills of administration and interpretation possessed by the practitioner.
    • Determine whether a common test or different tests are required for the accurate measurement of groups with different characteristics.
    • Recognize that different tests for cultural, ethnic and racial groups constitute inefficient means for making corrections for differences in prior life experiences, except where different languages are involved.
    • Determine whether persons or groups that use different languages should be tested in either or both languages and in some instance by prior testing for bilingualism.
    Relate Evidence or Validity to Particular Usage
    • Apply tests or selection only when they show predictive validity for the specific tasks or competencies needed in an educational or employment assignment to maintain legal prescriptions for non-discriminatory practices in selection, employment or placement.
    • Determine validity of a test (whether the test measures what it claims to measure) through evidence of the constructs used in developing the measures, the correlation of the test performance with another appraisal of the characteristics being measured, or the predictions of specified behavior from the test performance.
    • Determine that the content of the test has high congruence with the users' definition of the knowledge and skills that are the desired criteria of human performance to be appraised.
    • Confirm that the criteria of human performance to be appraised are contained in the tasks and results of the testing procedure.
    Employ User Participation in Test Selection

    Actively involve the persons who will be using the tests (administering, scoring, summarizing, interpreting, making decisions) in the selection of tests that are congruent with the locally determined purposes, conditions and uses of the measurement.

    Select Tests to Satisfy Local Use
    • Give specific attention to how the test is designed to handle the variation of motivation among persons taking the test, the variation or bias in response to the test content and the effects of the presence or absence of guessing in the responses to the test questions.
    • Determine whether tests standardized for nationwide use show evidence that such tests yield comparable results for individuals or groups with cultural differences.
    • Identify and analyze the effects of working speed and language facility in relation to the criteria of human performance that are expected to result from the test.
    Consider Technical Characteristics of Tests
    • Select only published or locally developed tests that have documented evidence of the reliability of consistency of the measure.
    • Select tests that have documented evidence of the effectiveness of the measure for the purpose to be served: placement/selection, prediction (expectancy), description/diagnosis, or growth studies (change over time). A test is rarely equally effective for the four common test uses.
    • Consider the procedures used in standardization and norming for relevance to the local population and the desired use and interpretation.
    • Use separate norms for men and women only when empirical evidence indicates this is necessary to minimize bias.
    • Determine the degree of reliability (or validity) demanded of a test on the basis of the nature of the decisions to be based on test scores.
    • A test for final diagnosis or selection requires a higher degree of reliability than an initial screening test.
    • Explicitly list and use the ease and accuracy of the procedures for scoring, summarizing and communicating test performance as criteria for selecting a test.
    • Recognize that the technical characteristics and norms of standardized tests may vary when used with different populations. The selection process should include trial administrations to verify that the test is functioning with the technical characteristics and desired results for the local population and local uses.

    Practical constraints of cost, conditions and time for testing must be considered but not used as the primary criteria for test selection.

    Test Administration

    Test administration includes all procedures that are used to ensure that the test is presented consistently in the manner specified by the test developers and used in the standardization and that the individuals being tested have orientation and conditions that maximize opportunity for optimum performance.

    Standardized tests should provide manuals giving specific directions for administering, scoring and interpreting tests. Tests developed for a specific local purpose, use or population should be administered in a prescribed and consistent manner to obtain optimum performance from the individuals being tested. Effective administration of tests requires that the administrator have knowledge and training with the instruments and the processes of presentation.

    • Inform testing candidates, relevant institutions or agencies and the community about the testing procedure. The orientation should describe the purposes and contents sampled by the test, how it is administered and how the scores will be reported and used.
    • Provide annual training for test administrators by qualified professional specialists if your agency or institution uses tests or sponsors testing programs.
    • Routinely review the test materials and administration conditions well in advance of the time for testing so that full preparation will ensure standardized administration and recognition of any irregularities that may occur.
    • Ensure that the orientation is sufficient to make the test relevant for the individual or group being tested before beginning test administration.
    • Ensure that all persons being tested have the specified practice with sample problems or test taking skills prior to their performance on the test.
    • Demonstrate the techniques and requirements for marking machine-scorable answer sheets. Check all individuals taking a test for competency in the techniques of recording their answers prior to the specific period of testing.
    Qualifications of Test Administrators
    • Administer standardized tests only if you are qualified by training and experience as competent to administer particular tests.
    • Know the exact population and procedures used in standardizing the test and determine that the test is appropriate for the local population that is to be tested.
    • Acquire extensive training required to administer, score or interpret tests requiring test-specific training.
    Giving Directions
    • Administer standardized tests with the verbatim instructions, exact sequence and timing and the identical materials that were used in the test standardization.
    • Present all tests (whether standardized, published or locally constructed) in an identical manner to ensure that the test is a fair and comparable demonstration of the performance of each individual taking the test.

    Recognize that taking a test may be a new and frightening experience or stimulate anxiety or frustration for some individuals. Communicate to the examinees that they should attempt each task with positive application of their skills and knowledge and the anticipation that they will do their best.

    Testing Conditions
    • Devote concentrated attention to observing the condition and reactions of the individuals being tested. Observe those being tested and identify environmental, health or emotional conditions that should be recorded and considered as invalidating elements for the test performance.
    • Possess and demonstrate clear verbal articulation, calmness and positive anticipation, empathy for social identification with the examinees, and, impartial treatment for all being tested.
    • Determine whether the testing environment (seating, work surfaces, lighting, heating, freedom from distractions, etc.) is conducive to the best possible performance of the test-takers.
    • Administer tests in physical facilities and psychological climates that allow each individual being tested to achieve optimum performance.
    • Record any deviation from standardized test administration procedure (such as used to accommodate handicapping conditions) and make it a permanent attachment to the test score or record.
    • Develop and complete for each test a systematic and objective procedure for observing and recording the behavior of those being tested (and recording conventional or deviant conditions of testing). Attach this record to the test scores of the persons tested.
    • Provide a written record of any circumstances that may have increased or reduced the opportunity of an individual being tested to demonstrate his or her best performance.
    • Accept responsibility for seeing that invalid or questionable test scores are not recorded, or not recorded without written qualification of the conditions that may have affected optimum test performance.
    • Arrange assistance from trained personnel in provided uniform conditions and in observing the conduct of the examinees when large groups of individuals must be tested.
    Professional Collaboration

    Recognize that in institutional settings, and wherever skill and knowledge can be pooled and responsibility shared, it is the qualifications of the team as a whole that count rather than those of individuals. However, coordination and consistency must be maintained.

    Test Scoring

    The measurement of human performance depends on accurate and consistent application of defined procedures for crediting the responses made by persons being tested. The procedures for scoring and recording test performance must be continuously audited for consistency and accuracy.

    • Routinely rescore a sample of the test answer sheets to verify the accuracy of the initial scoring.
    • Employ systematic procedures to verify the accuracy and consistency of matching scoring of answer sheets.
    • Obtain a separate and independent verification that appropriate scoring rules and normative conversions are used for each person tested.
    • Verify as accurate the computation of raw scores and the conversion of raw scores to normative or descriptive scales prior to release of such information to the tested person or to users of the test results.
    • Routinely check machine or manual reports of test results for accuracy. The person performing this task must be qualified to recognize inappropriate or impossible scores.
    • Develop and use systematic and objective procedures for observing and recording the conditions and behaviors of persons being tested and make this a part of the scores or test results that are reported.
    • Clearly label the scores that are reported and the date that a particular test was administered.
    Test Interpretation

    Test interpretation encompasses all the ways we assign value to the scores.

    A test can be described as a systematic set or series of standard observations of performances that all fall in some particular domain. Typically each observation yields a rating of the performance (such as right or wrong and pass or fail), then these ratings are counted and this count becomes the basis of the scores. Such scores are usually much more stable than the result of any single performance. This score reliability creates the possibility of validity greater than can be obtained from unsystematic or nonaggregated observations.

    The proper interpretation of test scores starts with understanding these fundamental characteristics of tests. Given this, the interpretation of scores from a test entails knowledge about (1) administration and score procedures; (2) scores, norms, and related technical features; (3) reliability; and (4) validity.

    Adequate test interpretation requires knowledge and skill in each of these areas. Some of this information can be mastered only by studying the manual and other materials of the test; no one should undertake the interpretation of scores on any test without such study.

    Administration and Scoring

    Standard procedures for administering and scoring the test limit the possible meanings of scores. Departures from standard conditions and procedures modify and often invalidate the criteria for score interpretation.

    • The principles in the section on administration and scoring need to be understood by those engaged in interpretation.
    • Ascertain the circumstances peculiar to the particular administration and scoring of the test.
      • Examine all reports from administrators, proctors, and scorers concerning irregularities or conditions, such as excessive anxiety, which may have affected performance.
      • Weigh the possible effects on test scores of examiner-examinee differences in ethnic and cultural background, attitudes and values in light of research on these matters. Recognize that such effects are probably larger in individual testing situations.
      • Look for administrators' reports of examinee behavior that indicate the responses were made on some basis other than that intended—as when a student being tested for knowledge of addition-number-facts adds by making tallies and then counting them.
    • Consider differences among clients in their reaction to instructions about guessing and scoring.
    • Recognize or judge the effect of scorer biases and judgment when subjective elements enter into scoring.
    Scores, Norms, and Related Technical Features

    The result of scoring a test is usually a number (or a set of numbers) called a raw score. Raw scores taken by themselves are not usually interpretable. Some additional steps must be taken.

    The procedures either translate the numbers directly into descriptions of their meaning (e.g., pass or fail) or into other numbers called derived scores (e.g., standard scores) whose meaning stems from the test norms.

    To interpret test scores, these procedures and the resulting descriptions or derived scores need to be thoroughly understood. Anything less than full understanding is likely to produce at least some, and probably many, serious errors in interpretation. The following are imperatives for interpreting tests:

    • Examine the test manuals, handbooks, users' guides and technical reports to determine what descriptions or derived scores are produced and what unique characteristics each may have.
    • Recognize that direct score interpretations such as mastery and nonmastery in criterion-referenced tests depend on arbitrary rules or standards.
      • Report number or percent of items right in addition to the indicated interpretation whenever it will help others understand the quality of the examinee's test performance.
      • Recognize that the difficulty of a fixed standard, such as 80 percent right, will vary widely from objective to objective. Such scores are not comparable in the normative sense.
      • Recognize that when each score is classified as pass-fail, master-nonmastery or the like, that each element is being given equal weight.
    • Use the derived scores that fit the needs of the current use of the test.
      • Use percentile ranks for direct comparison of individuals to the norm or reference group.
      • Use standard scores or equal unit scaled scores whenever means and variances are calculated or other arithmetic operations are being used.
    • Recognize that only those derived scores that are based on the same norm group can be compared.
    • Consider the effect of any differences between the tests in what they measure when one test or form is equated with another, as well as the errors stemming from the equating itself.

      Give greater credence to growth or change shown by the same test (including level and form) than to equated measures except where practice effects or feedback have destroyed the validity of a second use.

    • Evaluate the appropriateness of the norm groups available as bases for interpreting the scores of clients.
      • Use the norms for the group to which the client belongs.
      • Consider using local norms and derived scores based on these local norms whenever possible.
    • Acquire knowledge of specific psychological or educational concepts and theories before interpreting the scores of tests based on such knowledge.

    Reliability is a prerequisite to validity. Generally, the greater the number of items the greater the reliability of the test. The degree to which a score or a set of scores may vary because of measurement error is a central factor in interpretation.

    • Use the standard error of measurement to obtain a rough estimate of the probable variation in scores due to unreliability.
    • Use the reliability coefficient to estimate the proportion of score variance that is not due to error.
    • Consider the sources of variance attributable to error in the particular reliability indexes reported in relationship to the uses being made of the scores.
    • Assess reported reliabilities in light of the many extraneous factors that may have artificially raised or lowered these estimates, such as test speededness, sample homogeneity or heterogeneity, restrictions in range and the like.
    • Distinguish indexes of rater reliability (i.e., of objectivity) from test reliability.

    Proper test interpretation requires knowledge of the validity evidence available for the test as used. Its validity for other uses is not relevant. The purpose of testing dictates how a test is used. Technically proper use for ill-understood purposes may constitute misuse. The nature of the validity evidence required for a test is a function of its use.

    Prediction—developing expectancies: The relationship of the test scores to an independently developed criterion measure is the basis for predictive validity.

    • Consider both the reliability and the relevance of the criterion measures used.
    • Use cross-validation data to judge the validity of predictions.
    • Question the meaning of an apparently valid predictor that lacks both construct and content validity. Assess the role of underlying and concomitant variables.
    • Consider the validity of a given measure in the context of all the predictors used or available. Does the measure make an independent contribution to the prediction over and above that provided by other measures?
    • Consider the pitfalls of labeling, stereotyping and prejudging people. The self-fulfilling prophecies that may result are often undesirable.

    Placement/selection: Predictive validity is the usual basis for valid placement. Consider the evidence of validity for each alternative (i.e., each placement) when inferring the meaning of scores.

    • Obtain accurate information about the programs or institutions in which the client may be placed in order to judge the consequences of such placement.
    • Estimate the probability of favorable outcomes for each possible placement (e.g., both selection and rejection) before judging the import of the scores.
    • Consider the possibility that outcomes favorable from an institutional point of view may differ from those that are favorable from the examinees' point of view.
    • Examine the possibility that the clients' group membership (race, sex, etc.) may alter the reported validity relationships.
    • Use all the available evidence about the individual to infer the validity of the score for that individual. Each single piece of information about an individual, (e.g., test score, teacher report, or counselor opinion) improves the probability that proper judgments and decisions can be made.
      • Test scores should be considered in context; they do not have absolute meaning.
      • Single test scores should not be the sole basis for placement or selection.

      Description/diagnosis: Distinguish between those descriptions and diagnoses using psychological constructs that can be validated only indirectly and those for which content specifications suffice.

      • Identify clearly the domain specified by those asserting content validity. Assess the adequacy of the content sampling procedures used in writing and selecting items.
      • Identify the dimensions of the construct being measured when multiple scores from a battery or inventory are used for description.
        • Examine the content validity and/or the construct validity of each score separately.
        • Consider the relative importance of the various subtests, parts, objectives or elements yielding separate scores and judge the weight they each should be given in interpretation.
        • Recognize that when scores are summed or averaged, their weight is a function of their variances.
        • Recognize that when each score is classified as pass-fail, mastery-nonmastery or the like, each element is being given equal weight.
    • Examine the completeness of the description provided, recognizing that no set of test scores completely describes a human being.

    Growth—Studies of change: Valid assessment of growth or change requires both a test having descriptive validity and a procedure for establishing that the scores obtained differ from those that might arise when no change has occurred.

    • Report as possibilities all the interpretations the study or evaluation design permits. Point out those interpretations that are precluded by the design used.
      • When standard procedures such as the RMC models (see Tallmadge, G.K., and Horst, D.P., A procedural guide for validating achievement gains in educational projects; Mountain View, Calif: RMC Research Corp., Dec. 1975) for measuring growth in achievement are employed, use the descriptions of strengths and weaknesses provided.
      • Look for naturally occurring control groups not part of design whenever possible.
    • Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the particular tests used with respect to this use.

      Consider the possibility of floor or ceiling effects, the content changes level to level, the adequacy of articulation in multilevel tests, the comparability of alternate forms, the adequacy of the score-equating across forms, and the comparability of timing of the testing to that of the norming.

    • Recognize the unreliability of individual score differences as measures of change.
    • Recognize the need for equal interval scales when trying to assess the amount of change.
    Communicating Test Results

    Communication consists of reporting data in such a way that it is comprehensible and informative. The responsible practitioner reports test data with a concern for the user's need for information and the purposes of evaluating the significance of the information.

    There must also be a concern for the right of the individual tested to be informed regarding how the results will be used for his or her benefit (informed consent), who will have access to the results (right to privacy), and what safeguards exist to prevent misuse.

    Where standardized test data are being used to enhance decisions about an individual, the practitioner's responsibilities are as follows:

    Know the Manual
    • Become thoroughly familiar with the publisher's manual before attempting to “explain” any results.
    • Develop skills needed to communicate results of tests, using concepts that are frequently misunderstood before communicating results to clients, the public, or other recipients of the information.
    Know the Limits
    • Inform the person receiving the test information that “scores” are approximations, not absolutes, and indicate the SEM or the margin of error in some other way, such as by reporting score intervals rather than points.
    • Candidly discuss with the person receiving the test information any qualifications necessary to understand potential sources of bias for a given set of test results relative to their use with a specific individual.
    • Emphasize that test data represent just one source of information and should rarely, if ever, be used alone for decision making.
    Informed Consent
    • Inform the person receiving the test information of any circumstances that could have affected the validity or reliability of the results.
    • Inform the examinee of what action will be taken by the agency and who will be using the results.
    • Obtain the consent of the examinee before using test results for any purpose other than that advanced prior to testing.
    Right to Privacy

    Inform the examinee of steps to be taken to correct any erroneous information that may be on file as a result of testing.

    Where standardized test data are being used to describe groups for the purpose of evaluation, the practitioner's responsibilities are as follows:

    Background Information
    • Include background information to improve the accuracy of understanding about any numerical data.
    • Identify the purposes for which the reported data would be appropriate.

    Be aware that public release of test information provides data for all kinds of purposes and that some of these may be adverse to the interests of those tested.

    Averages and Norms
    • Clarify in particular that “average” on a standardized test is a range, not a point, and typically includes the middle 50 percent of the group being considered.
    • Qualify all group data in terms of the appropriateness of the norms for that group.
    Agency Policies
    • Work for agency test-reporting policies designed to strengthen and protect the benefits of the groups being measured.
    • Work within the agency to establish procedures for periodic review of internal test use.

    Appendix D: Counseling Services: Consumer Rights and Responsibilities

    Consumer Rights
    • Be informed of the qualifications of your counselor: education, experience, and professional counseling certification(s) and state license(s).
    • Receive an explanation of services offered, your time commitments, and fee scales and billing policies prior to receipt of services.
    • Be informed of limitations of the counselor's practice to special areas of expertise (e.g., career development, ethnic groups, etc.) or age group (e.g., adolescents, older adults, etc.).
    • Have all that you say treated confidentially and be informed of any state laws placing limitations on confidentiality in the counseling relationship.
    • Ask questions about the counseling techniques and strategies and be informed of your progress.
    • Participate in setting goals and evaluating progress toward meeting them.
    • Be informed of how to contact the counselor in an emergency situation.
    • Request referral for a second opinion at any time.
    • Request copies of records and reports to be used by other counseling professionals.
    • Receive a copy of the code of ethics to which your counselor adheres.
    • Contact the appropriate professional organization if you have doubts or complaints relative to the counselor's conduct.
    • Terminate the counseling relationship at any time.
    Consumer Responsibilities
    • Set and keep appointments with your counselor. Let him/her know as soon as possible if you cannot keep an appointment.
    • Pay your fees in accordance with the schedule you pre-established with the counselor.
    • Help plan your goals.
    • Follow through with agreed upon goals.
    • Keep your counselor informed of your progress toward meeting your goals.
    • Terminate your counseling relationship before entering into arrangements with another counselor.
    NOTE: Reprinted with the permission of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc.

    This statement was prepared by the National Board for Certified Counselors and Chi Sigma Iota to help you understand and exercise your rights as a consumer of counseling services. NBCC and BSI believe that clients who are informed consumers are able to best use counseling services to meet their individual needs.


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    About the Authors

    Sheri A. Wallace (Ph.D., University of Florida) is a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida. She is the president and clinical director of a private, not-for-profit corporation, Diversified Human Services (DHS), which is a premier provider of forensic mental health services in north-central Florida. She is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Florida, where she has taught substance abuse counseling and domestic violence counseling. She also provides continuing education workshops for health care professionals. Previous experience includes an instructor position at Santa Fe Community College as well as various positions in community mental health agencies.

    Michael D. Lewis (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Governors State University. He also is Chairperson for the Employee Assistance Program of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision and is President of the Illinois Specialists in Group Work. He has worked with several human service organizations and has held academic positions at Florida Atlantic University, DePaul University, and Eastern Michigan University. Lewis has authored or coauthored 11 books and has published numerous articles in professional journals.

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