Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional


Naijian Zhang & Richard D. Parsons

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    Counseling and Professional Identity

    Series Editors: Richard D. Parsons, PhD, and Naijian Zhang, PhD

    • Becoming a Skilled Counselor—Richard D. Parsons and Naijian Zhang
    • Research Methods for Counseling: An Introduction—Robert J. Wright
    • Group Work Leadership: An Introduction for Helpers—Robert K. Conyne
    • Introduction to Professional Counseling—Varunee Faii Sangganjanavanich and Cynthia Reynolds
    • Counseling Theory: Guiding Reflective Practice—Richard D. Parsons and Naijian Zhang
    • Counselor as Consultant—David A. Scott, Chadwick W. Royal, and Daniel B. Kissinger
    • Counseling Assessment and Evaluation: Fundamentals of Applied Practice—Joshua C. Watson and Brandé Flamez
    • Counseling Individuals Through the Lifespan—Daniel W. Wong, Kimberly R. Hall, Cheryl A. Justice, and Lucy Wong Hernandez
    • Becoming a Multiculturally Competent Counselor—Changming Duan and Chris Brown
    • Ethical Decision Making for the 21st Century Counselor—Donna S. Sheperis, Michael Kocet, and Stacy Henning
    • Career Development and Counseling: Theory and Practice in a Multicultural World—Mei Tang and Jane Goodman
    • Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional—Naijian Zhang and Richard D. Parsons

    Editors’ Preface: Introduction to the Series

    Counseling and Professional Identity in the 21st Century

    The primary purpose of field experience is to assist counseling students in learning how to apply the principles, knowledge, and skills they have learned from books and in classrooms to real work situations. In this integration process, counseling students are prepared to achieve their lifelong career goals. For this reason, field experience in counseling is considered by counseling professionals and students as the most critical component of counselor training. In this training process, counseling students will not only enhance their personal and professional development in guided and controlled experiences with counseling professionals in the real world, but also prepare themselves for their employment and career. The book Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional is a vehicle that will help you move from where you are now as a counseling student to where you want to be as an emerging counseling professional.

    Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional is a road map of this transitional process and the valuable role played by one's field experience. This book discusses the ideal, as presented within the classroom, and the real, experienced in practice. It depicts how a counseling student becomes an emerging professional in his or her field experience and helps the reader conceptualize the occurrence of such transitioning. Most important, the book provides a unique perspective for counseling students to see where they were, where they are, and where they will be as a result of the process of their field experience.

    Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional helps counseling students identify those areas of professional competency needing development and thus serving as targets for professional growth to be achieved during their field experience. These areas include but are not limited to clinical supervision, multiculturalism, ethics in practice, crisis intervention, reducing risk for self, documentation and record keeping, self-care, and termination. The book also outlines the challenges and obstacles counseling students may face while they are developing their professional competence at the final stage of their training.

    Finally, Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional is the book that assists counseling students in developing their professional identity while they are doing their field study. The text clearly defines the nature of professional identity, its value to the profession and the professional, and ways to further develop one's professional identity during field experience.

    Although we are proud of the depth and breadth of the topics covered within this text, we are more than aware that one text, one learning experience, will not be sufficient for the development of a counselor's professional competency. The formation of both one's professional identity and practice will be a lifelong process. It is a process that we hope to facilitate through the presentation of this text and the creation of our series Counseling and Professional Identity in the 21st Century.

    Counseling and Professional Identity in the 21st Century is a new, fresh, pedagogically sound series of texts targeting counselors in training. This series is not simply a compilation of isolated books matching that which are already in the market. Rather, each book, with its targeted knowledge and skills, will be presented as but a part of a larger whole. The focus and content of each text serves as a single lens through which a counselor can view his or her clients, engage in his or her practice, and articulate his or her own professional identity.

    Counseling and Professional Identity in the 21st Century is unique not only in the fact that it “packages” a series of traditional texts, but because it provides an integrated curriculum targeting the formation of the reader's professional identity and efficient, ethical practice. Each book within the series is structured to facilitate the ongoing professional formation of the reader. The materials found within each text are organized in order to move the readers to higher levels of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor functioning, resulting in their assimilation of the materials presented into both their professional identity and their approach to professional practice. Although each text targets a specific set of core competencies (cognates and skills), competencies identified by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) as essential to the practice of counseling (see Table P.1), each book in the series will emphasize each of the following:

    • the assimilation of concepts and constructs provided across the text found within the series, thus fostering the reader's ongoing development as a competent professional;
    • the blending of contemporary theory with current research and empirical support;
    • a focus on the development of procedural knowledge, with each text employing case illustrations and guided practice exercises to facilitate the reader's ability to translate the theory and research discussed into professional decision making and application;
    • the emphasis on the need for and means of demonstrating accountability; and
    • the fostering of the reader's professional identity and, with it, the assimilation of the ethics and standards of practice guiding the counseling profession.
    Table P.1 Books and Corresponding CACREP (Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) Competencies
    Counseling and Professional Identity
    Books in the SeriesTypical Courses Served by the Text
    • Introduction to Professional Counseling
    • Varunee Faii Sangganjanavanich and Cynthia A. Reynolds
    • Becoming a Skilled Counselor
    • Richard D. Parsons and Naijian Zhang
    Basic skills
    • Becoming a Multiculturally Competent Counselor
    • Changming Duan and Chris Brown
    Multicultural and diversity
    • Counseling Individuals Through the Lifespan
    • Daniel Wai Chung Wong, Kim Hall, Cheryl Justice, and Lucy Wong Hernandez
    Human development
    • Counseling Assessment and Evaluation: Fundamentals of Applied Practice
    • Joshua C. Watson and Brandé Flamez
    • Research Methods for Counseling
    • Robert Wright
    Fundamental research
    • Counseling Theory: Guiding Reflective Practice
    • Richard D. Parsons and Naijian Zhang (Eds.)
    • Career Development and Counseling: Theory and Practice in a Multicultural World
    • Mei Tang and Jane Goodman
    Career counseling
    • Counselor as Consultant
    • David Scott, Chadwick Royal, and Daniel Kissinger
    Consultation and coordination
    • Group Work: An Introduction for Helping Professionals
    • Robert Conyne
    Group dynamics, group counseling
    • Field Experience
    • Naijian Zhang and Richard D. Parsons
    Professional practice

    We are proud to have served as coeditors of this series, feeling sure that all of the text included, just like Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional, will serve as a significant resource to you and your development as a professional counselor.

    Richard Parsons, PhDNaijian Zhang, PhD

    Authors’ Preface

    This field experience book was originally started as a result of a discussion between the two of us about the issue of the value of a text for those engaged in field experience. This was not ours alone to ponder; many of our colleagues who teach practicum and internship classes and students who take field experience courses shared our concern. The question, while targeting the need for a text, really was challenging us to consider the value of field experience to the overall professional development of our students. As a result, other questions began to emerge. “What do we teach our students in the field experience courses and how do our students learn while they are studying in the field?” “How do our counseling students transition from students to professionals and how might the experience in the field facilitate this transition?” And finally, “How might one's professional identity be given shape by the uniqueness of one's field experience?”

    It is clear that field experience plays a pivotal role in the professional formation and development of counselors. As such, we turned to existing research, anecdotal reports from those who teach and supervise field experience, and input from students who successfully navigated their field experiences, to identify those elements deemed essential to successful field experience and, with it, meaningful growth and professional development. The results of our reflections and data gathering are the creation of this text, Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional.

    The book Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional includes 14 chapters, with each focusing on a special area of counseling trainees’ entire field experience.

    We began with a big picture of what field experience is and how it happens by discussing the specifics of this unique learning experience, such as “shift in focus: from knowing to doing,” “from other- to self-taught,” “from ideal to real,” and “from self as student to self as emerging professional.” The most important piece in this picture is how counseling trainees form their professional identity from developmental, wellness, prevention, and empowerment and advocacy perspectives. Chapter 2 is about how to match self to site. We are aware that at the time of reading this book, the counseling trainee has most likely completed at least his or her first field experience placement. We don't believe this is a belated topic or effort because the majority of the counseling or counseling psychology programs have one practicum class and two internship classes. In addition, thoroughly assessing self and the site is very useful even when the counseling trainee has been placed on a practicum or internship site. Chapter 3 discusses how counseling trainees transition from the ideal to the real. The chapter particularly focuses on what is the ideal and the real, why the ideal is always less than the real, and how counseling trainees effect change in this transitioning process. Chapter 4 continues the theme of moving from the ideal to the real by providing the topic of the ethics of practice in the real world. In terms of ethics, the question of why being is more than knowing in the process of transitioning from a student to a counseling professional is specifically answered. Chapter 5 intends to assist counseling trainees in discovering what the essentials are in the process of reflection on counseling practice and professional development. Specifically, it describes the moment-to-moment decisions made by counseling trainees and their intentionality behind what they are doing to increase the efficacy of their decisions and effectiveness as emerging counseling professionals.

    Although we did not divide the book into sections, it has a clear line in that the first five chapters focus on the overall picture of counseling field experience and the later chapters target the specifics that counseling trainees need to learn in the process of their field experience. Chapter 6 focuses on the essentials of counseling supervision and how counseling trainees can emerge as professionals with their supervision experience. This chapter not only emphasizes what counseling supervision is and why counseling supervision is important, but also centers on the preparation of counseling trainees for a variety of issues they may encounter in their counseling supervision. With the feedback from the book reviewers, we have placed the chapter “Growing Through Supervision” before all the chapters that contain the basics of field experience because we believe both the site supervisor and the faculty supervisor are the backbone of counseling trainees. In other words, they are the first-line supporters for consulting whenever the counseling trainees encounter difficulty. Chapter 7 affirms the important aspect of multicultural counseling in the field experience. This chapter targets the counseling trainees’ multicultural counseling competence in the real world, and attention is specifically given to counseling trainees’ multicultural awareness and sensitivity when applying traditional counseling theories, skills, and techniques to multiculturally diverse clients in their practice. To help counseling trainees grow as emerging counseling professionals, Chapter 8 targets the strategies and skills of crisis intervention. The what, how, why, and when questions concerning crisis intervention are all answered for counseling trainees in this chapter. Violence and aggression to counselors have become a reality nowadays in the counseling field, and this issue is oftentimes not adequately emphasized in counseling practicum and internship. So, Chapter 9 is devoted to the skills and techniques important to reducing risk for counseling trainees themselves in the practice. The uniqueness of Chapter 10 is that this chapter logically depicts the key elements of documentation and record keeping through thoroughly discussing ethical/legal requirements and issues involved in documentation and record keeping. It then offers strategies for appropriate documentation and record keeping and a variety of progress-note-taking formats for counseling trainees to choose from based on their needs. We believe the most important person in the helping process is the counselor himself or herself. Taking care of self and making the counselor-self remain sound physically and mentally is the fundamental for counseling effectiveness. Chapter 11 covers self-care and self-protection. This chapter helps counseling trainees both to become aware of what burnout and compassion fatigue are and to learn how to prevent them. Chapter 12 affirms the importance of achieving a successful field experience termination and closure with clients, supervisors, and other counseling staff. Common issues and essentials involved in termination and closure at the internship site are thoroughly discussed, and specific steps to achieve the success of termination are offered. For counseling trainees, career is very important in their lives. Chapter 13 contains the practicalities for counseling trainees to transition from practice to career. This chapter not only helps counseling trainees understand the connection between their internship and career but also offers strategies and skills for them to walk into the field. The final chapter, Chapter 14, invites counseling trainees to use all they have learned to craft their professional identity in the process of transitioning to self as counselor.

    We strongly believe Field Experience: Transitioning From Student to Professional provides not only the nuts and bolts but also a road map that counseling trainees can use to guide their transition from being a student to becoming an emerging professional in the process of their field experience.



    While we, the authors of this text, are given credit for its creation, the truth is that the formation of the ideas contained, as well as the crafting of the presentation, required the contribution of many others. These individuals include those who have made contributions to the existing literature on the topic of the book and those who have offered ideas and insights. We wish to express our appreciation to them for their contributions.

    First, we want to thank our colleagues and those who shared their ideas, insights, and experiences of teaching field experience courses. Their wisdom helped us in the process of developing the book proposal.

    We want to thank the reviewers who have encouraged us after they reviewed our initial proposal. We also appreciate their candid feedback on how we should make changes and improve the text. These individuals, not including those who chose to be anonymous, are Ronica Arnold Branson, Jackson State University; Britney G. Brinkman, Chatham University; Kathy DeOrnellas, Texas Woman's University; Laura L. Lansing, Mount Aloysius College; Catherine M. Pittman, Saint Mary's College; Chuck Reid, The University of Texas-Pan American; Elizabeth Ruiz, Governors State University; and Gina Zanardelli, Chatham University.

    We also want to sincerely thank the reviewers who spent enormous time reading our draft manuscript and wrote long, detailed, and helpful feedback and suggestions. We have made changes based on their feedback and suggestions. Their time and expertise are greatly appreciated. These individuals, not including four people who chose to be anonymous, are Mary Olufunmilayo Adekson, St. Bonaventure University; Josue Gonzalez, The University of Texas at San Antonio; Danielle M. Kohlo, University of Northern Colorado; Ann Leonard-Zabel, Curry College; Chuck Reid, The University of Texas-Pan American; and Gina Zanardelli, Curry College.

    Finally, we would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement from the editorial team at SAGE. Especially, our thanks go to Carrie Montoya, Assistant to the Editor; Abbie Rickard, Associate Editor; Brenda Weight, Copy Editor; Kelly DeRosa, Production Editor; Candice Harman, Cover Designer from the Production Department; and our friend Kassie Graves, the Editor.

  • About the Authors

    Naijian Zhang , PhD, is a Full Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Zhang has over 20 years’ experience of teaching in counseling, higher education/student affairs, and language programs at college and university. Dr. Zhang was also a university administrator in student affairs for 4 years. Dr. Zhang authored and coauthored over 20 articles, book chapters, and books.

    His most recent books include Becoming a Skilled Counselor in 2013, Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education, and Psychology in 2009. He is a recipient of the Travel Award from the American Psychological Association (APA), Outstanding Research Award, and Outstanding Service Award from the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of College Counseling and as Ad Hoc Reviewer for The Counseling Psychologist. In addition, Dr. Zhang has practiced over 15 years and is currently a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania. He frequently gives presentations and conducts counseling training workshops internationally.

    Richard D. Parsons , PhD, is a full professor in the Department of Counselor Education at West Chester University. Parsons has over thirty-two years of university teaching in counselor preparation programs. Prior to his university teaching, he spent nine years as a school counselor in an inner-city high school. Parsons has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Pennsylvania Counselor of the Year award. Parsons has authored or coauthored over 80 professional articles and books. His most recent books include the series of four training texts for school counselors, Transforming Theory into Practice (Corwin Press) and individual titles, Counseling Strategies that Work! Evidenced-based Interventions for School Counselors (Allyn & Bacon), The School Counselor as Consultant (Brooks/Cole), and Teacher as Reflective Practitioner and Action Researcher (Wadsworth). Parsons has a private practice and serves as a consultant to educational institutions and mental health service organizations throughout the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

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