Counseling Specializations and Multidisciplinary Teams

Counseling Specializations and Multidisciplinary Teams


Counseling Specializations and Multidisciplinary Teams

“Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (Kaplan, Tarvydas & Gladding, 2014, p.1). The roots to counseling go back almost a century to seminal writings such as those of Jones (1934), who stated that “guidance is based upon the fact that human beings need help…in order that decisions may be made wisely” (Myers & Sweeney, 2008, p.1). However, according to Gladding (2004), the counseling profession is fairly new and in the 1890’s was known as simply giving advice.

Impact of a Wellness Model

After a review of research in the counseling field, Sexton (2001) noted the urgency for evidence-based models to inform clinical practice and remarked that “moving toward evidence-based counseling practice… has been, and continue to be, a struggle within counseling” (Myers & Sweeney, 2008, p.1). The first model of wellness that was the based in counseling was developed by Witnmer and Sweeney. According to Myers & Sweeney (2008), after extensive research, empirical studies were found that support two counseling-based wellness models. These models are the wheel of wellness and the Invisible self. The wheel of wellness, a theoretical model, consists of five life tasks identified by Adler: spirituality, self-direction, love, friendship, and work (Reese & Myers, 2012). The wheel of wellness was created as a helpful tool for professional counselors as a guide for both formal and informal assessment and for wellness-oriented counseling (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). There are claims and feedback that spirituality is the core of wellness in human beings. However, according to Myers & Sweeney (2008), after years of study with the wellness model, there is no analysis to support this.

Historical Perspective of Key Philosophies

The profession of counseling means to help people make better life decisions that are positive to promote wellness. According to Myers & Sweeney (2008), the roots of wellness go back almost 2000 years. It is said that Aristotle, a Greek philosopher in the 5th century B.C. was the first person to acknowledge wellness (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). His goal in writing about wellness was to offer a scientific explanation for health and illness and to define a model of good health in which one seeks for “nothing in excess” (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). After Descartes proposed a duality of mind and body that resulted in a fragmented approach to human development interpretation came a new paradigm in medicine (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). This new paradigm, which came within the latter part of the century, explained that body, mind and spirit are seen as integral to understanding both health and wellness (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). Within the mental health professions, wellness has been defined as “a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being, in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated” (Barden, Conley, Young, 2015, p.1). The main focus on wellness promotion is on the strengths of the individual as well as the emphasis of holistic growth and development (Ohrt & Cunningham, 2012).

For counselors, they view wellness as an important aspect of overall human functioning (Ohrt & Cunningham, 2012). Resiliency is another key philosophy in counseling. “Counselors work with clients who have experienced all kinds of trauma, including sexual victimization, war, chronic illness, violence, earthquakes or hurricanes, and terrorist attacks, to name a few” (Sadler-Gerhardt & Stevenson, 2011, p.1). It definitely costs to care for others and in order to do so properly, the well-being of counselors is extremely important.

Key Concepts of Preferred Specialization

“Brooks and Weikel (1986), traced the historical roots of mental health counseling back to the “moral treatment” of the mentally ill that was started by Philippe Pinel, director of the Bicetre (the largest mental hospital in Paris) in 1973” (Smith & Robinson, 1995, p.1). According to Smith & Robinson (1995), Pinel expanded the definition of mental health care to include the principles of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Mental health counselors go in conjunction with school counselors because school counselors see the issues firsthand, which in turn, refer to a mental health counselor. The National Mental Health Association was formed after public interest in the area of mental health was heightened (Smith & Robinson, 1995). “Brooks and Weikel pointed to the development of “nonmedical approaches” to psychotherapy being very significant in the continued evolution of this expanded definition of mental health care” (Smith & Robinson, 1995, p.1).

Key Concepts of another Specialization

As stated before, school counseling is another profession that can be connected to mental health counseling. School counselors are the front-line school personnel who see firsthand and respond to various mental health concerns (Olafson, 2013). There is, however, very little research that explores the experiences and perceptions of school counselors who support students with mental health issues, according to Olafson (2013). Olafson (2013) states that in the last few decades, there has been an increase in need for mental health support, intervention, and screening for early signs or already present mental health issues in children and adolescents.

Collaboration between Specializations

Ashley is a 12 year old girl who has admitted to her teacher that she is having feelings of depression. She informs her teacher that her mother has recently remarried, and she is having difficulty adjusting to life with her stepfather and his two children. She is unable to complete homework as well as concentrate in class. In Ashley’s case, it would be very beneficial for her to collaborate with both a school counselor and a mental health counselor. “School counselors can implement positive prevention and interventions designed to promote coping and problem-solving skills; as well as emphasize concepts emerging from the growing field of positive psychology (e.g., hope, optimism, self-compassion)” (DeKruyf, Auger, & Trice-Black, 2013, p.11). The school counselor can provide assistance with techniques that will help her concentrate more in class and completing homework. Ashley’s depression would mean getting help from a mental health counselor within and outside agency. Receiving help with an outside service may prove to be a bit challenging, however, connecting with the school counselor on a regular basis will help with Ashley’s situation. Meeting with a mental health counselor will help Ashley figure out why she is feeling depressed and provide her with different coping skills to see her new siblings and her mother’s new marriage from a different perspective.

Team Member Collaboration and Communication

Open communication between all parties involved in Ashley’s situation is salient to her well-being. Professional counselors, (both mental and school) work with a multitude of individuals including students, staff and families. Their role involves not only an element of collaboration, but also leadership (DeKruyf, Auger, & Trice-Black, 2013, p.12).


Overall, wellness refers to the maximizing of human potential through positive life-style choices (Myers, 1991). It is important not only to be healthy physically but mentally as well. Historically, people who could benefit from mental health services were seen as “broken” or something being “wrong” with them, however, in today’s world, a person’s quality of life can be secured through receiving help through a mental health professional. Mental health counselors, expand the range of treatment to include the concept of professionals delivering preventive services (Smith & Robison, 1995). The roles of a school counselor and a mental health counselor are similar, however, both have different responsibilities. The important aspect of these professionals is that they are both concerned with the well being of their clients.


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