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Teen Problems Pose Challenge To Counselors

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Arlington, Va--The prevalence among teen-agers of drug abuse, pregnancy, suicide, and other problems has heightened the responsibility of school counselors and underscored the need for new approaches to helping troubled youths, according to speakers at a conference here.

Participants in the conference, sponsored by the American Association for Counseling and Development, looked back on two decades of counseling research and examined emerging innovations likely to affect school counseling in the next 20 years.

Expanding services to assist parents and developing comprehensive student-guidance plans that encompass career, personal, social, and education counseling were two methods advanced as effective in boosting the impact of school counselors.

Thomas J. Sweeney, coordinator of counselor education at Ohio University, also warned of the implications of current proposals to shift teacher training to the graduate level.

Mr. Sweeney cautioned that if such requirements were adopted for counselors, it could discourage people from entering the field.

A combination of tougher certification requirements, growth in the number of counselors reaching retirement age or leaving the field, and increasing demand for elementary-school counselors could result in shortages, Mr. Sweeney said.

Meanwhile, he noted, Ohio and other states are considering allowing social workers to do counseling in schools. If such proposals are adopted, he said, many prospective counselors may simply get an undergraduate degree in social work.

Larry Loesch, graduate coordinator of counselor education at the University of Florida, called for a substantial increase in amount of time students in counselor-preparation programs spend on research. Slightly less than 5 percent of counseling education is devoted to research, he said.

"A collaborative effort is needed between practicing counselors, counselor educators, and counseling researchers to provide empirical evidence that we are making a difference," said Mr. Loesch. He added that there was little empirical evidence to assess counseling's impact.

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