ERIC Identifier: ED388886
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Loesch, Larry C.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Assessment of Counselor Performance. ERIC Digest.
Assessment of counselor performance is directly linked to assessment of
counseling outcome because, presumably, counseling outcome is contingent upon
counselor performance. Thus, the assessment of counseling outcome literature is
the general context for the more specific literature on assessment of counselor
performance, and the same major themes are evident in both arenas. Historically,
counselor performance has been assessed, either directly or vis-a-vis outcome,
primarily in regard to actual counseling service rendered through assessments by
counselors themselves, their clients, or external evaluators. However, recently,
non-counseling activities also have been assessed as part of the overall
evaluation of counselor performance.
Many methodologies have been used to assess counselor performance, including
assessments such as interviews, linguistic content analyses, simulations,
self-reports, applications of behavioral criteria, and rating scales. The focus
of these assessments has ranged from the global to the specific. Rating scales
are the most commonly used method, but no assessment procedure has emerged as
most psychometrically appropriate, reliable, valid, or effective.
The (Rogerian) premise that
effective counseling necessitates substantial emotional congruence between
counselor and client is widely espoused in the counseling profession. The highly
personal nature of such emotional congruence suggests that the counselor is the
best person to assess it. Thus, a variety of methods, such as "learning
diaries," self-rating scales, or audiotaped "introspective dialogues," have been
used to allow counselors to indicate the degree to which they have achieved
emotional congruence with their clients.
Counselor self-assessments are popular among counselors, and arguably
valuable, for purposes of self-development and improvement. However, because of
their subjectivity, their results rarely have been generalizable. Also, the
methodologies generally have not withstood psychometric scrutiny. Therefore,
counselor self-assessments are not widely used for effective assessment of
ASSESSMENTS BY CLIENTS
Because counseling is for the
client, it is a reasonable assertion that the client is the person best able to
assess the degree to which the counselor has performed effectively. The credence
of this assertion is evident in that client assessment of counselor performance
is widely used and many methodologies have been developed to facilitate it. In
general, clients have been requested to assess counselor performance in regard
to the counselor being or behaving in a helpful way or the degree of the
client's personal change.
A counselor's "helpfulness" has been most frequently assessed by clients
through use of post-counseling "debriefing" interviews or rating scales.
Typically assessed is the client's perceptions of the counselor's personal
dynamics (e.g., degree of caring) or actions or behaviors which were helpful.
The focus has often been on the latter, but some suggest it should be on the
former (Herman, 1993).
Some rating scales have been developed to allow clients to assess counselors'
personal dynamics. However, most are intended to allow client evaluation of the
extent to which the counselor engaged in behaviors (particularly verbalizations)
presumed or established to be related to counseling effectiveness. Some of these
instruments have been shown to have quite good psychometric properties. Quality
issues aside, however, use of rating scales completed by clients is one of the
two most common methods of assessment of counselor performance.
Client self-assessment of change as an indicator of counselor performance
typically has involved commentary, ratings, or self or other reported behavior
changes. Unfortunately, however, these procedures have been used only
infrequently for assessment of counselor performance, probably because the best
data are obtained some time after counseling has been terminated.
ASSESSMENTS BY EXTERNAL EVALUATORS
Assessment of counselor
performance by persons external to the counseling relationship is by far the
most frequently used approach. The obvious advantage of such assessments is
greater objectivity. In addition, external assessments usually are
psychologically and behaviorally less intrusive, particularly if the assessments
are applied to audio or video tape-recorded counseling. External assessments
also may be more practical because they are more easily applied to different
types of counseling (e.g., individual, group, or family) or specific counseling
contexts (e.g., see Ponterotto, Rieger, Barrett, & Sparks, 1994).
A wide variety of external assessment methodologies have been employed,
including some only infrequently used in the counseling profession such as
content analyses, critical incident techniques, or computer simulations (McLeod,
1992). However, rating scales again are the most frequently used assessment
method. Rating scales have been developed to assess many different aspects of
counselor performance, but most are focused upon the frequency and/or
effectiveness of counselors' use of specific and behaviorally defined counseling
The results of external assessments of counselor performance have been used
in the context of both formative and summative evaluations. In the formative
context, rating scales completed by counselors' supervisors, peers-in-training,
or professional colleagues are often used on some regularly scheduled basis to
provide process or skill development feedback to the counselors assessed. In the
summative context, results from rating scales completed by supervisors,
colleagues, or researchers are often used for program or personnel evaluation or
ASSESSMENT OF NON-COUNSELING FUNCTIONS
The most recent
trend in assessment of counselor performance has been to broaden the perspective
on what it means to be an effective counselor, that is, to acknowledge that
there is more to being a good counselor than just counseling skill (Bell, 1990).
Assessments within this perspective encompass both actual counseling performance
and other activities in which professional counselors engage. Assessments in the
latter regard typically address activities such as diagnosis, case management,
treatment planning, consultation, professional development, research, materials
development, and interprofessional communications. These non-counseling
components of counselor performance are typically assessed through use of rating
scales by external evaluators. However, alternatives such as portfolio
assessment or service recipient evaluations apparently are gaining favor.
It has long been recognized that good assessment
involves multiple measurements of whatever is being assessed, and this principle
has been recognized in regard to the assessment of counselor performance
(Ridgway, 1990). There are literally hundreds of assessment instruments and
techniques available to assess various facets of counselor performance.
Therefore, it is not difficult to fulfill the multiple measurement criterion.
Ironically, however, some experts have suggested that there are too many
measures of counselor performance, a problem resulting from the many
situation-specific assessment devices that have been developed. Most of these
assessments are not derived from clearly defined constructs, are narrow in
focus, and lack psychometric quality. Thus, comparability across measurements is
restricted and generalizability across situations is limited.
The assessment of counselor performance will be enhanced when assessments are
clearly and cogently described (Meier & Davis, 1990) and are used within an
effective conceptual (evaluation) scheme (Lambert, Ogles, & Masters, 1992).
Even more importantly, however, truly effective counselor performance assessment
will be achieved when the assessments used fulfill accepted psychometric quality
criteria (McLeod, 1992).
Bell, P. (1990). Developing and implementing a
counseling evaluation program. (ED 320 633).
Herman, K.C. (1993). Reassessing predictors of therapist competence. Journal
of Counseling and Development, 72(1), 29-32.
Lambert, M.J., Ogles, B.M., & Masters, K.S. (1992). Choosing outcome
assessment devices: An organizational and conceptual scheme. Journal of
Counseling and Development, 70(4), 527-532.
McLeod, J. (1992). What do we know about how best to assess counsellor
competence? Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 5(4), 359-372.
Meier, S.T., & Davis, S.R. (1990). Trends in reporting psychometric
properties of scales used in counseling psychology research. Journal of
Counseling Psychology, 37(1), 113-115.
Ponterotto, J.G., Rieger, B.P., Barrett, A., & Sparks, R. (1994).
Assessing multicultural counseling competence: A review of instrumentation.
Journal of Counseling and Development, 72(3), 316-322.
Ridgway, I.R. (1990). Multiple measures for prediction of counselor trainee
effectiveness. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 24(3), 165-177.