ERIC Identifier: ED405533
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Griffin, Barbara
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Promoting Professionalism, Collaboration and Advocacy. ERIC
The theme for the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision
(l993-94) was to promote professionalism, collaboration and advocacy. To
facilitate the goals of professionalism, collaboration and advocacy I engaged
all ACES members in a dialogue about change; a change that was inherently
supportive of collaboration and advocacy, a change that called for us to make a
strong commitment to professionalism. There are many changes occurring in our
profession, but the change that I was referring to was a paradigm shift that
directs counselors to consider constructivism and the influence constructivism
could have in the fields of counseling and counselor education and supervision.
The assumption of constructivism is the idea that knowledge and reality are
rooted in the individual and in society. This concept is not fixed, but relative
and changeable, being functions of both personal and social constructs.
Preparing this message was quite a venture.
I put a great deal of thought into what I could say; thus I did what all good
counselors do when they are in need of assistance, I consulted.
After much consulting with colleagues, I wandered into my library to discover
Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner. I know that many of you probably have had the
opportunity to read or experience Lily's and Jane's Broadway play or read the
book "In Search of Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" where Lily and
Jane introduce the concept of awe-robics. Awe-robics involves the process of
expanding emotionally and intellectually everyday and being in awe over the
Lily says we need to be in awe over life, and "then be even deeper in awe at
the capacity to be in awe about something, and then become even more awestruck
at the thought that we are, in some small way a part of that which we are in awe
about." The feeling goes on and on--awe infinitum, if you will (Wagner 1986, p.
While Lily and Jane can philosophize on and on, I needed real substance for
my message so I decided to use Lily's favorite alter-ego, Trudy, the bag lady,
to accompany me mentally as a consultant in the writing of this article.
What can I say about Trudy, the bag lady? Jane and Lily describe her as "a
divine release of the soul from the yoke of custom and convention" (Wagner 1986,
I'd like to share Trudy with you. I wonder if you can identify with parts of
her. To me Trudy is symbolic of a new perspective and frame of reference. Trudy
refuses to be intimidated by traditional reality any more. She views reality as
nothing more than a collective hunch!
Trudy thinks of the human mind as similar to like a pinata. We have to work
to get it open, but when it does open up there are many surprises inside. Once
we get the pinata perspective we see that loosening and expanding our minds can
be a peak experience. We can begin to delight in the experiencing of awe-robics
During this year I would like for all of us to be more like Trudy, getting
into the pinata perspective and practicing awe-robics by considering a
constructivist theme in Counselor Education and Supervision.
How does constructivism relate to and influence our profession?
Professionalism to me encompasses both attitude and actions; constructivist
thought can influence our profession by making us more conscious of the
attitudes or values that are embedded in our current counseling practice, in our
curriculum and material choices, in our research activities and in our advocacy
agenda. A philosophical framework of constructivism, with its contextual focus,
forces the consideration of the social, cultural, psychological, economic and
political circumstances upon which our professional behaviors are based.
When we consider constructivism in regard to therapeutic approaches, we view
a model that focuses on each person's unique reality. This will, in turn,
influence our therapeutic interventions by extending them beyond traditional
psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral and existential-humanistic views of
counseling. We will continue to incorporate the important concepts of the past.
The difference in the future is the answer to the old question, "What is your
theoretical orientation?" The answers will be: developmental, constructivist,
multicultural and systemic-contextual (Ivey & Rigazio-DiGilio, 1992, p.39).
Constructivist therapists accept the world of the client. They are more
harmonious with pluralism and tolerant of diverse approaches to therapeutic
intervention. Each client's uniqueness and each client's reality is tantamount.
The client is not molded and circumscribed, but respected and encouraged to find
individualized solutions to psychological difficulties.
Ivey & Rigazio-DiGilio (1992) state that theories stemming from
constructivism stress that client cognition, emotions, and behaviors are
generated in a complex network of interactions. The counselor moves from placing
the client in predetermined categories to a new model that focuses on the
developmental, emotional, and cognitive meaning-making system of the client
along with the social factors that interact with and influence this system over
time. This model of counseling gives the client's worldview primacy. Trudy, the
bag lady, would like these thoughts since Trudy knows we are what we think.
Speaking of different realities, I wasn't the only consulting job that Trudy
had. She had also been hired as creative consultant to aliens from outer space.
According to Trudy, aliens believe that we are what we think. Zukav (l979)
quoted by Lucas (p.328 ,l985) stated that "reality is what we take to be true,
what we take to be true is what we believe, what we believe is based upon our
perceptions, what we perceive depends upon what we look for, what we look for
depends upon what we think, what we think depends upon what we perceive, what we
perceive determines what we believe, what we believe determines what we take to
be true, what we take to be true is our reality." My reality was so expanded
after reading this interpretation of reality that I said, "Trudy, that was a
great example of constructivist thought!"
Trudy's reality-gleaning aliens had been on a cosmic fact-finding mission in
search of intelligent life when they contacted Trudy for her creative
assistance. As the aliens and Trudy collected data about life here on earth,
they attempted once and for all to find out just what it all means. Trudy wrote
the collected data on Post-Its which they subsequently analyzed so they could
report on the meaning of life here. Their openness to observing and their taking
up the challenge of gaining an understanding of a reality other than their own
would make them great constructivist researchers.
Constructivist researchers see a socially constructed world and quest to find
the forces that construct the consciousness. They attempt to use their
understanding of the social construction of reality to rethink and
reconceptualize the types of questions asked about the counseling process.
Constructivist researchers seek a system of meaning which grants a new angle, a
unique insight into the social consequence of different ways of knowing,
different forms of knowledge and different approaches to research.
Constructivist research operates on the assumption that the knower and the known
are inseparable (Kincheloe, 1991).
One of the central tasks of the constructivist researcher is to formulate
questions which expose the conditions which promote social, political, and
educational advantages and disadvantages. The constructivist researcher analyzes
how knowledge conceals or distorts the social, political and economic status
quo. They choose strategies of inquiry that recognize the ambiguity of the human
condition, the nature of knowledge, the importance of context, and the fact that
outcomes of the inquiry may not be quantifiable or replicable (Kincheloe, 1991).
Constructivist researchers see themselves as passionate scholars who connect
themselves emotionally to that which they are seeking to know and understand. To
the constructivist researcher, knowledge is an entity which should be constantly
challenged, redefined, and negotiated by all participants in social and
Counselor educators and supervisors can consider
this connectedness and use strategies that uncover those often-concealed, social
constructs that promote educational and social disadvantage. We must critically
re-think our current knowledge base and practices with the purpose of
understanding ourselves and our relationship to the larger whole. Constructivist
thought can help us understand this connection and our professional
responsibility to the larger culture. Our advocacy agenda will be shaped by this
knowledge and will result in a commitment to change. Collaboration is the
process by which we can make this all happen. This incorporation of
professionalism, collaboration, and advocacy provided the foundation for my
goals as president in 1993-94. Trudy and the aliens said that they could see the
importance of moving toward a world where people could work and learn together,
a world where inhabitants establish economic and social conditions that make
possible individual freedom and social empowerment. I know that the ACES
membership has been and will continue to be a vital part of this change process.
Ivey, A. E. & Rigazio-DiGilio, S. A.(1992).
Counseling and psychotherapy as moral and spiritual practice: Facing a major
paradigm shift. Counseling and Values, 37, 42-46.
Kincheloe, J.L. (1991). Teachers as researchers: Qualitative inquiry as a
path to empowerment. London: The Falmer Press.
Lucas, C. (1985). Out at the edge: Notes on a paradigm shift. Journal of
Counseling and Development, 64, 165-172.
Steenbarger, B. N. (1991). All the world is not a stage: Emerging
contextualist themes in counseling and development. Journal of Counseling and
Development, 70, 288-296.