2007 Survey Results
Research & Technology Roles in Counseling Centers


Background

Counseling centers must increasingly address activities related to information technology, data management, research, and service evaluations. In some centers, these activities might be limited to to email and word-processing while other centers may have to cope with complex client databases, annual surveys, and electronic insurance billing. While these changes are positive in many respects (i.e., efficiency, integration of science and practice, etc.) these changes also exert unique stresses on counseling centers which have historically been structured to provide direct service as efficiently as possible. One way of framing this "stress" is the tension that exists between the traditional unit of value in counseling centers (i.e., the 50-minute hour of clinical service) and the fact that research/technology related activities don't fit into a 50 minute hour. Moreover, the benefits derived from these activities are quite different (e.g., service evaluation/improvement, long-term focus, and local or national data standards). In addition, counseling centers aren't just working with technology and data - we are bound by laws, ethics, client confidentiality, HIPAA, and so forth. As a result, counseling centers frequently prefer to pursue "in house" solutions involving staff with training limited to clinical service.

Simply put, it is hard to prioritize working on data analysis when there is a student in crisis just down the hall. On the other hand, we are increasingly dependent on technology for day-to-day business and research for the purposes of accountability, service evaluation, and resource advocacy/planning.

Overview

In view of the above, the AUCCCD listserv membership was surveyed in February of 2007 to get a preliminary view to how counseling centers are coping wth these changes. 145 responded.

Results

Question: What is the total number of mental health providers (staff and trainees, all disciplines, full/part time) working in your counseling center?

 
Min
Max
Mean
Providers
1
48
11.7

Question: What is the approximate enrollment at your school (undergrad and grad):

 
Min
Max
Mean
Enrollment
500
55,500
13,752

QUESTION: The following are some examples of research and/or technology that might take place in a counseling center. Please indicate which of the following occur in your center: (sorted by frequency of use)

Activity
No
Yes
Electronic scheduling
24
120
Database management
32
112
Service evaluation surveys/questionnaires
52
92
Electronic record keeping
59
85
   
Ongoing internal research activities
75
69
Computer-based audio/video recording
102
42
Clients enter data via a computer or PDA
125
19

Other Responses:

  • On-line Screenings, assessment
  • Online discussion forums
  • Web-based self help programs
  • Participation in national surveys
  • Web-based referral data base
  • Computer-based psychological assessment
  • E-mail, PowerPoint, word processing
  • Emergency management communication
  • Website maintenance & Marketing
  • Administrative: Payroll & HR paperwork

Conclusions:

  • There is a line (the red one) that delineates which activities are in the majority. Activities above this line might be considered to be common whereas activities below this might be considered cutting edge in counselinig centers. Centers are frequently balancing a wide range of research/technology activities.

QUESTION: Do you have at least one current staff member with a job description and/or title which clearly delineates their responsibility for research or technology-related activities?

YES (n = 39)

N
Min
Max
Mean
# Providers
38
3
43
19
Enrollment
34
1,400
55,500
22,610

NO (n = 105)

N
Min
Max
Mean
# Providers
105
1
48
9
Enrollment
99
500
51,000
10,996

Conclusions:

  • Centers with at least one job description that includes research/technology activities are more likely (a) to have more than 9 staff and (b) to be on campuses with more than 11,000 students. This would suggest that the size of the center (and thus the volume of information) is a key factor.

QUESTION: Do you feel that your center would benefit from assigning a staff member with responsibilities related to (a) Technology (e.g., IT liasion, scheduling, record keeping, video recording, etc.) and (b) Research (i.e., service evaluation, data management, ongoing research initiatives)?

Centers that do have at least one job description that includes research/technology activities (n=39) responded:

     
    Yes
    No

    Technology

    29
    4

    Research

    31
    4

 

Centers that do not have at least one job description that includes research/technology activities (n=105) responded:

     
    Yes
    No

    Technology

    23
    72

    Research

    21
    75

Conclusions:

  • Generally speaking, centers that do not have at least one job description with research/technology duties are less likely to feel they need to create one than are centers that already have at least one such description.
  • About 30% of centers, that do not have at least one such job description, feel that their center would benefit from one in either category.
  • Centers with at least one such description (a) tend to have a larger staff, (b) be on larger campuses,and (c) desire more dedicated time for these activities.

QUESTION: Please indicate which type of staff perform which type of duties: (Answered by centers with at least one job description including research/technology activities answered this question.)

Which Staff have which roles?
Research & Technology
Research only
Technology only
Assistant/Associate Director
11
6
3
Coordinator
7
6
5
Information Technology professional
4
-
10
Administrative or Support Staff
2
-
18

Conclusions:

  • Technology-only duties tend to be assigned to administrative/support staff or dedicated IT staff.
  • Research and/or combined Research & Technology duties tend to be assigned to clinically trained staff with titles of Assistant/Associate Director or Coordinator.

QUESTIONS:

Please contact Ben Locke, Ph.D.at Penn State's Counseling & Psychological Services with any questions.

 


Copyright Ben Locke, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved