Students of counseling degree programs will test and refine their skills in counseling lab settings. These practical experiences allow students to incorporate theory and knowledge together through experimenting with their skills in realistic settings. This allows students to fine tune their individualized counseling approaches through observed and critiqued practice interviews and sessions. Counseling lab settings may use one-way mirrors, actor-participants and video recording equipment.
Role Play Realism
Some introductory counseling labs may involve a few students role playing characters who represent historical and contemporary theories of counseling. This helps students to learn the theoretical strengths and conceptual weaknesses of many different theories. For example, one student may utilize the practical tools from cognitive behavioral theory (CBT) to objectively identify, analyze and confront negative thought patterns and attitudes for the client-student. Another student-practitioner may use a traditional approach favored during the 1960's, such as humanistic psychology, which focuses on self-worth, compassion and a positive client-counselor relationship. This will allow students to understand the validity, limitations and the specific benefits of each theory.
Some counseling labs may have students work in groups to practice psychometric tests and evaluations. Students will apply the theories of standardized tests with each other. This will allow them to better understand the development procedures, current applications and potential limitations of standardized tests. This will introduce students to useful and not so useful techniques of administering individual and group tests. Students will learn about proper interpretation and assessment instruments such as statistical software programs and advanced mathematical concepts. Students may even be required to create their own customized psychometric tests in order to evaluate educational progress and performance.
Counseling labs may require students to examine and synthesize theoretical constructs of developmental processes in typical or atypical settings. For example, students may be required to analyze and critique behavior patterns across the age spectrum based on human developmental theories.
To illustrate, students may work on projects that analyze specific historical or contemporary cultural beliefs, social attitudes or educational theories. Students may focus on major career development or vocational guidance models and how they have progressed and transformed through the years. Students may also research and evaluate occupational information resources and systems. This means that they will learn about state and national career development programs and information systems.
Ethical and Legal Training
Educational counselors and administrators face serious legal and ethical issues every day. Some counseling labs may be individual report projects that require students to select laws and regulations that come with gray areas, loop holes and hotly contested points. Students may focus on the laws that apply to professional counselors working with individuals with disabilities or other learning challenges. Students may examine the compliance challenges and procedural problems that come with applying concepts and recommending advice in counseling settings. Most programs will require students to analyze questionable situations through practitioner decision-making models and the ethical standards of the American Counseling Association (ACA).
One of the biggest challenges of the counseling profession is understand cultural nuances and attitudes that impact client's behaviors and decisions. Cross-culture counseling labs will examine how race, ethnicity, gender, social classes and other diversity factors impact the personalities of people. Students will learn about alternative value systems and how counseling relationships should shift with an understanding of cultural practices, social mores and differing Lifestyles. Special attention is paid to how these factors change family relationships, school performance and individual situations.
A counseling lab may also explore topics related to family systems, research statistics and group counseling. Counseling labs tend to transition into the community for closely monitored supervised clinical experiences.