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Developing a Web-based Counseling Course

Markus Bidell (Educational Foundations & Counseling)

Current accreditation standards require counseling programs to infuse technology into the curriculum. Yet counselor educators have been hesitant to implement web-based counseling courses, largely because counseling is a profession based on human face-to-face interaction and there are concerns that on-line technologies will limit this type of contact. Markus Bidell set out to develop an online counseling course for Hunter's Counseling Program to further its goals of being a technological leader in the counseling field and aligning training with current technology accreditation standards.

Theories of Counseling (COCO 702) is a required introductory graduate counseling course that covers the concepts and techniques of the major counseling theories. Professor Bidell developed and taught a blended version of this course, in which approximately 2/3 of the class sessions were replaced with online activities. For the online component, students completed five instructional modules using Blackboard. Each module included assigned readings, PowerPoint lectures, discussion questions, online-assessments, and a wiki project. Communication among students in the class was facilitated through the use of the course central blog.

The classroom-based course focused primarily on knowledge about specific counseling theories, but lacked opportunities for students to practice and demonstrate various theoretical interventions. Creating a web-based Theories of Counseling course addressed this deficit by developing interactive discussion question assignments and a group wiki project. For the discussion question assignments, students watched an MP4 video clip of the HBO series "In Treatment" showing a psychotherapy family session of a young boy coping with his parents' divorce and school bullying.  Students were asked to assess and treat the family using the different theoretical approaches. This allowed them to apply various counseling theories to a real case and see how their approach to assessment and treatment is dependent on differing theoretical orientations. 

As students typically cannot "practice" the counseling theories and techniques they are learning in a classroom environment, the wiki assignment was designed to give them such opportunities. Students were assigned to one of four theoretical groups (Psychodynamic, Cognitive/Behavioral, Humanistic/Existential, or Family Systems/Multicultural/Feminist) and asked to develop a wiki that included an overview of the theory, specific examples of the techniques, and resources. As part of the theoretical overview section, students created video clips that brought the theory to life. For example, students in the Family Systems/Multicultural/Feminist group, taped interviews of their children discussing gender identity by exploring the differences between "girl" or "boy" toys. Utilizing the Counseling Program's digital video equipment, students developed "live" demonstrations of specific counseling techniques from the theories they were exploring. The Psychodynamic group taped a mock counseling session focusing on dream analysis to explore the client's unconscious. The course included an online final with questions developed from each group's wiki project which insured students viewed all the various wiki group projects and video clips. Utilizing the wiki tool gave students ample opportunities to not only practice various counseling interventions but also watch their classmates demonstrate theory into practice.

Student video: Mock counseling session

Student video: Existential perspective on death