School Counselors’ Attitudes towards Evidence Based Practices

Added January 10, 2019

The use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) is growing among school counselors and the general school counseling profession. Extant literature has presented benefits of using EBPs in counseling practice, including establishing a high standard for the counseling profession, integrating research with practice, and potentially serving more youth in less time (Carey & Dimmitt, 2008; Connor-Smith & Weisz, 2003; Schaeffer, Bruns, Weist, Stephan, Goldstein, & Simpson, 2005; Sexton, Schofield, & Whiston, 1997). However, there are also barriers to using EBPs in school counseling practice, such as lack of administrative support, a gap in specific guidance and training in use of EBPs, and need for sufficient time for implementation (Poynton, 2009; Watkinson & Gallo-Fox, 2015). Moreover, little is known about school counselors’ attitudes towards EBPs and related factors. Thus, the researchers posed three research questions: (a) How do school counselors’ attitudes towards EBPs differ based on the school level in which they work? (b) What is the relationship between school counselors’ attitudes towards EBPs and their years of experience? (c) How do school counselors’ experience, grade level, theoretical orientation, and counseling self-efficacy predict their attitudes towards EBPs?

Researchers investigated the relationships between school counselors' grade level, years of experience, theoretical orientation, and attitude towards EBPs through a cross-sectional online survey using comparative and correlational methods. This study used the Theoretical Orientation Profile Scale (TOPS; Worthington and Dillon, 2003), which measures counselors’ theoretical orientation across 18-items based on a 10-point Likert scale, and also included three items created by Demir and Gazioğlu1 (2016) to include items connected to the postmodern/solution orientation. The second measure used was the Evidence-Based Practice Attitude Scale (EBPAS; Aarons, 2004; Aarons, McDonald, Sheehan, & Walrath-Greene, 2007), which measures helping professionals’ attitudes towards the adaptation and use of EBPs. Results indicated that participants across school levels reported similar attitudes regarding EBPs, but elementary school counselors reported greater openness. In addition, school counselors with less experience reported more positive attitudes towards use of EBPs than school counselors with more experience. Moreover, use of Cognitive-Behavior theory and years of practice related to attitudes towards EBPs. Specifically, school counselors who utilize cognitive/behavioral approaches were most likely to support EBPs. Use of family systems and feminist approaches to counseling significantly predicted divergence attitudes towards EBPs. Participants’ experiences as school counselors predicted overall attitude as well as appeal, requirements, and openness attitudes towards EBPs.

This study indicated that school counselors have an overall positive attitude toward EBPs, and school counselors also seem to utilize a diversity of counseling theories in their work with students. Although elementary school counselors were found to be more open to using EBPs in this study, the researchers suggested that school counselors across grade levels can reexamine their school counseling programs to understand how EBPs can fit into their program goals and curricula. School counselors can incorporate use of EBPs with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors as they identify students’ areas for development and skill building to address through interventions. Moreover, counselor educators can prepare school counselors-in-training to understand the benefits and challenges of using EBPs, regardless of students’ theoretical preferences, and advocate for its value and use in school settings. EBPs have the potential to benefit school counseling practice, supervision, and training so that all students have access to interventions that can effectively meet their needs.

Future research can explore to what extent these additional characteristics impact use of EBPs in schools. It may also be important to explore training modalities of EBPs to determine the most useful and applicable dissemination of training and information for school counselors using EBPs. Future research can also consider how EBPs can offer social-justice and multicultural-focused interventions in school counseling programs to equitably address and serve the needs of students.


Patrick R. Mullen, PhD, Helena Stevens, PhD, Nancy Chae