Candidacy Requirements

Dealing with Impaired Students

Over the past years, our department of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) has discussed its procedures for dealing with graduate students who may be succeeding academically but do not demonstrate an acceptable level of professional readiness. We have looked for ways of developing a remedial plan for the student’s continuation in the program as well as a fair dismissal procedure.

After many faculty discussions about students of concern, especially as we voted on student candidacy, it appeared that there are always one or two students whose performance academically has been satisfactory but whose interpersonal and professional performance have fallen short of expectations. Discussions about these students are complex, and at times, awkward and emotional.

One event in particular has supported our efforts in designing such a process. Our School of Education recently adopted a Fair Process Policy & Procedures document that outlines the expected personal competencies related to serving in a profession, "including, but not limited to, personal characteristics, conduct, and potential to serve effectively and ethically in the profession for which the individual is seeking training or certification."  The Fair Process Policy and Procedures document outlines grounds for termination from a program by a department, student’s appeal rights, professional competencies, and rationale for evaluating professional competence. Although this document was drafted primarily for teacher training, we found that it is very helpful in our student/candidate evaluation.

Furthermore, one of our faculty members, Dr. Jody Fiorini, designed a document entitled, Indicators of Professional Readiness that informs students of the essential characteristics expected of all candidates matriculated in a CPS degree program. This list may be found here. This document has been approved by the department faculty and will be included in our student handbook and course outlines.

We’d like to hear from other graduate programs. How do you handle what we call lack of "professional readiness"? What written procedures do you have? Would it be helpful to have this discussion at next year’s NARACES meeting?

Starter Reading List:

Bemak, F., Epp, L. R., & Keys, S. G. (1999). Impaired graduate students: A process model of graduate program monitoring and intervention. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 21, 19-30.

Forrest, L., Elman, N., Gizara, S., & Vacha-Haase, T. (1999). Trainee impairment: A review of identification, remediation, dismissal, and legal issues. The Counseling Psychologist, 27, 627-686.

Gaubatz, M. D., & Vera, E. M. (2002). Do formalized gatekeeping procedures increase programs’ follow-up with deficient trainees? Counselor Education & Supervision, 41, 294-305.

Kerl, S. B., Garcia, J. L., McCullough, C. S., & Maxwell, M. E. (2002). Systematic evaluation of professional performance: Legally supported procedure and process. Counselor Education & Supervision, 41, 321-334.