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Expanding Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's Empowerment Theory: a response.

Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's article entitled "Empowerment Theory for the Professional School Counselor: A Manifesto for What Really Matters" represents an important contribution to the school counseling literature for two reasons. First, it helps to expand a growing knowledge base related to the work school counselors can do to foster the individual and collective empowerment of students from marginalized and disenfranchised groups in the United States (Howard, 1999; Lee, 2001; Musheno & Talbert, 2002; Potts, 2003).

Second, Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's article outlines numerous pragmatic intervention strategies that school counselors are encouraged to use to stimulate the healthy development and empowerment of students in these groups. By reflecting on the suggestions presented in their article and implementing the numerous intervention strategies that Hipolito-Delgado and Lee discuss, school counselors are better able to realize new and untapped dimensions of their students' as well as their own personal and professional empowerment.

In responding to their article, we hope to build on the two points listed above by (a) offering comments that are intended to extend Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's discussion of the need to foster student empowerment especially among students in devalued and marginalized groups, and (b) providing an alternative theoretical framework that more succinctly captures the comprehensive nature of the authors' proposed interventions.


Hipolito-Delgado and Lee list a broad range of students who come from disenfranchised groups that are in need of attention. This includes "poor children of all ethnic backgrounds; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young people; and those with disabilities." Although not explicitly stated in their article, we want to illuminate the unique needs of students who come from migrant farm worker families as well. Researchers have not only highlighted the unique strengths and needs of students in this marginalized group, they also have described the ways in which these youngsters are able to realize a greater level of personal and familial empowerment thanks to the tireless efforts of migrant advocates (McHatton, Zalaquett, & Cranston-Gingras, in press). The strategies that migrant advocates employ in this regard are particularly important to consider because these same researchers point out that few school counselors are directing much attention to fostering the empowerment of this devalued group of students.

Regardless of the marginalized group of youngsters that school counselors work with or the strategies they implement to foster their empowerment, Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's article suggests that it is essential to expand the learning opportunities these students encounter in the school setting. This point is particularly important in light of the current trend to narrow the curriculum to accommodate the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act. Dillon (2006) has discussed this issue in greater detail by noting the following:
 Thousands of schools across the nation are
 responding to the reading and math testing
 requirements laid out in No Child Left
 Behind, President Bush's signature education
 law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects
 and, for some low-proficiency students,
 eliminating it. Schools from Vermont to
 California are increasing--in some cases
 tripling--the class time that low-proficiency
 students spend on reading and math, mainly
 because the federal law, signed in 2002,
 requires annual exams only in those subjects
 and punishes schools that fall short of rising

 The changes appear to principally affect
 schools and students who test below grade
 level. The intense focus on the two basic skills
 is a sea change in American instructional practice,
 with many schools that once offered rich
 curricula now systematically trimming courses
 like social studies, science and art.

 A nationwide survey by a nonpartisan group
 ... indicates that the practice, known as narrowing
 the curriculum, has become standard
 procedure in many communities. (p. A6)

The suggestions that Hipolito-Delgado and Lee outline for student empowerment represent meaningful and pragmatic alternatives to the myopic thinking that underlies the "narrowing the curriculum" trend that is occurring in many public school systems across the nation. However, we believe strategies put forth by these authors could be enhanced if they were framed within a conceptual model that maps major service domains that school counselors should consider when planning and implementing empowerment interventions for students in marginalized groups.


Lewis, Lewis, Daniels, and D'Andrea's (2003) community counseling theory provides a framework in which all of Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's recommended empowerment strategies can be organized. In addition to being able to classify Hipolito-Delgado and Lee's recommendations into the four major service domains that make up this theoretical model, the community counseling framework encourages school counselors to go beyond the empowerment strategies that these authors have included in their article. The four service domains that make up the community counseling model include direct student, direct school, indirect student, and indirect school services.

Direct student services include individual, small group, and family counseling services that are provided to individuals experiencing distress. Because students who receive these services have already experienced difficulties in some aspects of their lives, school counselors operate from a remedial perspective to assist youngsters in regaining a sense of psychological well-being when offering these direct services.

In discussing these services, Hipolito-Delgado and Lee emphasize the importance of building "a mutual relationship in which dialogue is valued, prescriptions are avoided, and deficits are rejected." As the authors explain further, these counseling strategies are used to allow students from marginalized groups "to fully experience the pains associated with oppression."

In addition to these suggestions, we would strongly encourage school counselors to readily incorporate group counseling interventions as a major part of their direct student service activities. Although many school counselors tend to shy away from the use of group counseling in the schools, this helping modality is more congruent with the collectivistic values that characterize ethnically diverse students in various marginalized groups than the one-on-one counseling approaches that are more commonly used in school settings.

Direct school services refer to those preventive interventions that involve students who are known to be at high risk for future psychological, emotional, or academic problems but have not yet manifested personal or school-related difficulties. These services include psychoeducational interventions and life skills training initiatives that are commonly provided in classroom settings to meet the needs of larger numbers of people before such difficulties occur.

Hipolito-Delgado and Lee describe a number of empowerment strategies in their article that fall in this component of the community counseling framework. This includes creating consciousness-raising groups for students in marginalized communities as well as planning "ethnic studies courses, non-Western history courses, ethnic celebrations, and guest lectures from empowered community members."

While all of these suggestions are examples of the types of direct school services that counselors can implement to foster the empowerment of students in marginalized groups, there are other skill-based psychoeducational and life skills training interventions that are essential in stimulating student empowerment as well. Among the important areas to address in this regard are school-based initiatives that are deliberately designed to promote students' problem-solving potential, public speaking ability, and career development.

The indirect student component of the community counseling model refers to the work counselors do with other stakeholders who are interested in fostering the healthy development and empowerment of students in disenfranchised groups. Among the most important people to work with when offering indirect student services are the parents of these students. Hipolito-Delgado and Lee clearly highlight this point in their article by stating that
 the professional school counselor must be
 willing to go beyond the boundaries of the
 school to encourage active participation of
 parents and community members.... Above
 all else, parents of marginalized children can
 come to understand how engaging in the
 process of empowerment will come to benefit
 their sociopolitical status.

As noted above, other community members also can play a vital role in fostering the healthy development and empowerment of students in marginalized groups. By implementing consultation, outreach, advocacy, and training services among other key people in the community including coaches, youth workers, religious leaders, law enforcement officials, and businesspeople, school counselors can greatly extend their impact in promoting student empowerment in many indirect ways.

The fourth component of the community counseling model comprises indirect school services. These services are aimed at realizing more comprehensive and lasting ecological changes in the schools and communities where students are situated. To make these ecological changes, school counselors need to work with policy-makers, school administrators and department heads, and elected officials to support changes in the school curricula and community policies as well as to lobby for new state laws that complement student empowerment.

Hipolito-Delgado and Lee discuss some of the services that would be classified in this component of the community counseling model. Specifically, the authors note that "professional school counselors can work with administrators and department heads to develop standards for curricula that embrace non-Western perspectives and values.... Moreover, these standards might encourage incorporating issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism into all subjects."

Additional indirect school services that could be added to these suggestions include lobbying legislators for increased funding for educational projects that are intentionally aimed at promoting the healthy development and empowerment of students in marginalized groups. School counselors also are encouraged to embrace their role as social change agents by participating in community organizations and coalitions that are aimed at realizing a greater level of justice in the broader society in which they are a part.

In closing, we again acknowledge the important contribution that Hipolito and Lee's article represents in terms of outlining ways in which school counselors can work to promote the healthy development and empowerment of students in devalued groups. It is hoped that the presentation of the community counseling model is helpful in both amplifying the comprehensive nature of their theory and stimulating thinking about other intervention strategies that can be used to foster the dignity and development of all students especially those in devalued groups in our society.


Dillon, S. (2006, March 26). Schools cut back subjects to push reading and math. The New York Times, p. A6.

Howard, G. R. (1999). We can't teach what we don't know. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College.

Lee, C. C. (2001). Culturally responsive school counselors and programs: Addressing the needs of all students. Professional School Counseling, 4, 257-261.

Lewis, J. A., Lewis, M. D., Daniels, J. A., & D'Andrea, M. J. (2003). Community counseling: Empowerment strategies for a diverse society. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

McHatton, R A., Zalaquett, C. P., & Cranston-Gingras, A. (in press). Achieving success: Perceptions of students from migrant farmworker families. American Secondary Education.

Musheno, S., & Talbert, M. (2002).The transformed school counselor in action. Theory Into Practice, 41, 186-191.

Potts, R. G. (2003). Emancipatory education versus school-based prevention in African American communities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 173-183.

Carlos Zalaquett is an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa. E-mail: zalaquet@

Michael D'Andrea is a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
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Author:D'Andrea, Michael
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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