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Guidance Counselors or School Counselors: How the Name of the Profession Influences Perceptions of Competence.

The establishment of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) in 1952 marked the formalization of the school counselor's roles, strategies for professional development, resources for research, and advocacy for the profession's identity (Lambie & Williamson, 2004). The evolution of the school counseling profession saw the term guidance become synonymous with work that dealt with difficulties in adjustment to health, religion, recreation, social support, school, and work (Campbell, 1932). However, nearly 30 years ago, in 1990, ASCA issued an official statement calling on the profession to change the title to "school counselor" rather than the previous title of "guidance counselor," believing that this term no longer encompassed the broad scope of work that was done by the professionals in schools (ASCA, 2003; Lambie & Williamson, 2004). ASCA made the decision to recommend this change in title with the recognition that the role of a professional title is vital because it communicates the knowledge, skill sets, and responsibilities of the profession to those it serves (Martinez, Laird, Martin, & Ferris, 2008) and increases credibility for the professional bearing the title (Schumacher, 2017). A professional title informs the public of the role and expertise of the school counselor as reflected in the ASCA school counselor competencies (ASCA, 2018a) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2016) school counseling preparation standards. Yet, nearly three decades after ASCA issued the call for the school counselor title to be used across the profession, in many places around the United States, the titles guidance counselor and school counselor are still used interchangeably. No research to date has explored the implications of these two titles and the perceptions of competence related to these titles. This article reports the results of a study exploring the impact of language on the perceptions of competency based on the use of these two professional titles.

Characteristics of a Profession

Titles are one of the defining characteristics of a profession. For almost the last 100 years, the attribute or list approach to defining a profession has been accepted, although not without critique (Brante, 2011). Professions are composed of certain characteristics that set them apart from jobs or occupations. Professions rightly can be understood as occupations but are much more. In his classic article, Greenwood (1957) proposed that professions have systematic theory, authority, community sanction, ethical codes, and a culture. Burrage, Jarausch, and Siegrist (1990) suggested that professions are full-time, non-manual occupations, offer expert services within the labor market (establishing a monopoly), possess and maintain autonomy or self-governance, involve specialized and systematic training, are sanctioned via the gatekeeping function of testing, credentials, and titles, and are composed of members who are compensated based on their expertise. Siegrist (2001) added three additional features, namely that professions use techniques or skills that are empirically supported, use knowledge that the public does not have access to, and have rules that govern the members' application of the privileged knowledge. Similarly, Freidson (2001) suggested that the universals of a profession include a shared body of knowledge, control over a division of labor, control over the occupational training, credentials that enforce the control, and a shared altruistic-like ideology.

Professions share defining properties or differentia specifica (Brante, 2011). These include gatekeeping via control of education, examination, and credentialing; organization and association; altruism; theoretical knowledge; ethical standards; culture; authority and autonomy; and community sanction (Brante, 2011). Members within every profession carry out their work informed by these attributes and do so as representatives and members of their profession. They are identifiable by their professional title, the most obvious and efficient means of informing the public of their role, expertise, and competence. For school counselors, this is explicated in the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012).

Two professional organizations that support the development and maintenance of school counselors' professional attributes are ASCA and CACREP. As the primary school counseling professional organization, ASCA's mission is to represent its constituents and to promote professionalism and ethical practices. As a national accrediting body, CACREP promotes the competent practice of school counselors through preparation standards. Through their respective roles, ASCA and CACREP determine the qualifications and characteristics that distinguish "insiders" from "outsiders" (Saks, 2012, p. 4; gatekeeping) and establish the evolving identity of the profession. ASCA sets forth the mission, vision, values (organization, association), and scope of practice for school counselors, contributing to the role of operations that the profession aims to provide (altruism), and the knowledge and philosophy upon which it is based (theoretical knowledge), and on which professionals' authority is sanctioned (authority, autonomy). Further, ASCA provides the ethical standards (ASCA, 2016) for the profession of school counseling, by which school counselors conduct their professional service (ethical codes) while protecting the public and fulfilling the pledge of a profession (Carr, 2014). Through the delineation of specific professional competencies, ASCA and CACREP create a professional ethos (culture) that school counselors are expected to continue assimilating upon their initiation into the guild of the profession of school counseling. As ASCA contributes to the professional attributes of theory, ethics, and culture, CACREP sets the training standards that school counselors must meet in order to refer to themselves as school counselors (authority, community sanction).

Importance of a Title

Across occupations and professions, job titles are used to describe the nature of one's work (Thupayagale & Dithole, 2005). These descriptors become symbols that imply the knowledge, skill set, power, and responsibilities associated with a profession (Martinez et al., 2008). However, a title serves a larger purpose. It can increase the credibility of the title bearer (Schumacher, 2017) and open opportunities and access to resources that add value to the profession and the title itself (Hobfoll, 2002). In fact, as early as 1962, research found that titles alone impact society's perception of an occupation, a finding that continues to hold true across various fields and professions (e.g., Caldwell, 2002; Hoque & Noon, 2001; Osipow, 1962; Pinto, Patanakul, & Pinto, 2016; Smith, Hornsby, Benson, & Wesolowski, 1989). A job title does not just affect public perceptions. For many, a title reflects their self-worth, salary, knowledge, and capabilities (Schumacher, 2017), and a strong professional identity is associated with higher job satisfaction and an increased sense of purpose and accomplishment (Pearson, Hammond, Heffernan, & Turner, 2012).

A title clearly is not merely words but instead serves as a form of social capital that defines a profession's recognition and legitimacy (Borthwick, Boyce, & Nancarrow, 2015). Professions often advocate for the task domains and role boundaries that distinguish them from others yet rarely fight for their job title in the same manner. This becomes problematic for professions known to expand or shift their roles and domains in response to professional growth, cultural shifts, or public need. As such, a professional's title may become detached or misaligned from their actual roles and responsibilities. Title misalignment has occurred in several occupational fields including human resources (Caldwell, 2002), educational psychology (Gersch, 2009), specialty surgery (Borthwick et al., 2015) , project management (Pinto et al., 2016), and even nursing (Green, Bliss, & Lawrence, 2017; Thupayagale & Dithole, 2005). As the demands in these fields increased and their professional identity expanded, members of these professions discovered that their job titles mattered in how society and they themselves perceived their profession's competence, power, and capabilities (Lowenthal & Wilson, 2010; Miscenko & Day, 2016).

When a title and its associated roles are in mutual agreement, individuals in the profession experience stronger professional identities, greater work cooperation, and improved performance (Milton & Westphal, 2005; Miscenko & Day, 2016) . However, asymmetry between the title and work can cause serious implications for the profession. Morales and Lambert (2013) found that when titles do not match work tasks, professionals can experience identity threat. Identity threat is common when the meaning associated with one's identity is inconsistent with actions (Miscenko & Day, 2016), and it can lead to negative affect (Gabriel, Diefendorff, & Erikson, 2011) and emotional exhaustion (Haines & Saba, 2012). However, Grant, Berg, and Cable (2014) found a simple remedy to this issue. Employees who were allowed and encouraged to establish their own job titles reported less emotional exhaustion and improved professional identity. Thus, the change in the language used to label a profession indicated changes in professional identity (Lowenthal & Wilson, 2010). How a profession labels its field can have far-reaching consequences for those within the profession and in the broader society.

Despite the necessity of an accurate and aligned professional title, school counseling is one of the few professions to remain split on its chosen label. School counseling has a long history of adopting various roles within schools in response to public need and cultural shifts, and this has created challenges in establishing a stable professional identity (Lambie & Williamson, 2004). This instability in professional identity was highlighted during the discussions that took place when ASCA put forth an official statement supporting the change in the title from guidance counselor to school counselor in 1990 (ASCA, 2003; Lambie & Williamson, 2004). Just 13 years later, ASCA published the ASCA National Model (2003), which outlines the school counselor's roles and functions, emphasizing ASCA's advocacy in aligning the title of school counselor with the evolved professional identity. With each new edition of the ASCA National Model (2003, 2005, 2012), school counselors are pressed to develop a title and a professional identity that reflect what it means to be both an educational and mental health professional in an evolving field (DeKruyf, Auger, & Trice-Black, 2013). Environments where school counselors' conjoint roles are not recognized and/or appreciated leave school counselors lacking in job satisfaction and stagnant in professional identity development (Rayle, 2006). Yet, decades later, an overwhelming number of administrators, students, teachers, and even school counselors themselves still refer to "guidance counselors." The result is a misperception of school counselors' capabilities (Leuwerke, Walker, & Shi, 2009; Perusse, Goodnough, Donegan, & Jones, 2004), the assignment of inappropriate tasks (Bryant & Constantine, 2006; Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Cinotti, 2014) and uncomfortable role ambiguity (Cervoni & DeLucia-Waack, 2011; McCarthy, Van Horn Kerne, Calfa, Lambert, & Guzman, 2010), leading to frustration, high stress, and occupational burnout (Bardhoshi, Schweinle, & Duncan, 2014; Culbreth, Scarborough, Banks-Johnson, & Soloman, 2005; McCarthy et al., 2010). Like any expanding profession, school counselors must commit to adopting a title that represents the broad scope of roles and responsibilities. Although school counseling remains a complex and multifaceted profession, the establishment of an accurate title that matches those roles does not have to contribute to this complexity.

Impact of Language and Labels on Perception

An examination of the literature about factors that influence the perceptions of school counselors highlights several in particular. Several researchers point to a lack of exposure to the authoritative models of school counseling and differing experience with school counselors and indicate that the terminology used to address school counselors contributes to the misunderstanding and confusion about their role (Lambie & Williamson, 2004; Sears & Granello, 2002). Although language has not been shown to govern our thinking in a deterministic sense (linguistic determinism), the influence that language has on thought is clearly significant (Granello & Gibbs, 2016). Linguistic determinism is an extreme view of semantics' influence on perception and posits that language is the sole shaper of thought. Linguistic relativity emphasizes the impact of language on perception but not to the exclusion of other factors (Wolff & Holmes, 2011). The recurrent use of certain words and constructions that emphasize specific characteristics may serve as a "spotlight," highlighting certain aspects of the context and influencing where attention is placed (Wolff & Holmes, 2011, p. 259).

The literature on school counselors is saturated with research exploring their roles, functions, and use of time (Bryant & Constantine, 2006; Burnham & Jackson, 2000), professional identity and its development (Brott & Myers, 1999; Gibson, Dollarhide, & Moss, 2010), stress and burnout (Butler & Constantine, 2005; Culbreth et al., 2005; Kendrick, Chandler, & Hatcher, 1994; McCarthy et al., 2010; Sears & Navin, 1983), and advocacy areas and recommendations for the profession (House & Martin, 1998; Martin, 2002; Sears & Granello 2002). In spite of the widespread understanding of the importance of terminology, no research to date has explored the influence of terminology on the perception of school counselor competence, specifically the use of "school counselor" versus "guidance counselor." The latter title represents an earlier stage in the development of a profession with different emphases and expectations, levels of education and training, and capability. The current and frequent use of "guidance counselor" in a variety of settings, despite the 1990 recommendation by ASCA (ASCA, 2003; Lambie & Williamson, 2004), demonstrates the lasting influence of an outdated and inappropriate understanding of the profession and its members. The use of "guidance counselor" by school counselors themselves also demonstrates their own lack of understanding about the influence of language and the importance of appropriate titles that represent an accurate scope of practice.

The current study arose from a desire to finally understand the impact of the use of the title guidance counselor versus school counselor on the perceived competencies of school counselors. Nearly 30 years after the original recommendation by ASCA, there is clearly no consistent use of a professional title. With no clear, empirical evidence that links these titles to perceptions of competence, it is time to find out whether the use of the title "school counselor" is worth defending or whether the use of these titles is, in fact, simply a semantic argument with little or no relationship to perceived levels of competence. We sought to examine the following question: Does a significant difference exist in perceived competence of school counselors between practicing school counselors who receive a survey that uses the term "guidance counselor" and those who receive a survey that uses the term "school counselor"?



We recruited for participation a sample of 276 school counselors at a 2018 state counseling association conference in Ohio. Surveys were distributed to participants as they moved between sessions or sat at tables in conference center hallways. The majority of participants were female (81%; n = 223) and White (75%; n = 208), with 11% (n = 29) identifying as African American; 1% (n = 3) as Hispanic; and 13% (n = 36) as Mixed Race or Other. Participants were given categories to select for their ages, and 8% (n = 24) indicated they were younger than 25, 33% (n = 92) were 26-34, 31% (n = 86) were 35-44, and 27% (n = 74) were 45 or older. Experience levels ranged from being first-year counselors to having more than 15 years of experience, with 36% (n = 99) in the 0- to 5-year category, 23% (n = 63) in the 6- to 10-year category, 20% (n = 54) in the 11- to 15-year category, and 22% (n = 50) having more than 15 years of experience as a school counselor. About half of the sample (n = 145) completed the instrument that used the term "school counselor" (Version A) and the other portion of the sample (n = 131) completed the instrument that used the term "guidance counselor" (Version B).


Participants received a single measure composed of 25 items. Each of the items was created using content from the 2018 ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards and Competencies Draft (ASCA, 2018a) and/or the 2016 CACREP Standards (CACREP, 2016), specifically the Section 5 Entry-Level Specialty Area related to school counseling standards (see Table 1). The 2018 ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards and Competencies is a draft version of updated school counselor competencies released for public review and comment. This document comprises 32 standards and competencies broken into eight mind-sets, seven competencies related to foundational skills, nine competencies related to direct and indirect student services, and eight competencies related to program management and school support (ASCA, 2018a). Of the 32 standards and competencies, we used 25 in the survey for this study (see Table 1). The 2016 CACREP school counseling specialty area standards (CACREP, 2016) include 34 standards for school counselor preparation: 5 related to foundations, 14 related to contextual dimensions, and 15 related to practice. Of the 34 standards, we used 29 in the survey for this study (see Table 1). In total, of the 66 combined items contained within the ASCA and CACREP standards, we applied 54 (82% of the total number of standards and competencies) to the instrument within this study.

The research team pared down the 66 combined items from the 2018 draft of the ASCA competencies and the CACREP standards to the 25 items included in the survey by identifying the attributes that required measurements to include in the survey and combining similar statements from the ASCA competencies and CACREP standards into single items (see Table 1). We excluded from the survey items any content superfluous to the study of school counselor competencies (Thorndike & Thorndike-Christ, 2010). The steps involved in the process included (a) identifying the items within the ASCA competencies and CACREP standards that directly related to school counselor competence, (b) creating survey items that were as simple as possible (Thorndike & Thorndike-Christ, 2010) but combined aspects of the ASCA competencies and CACREP standards, and (c) having an expert in school counseling conduct a review of each item (see sample items in Appendix A).

We measured the reliability of the scale with a Cronbach's a of the entire scale to determine the internal consistency of the scale items ([alpha] = .957). To determine whether changing the language on the scale affected the internal consistency, we ran a Cronbach's a on each version on the scale (Version A, [alpha] = .944; Version B, [alpha] = .963), demonstrating that the changes in terminology did not affect overall reliability.

As a second measure of reliability of the scale, we used an interitem correlation matrix to determine how well each item correlated to the overall scale score and the effect on the overall scale's Cronbach's [alpha] if the item were to be deleted. No items in the matrix had negative correlations. We also found no items that would improve the overall internal [alpha] if they were deleted from the scale. Therefore, we determined that all items were statistically significant contributors to the overall scale and retained them for the overall analysis.

The team determined content validity of the scale by three factors. First, the items within the survey were taken directly from the 2018 ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards and Competencies Draft (ASCA, 2018a) and/or the 2016 CACREP Standards (CACREP, 2016), specifically the Section 5 Entry-Level Specialty Area related to school counseling standards (see Table 1). Second, the survey was created by an expert in ASCA and CACREP who has been a trainer for ASCA and has trained on both the ASCA National Model and the Recognized ASCA Model Program with school counselors around the country. The survey creator has also been the lead on two successful CACREP self-studies and was a supportive participant in a third self-study. Finally, the finished survey was reviewed by a second expert in the ASCA National Model and CACREP. The reviewer has also trained in and taught the ASCA National Model extensively and been a team participant for multiple successful CACREP self-studies.

We reduced the threat to internal validity by ensuring that the instruments were distributed to participants and collected on the same day, eliminating the threat of maturation. Participants only completed the instrument once, eliminating the threat of history or multiple surveying, and they completed it in one sitting. The participants were all practicing school counselors.

Data Analysis

The goal of this study was to determine whether significant differences occurred on a measure of perceived competence of counselors between school counselors who received a survey using the label "school counselor" and those who received a version using the label "guidance counselor." One half of the sample randomly received the survey that used the term "school counselor" throughout the entire survey (Version A). The other half received the survey with the term "guidance counselor" throughout the entire survey (Version B). The surveys had no other differences. The research team collected minimal demographic information to ensure basic equivalence between the two halves of the sample (Version A: female = 82%; White = 73%; African American = 11%; Hispanic = 1%; Mixed Race/Other = 14%; Version B--female = 80%; White = 79%; African American = 9%; Hispanic = 1 %; Mixed Race/Other = 11%). Results of [chi square] analyses demonstrated no significant differences between the two halves of the sample on the demographic variables of age, [chi square] (3) = 2.52, p = .47, or experience, [chi square] (3) = 2.45, p = .49.

This study did not attempt to measure competence by any demographic variable nor to compare results with any universal norms because it was not intended to make broad statements or generalizations about what school counselors believe about the CACREP or ASCA competencies or whether or not they believe school counselors are equipped to handle these requirements of the job. The research team ran t tests and analysis of variances (ANOVAs) to measure differences in perceptions. For the t tests, we used Cohen's d as a measure of effect size (Cohen, 1988), and for the ANOVA, we used partial [[eta].sup.2] to measure the effect size.


Overall scores on the scale ranged from 36 to 125 (overall M = 112.04, standard deviation [SD] = 13.62, range = 36-125). Results showed a statistically significant difference between counselors who received the two versions of the scale. School counselors who received the survey using the term "guidance counselor" were statistically significantly more likely to score lower on the survey (M = 109.27, SD = 15.56 vs. M = 114.54, SD = 11.07) than their peers who received the version with the term "school counselor" (t = --3.26, p = .001, d = .39, power = .90). In other words, those who saw the term "guidance counselor" were statistically significantly less likely to believe that school counselors were able to perform the 25 tasks on the survey. A frequency table (see Figure 1) revealed that all five of the lowest scores on the scale were obtained by individuals who received the version that read "guidance counselor." The frequency table also revealed that twice as many individuals who received the version that read "guidance counselor" scored lower than 100, compared with those who received the version that read "school counselor" (20% vs. 10%). In contrast, individuals who received the "school counselor" version were much more likely to score higher than 120 than those who received the "guidance counselor" version (42% vs. 25%).

To determine whether participants' years of experience affected these results, we ran a factorial ANOVA with years of experience and version of the survey as independent variables. We found no interaction effects, F(3, 268) = .528, p = .663, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .006, power = .158. Counselors with every level of experience were equally affected by the terminology on the survey.

Finally, to determine whether certain areas of counselor competence were more heavily impacted by the label used to describe the school counselor, we ran a series of t tests using each of the seven cluster areas. All four ASCA categories, mind-sets (t = 3.452, p = .001), foundations and skills (t = 3.150, p = .002), student services (t = 2.148, p = .033), and program management and school support (t = 3.296,p = .001), had a statistically significant difference between versions. The three CACREP categories, foundations (t = 2.093, p = .037), contextual dimensions (t = 3.273, p = .001), and practice (t = 3.252,p = .001), showed similar statistically significant differences between versions.


The label "school counselor" or "guidance counselor" had a significant effect on participants' perceptions of competence. Participants (school counselors) who completed the survey that used the term "guidance counselor" recorded lower scores on the survey regardless of their years of experience. The difference in perceived counselor competence was statistically significant across all four ASCA professional standards and competencies and across all three CACREP entry-level specialty area standards for school counseling, with a large effect size (more than one third of an SD, .39). These results appear to indicate that participants perceived guidance counselors as less competent to complete the job roles and tasks described within the ASCA professional standards and competencies and CACREP standards.

The reason behind the difference in perceptions is unclear. School counselors may associate the term "guidance counselor" with the historical role of guidance counselor as related to vocational work (Gysbers, 2001), guiding individual students to success, or other career guidance and counseling services (Lambie & Williamson, 2004). These tasks differ from the data-driven, comprehensive school counseling programs that are currently advocated by ASCA (2018a) and that CACREP mandates be taught to meet their preparation standards (CACREP, 2016).

The current study has several limitations. First, the sample of school counselors that participated in this study were from the Midwest; specifically, they attended a state counseling conference in Ohio. The study sample was limited to school counselors that sought out professional development in a Midwest state. We do not know whether school counselors in different regions of the country would perceive competence differently based on the term "guidance counselor" or "school counselor." Second, the survey collected only limited demographic information. The sample was composed mainly of people who identified as female and White. Although the sample (Version A: 82% female and 73% White; Version B: 80% female and 79% White) was generally reflective of current ASCA membership demographics (ASCA's membership in 2018 was 85% female and 81% White; ASCA, 2018b) and national demographics of school counselors as reflected by a 2011 national survey of school counselors (77% female and 75% White; Bridgeland & Bruce, 2011), collecting additional demographic information from a more diverse sample of school counselors might provide insights into whether school counselors of diverse backgrounds perceive competence differently based on the term used. Finally, the state of Ohio refers to school counselors in their standards and school counselor evaluation system as "school counselor," not "guidance counselor." We do not know the implications of the state's use of the title "school counselor" on the perceptions of those working in that role.


Titles impact public perception of the profession (Caldwell, 2002; Hoque & Noon, 2001; Osipow, 1962; Pinto et al., 2016; Smith et al., 1989). As the current study clearly demonstrates, the terms "guidance counselor" and "school counselor" have different perceptions. Because titles are used to describe the nature of the work of the profession, use of "guidance counselor" and "school counselor" interchangeably when, in fact, they are not interchangeable results in confusion around the nature of the work completed by school counselors (Thupayagale & Dithole, 2005). The profession faces a lack of credibility when its own members cannot agree on the title representing the profession.

The key finding from the current study, however, is what happens to school counselors themselves when they use these terms interchangeably. School counselors perceive their own competence differently based on the title they use to describe their professional role. When school counselors use "guidance counselor" to describe the work they do, it significantly influences their own perception of the competence of members of their profession in a negative way. School counselors who see the term "guidance counselor" are less likely to believe that members of their own profession have the appropriate mindset, skills, foundational knowledge, ability to understand the context within which they work, and ability to practice the complex job required of the school counselor than their colleagues who saw the same survey with the term "school counselor." Results communicated through a frequency table reiterated that school counselors who received the version with "school counselor" were much more likely to score higher on their beliefs related to the competence of the position. After decades of discussion and debate, we now have clear, empirical evidence that the title used to refer to school counselors matters.

The results of this study have significant implications for school counseling's professional identity and integrity. The title of the profession reflects the theory and practice that is the science of that profession (Brante, 2011). School counselors who are prepared following the CACREP preparation standards and who follow the ASCA National Model can still be undermined in their professional role by the title of guidance counselor. If the title and work do not align, the resulting misperception of school counselor capabilities (Perusse et al., 2004) and inappropriate roles and tasks (Burnham & Jackson, 2000) can lead to identity threat (Morales & Lambert, 2013), emotional exhaustion (Haines & Saba, 2012), role ambiguity (McCarthy et al., 2010; Sears & Navin, 1983), frustration, high stress, and occupational burnout (Culbreth et al., 2005; McCarthy et al., 2010).

School counselors advocate for recognition and legitimacy as a profession to ensure that all students in their schools have access to school counseling services. Students benefit from school counseling programs that are comprehensive and data driven (Carey & Dimmitt, 2012). Both the ASCA National Model and the CACREP preparation standards emphasize data-driven comprehensive school counseling (ASCA, 2012; CACREP, 2016). The title "school counselor" reflects the ASCA emphasis on data-driven, comprehensive school counseling. School counselors use their title as a form of social capital to advance the recognition and legitimacy of the profession and to ensure that all students receive data-driven, comprehensive school counseling programming (Borthwick et al., 2015). Advancing one clear professional identity is important--one that reflects data-driven, comprehensive school counseling. When school counseling professionals advocate to administrators, legislators, parents, and other educational stakeholders, they do so using a title. The results of this study reflect that how school counselors refer to themselves matters and that "school counselor" needs to be used when school counselors use their title as a form of social capital to define their legitimacy (Borthwick et al., 2015). Thus, a vital implication for practice is that school counselors adopt the title school counselor instead of guidance counselor and that all practitioners and school counselor educators across the profession use the school counselor title on any placements where such a term would be used. This would include, but not be limited to, business cards and digital communication including e-mail signatures, door plaques, social media, and websites. Use of the term "school counselor" by all counselor educators within training and preparation programs is also vital.

Future research could extend this study to other populations to better understand how the use of the title of school counselor versus guidance counselor affects their perceptions of competence. For example, are school administrators, principals, teachers, parents, or students equally affected by this difference in terminology? Further, once a consistent title is used within a district, determining whether perceptions of school counselor competence have changed significantly with updated language would be important.


The language used to label a profession reflects the professional identity of its members (Lowenthal & Wilson, 2010). Although CACREP (2016) school counseling standards and the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012) clearly delineate competencies, roles, and tasks of school counselors related to the title "school counselor," many outside--and within--the profession continue to use guidance counselor and school counselor interchangeably. As it turns out, these titles are not interchangeable. Words matter. Titles matter. And what may be most surprising to many in the profession is how much these titles matter to those within the profession. We are all extraordinarily affected by language. The titles we adopt have the potential to enhance--or to undermine--our training, to make us feel less competent and prepared, regardless of our education and experience. We may roll our eyes when someone refers to us as "guidance counselors" and think we know better. We may think it doesn't matter or it is just a word, a term our district uses, a fight that isn't worth fighting. We may think that the term doesn't really affect the work that we do. We are wrong. This may be the most damaging aspect of these outdated titles. As we focus on advocating for those who need us, we forget to advocate for ourselves at the most basic level, starting with the name we call our profession and ourselves. After nearly 30 years of debate, we now have evidence that calling ourselves school counselors matters. We are not guidance counselors. We are school counselors. When we call ourselves by this professional title, it means that we are more likely to live up to the demands of the profession and, most importantly, to live up to the needs of the students who depend upon us.

DOI: 10.1177/2156759X19855654
Appendix A

Example Items From the Counseling Competencies Scale

Please respond to each question by circling the number that
best represents your professional opinion. The scale is 1 =
strongly disagree (SD), 2 = disagree (D), 3 = neutral/unsure
(N), 4 = agree (A), 5 = strongly agree (SA).

Item                                           SD   D   N   A   SA

1. School counselors use data to               1    2   3   4   5
identify achievement, attendance,
behavior, opportunity, equity, or
resource gaps and design-targeted
interventions to close equity gaps,
increase opportunities for all students,
and increase success for all students.

2. School counselors create school             1    2   3   4   5
counseling program goals that are data
driven, meet the needs of students, and
that may align with school goals
contained in the school improvement

3. School counselors work with students        1    2   3   4   5
individually, in small groups, and
through classroom core curriculum to
deliver developmentally appropriate
academic, career, and social/emotional

4. School counselors develop                   1    2   3   4   5
collaborative relationships with school
staff, parents/guardians, and community
agencies to support student achievement
and success.

5. School counselors design, implement,        1    2   3   4   5
and evaluate comprehensive school
counseling programs.


The authors would like to thank Emily Herman, Meghan Breedlove, Emma Carberry, Kelsey George, Lydia Jones, Summer Luckey, Ryan Max, and Victoria Morin for their assistance collecting data.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


Brett Zyromski [ID]


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Author Biographies

Brett Zyromski, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.

Tyler D. Hudson is a doctoral student at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.

Emily Baker is a doctoral student counselor education at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.

Darcy Haag Granello, PhD, is a professor of counselor education at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.

Brett Zyromski [1] [ID], Tyler D. Hudson [1], Emily Baker [1], and Darcy Haag Granello [1]

[1] The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

Corresponding Author:

Brett Zyromski, PhD, The Ohio State University, 444 PAES Bldg, 305 Annie & John Glenn Ave., Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Caption: Figure 1. Frequency table of responses. This figure reflects the frequency of participants' scores on the Counseling Competencies Scale.
Table 1. ASCA Competencies and CACREP Standards and
Corresponding Survey Question.

ASCA or CACREP Component             Corresponding Survey Question

ASCA school counselor professional standards and competencies
  Mind-sets                                     4, 5, 16
  Foundational skills                     2,6,7, 10, 12, 13,22
  Direct and indirect student               3,4,8, 14,21,23
  Program management and                     1,5,9, 24, 25
    school support
CACREP entry-level specialty areas: school counseling
  Foundations                                      4
  Contextual dimensions                7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16,
                                         17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24
  Practice                              1, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 14,
                                               15, 22, 23

Note. The numbers listed above correspond to questions on the
School Counselor Survey that relate to the indicated ASCA
competencies or CACREP standards. ASCA = American School Counselor
Association; CACREP = Council for Accreditation of Counseling &
Related Educational Programs.
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Title Annotation:Featured Research
Author:Zyromski, Brett; Hudson, Tyler D.; Baker, Emily; Granello, Darcy Haag
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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