A study of counseling psychology professors, counseling psychologists, and professional counselors: Their education and understanding of clients with learning disabilities

Date of Completion

January 1996


Education, Guidance and Counseling|Education, Educational Psychology




Learning disabilities have received much attention from researchers who study children and their issues surrounding learning deficits. That information, although important to the understanding of children with learning disabilities, remains limited in its usefulness for understanding adults with learning disabilities. Although some research has been done on adults with learning disabilities in areas such as psychosocial and processing problems; legal aspects regarding the rights of institutions, employers, and people with learning disabilities; teaching models; and testing instruments used in diagnosing learning disabilities, few studies focus on the adjustment of adults with learning disabilities. Essentially, no research exists in the area of adults with undiagnosed learning disabilities whose problems often go unrecognized by counselors or therapists.^ Some research regarding professional training indicates that some professionals, for example counselors, may not need information on the characteristics of learning disabilities because of the nature of their professional training. However, additional information and research remain the impetus for successful counseling relationships with adults with learning disabilities. Hence, it seems apparent that greater professional awareness of cognitive processing and learning styles of adults with learning disabilities may encourage a counseling paradigm which might prove more successful in generating client self-awareness and self-esteem, two necessary factors leading to empowerment.^ An initial step to address the development of psychosocial models of treatment for individuals with learning disabilities would appear to be an assessment of: (1) counseling psychology professionals' current knowledge base about adults with learning disabilities; (2) counseling psychology professionals' current abilities to determine cognitive processing/learning styles; (3) the models of training, preparation, practica, and internship programs for counseling psychology professionals; and (4) the need for incorporating LD course work and information in counselor preparation programs.^ A qualitative methodology was used to investigate perceptions and experiences, regarding learning disabilities, held by professional counselor educators, counseling psychologists, and professional counselors. An open-ended questionnaire was sent to 270 professors from counselor preparation programs as well as to 200 practicing counseling psychologists and professional counselors from various settings. A stratified random sampling of 12 professors and 12 practicing professionals was chosen for in-depth interviews from among those who returned the questionnaire. ^