Research Spotlight: Jacqueline Swank

Jacqueline Swank

The highest peak in Haiti

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research focuses primarily on two populations. The first population is children and adolescents and their families. In regards to this population, my research seeks to answer the question, “How can we address the emotional and behavioral needs of children and adolescents to help them reach academic success?”

The second population focuses on counselors, counseling students, and counselor educators. Instrument development has been included within this strand of research. I focus on answering the question, “How can we assess and promote counseling competency in order to provide quality care to clients?”

What makes your work interesting?

My work with children and adolescents has a strong emphasis on outcome and intervention-based research. This has involved collaborating with school counselors to measure the effectiveness of their interventions with students. Additionally, my work in this area has involved my research team facilitating interventions within the school setting. One aspect of this work that is particularly interesting is the piece focused on nature and play based interventions. I have developed an approach called Nature-Based Child-Centered Play Therapy (NBCCPT), and I have also developed a curriculum for using therapeutic gardening with at-risk children. I grew up on a farm and also worked in a wilderness program with adolescents who were at-risk. The power of nature inherent in these experiences inspires my work in this area.

Jacqueline Swank

Engaging in a role play with a training participant in Haiti

My work in promoting counseling competencies has included assisting with the development of an instrument to measure the competencies of counselors and counselors in training (Counselor Competencies Scale; CCS), which began during my dissertation work and has recently been revised (CCS-R). This instrument is used by more than 50 counselor preparation programs in the United States and by programs and researchers in 7 other countries. My work in this area also focuses on gatekeeping, and assessing the effectiveness of training approaches.

What are you currently working on?

Jacqueline Swank

Helping Ugandan children write their stories (who they are) in English

Currently, my work with children and adolescents continues to involve collaborations with school counselors related to measuring the effectiveness of school counseling interventions. I am also working with a colleague on initiatives focused on bullying prevention and intervention. This involves interventions with middle school students and a national survey of school counselors regarding their work in this area.

In regards to counseling competencies, I am currently working on developing two instruments. One instrument is focused on measuring counseling competencies from the client’s perspective, which aligns with the CCS. The second instrument is focused on measuring a specialized area of counseling competency. I am also examining the use of peer feedback in the development of counseling competencies for counselors in training.

Jacqueline Swank

Teaching children a game outside in Uganda

Recently, I have also begun some international work in countries where the presence of counselors is limited. This work has involved training teachers and church leaders in using basic helping skills and evaluating the effectiveness of the trainings. I went to Haiti this summer and conducted training with teachers and church leaders. I also traveled to Uganda in the summer of 2015 to teach children at two orphanages/schools.