Middle school counselors say they need training in substance abuse problems

iStock_000020259358XSmallSubstance abuse problems have trickled down to the middle school grades, but many middle school counselors feel they lack the training and competence to address this problem, according to a new survey of middle school counselors.

When surveyed about their perceived competence in nine areas related to substance abuse, counselors felt they needed the most help in two areas, screening/assessment and individual interventions. Counselors felt most competent about consulting with teachers and parents.

These results are not surprising, researchers say, since approximately half of the sample said they had never had preservice training in the area of substance abuse and slightly less than half reported not having in-service training on this topic in the last three years.

A total of 283 middle school counselors from across the country responded to a 38-item survey for obtaining information about counselors’ perceived competence and training needs for working with students with substance abuse problems. The survey was mailed to a geographically representative sample of 500 counselors(57% return rate).

Counselors were asked how they felt about their competence and training in:

  • identifying students with substance abuse problems,
  • consulting with teachers about a student with substance abuse problems,
  • consulting with parents about a student with substance abuse problems,
  • providing screening or assessment to students with substance abuse problems,
  • working with students from families with a parent who has a substance abuse problem,
  • providing individual counseling interventions to a student,
  • providing group counseling to students,
  • developing and teaching units on substance abuse prevention to students, and
  • effectively working with students with substance abuse problems.

Participants reported having a median student caseload of 388 students and seeing a median of 12 students per year for which one of the issues of concern was substance abuse.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that almost 20% of 8th-grade students reported using alcohol in the past 30 days and 11% reported use of marijuana and inhalants in past 30 days.

“Perceived Competence in Addressing Student Substance Abuse: A National Survey of Middle School Counselors, Journal of School Health, May 2008, Vol. 78, No. 5


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