Book by Ruth Harper, Nona L. Wilson, and Associates
Review by Cheryl Hester
University Advising Center
More Than Listening is an excellent tool for raising awareness about current student demographics and how student affairs professionals might supplement their practice to meet students’ complex needs. The authors focus on the increase in student populations with mental health and other concerns and the shortage of counseling resources available to them. The text suggests strategies by which student affairs professionals might support counseling efforts in assisting these students. They demonstrate how utilizing counseling and student development theory can help student affairs professionals develop polished and effective helping skills essential in their work with today’s college students.
The authors begin by introducing Student Affairs Professionals who may lack formal training in Counseling or Student Development Theory to basic aspects of each. They emphasize Chickering and Reisser’s seven vectors of college student development, Schlossberg’s Transition, Cognitive Development, Multicultural/LGBT, and the Multidimensional Identity Model as noteworthy student development theories helpful in building connections with students. Mindfulness-Based strategies, Cognitive-Behavioral, Person and Solution Centered theories are identified as important Counseling Theories. Readers are reminded that the aforementioned theories are significant but by no means exhaustive theoretical resources applicable in our work with students. Following the overview of theory, the authors demonstrate how student affairs professionals might apply the theories, skills, and techniques in a variety of student case studies.
More Than Listening contains an abundance of practical information that academic advisors may apply in one on one and group advising situations. A tremendous strength of the text is that the authors acknowledge the need for student affairs professionals to recognize and maintain professional boundaries. They appreciate the role of student affairs professionals versus that of licensed professional counselors. As stated in Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook: “Professional advisors should use their referral skills in getting students to appropriate resources when the need is beyond the scope of the academic advising role or beyond the skills of the specific academic advisor,” (Gordon, Habley, Grites, and Associates, 2008, p. 270). The authors fully agree. They provide guidelines for helping us identify when we may have attempted to help students beyond our authority to do so.
A second strength of the book is the depth of insight into student concerns reflected in the student case studies. In the often limited time we have with students, it is easy to lose sight of the boundaries they face. The authors remind us that we need to modify our behaviors, practices, perceptions, and attitudes toward students and open ourselves to an acceptance of who they are today so that we are able to assist or refer them effectively.
A third strength of the text is that if offers suggestions on how to work collaboratively with campus counseling centers to help students in crisis. One proposal in particular: “Instill hope and reinforce your students’ help-seeking behavior” (p. 262) stands out as a reminder to students and student affairs professionals who may think otherwise, that seeking help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.
More Than Listening reminds Academic Advisors and other Student Affairs professionals that we can offer students in crisis new levels of support within the realms of our expertise. It challenges us to remain intentional about using and further researching counseling and student development theory, skills, and techniques that can ultimately help us all become better student advocates.
Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R., Grites, T.J., and Associates (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
More than listening: A casebook for using counseling skills in student affairs work. (2010). Book by Ruth Harper, Nona L. Wilson, and Associates. Review by Cheryl Hester. Washington, DC: NASPA. 300 pp. $44.95. ISBN # 978-0-931654-63-3