Developing a school-based referral system: comparison of factors cited by school counselors and therapists

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

When school-based behavior problems are not solvable in short-term school counseling, referrals are often made to community therapists. The school-based referral process is described in the literature as an informal process aimed at matching clients' needs with therapist skills but the literature also suggests that the referral process is based even more so on the relationship of the school counselor to the therapist. A survey of 19 school counselors was conducted to measure the importance of six factors identified in a pilot study that are used in selecting a referral source; Therapist Accessibility, Therapist Commitment to School, Therapist Philosophy and Belief System, Therapist Reputation, and Therapist Credentials. In addition, 19 community-based therapists were surveyed to measure their ranking of these same factors. When the scores were analyzed it was found that school counselors rated two scales, Therapist Accessibility and Therapist Reputation, significantly higher than did therapists. Surprisingly, Therapist Reputation was rated least important by both groups. This research has the potential to help strengthen the engagement between the school system and the mental health system by first identifying the factors used for school-based referrals and then identifying the differences in how the two systems perceive the importance of these factors.