The core text for counselor skill development, Becoming a Skilled Counselor prepares students with the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to be effective helpers. Authors Richard D. Parsons and Naijian Zhang explain the essentials of the counseling relationship, the dynamic and intentional nature of the helping process, the knowledge and skills necessary to facilitate change, and the theories and research guiding the selection and application of interventions.

Uniquely focused on the process of counseling, the authors' approach allows students to conceptualize clients using a fluid and dynamic model rather than a linear, step-by-step process. Each chapter is structured to reinforce concepts by first introducing the key constructs and empirical support, then providing application opportunities through detailed case illustrations with dialogue transcripts and guided practice exercises. The text emphasizes mindfulness, intentionality, ethics, and reflection to aid counselors in their journey of self-discovery and professional identity development.

Becoming a Skilled Counselor is the first book in Counseling and Professional Identity, a series that targets the development of specific competencies identified by CACREP (Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs).


  • Specific CACREP competencies are addressed in each chapter.
  • Case Illustrations in each chapter profile a variety of clients and scenarios, providing in-depth verbatim transcripts of client/counselor dialogue.
  • Comprehensive Cases in the final three chapters use dialogue and counselor reflections to demonstrate the skills described in the previous chapters within an actual counseling session.
  • Guided Practice Exercises help students practice their counseling skills and develop their professional identity.
  • Learning Objectives, Keystones, and Recommended Resources help students check their skill mastery and explore concepts in more depth.
  • Video Demonstrations of counseling sessions show counseling skills in action.
  • Author Videos addresses common challenges students may encounter when taking this course.
  • From the Author's Chair features reflections and insights from the authors on their views on counseling and their own professional identities.

For Instructors Teaching a Single Course

The Series features eleven texts that address each of the foundational skill areas necessary for professional identity development. In each text, you'll find:

  • An emphasis on counseling as a reflective practice in both course progression and professional settings
  • A focus on applying theory to practice
  • An integration of CACREP Standards
  • A diverse and respected group of authors, most of whom are practitioners and educators
  • Instructor resources (password protected) and student resources (open access) that provide robust pedagogical support

For Curriculum Developers

  • A common set of features span all texts in the Series, offering instructors and students a consistent approach to foundational content. Features include:
  • The fostering of the student's professional identity using the ethical guidelines and CACREP standards that guide the counseling profession
  • A blend of contemporary theory with current research and empirical support
  • Case illustrations and guided practice exercises to help students translate theory and research into professional decision making and application
  • An assimilation of concepts and constructs that move students to higher levels of cognitive and affective competence
  • An emphasis on the need for and means of demonstrating accountability
  • Instructor (password protected) and student resources (open access) that provide robust pedagogical support