I watched waaaay too much television in my youth and often found the commercials to be more informative and entertaining than the actual TV shows. For some reason, the 1984 Wendy’s commercial featuring three adorable seasoned citizens, including the now famous Clara Peller, has stuck with me.

In the commercial, the ladies receive a tiny hamburger on a huge bun at a fictional fast-food burger joint with the motto “Home of the Big Bun!” Clara then utters that famous catchphrase, “Where’s the beef?!” and the rest is history. “Where’s the beef?!” was repeated across the media for the rest of the decade, bringing acclaim to a once-struggling hamburger chain. But long forgotten is Clara’s final line in the commercial. As she struggles to peer across an oversized counter, she mutters, “I don’t think there’s anybody back there.”

In this edition of Counseling Today, please read Lynne Shallcross’ cover story on the use of evidence-based practices in counseling. For some reason, when I received Lynne’s initial invitation to be interviewed for this article, Clara Peller popped into my mind and startled me by asking, “Where’s the beef?!” As a professional counselor, counselor educator, and research and measurement geek, I was delighted to answer Clara’s question on behalf of the counseling profession. I have been a counselor for more than 25 years, and I can say with absolute certainty that we know a heck of a lot more about what works in counseling today than we did when I got started in the field.

Because counseling is a scientific discipline, we are constantly striving to identify what works, how well, with whom and under what conditions. Knowing and applying what works in counseling not only raises the integrity of professional counselors, but also serves to protect the public from ineffective or even dangerous treatments.

There are two main reasons we should embrace research-based counseling practices. First, our ethical code demands it. Using demonstrated effective practices fulfills our ethical principles of nonmalevolence (“Do no harm”) and beneficence (“Do what is helpful to the client”). Second, it promotes the economic and political survival of our counseling profession. If professional counselors use the best available research-based approaches to help clients and students, then counselor effectiveness, client satisfaction and third-party insurer satisfaction all improve. When professional counselors provide effective services, it also helps our professional advocacy and lobbying efforts with federal, state and local politicians and bureaucrats, and leads to more counseling jobs and higher pay scales.

Like many of you, I share a vision of what we can become as a unified, high-performing counseling profession. I dream that one day when a client, politician or bureaucrat asks, “Where’s the beef?!” counselors will rise up as one and provide ample evidence of our effectiveness. These stakeholders have a right to ask questions about our effectiveness, and we have a professional responsibility to respond with ample evidence — and without missing a beat. And if someone says, “I don’t think there’s anybody back there,” then this suggests that we — individually and as a profession — have done something wrong.

Thank you, Clara, for asking the tough question. It is up to all professional counselors to respond!


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