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Program History

The School of Education at William & Mary began training counselors in 1961 when the current version of the School of Education first opened its doors. As with most counselor education programs at that time, it focused on the development of master’s level school counselors. The program grew steadily during the next decade and expanded its offerings in 1970 with the implementation of a counseling doctoral program. During the late 1960s and 1970s, the program hired three faculty members, Fred Adair, Kevin Geoffroy, and Chas Matthews, who would become the core of the William & Mary counseling faculty for the next two decades. When Virginia implemented its new licensure law in 1976, the faculty responded by developing an Agency Counseling specialty in 1977. This was the first William & Mary counseling specialty to train counselors for work outside school settings.

As the Agency Counseling and School Counseling programs continued to expand, Fred Adair developed family counseling courses and partnered with regional school districts to establish the family counseling clinic that would eventually become the New Horizons Family Counseling Center. In the early 1990s three new faculty members, Victoria Foster, Rick Gressard, and Rip McAdams were hired and ultimately became the next generation of core faculty. In the 1990s, Gressard and Chas Matthews developed the Addiction Counseling specialty while Foster and McAdams developed the Marriage and Family Counseling specialty and continued to expand New Horizons. In 1999, the program received CACREP accreditation for the School, Marriage and Family, and Community Counseling program in addition to the doctoral Counselor Education Program. The program thrived in this form for nearly two decades.

In 2005, Dr. Johnston Brendel joined the faculty as a longtime core member, leading the program through many changes and growth. The Addictions Counseling program dropped its specialty accreditation in 2014 and became a concentration under the Community Counseling Program. In the fall of 2016, the Community Counseling program changed to the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program to match the job placement demands for counselors. In 2020, the Marriage and Family Counseling program made a move to be a concentration within the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in a similar fashion as the Addictions Counseling program. Also in 2020, S. Stuart Flanagan gave a $2 million gift to the School of Education to support students working in the New Horizons Family Counseling Center and New Leaf, forming the Flanagan Counselor Education Clinic.

With the support and leadership of Spencer Niles, the School of Education Dean at that time, and Rip McAdams, the Department Chair, the counseling program initiated two major shifts in the program in 2018 and 2019. First, the counseling faculty launched an online modality for learning within the program in the fall of 2018. This included offering Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling concentrations in this new method of learning. The addition of the online modality increased the size of the program from under 100 students in 2017 to well over four hundred in 2022. The second major addition occurred in 2019 when the program started a new concentration in Military and Veteran Counseling with funding support from the Virginia Legislature. This program sought to train counselors who possess the unique skills required for helping military-connected families. Military and Veteran Counseling was added to both the on-campus and online modalities. Between the years 2021 and 2022, many of the program’s longtime leaders retired, leaving a path forward for new faculty to lead the Counseling programs.

Throughout the program’s existence, many alumni from the master's and doctoral programs have gone on to notable roles within the counseling profession. Some of these roles include being president of professional organizations, such as the American Counseling Association and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. Other examples include alumni taking on significant leadership roles in the National Board for Certified Counselors and CACREP along with serving as Associate Deans and Deans at prestigious Universities. The prominent positions filled by alumni highlight the professional identity and leadership dispositions instilled in the students who journey through the William & Mary Counselor Education Program.

Along with award-winning alumni, the William & Mary Counselor Education Program itself has received awards from the American Counseling Association and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision for its high-quality training program and the services provided by the Flanagan Counselor Education Clinic. Faculty in the program have been among some of the most published, most notable, and most awarded in the profession. Faculty in the program have held significant roles in national groups like Chi Sigma Iota, CACREP, and several professional counseling organizations.

Today, the William & Mary Counselor Education Program continues its strong tradition of training clinical mental health, school, marriage and family, military and veterans, and addiction counselors while also training future leaders and counselor educators in its Counselor Education doctoral program.

To learn about the current counseling faculty leading the program, visit the Faculty Profile page.