The Guidance and Counseling Program began in 1970 when the Department of Special Education was formed. Two years later, the program's faculty requested that Guidance and Counseling be shifted to the Department of Psychology. At this time, the program included such courses as Case Studies in Guidance and Dynamics of Mental Health. In 1973, the program underwent a major transformation. First, Guidance was renamed Counselor Education. Second, many new courses were added to revamp the curriculum. The Counseling Program was moving in new directions by design. No longer focusing only on school guidance, it was moving toward "applying counselor skills in other human service fields such as industry, religion, community agencies, and the like."
By the following year, Counselor Education declared five areas of concentration for students: school counseling or pupil personnel administration, college counseling, student personnel work in higher education, employment counseling, and psychological counseling in agencies or institutions. A second level beyond the Master's was recommended for several of these options. During the 1977-1978 academic year, the counseling programs became more delineated. Most of them were 36 credit hour Master of Education programs with some requiring an additional 30 hours for counseling licensure. The following year, Counselor Education further defined six areas of concentration, some involving two levels.
Coordinated by Dr. Carl Swanson, the counseling program made rapid strides toward more diversification, particularly in the direction of counseling in community agencies and private practice. Dr. Swanson was instrumental in lobbying the Virginia legislature to pass licensure for non-doctoral counselors. During the mid-1980s the program developed a program for counselors in the elementary schools. Dr. Jack Presbury assumed coordination when Dr. Swanson gave up the role. Later, Dr. Helen Moore took on the coordinator's responsibilities. Under Dr. Moore's guidance, the Community Agency Program renewed its approval from CACREP. In the late 1980's, the Counselor Education Program began to emphasize the more clinically oriented skills of assessment and intervention. During this time, the counseling program also redesigned its tracks into its present form.
Dr. Lennis Echterling became coordinator in 1994 and led the program through a successful CACREP re-accreditation process in Community Counseling and initial accreditation in School Counseling in 1996. In the spring of 2003, the Counseling Program successfully completed the reaccreditation process and received full accreditation through the year 2011.
In January, 2009, Dr. A. Renee Staton, a faculty member of the Counseling Program since 1999, assumed the role of Program Director. She facilitated the implementation of significant changes in the School Counseling Program, streamlining the curriculum to enable students to complete the entire program in two calendar years. Dr. Staton also oversaw the development of a comprehensive self-study and coordinated a site-visit that led to the accreditation of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling Programs in 2011.
In January 2012, Dr. Lennis Echterling returned to serve as Director of Counseling Programs, which now include Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, the Ph.D. in Counseling and Supervision, and College Student Personnel Administration. The Counseling Programs Director role then moved to Dr. Debbie Sturm for five years. In 2015, under the leadership of Dr. Debbie Sturm, the Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling programs were fully reaccredited by CACREP. The director role changed in 2018, and now Dr. Renee Staton is director of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, Dr. Michele Kielty is director of the School Counseling Program, and Dr. Debbie Sturm is director of the Counseling and Supervision Program.
At the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, the counseling faculty members participated in a retreat designed to refine their collective mission statement and vision. As a result of their collective exploration of their shared values and goals, they developed the mission statement We, the core faculty, foster well-being for ourselves, our programs, and the students we serve. The faculty members take our mission seriously and intend it to help inform our work in the upcoming years.