Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gary H. Bischof

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Craig

Third Advisor

Dr. Gerald Pillsbury

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Peter W. Wielhouwer


Social justice has become an increasingly controversial topic among members of the American Counseling Association (ACA). Specifically, concerns have been raised over what is perceived to be: (a) the liberal political agenda of social justice advocates, (b) the marginalization of conservative counselors, and (c) the inappropriate use of ACA resources for social activism. Concerns of this nature suggest that contrary to what is most often expressed by social justice proponents, many counselors may question if efforts to address social and political issues are appropriate tasks for counselors in their professional roles. They further imply that opinions about social justice advocacy may be shaped by differences in liberal and conservative political ideologies. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore the relationship between political ideology and perceptions of social justice advocacy among members of ACA.

A total of 214 members of ACA participated in the study, which included online administration of the Advocacy Characteristics Scales (Paylo, 2007), the Conservatism Scale (Sidanius, 1991), and a self-report measure of political ideology (ANES, n.d.). Data was analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance and step-wise multiple regression. Results indicated that participants generally had positive perceptions of social justice advocacy and supported the use of the ACA resources to advocate for social issues. Moreover, while conservative counselors had somewhat less favorable perceptions of social justice advocacy, their perceptions, in most instances, did not differ significantly from their liberal and moderate counterparts. Conversely, extremely liberal participants had significantly higher perceptions of social justice advocacy attitudes, behaviors, and skills when compared to the perceptions of participants with less liberal, moderate, or conservative ideologies. These findings suggest that assumptions regarding a negative relationship between conservative political ideology in counselors and perceptions of social justice advocacy may be unfounded. Leaders within ACA might benefit the profession and build consensus by doing more to discuss the results of studies such as this, especially as they continue to work on strengthening and unifying the profession's identity. Implications of the study's findings are offered for counseling, training, and future research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access