Counseling in elementary and junior high schools in Taiwan was limited due to a shortage of professionals in the field, but as school counseling work gradually gained recognition, legislation was enacted to incorporate professionals from different fields into school counseling through the construction of a framework of school counseling work with three levels: development, intervention, and treatment under the Tertiary Prevention System. In the current system, many teacher-counselors possess a counseling license as well as a teaching license. As such, they are both teachers responsible for secondary intervention counseling work and counselors responsible for tertiary treatment counseling work. If these dual professionals experience difficulty in identification, it may halt their professional development (Cinotti, 2015). Therefore, understanding the connotation of professional identification for these teachers is essential (Myers et al., 2002; Weinrach et al., 2011). Previous findings indicated that internal factors, external factors, and professional identification development processes jointly affect one’s professional identification on three levels. How these dual-profession teacher-counselors with counseling a license consider the connotation of professional identification through these three levels is an indispensable aspect of their professional development. Embedded in Taiwan’s unique division system for counseling work, this study examines the professional development and formation of identification of dual-profession counseling professionals. This study was aimed at understanding the context, identification, and dilemmas of dual-profession counselors in schools. Eight dual-profession counselors participated in in-depth interviews on their education background, how they perceive their position in the school counseling system, and their views and experiences regarding tertiary prevention counseling work in schools before they became a teacher-counselor, after entering a counseling-related postgraduate course, after obtaining the counseling license, and after assuming the role of a teacher-counselor. Their career transition path and professional identification were explored through content analysis of data from interviews. The interviews covered topics such as the path to developing the dual profession, factors contributing to their identification as “teacher-counselor,” factors contributing to their identification as “counselor,” the professional identifications of the two career paths, their current professional identification, and how the interviewees cope with dilemmas. Four major paths of career development were identified: 1) after obtaining a master’s degree, obtaining the counseling license and then entering schools as a teacher-counselor; 2) obtaining the teaching license after graduating from university and then completing a master’s program to obtain the counseling license; 3) becoming a counselor first and working as teacher-counselor and later obtaining a teaching license while working; and 4) after obtaining a master’s degree after working as teacher-counselor, becoming a counselor, and then returning to become a teacher-counselor later. Most of the interviewees worked longer as a teacher-counselor than as a counselor. The interviewees pursued the teachercounselor career because the salary is stable, with high social expectations from relatives and friends. They identified with being a counselor because of the professionalism in professional work and the professional aura is beneficial for the cooperation of ecosystems. Work mode versus systemic role was discussed; some interviewees identified differences in roles as the complexity of professional work, degree of boundary maintenance, and angle of understanding the client; whereas others perceived the difference in the two roles as professional ability and the ability to adhere to the school’s ecosystem. For dual-profession counselors, the emphasis on the two roles may vary depending on the context. Therefore, the professional identification of the dual-profession counselors alternated, with four types as follows: “when in Rome, do as Romans do: identify with teachercounselor and suppress the counselor identity”; “inconsistent: taking up the role of teacher-counselor but identify with counselor more”; “adaptation: adjust the proportion and representation of the two identities depending on the time and place”, and “inclusive: integrate the two identifications and form a new identification, where one coordinates and negotiates between the two professional roles and forms a multidisciplinary professional identification.” Their identification crisis generally arose when they experienced inner struggle and based on considerations with referred clients and the expectations of others in the system, which also includes the cooperation of the two roles at a professional level and a subtle, unseen competitive relationship between the two roles. The professionals employed the following four modes to respond to their professional identification dilemmas: “professional connection: participate in professional training courses”; “retreat in order to advance: redefining the meaning of systemic cooperation”, “seeking similarities from differences: starting dialogue with people with the same background”; and “mental segmentation: taking up the role of counselor outside the school.” This has also become an important issue when dualprofession counselors attempt to integrate their roles and navigate their place in the system. The results indicate that when teacher-counselor professionals choose between a career as a counselor and one as a teacher-counselor, they favor the second one due to realistic considerations, although some would prefer a career as a counselor due to its high level of professionalism. The difference in professional identification suggests that the training and supervision of teacher-counselors and counselors should be segmented. The “professional identification dilemma” and response to it reflects the dilemma of the professional themselves and the expectations of others regarding the dual profession. The results also indicate that elementary and junior high school teacher-counselors are more likely to develop the professional identification dilemma than senior high school guidance counselors. The professional career development path reflects how professionals with various job tenures respond to the professional identification dilemma—hence, the development of different states of professional identification. A dual-profession professional would tend to “go with the flow” of the school environment or accept the inconsistency between their job title and the content of the work they perform, but as one gradually works through the breaking-in period, one may adopt a professional identification that is best suited to the school environment or find a balance between the two professions while performing the job. Regarding the redefinition and reexamination of the professional identification of these teacher-counselor professionals, both they and their supervisors should pay close attention to the issue of identification, so that they can find their position in the system rather than splitting the options into two or limiting them to one role. Teacher-counselor professionals should be assisted in assimilating similar values within the professions and adjusting for the differences between the two. The contribution of this study is its depiction of the connotation of the professional identity of teacher-counselor professionals. It provides a reference for teacher-counselor professionals choosing career paths and draws attention to the welfare of teacher-counselor professionals. The paper concludes with suggestions for practice, additional research, and professional training.
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