The training of paraprofessional street youth counselors: evaluation of a program



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The training of Street Youth Counselors (SYC's), performed by the Consultation and Education Division of a Community Mental Health Center was evaluated. The Ss were a group of 44 indigenous paraprofessionals assigned to work in economically deprived areas. The program consisted of training in Empathic Listening Skills, Values Clarification and Crisis Intervention techniques. Training methods included didactic presentations, role-playing and small group exercises, and demonstrations. Criterion measures were comprised of an objective measure of content assimilation as well as an instrument using simulated videotape recorded counseling situations as a stimulus in order to assess the learning of specific skills. They were administered pre-, post-, and as a 3-month follow-up. Ss were also interviewed at the time of follow-up in order to obtain their subjective evaluations. In addition, measures of Empathic Tendency (Mehrabian) and of Interpersonal Anxiety (IPAT) as well as demographic questionnaire were also administered in order to investigate their use as future predictors of performance. The training failed to produce significant differences pre-, post-, and at follow-up. Interview data, on the other hand, indicated a moderate degree of success in the achievement of training goals and objectives and trainee satisfaction. The relatively short duration of the training and a possible cultural bias in the instruments were offered as explanations for the lack of significant results in the criterion measures. Predictive results were obtained by correlating the criterion measure scores for all three observation times with the results of the predictive instruments and the demographic questionnaire. These results indicated that Interpersonal Anxiety was not useful as a predictor. Other predictors were also ruled out due to their limited value: Sex, Marital Status, extent of Experience prior to the training. Job Satisfaction, and Counseling vs. recreation orientation. Considerable predictive value was observed in the relationship between Education and the criterion measures, while moderate results were obtained for Empathic Tendency and Age for specific measuring times. Implications for future training evaluation were noted, emphasizing induction into training and research roles by means of activities designed to facilitate the development of trust between trainers and trainees and to ensure meaningful training content and methods. A variety of training and research techniques expected to be more consonant with the social and cognitive styles of the many indigenous workers, and of the Ss specifically, was also suggested.