Ed Neukrug, professor of counseling and human services, has been appointed the Batten Endowed Chair of Counseling in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies.
His main focus will be developing the International Institute for the Advancement of Counseling Theory, a repository of research on a variety of classical and emerging counseling theories. The institute will also fund research and sponsor conferences to further understand and advance those theories.
Neukrug will continue teaching and will remain chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services through the academic year.
"I'm so excited about being appointed Batten Endowed Chair, as I'll be doing exactly what I always wanted to do," said Neukrug, who arrived at Old Dominion University in 1989. "I haven't had this much energy on a project in years."
Tammi Dice, interim dean of the Darden College, said, "Dr. Neukrug's illustrious career makes him entirely deserving of the Batten Endowed Chair of Counseling designation. He has obtained a national and international reputation in counseling and human services, as illustrated by his research and publications, external funding, creative works, leadership and professional involvements, and awards and honors."
As a preadolescent and into his teen years, Neukrug said he struggled with obesity, heart problems and confusion about his sexuality. Those issues, along with the influence of his father, "who could talk with anyone," helped build the skills that led him to become a counselor and counselor educator.
"I was acutely attuned to people's feelings, regardless of who they were," he said. "I could understand the world of the bullies, and of those being bullied, and I could befriend all of them."
Neukrug has written a dozen books, including a two-volume encyclopedia on counseling theory, and developed an interactive and animated website on "Great Therapists of the Twentieth Century." He has been named a fellow by the American Counseling Association and twice received the President's Award from the National Organization of Human Services. He recently received the counseling association's Thomas Hohenshil National Publication Award.
Neukrug noted that in terms of counseling theory, the profession for a long time had been dominated by a white male Western perspective that focused on the individual and their ability to control their life. Counseling theories now look at other factors, including power dynamics, interpersonal relationships, the extended family and social influences, such as how unconscious bias and racism impact individuals and the community.
In addition, some of the newer approaches stress the importance of the counselor acting as an equal in the relationship and de-emphasize pathology, because some see diagnosis as a means of oppressing individuals, particularly the disenfranchised.
The perspectives of social justice and multiculturalism have gained new importance in the field, which Neukrug applauds. At the same time, he believes this focus has led to a de-emphasis on theory, which he hopes to promote with the new institute.
His goal is to increase awareness of a variety of counseling theories, including some less common in the Western world, and the research supporting them. The institute will offer access to counseling theory resources, provide grants for further research and sponsor conferences.
Neukrug plans to work with nationally known experts on theory and has already recruited several from other universities to assist with the institute's work.
The website, which is active but still adding new content, is designed for both practitioners and people seeking counseling. Its features include resources on counseling theory, an interactive site on "Great Therapists of the 20th Century," ranging from Sigmund Freud to Insoo Kim Berg, who championed "relational-cultural therapy," and a 78-question survey designed to assess which of 17 theories is most compatible with a person's beliefs.
Neukrug advises new counselors or helpers to find a theory that fits their personality and suggests individuals seeking counseling should identify an approach that feels comfortable to them.
Although theories emerge from different perspectives, he said, "they all show positive client outcomes."
His advice to practitioners: "Know your theory, be able to deliver your theory, use an evidence-based approach and build a relationship based on empathy and cultural competence."