Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services


Counselor Education and Supervision

Committee Director

Danica G. Hays

Committee Member

Patricia E. Robertson

Committee Member

Edward Neukrug


Rurality is a term that can be used to describe rural residency and the cultural characteristics of rural individuals and areas. The counseling profession has increased its attention to culture with the development of the multicultural counseling competencies (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992) and assessments designed to measure competency levels for providing services to diverse clientele (e.g., Kim, Cartwright, Asay, & D'Andrea, 2003; LaFromboise, Coleman, & Hernandez, 1991; Ponterotto, Gretchen, Utsey, Rieger, & Austin, 2002; Sodowsky, Taffe, Gutkin, & Wise, 1994). However, the commonly used definitions of culture as well as the instruments available to measure multicultural counseling competence do not take rurality into account. The counseling profession's current initiatives to increase the presence of counselors in rural areas (National Board for Certified Counselors [NBCC], 2010) provide evidence of an increased focus on appropriate services for rural individuals. Therefore, the purpose of this study is the development and validation of the Rural Competency Scale (RCS), a scale designed to measure counselors' competency levels for providing mental health services to rural individuals and/or in rural areas. Using an exploratory mixed methods design with sequential data collection (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007), the scale was developed (i.e., content analysis, item development study, expert review, pilot study) and validation analyses were performed (i.e., exploratory factor, internal replication, reliability, and validity analyses). For this study, 379 counseling students and professionals completed an online survey packet consisting of the RCS, Multicultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness Scale (MCKAS; Ponterotto et al., 2002), and a demographic information form. A four-factor model was determined to be the best model for the sample accounting for 31.11% of the total variance. Internal consistency estimates were acceptable for the RCS total scale (α = .87) as well as the Rural Awareness (α = .87), Social Desirability (α = .81), Rural Knowledge (α = .75), and Rural Skills (α = .86) subscales. Additionally, the RCS was significantly, positively correlated with the MCKAS (Ponterotto et al., 2002) supporting convergent validity. Although further validation analyses are needed, initial results support the use of the RCS in measuring competency levels for providing mental health services in rural areas and/or to rural individuals.