Dr. Christine E. Murray
Associate Professor of Counseling and Educational Development
Diffusion of Innovations
by Everett M. Rogers
When I first starting reading the book Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers, I never could have imagined the level of influence it would have on my work. Given that some of the earliest studies on diffusion were on the topic of hybrid corn, it was difficult to imagine any applications to my own field of counseling.
I first heard a colleague from another discipline talking about “diffusion of innovation theory” soon after I began working at UNCG, and my curiosity was piqued. I went straight to Rogers’ book to find out what this theory was all about, and I really have never thought the same about my work since.
Like many counselors, I first went into the profession because I wanted to “help people.” The idea of being part of a profession that makes such a powerful difference in the lives of people who seek counseling always has been so exciting to me. Directly working with clients gave me the opportunity to see what positive growth clients can experience when they feel validated and have support in thinking through the challenges they are facing in their lives.
As I moved into an academic position and therefore was less involved in direct clinical work, I began to feel disconnected from the lived experiences of clients. I knew that I wanted to do research that “mattered” in the sense that it would ultimately help the clients served by counselors. But, it was difficult for me to see how the research studies I conducted and then published in scholarly journals actually had any direct relevance on the practice of counseling.
Learning about diffusion of innovation theory through this book gave me a framework for considering how I could do research that could be relevant to counseling practice, as well as how to get the implications of my findings out to the practitioners that could use them. I began to see that the work I was doing as a researcher could indeed have an impact on clinical practice, but that this will not necessarily happen automatically.
As I’ve gone deeper into studying gaps between research and practice in counseling, and especially in the area of domestic violence, I always come back to the ideas in this book to guide my decisions about what to study, how to study it, and how to disseminate the findings to the people I hope will benefit from the work I do.