School counselors are available for children of all ages and provide services that young people will voluntarily take part in. During these sessions, students have a chance to overcome difficult issues they are experiencing by exploring them in more depth and trying to get a better understanding of the problem. The idea is to relieve some of the confusion that children in distress can feel and to minimize the difficulties they are living with. Each school counselor will have a contract with the person they are working with and maybe also their parent or carer, depending on the child’s age and situation.
School counselors help children to thrive when it comes to academic success. They strive to nurture a learning environment that feels safe and supportive, and also provide career development advice to older students. They are a crucial member of the education team and work to help students focus on vocational success. This is done by designing programs that encourage children’s academic progress and also through supporting their mental health.
Using counseling techniques to treat the whole child
Children who have good mental health and whose emotional well-being is strong have every chance of learning effectively and developing a positive attitude, both toward themselves and their peers. Along with good physical health, ensuring that children are happy and confident is essential for their holistic development. However, sometimes children struggle because of things that are happening at home or because they are coming to terms with something about themselves, be it their gender or sexuality. In these circumstances, and many more, counseling is a useful resource.
Practitioners encourage students to gain insight into themselves as people, the world around them, and how they relate to it. As a result, children are more self-aware, they can identify their strengths and weaknesses, and they can become more resilient and capable of dealing with problems independently. Offering young people a space to grow and overcome their problems is incredibly fulfilling. School counselors have the opportunity to give the next generation the best possible start in life. However, until recently it was a challenge to balance training for this role with a home life and a job.
Now, universities such as St. Bonaventure University has introduced distance learning programs with community-based placements that make the process more accessible. As a result, people who are considering how to become a counselor in schools and want to qualify online can study for the Master of Science in Education in School Counseling at St. Bonaventure University. With local placements and internships, this course can prepare people with counseling experience, and those who are new to the profession, for the licensed professional counselor exam. Once they graduate and pass the exam designated by the state they will practice in, school counselors will assist the young people in their care with overcoming personal, social and learning challenges. They will enable students to become more confident in their abilities, to have a positive self-image, and to form stronger friendships. As a result, children have every chance to understand how to behave in a school environment and get better grades.
What is a school counselor’s scope of practice?
School counselors have a wide-ranging professional role that encompasses career advice, academic support, and addressing their students’ personal development needs. They often use data and research to drive their methodologies, and this means that school counselors are extremely proactive in their approach. The information they work with will be drawn from reports on children’s behavior, their achievements and their attendance records. School counselors will use this and other resources to design a program of effective counseling and choose ways to implement it. As such, they play a key role in improving the school, in terms of academic achievement and pupil behavior.
The majority of school counselors also have to take on other roles and responsibilities to provide the best possible service to the school and its students. They will be a friend to children who need someone to confide in, an educator for pupils who need to improve their social skills, and a mediator when students and teachers are struggling to resolve a situation. At other times, they will have to behave as a disciplinarian to manage issues such as low attendance and inappropriate behavior among pupils. Finally, many school counselors also work as consultants, guiding the school leadership team by evaluating the effectiveness of their current student wellness and support programs, and suggesting ways to improve.
Is the role of a school counselor different depending on the educational level?
The duties that a school counselor performs can vary significantly depending on the age of the students they are responsible for.
In elementary schools, counselors are more likely to work with the office team and teachers. They ensure that children who are just starting out on their educational journey establish good habits from the beginning and have the study skills they will require moving forward. If children need emotional, behavioral or developmental support, it will be provided by the school counselor in collaboration with the student’s family.
In junior high school, counselors tend to play more of a role in the learning process. Much of their work is focused on ensuring that pupils are progressing at the expected rate and removing any barriers to learning that they might be dealing with. The aim is to prepare each student for future success, academically, personally and socially, as they move into their teenage years.
In high schools, the approach of school counselors shifts once again, as they assist pupils with making the right choices about their future. Counselors will encourage young people to consider their skills and abilities when selecting an educational route or career path. Furthermore, they offer help when students are working through personal challenges such as bullying, stress or addictions.
What are the practical ways that school counselors help students to thrive?
Whether they are supporting students personally or in terms of their academic success, school counselors offer help in multiple ways.
Preparing students for their first steps into the adult world
With the help of a school counselor, students are better able to understand what they are good at, where their interests could take them, and the career options available to them. Counselors give emotional and professional guidance that helps students to find appropriate educational paths and supports their personal development.
Teaching students how to manage personal struggles
Children might have interpersonal conflicts, feel bullied, or be excluded from the cliques that their peers have formed. In each case, school counselors can spot the social problems that can cause a young person to feel stressed. These kinds of challenges can often prevent children from doing their best at school and from thriving in terms of their emotional health. However, once a counselor identifies the issue, they can use their skills and professional training to help a young person feel more confident, assured and positive about themselves.
Giving children every chance of academic success
Counselors can help children learn and develop a range of habits that will be helpful as they move through the school system. Part of this will involve teaching them to keep their work organized, to prioritize their academic workload even when their social life is busy, and to manage their time effectively. Counselors will also take part in school life by studying the curriculum to ensure that it meets the students’ needs fully. They will complete this part of their work by taking part in professional development programs to ensure that they remain informed about educational trends.
Once they are ready, they will compile a report in collaboration with teachers and school administrators, and then present it to the senior leadership team and any other stakeholders to push for the necessary changes. This might involve recognizing and removing elements in the curriculum that are hampering the pupils’ success, as well as suggesting other ideas that could pave the way for more pupils to achieve exam and career success. Finally, school counselors will ensure that children with special needs are given the resources they need to thrive. This could be in the form of additional writing classes, assistance with expressing themselves, and integration into a classroom environment.
Nurturing an environment that is safe and supportive
When a school feels inclusive and counselors promote resilience, the environment is less likely to foster bullying and hostility. School counselors can help develop a culture in which everyone feels safe and seen by ensuring that they themselves are regularly present, and are therefore considered accessible. Counselors also need to promote their service by putting up posters, speaking to classes and leaving their office doors open when possible. Being present in the school and getting to know the pupils means that counselors establish themselves as a go-to person. This is especially important in the early days of a school year when there are lots of new faces and children might be trying hard to fit in.
Some children can struggle to feel heard or seen by their peers and the teaching team, and this can lead to problematic behavior that disrupts lessons. Therefore, counselors will always strive to ensure that every pupil is heard by building relationships within each class and year group. Children who feel part of something will have a sense of belonging and feel like they have as much of a stake in the school’s success as anyone else. Counselors can support this process by establishing a rapport between pupils, and between themselves and pupils.
Furthermore, they could suggest that part of the day is spent on emotional development-based topics such as learning social or emotional skills or having an open-ended group discussion about mental health. Teachers who are willing to incorporate these sessions into their classroom time send a message to children that they are concerned and willing to listen to issues that need to be talked about.
Ensuring that children feel secure at school
It’s hard for a counselor to know how safe children are feeling when they first arrive at the school, and even if they have been there for a while, they may not have a clear picture. Therefore, they might send out some questionnaires to learn more about the issues that may worry children, the prevalence of bullying, and whether or not children feel that they can talk to members of staff. Once the responses are back, the counselor can begin to develop a program that addresses the exact needs that are identified. These might include a need for more staff in the yard at recess or more extracurricular activities after school. These surveys will probably have to be carried out regularly, to ensure that the counselor’s aims continue to align with the needs of the students.
Establishing and promoting wellness in the school
Raising awareness about mental health, self-management and finding help when it’s needed can minimize the embarrassment that some children feel when they are suffering. This can be done by incorporating aptitudes such as coping skills into the weekly curriculum. Furthermore, the school should ensure that children have equal access to the counselor, and that they can book an appointment when they need to and expect to be seen as soon as possible. To raise awareness, the counselor can run staff development classes in which teachers are instructed on spotting signs of mental health struggles in children.
Encouraging a culture where physical activity is the norm can also help to reduce stress among the student population. Counselors can encourage this by pushing for the school to add more sports, exercise breaks and recreational activities to the working day. Similarly, mindfulness techniques, which assist students with managing stress and learning how to relax when alone, can have several benefits. They can help children to remain focused when in lessons, promote emotional regulation, and encourage a higher level of self-awareness.
Assisting young people with cultivating relationships
Children go through many profound developmental changes during their school years. Moving from early childhood into adolescence and eventually adulthood comes with various challenges. However, many of the problems that young people face can be mitigated through the presence of strong bonds with family, friends, teachers and mentors. Counselors can provide students with the aptitudes they need to develop and maintain robust relationships, a skill that they can carry forward into adulthood.
Peer support programs can be a great way to boost the social support that each child feels at school, and in doing so, enhance their academic attainment. It involves the school counselor establishing schemes in which children of similar ages are tasked with helping each other. This could take the form of showing a new pupil around, offering support in the classroom, or simply being a buddy at break times.
Peer-to-peer programs can enrich the work carried out by counselors because it is often the case that children speak with other children more freely than they do with adults. By carefully finding children to help with this scheme, giving them appropriate training, and supervising their progress, counselors can ensure that these peers become a positive influence on their cohort group.
Supporting children who have to manage transitions
When change happens at a school, it can be stressful for everyone concerned, from teachers to parents and children. Schools that are adapting to significant change will often create a team of teachers, parents and students, as well as a school counselor to manage the situation. They will work in collaboration with each other to identify areas of concern among the students and offer support.
This could be through designing a handbook that includes details of all the planned changes, including how these new practices will impact classes, daily life and procedures at the school. The team will also keep the school’s website updated with any key information and offer tips that ensure that the transition period feels less daunting.
By taking a realistic and practical approach to change, the counselor can help students to adapt, whether they are facing a new setting or a new routine. Part of this will be about acknowledging that change can make people feel uncertain and offering to provide a listening ear to pupils who are feeling unsure or overwhelmed.
Working to improve and enhance school life throughout the US
For many years, school counselors have worked alongside teachers, parents and students to ensure that each young person has the best possible start in life. They provide support with learning goals and self-discovery, and as children get older, academic and professional achievement. Their work may be carried out behind the scenes of busy schools, but it can make a huge impact on student outcomes, as well as the culture and success of the institution. Moreover, supportive school counselors offer guidance and insight to young people that remain with them throughout their life. This can help them to lead happier, more fulfilling lives, and in terms of career success, achieve everything they are capable of.