School Counselors Commonly Offer Support for these Five Student Issues
The role of the school counselor has grown in many ways. Traditionally, school counselors were responsible for giving students college and career advice. And while that is still a big part of their job description, counselors today play a more active role in lives of students. Depending on certain states, districts, and school requirements, a school counselor may provide a wide range of services to the student population.
School counselors offer both individual and small group counseling. They help students work on personal and interpersonal problems. They help teach important social skills that can improve peer relationships. Some school counselors may also provide mental health services when qualified. Students are not the only people to benefit from a school counselor. Teachers can learn classroom management techniques, as well as ways to deal with certain school safety issues from counselors. Suggestions made by school counselors are also important for writing IEPs and while working with students with special needs.
Let’s take a look at five of the most common issues that school counselors face while supporting students.
It’s probably no surprise the bullying is number one on this list. Between 1-in-4 and 1-in-3 US students say they have been bullied at school. Another 33% of students report being bullied online. Bullying can cause negative experiences at school. Students who’ve been bullied are more likely to be depressed or anxious and are more likely to skip school. On the other end of the spectrum, the kids who do the bullying are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, get into fights, and drop out of school.
School counselors can provide a safe environment for victims of bullying to discuss their emotions. They can also help students who are bullied build their self-esteem. School counselors who work with bullies help them to better understand the impact of their behavior. They might explore the reasons for the bullying and learn new ways to communicate with others.
Some school counselors work with entire families. Often, parents of teenagers will reach out to a school and ask for help on how to understand their child’s changing emotions and behaviors. While some school counselors may not feel qualified to provide therapy, they can help point families in the right direction toward parenting classes and make referrals to licensed family therapists. School counselors can also let parents know whether what they’re seeing is a cause for concern or just normal child development.
Some students may speak to school counselors because of the family problems such as divorce, a death in the family, or a family illness. In these cases, a school counselor needs to assess how much care the student needs. They may just need a sounding board, or a school counselor may need to refer the child to a therapist who can help.
The school counselor should be one of the first people to intervene with students who are struggling academically. School counselors often have a very large caseload and it can be difficult to keep up with all of the students to which they’re assigned. But it is part of the counselor’s job to look for students who are slipping through the cracks academically. As school dropout rates continue to increase, school counselors are needed more than ever for their academic support. Nearly 1/3 of all public high school students do not graduate with their class; but this statistic can be avoided when school counselors find ways to provide mentorship opportunities, make suggestions for after-school support programs, and find academic help for their at-risk students.
School counselors in the middle school and high school environments need to know how to deal with substance abuse issues. The kind of counseling that can happen in school around drugs and alcohol include finding coping skills to deal with stress for troubled emotions and also finding ways to help students say no to being offered illegal substances. School counselors can help students find healthy, positive behaviors that replace the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
For example, students can get involved in afterschool activities, sports, or evening groups that keep them busy during the times with it when they would normally be using. A school counselor may also need to recommend rehab services and therapy for students that cannot be reached through in-school counseling. Counselors who do not feel confident in providing help for substance abuse can use certain screening tools such as the CRAFFT questionnaire to help determine what additional resources might be needed to help students.
College and Career Counseling
Even with all of their other job responsibilities, school counselors are still the people on campus who are best equipped to aid students in their quest towards college and careers.
School counselors provide programs to help students make informed decisions about their future. They can help students understand what kind of classes they should take to get into certain schools and to be sure that they are accessing the best programs possible.
School counselors also prepare students for college and career readiness exams such as the SAT in the ACT. Counselors help students build portfolios, resumes, and other types of documentation for college and job applications.
The job of a school counselor is not for the faint of heart.
School counselors have to be both empathetic about what students are going through and also tough when it comes to academic counseling and substance abuse issues. A school counselor wants to provide the entire school community, including students and staff, with a safe and healthy environment. The work that they do is important for everyone’s well-being.
Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.
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