The Important Role of a School Counselor

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By: Franciene Sabens, M.S. Ed., LPC, NCC, Professional School Counselor

First came Sputnik, then came the Professional School Counselor. If it weren’t for Sputnik, the profession might not exist, but since the Soviet Union exceeded us with their ground-breaking technical achievement, the nation chose to respond by building a force so strong, with staying power, that our Country would one day achieve something greater. That force was the school counseling profession, and that something greater is the future that today’s youth has yet to create. To understand the role of a school counselor, you must first become aware of the history of the profession itself.

In the beginning, the school counseling profession was created and funded to steer our youth into math & science careers; to give us more opportunities to beat Sputnik, hence the initial terminology, “Guidance Counselor.” Today however, the profession and the preparation necessary to enter the profession have grown by leaps & bounds.

Today’s Professional School Counselor must earn a Master’s degree in counseling, meet certification standards, and in many states, pass a professional licensure exam prior to being recognized in the profession or securing a job. Part of a professional school counselor’s training requires extensive counseling courses, including therapeutic skills, theory & group counseling techniques, and culminates with a 600 hour internship & comprehensive exam to ensure professional preparedness. Upon entering the profession, Professional School Counselors are, “uniquely qualified to address all students’ academic, personal/social and career development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success.” (ASCA, 2009)

The role of the Professional School Counselor is to provide a comprehensive school counseling program, to all students that promotes their success, safe guards their inherent rights, teaches them about themselves and how to contribute to and interact with greater society; essentially, a Professional School Counselor’s role is to prepare all students to be Life, College & Career ready.

Similar to teachers, Professional School Counselors deliver the school counseling core curriculum, which is based on national standards, and work towards program goals that are set based on data, and developed in collaboration with other school stakeholders (e.g. administrators, parents, teachers, students, community members). Professional School Counselors also provide students assistance with planning for life after high school, individual & group counseling in the school setting, respond to crisis situations, consult with parents, teachers and administrators to enhance student success, develop interventions to enhance the educational setting & process for all students, make referrals to outside mental health agencies, and support other educational endeavors that will enhance the services provided through the school counseling program.

Professional School Counselors focus on many questions, but the most important one is, “How are students different as a result of what school counselors do?” The role of the Professional School Counselor has evolved from “guiding” to inspiring; Professional School Counselors are in a position to dare all students to dream, while also providing the support and competency based roadmap to foster life-long success.

Professional School Counselors develop programming based on the unique needs of those they serve; no two programs are exactly alike. Strategies and interventions are data driven, standards based, empirically supported and devised to be developmentally appropriate. Programs and services developed by Professional School Counselors are evaluated and modified according to the outcome and ever-changing needs of the students they are developed to serve.

If your child’s school does not employ a Professional School Counselor, attend a school board meeting and ask, “why.” A Social Worker is not a Professional School Counselor; a School Psychologist is not a Professional School Counselor; and a “Guidance Counselor” is not a Professional School Counselor. If the school board answers with, “we can’t afford one,” ask, “how can we not.” Your child and every child in the nation deserves the opportunity to be served by a Professional School Counselor.

For more information on the profession, and what the role of the Professional School Counselor at each level, click here.

What surprises you about the present day role of School Counselors? Please share your thoughts here or on my blog: www.schoolcounselorspace.blogspot.com

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