Counseling Types: School Counseling

In this final entry to my series of posts about various settings, I will explain what school counseling is.

School counselors are credentialed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree, and address all students academic, personal and vocational needs. Although the traditional school counselor used to be referred to as the “guidance counselor”, with their primary role being to help students with academic planning, school counselors now provide both group and individual counseling. However, this role is still in transition, with some schools more accepting of the modern definition of the school counselor, and other schools still expecting counselors to fulfill the same general support roles as teachers, such as bus duty.

In 1997 ASCA (American School Counseling Association) produced new standards that included competencies to help define and standardize the new role of school counselors. The four elements addressed by ASCA include Foundation (Beliefs and Philosophy, Mission Statement and Standards and competencies), Delivery, Management and Accountability. The “Delivery” portion describes the how school counselors should deliver their services:

  1. Guidance Curriculum – development of a comprehensive instructional program that is coordinated by school counselors
  2. Individual Student Planning – help all students plan and manage their own learning in a collaborative way
  3. Responsive Services – refers to how counselors address student concern. Includes individual and group counseling, crisis counseling, referring to other professionals, and other programs that meet student needs or address student concerns
  4. System Support – refers to how the school counselor is supported and includes professional development activities, supervision, consultation

Professional Issues

  1. High counselor to student ratios –
    Research appears to support a lower counselor-to-student ratio, with ASCA recommending 1:250, yet ratios can range from 1:203 in Wyoming to 1:1076 in Illinois with the national average being 1:467. Therefore, school counselors often have to figure out how to maximize their impact and adjust their services to meet the number of students that require them.
  2. Certification – National certification was not initiated until 1992 with the National Certified School Counselor credential. Credentialing/licensure has been present on the state level for many years.
  3. Youth trauma – because of the recent school shootings, school counselors are being asked to take on the additional role of helping youth to become more resilient. In addition, counselors are asked to provide crisis services, including grief counseling and be sensitive to multicultural issues.
  4. Salaries – employment of school counselors is expected to grow faster than average. Salaries are based on the salaries of teachers that have master’s degrees, with the median salary at $57,8000 as of May 2008.

Within the specialty area of school counseling there are sub-categories, depending on the age group that counselors work with. School counselors can work with elementary, middle and high school students. Just like sub-specialities within mental health, school counselors have age groups with which they are expert. This makes sense when you consider the needs of the students will vary widely depending on their developmental level.

Legal Issues

There are also additional and different legal concerns for school counselors. Generally, school counselors do not have privileged communication. For example, if courts request information, they must comply. It is also the counselor’s obligation to reveal information as requested by a parent or guardian. Reporting of child abuse is also a significant issue. All states require school counselors to report suspected child abuse.

Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,

Barbara LoFrisco

*source: The World of the Counselor: An Introduction to the Counseling Profession by Ed Neukrug, fourth edition.