School counseling, a crucial component to students achievement, is a comprehensive program that facilitates students academic, career, and personal and social development within the school setting. Professional school counselors are required to have a minimum of a master's degree in school counseling. In order to assist the development of all students, professional school counselors implement a wide range of therapeutic interventions. These interventions include, classroom guidance lessons on topics such as anxiety management and bully prevention, group and individual counseling, career testing and planning, parent and teacher consultation, and advocacy for systems change. Research has shown that these school counseling services improve students' academic success. School counseling is an important topic in educational psychology because it promotes students' academic, career, and personal/social achievement in the educational settings of elementary, middle, and high schools.
Professional School Counselor
History and Development
Vocational guidance, a preventative education process that guided students through life events, is seen as the precursor to modern school counseling. In 1908, "the Father of Guidance," Frank Parsons, founded Boston's Vocational Bureau, where he helped young people with career decisions. Simultaneously, in 1907, Jesse B. Davis implemented weekly vocational and moral guidance lessons during English classes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which led to a systematized guidance program in the public schools. The school guidance movement strengthened as Harvard University began education courses for counselors in 1911; the National Vocational Guidance Association was established in 1913; and the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 funded vocational education in public schools.
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Over the 100-year history of school counseling, program focus and duties evolved in response to changing trends and needs. In the early 1900s, school counselors focused on scheduling student courses that would lead to careers needed in the Industrial Revolution. In the 1910s, psychometrics became another focus when guidance workers used the military's Army Alpha and Army Beta intelligence tests to identify highly capable students. In the 1920s, secondary school guidance personnel were trained similar to college personnel because of limited training programs and thus acquired some administrative and disciplinary duties, similar to college deans of students. In the 1930s, school guidance personnel followed E. G. Williamson's approach of enhancing normal adjustment by helping individuals to set goals and teaching them needed skills. In the 1940s, Carl Rogers's nondirective emphasis of listening and accepting clients without judgment resulted in school counselors providing client-centered counseling to students, rather than just guidance.
In the 1950s, after the Soviet Union launched its first space satellite,Â Sputnik I, the United States funded the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). As a result, school counselors focused on student career testing to channel students with high math and science abilities into college. In addition, NDEA funded elementary school counseling so that talented elementary students could be identified. The 1960s group encounter movement influenced school counselors to offer small group counseling. Concurrently, C. Gilbert Wrenn advocated that school counselors expand their focus to the developmental needs of all students rather than just the top or bottom percentage. Hence, the focus shifted to the developmental guidance approach of promoting positive individual growth and preventing problems.
Despite declining school enrollment and economic problems in the 1970s and 1980s, school counselors continued to expand the developmental guidance focus to students' self-understanding and adjustment as well as career development from kindergarten through 12th grade. In 1998, Norman Gysbers and Patricia Henderson published Developing and Managing Your School Guidance Program, which provided guidelines for a comprehensive developmental guidance program. In the 1990s, multiculturalism became prominent in counseling, inspiring school counselors to pay more attention to the varying needs of students from different ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
Spanning from the end of the 1990s through the new millennium, concerns of school violence, bullying, and crises emerged due to a rash of school shootings and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. School counselors responded by focusing on bully prevention and developing crisis counseling teams. Because of limited resources, the prominence of managed care within the health care system, and accountability requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind policy, school counselors began to focus on accountability by providing data to prove that interventions led to student success.
In order to stabilize the changing focus of school counseling, in 2003, the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) developed a national model to provide consistent, comprehensive guidelines for school counseling programs and professional school counselors' duties that would promote success for all students throughout the country. A detailed description of the ASCA National Model is provided inÂ The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, Executive Summary. "The ASCA National Model supports the school's overall mission by promoting academic achievement, career planning and personal/social development. It serves as a framework to guide states, districts and individual schools in designing, developing, implementing and evaluating a comprehensive, developmental and systematic school counseling program" (ASCA, 2003, p. 1).
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This approach to school counseling programs benefits students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the overall community. It is an integral part of each student's achievement. It is systematically delivered to every student and is not just for high achievers or at-risk students.
Systematic delivery of the ASCA National Model encompasses four interrelated components: foundation, delivery system, management systems, and accountability. The foundation is composed of (a) beliefs and philosophy on which all personnel agree; and (b) a mission statement that highlights the program's purpose, which aligns with the school and district's mission. The delivery system entails four methods needed to systematically deliver the school counseling program to all students. The first method of the delivery system is guidance curriculum. The curriculum consists of structured classroom lessons that provide knowledge and skills at the appropriate developmental level for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The second method is individual student planning in which professional school counselors meet with individual students to help them identify goals and future plans. The third method is responsive services to meet individual students' immediate needs through counseling, consultation, referral, peer mediation, or provision of information. The fourth method of the delivery system is systems support via administration and management of the total counseling program.
The management system, the third component of the ASCA National Model, incorporates organizational processes to make sure the counseling program is aligned with the school's needs. Agreements about the school counseling program's organization and goals are negotiated with school administrators. An advisory council of students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, and community members is established to review counseling program results and make recommendations. Data are used to decide what activities are needed to promote students' academic, personal/social, and career achievement. Action plans are developed to achieve every desired competency and result. These action plans describe in detail the competencies addressed, activity components, data indicating the need for the activity, time line, responsible party, evaluation methods, and expected outcome. School counselors' time should be carefully guarded so that 80% of their time is spent on direct service contact with students. Their duties should be limited to program delivery rather than noncounseling activities. Calendars are developed and published so that students, parents, teachers, and administrators know the school counselor's schedule of activities.
Accountability is the final component of the ASCA National Model. To hold professional school counselors accountable, data are used to link school counseling activities to student achievement. Results reports ensure that programs were implemented, analyzed for effectiveness, and modified for activity and program improvement. Immediate, intermediate, and long-range reports are shared with stakeholders. School counselor performance standards are used to evaluate the school counselor and school counseling program. Finally, program audits are conducted to guide future action within the program.
ASCA's national standards for student academic, career, and personal/social development outline competencies that students will obtain or demonstrate as a result of the school counseling program. Regarding academic development, students will (a) acquire attitudes, knowledge, and skills for effective learning; (b) complete school with academic essentials needed for postsecondary options; and (c) understand the relationship between academics and career as well as life in the community. Regarding career development, students will (a) acquire skills to investigate work options and self so that they can make informed career decisions; (b) utilize strategies to achieve future career goals with success and satisfaction; and (c) understand the relationship between personal characteristics, education, training, and career options. Regarding personal social development, students will (a) acquire knowledge, attitudes, and skills to understand and respect self and others; (b) learn to make decisions and establish and achieve goals; and (c) develop safety and survival skills. Professional school counselors must ensure that their programs help students accomplish each of these competencies.
Professional school counselors implement a developmental classroom guidance curriculum to all students in an effort to prevent problems in students. The curriculum addresses common concerns that are identified by needs assessments of students, faculty, and parents as well as national standards related to academic, personal/social, and career development. Professional school counselors present structured, planned lessons to a large group of students to meet students' developmental needs. Although the topics may remain the same across school levels, developmental approaches vary based on school level as toys and puppets may be used in elementary school whereas games and role-playing may be used in secondary schools.
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Major Themes in Professional School Counseling
When students need more intensive help beyond classroom guidance lessons, school counselors provide small group counseling and individual counseling. During small group counseling, professional school counselors meet with two to eight students at a time to provide therapeutic intervention that meets participants' individual and common goals. In elementary schools, typical goals include improving social skills and general behavior, adjusting to family changes of divorce or death, or resolving underlying personal problems that interfere with academic success. In secondary schools, typical goals include student success skills and career decision making. Professional school counselors employ group counseling skills of facilitating open communication, linking group members together, providing feedback on interactions, confronting disruptive behavior, and encouraging positive interaction with other members.
In elementary schools, play therapy allows students to express their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and resolve conflicts through their natural medium of communication, play. Professional school counselors create a safe environment with specially selected toys and provide therapeutic responses of tracking play behavior, reflecting feelings and content, returning responsibility, encouraging, building self-esteem, setting therapeutic limits, facilitating understanding, and expanding the meaning of the child's play. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that play therapy decreases children's behavior problems and increases their mental health, which in turn helps them succeed at school.
Career development and guidance in the schools is based on the goal that each student will complete high school prepared for a variety of workplace and postsecondary options, including 2- and 4-year colleges, technical schools, or military service. Career development begins in preschool and continues beyond high school. According to Edwin Herr and Stanley Cramer, children often make a tentative commitment to a vocation in the first 6 years of school.REFERENCE Elementary school counselors focus on career awareness that transcends socioeconomic levels and gender roles. Common career awareness activities are career days, in which parents and community members present information on their careers; field trips to local industries, banks, hospitals, stores, and so on; and videos of a wide range of careers. Middle school counselors focus on career exploration. They help students explore work options in light of their own strengths, weaknesses, interests, talents, and skills. Middle school students are taught how to use computerized career information delivery systems to conduct assessments and occupational searches and obtain occupational and educational information. High school counselors focus on career planning by linking students' interests and skills with occupational and educational options. They provide students with information, emotional support, reality testing, and planning strategies. High school students benefit from experiential activities such as attending a career fair, visiting a college campus, completing financial aid applications, and participating in a career internship. High school counselors must also give specific care and information to students who are potential high school dropouts.
Consultation is the process in which professional school counselors (consultants) assist teachers, parents, administrators, and community members (consultees) with problems related to a student and the system (client system). Typical consultation issues include teachers' management of students' classroom behavior and teaching strategies for students with disabilities, parents' discipline of unruly children and motivating their children to do homework, administrators' concerns regarding low-performing teachers or decreasing violence and prejudice at school, and community members' desire to mentor students or provide resources.
Coordination And Resource Management
Professional school counselors coordinate and manage resources to meet various needs of students, teachers, and parents, such as the need for a mentor, clothing, classroom supplies, computers, and so on. Clearly, professional school counselors cannot directly meet all students' needs alone. However, they can coordinate resources provided by parents, teachers, human service agencies, community members, and business partners. For example, the Parent Teacher Association may be able to organize a clothing closet, tutoring, and parent education classes. Business partners may be willing to provide career mentors and funding for new computers. Professional school counselors maintain resource lists and contacts with human service agencies such as after-school boys and girls clubs, a domestic violence shelter, public health clinics, and so on. Training peer mediators to help resolve student conflicts is also an effective use of resources. In doing so, discipline referrals are decreased and a positive attitude toward school is increased.
Leadership And Advocacy
Professional school counselors are collaborative leaders and advocates within the school system. As part of the leadership team, professional school counselors actively participate on school improvement teams to create a system in which all students can experience academic, career, and personal/social success. Professional school counselors are also leaders by working in partnership with principals and other key stakeholders, creating a positive school climate, conducting staff development for teachers, developing high aspirations in students, and using technology to track data.
Professional school counselors are advocates who question the status quo, challenge rules and regulations that deny student access, protest changes that hinder underrepresented groups, empower people who need strength, and promote needed changes in the system. They work to close the achievement gap for low socioeconomic students and minority students of color who have lacked support in achieving at the same academic level as majority White students. They advocate for these students by removing barriers that prevent their achievement in rigorous academic courses such as calculus, chemistry, or Advanced Placement English. Professional school counselors also advocate for safer school environments for students and teachers persecuted and oppressed because of their sexual orientation. For example, they may sponsor a Gay/Straight Alliance student group.
Promotion of a Safe and Respectful School Climate
Given numerous acts of school violence and federal mandates for safe and drug-free schools, professional school counselors must promote a safe and respectful school climate. Bullying is the most common form of school violence. Sexual harassment is another major concern of the majority of students. According to Carolyn Stone and Carol Dahir, risk factors for this type of violent behavior include alienation, depression and anxiety, destructive behavior, gang involvement, bias and prejudice, and use of drugs. In order to address this, professional school counselors provide guidance lessons on respect and bully prevention, train teachers to be sensitive to alienated and troubled students, ask all stakeholders to contribute to a respectful environment, and build positive relationships with students who are victims and perpetrators. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education stated that positive school climates can be created by (a) building a solid foundation for all children, (b) identifying and providing intensive interventions for at-risk students, (c) involving community members and agencies in creating a safe school environment, and (d) integrating character education across the content area. Professional school counselors are leaders in convening stakeholders in developing a schoolwide anti-bullying policy that includes clear definitions and disciplinary actions. This policy should be frequently communicated to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Both teachers and parents should be trained in early warning signs and involved in school violence prevention programs.
Rather than asking, "What do school counselors do?" the more important question is, "How are students differentbecauseÂ of what school counselors do?" To answer this question, professional school counselors highlight the success of their school counseling program through result-based accountability. For example, professional school counselors may report that as a result of their anti-bullying program, 90% of the student population can recite the school anti-bullying policy, and as a result of their peer mediation program, 30% more students used peer mediators to resolve conflicts. Professional school counselors also use critical data elements, such as attendance rates, discipline referrals, graduation rates, and standardized test scores, to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs. Stone and Dahir recommended that professional school counselors use the following six-step accountability process:
Management Of Legal And Ethical Issues
Professional school counselors must manage numerous legal and ethical issues. Laws dictate minimum standards of behavior tolerated by society, whereas ethical standards, established by the ASCA, represent ideal aspirations of counselors. Frequently, laws and ethical codes contradict each other. For example, professional school counselors are required by state law to report child abuse to designated authorities. This law supersedes the ethical standard of maintaining confidentiality (i.e., respecting clients' right to privacy). In this example, professional school counselors balance adherence to laws and ethics by providing students with informed consent (i.e., ensuring that students understand the legal limits of confidentiality before counseling begins).
Because professional school counselors are entrusted with a demanding role and numerous responsibilities, they must renew themselves through professional development and personal wellness. They regularly participate in professional development activities such as joining professional organizations (e.g., the American School Counseling Association and the American Counseling Association), reading professional journals (e.g.,Professional School CounselingÂ orÂ Journal of Counseling and Development), attending state and national conferences, obtaining advanced training via workshops or graduate courses, and seeking supervision from a seasoned school counselor. Professional school counselors also promote their personal wellness by nurturing family relationships, taking vacations to rest and relax, developing friendships with positive colleagues, exercising regularly and eating healthy, engaging in spiritual rituals such as prayer or meditation, and reading for fun.
School Counselor Identity, Function, and Ethics
School Counselor Professional Identity
Historically school counselors have struggled with multiple role expectations and conflicting demands by stakeholders. Compared with the strong professional identity, standards, and consistent job descriptions of school psychologists and school social workers, school counselor roles often vary according to school or administrator (Schmidt & Ciechalski, 2001). Principals and teachers maintain distinct job descriptions and role statements through strong professional associations, training standards, and unions.
In a Point Counterpoint column inÂ Counseling Today, Brown and Kraus (2003) emphasized, "Foremost we believe that school counselors are counseling professionals who, through further training, specialize to meet the needs of school students, preschool through college" (p. 14). The ASCA National Model clearly states that counselors do not do therapy. Brown and Trusty (2005) observed, "The rationale for employing school counselors has often been their ability to provide mental health services to students and adolescents, and even the most casual observer realizes that students need these services" (p.12).Â They caution that if school counselors move from the direct service role, psychologists, social workers, and outside mental health providers are ready to fill the void.
Consider the differences in roles: the teacher's role is didactic, subject-based, and evaluative. The administrator evaluates, judges, manages, and disciplines. The counselor's role is facilitative, nonjudgmental, confidential, goal-oriented, and change-focused. Besides eliminating obstacles to academic success, school counselors provide counseling and respond to problems such as suicide, sudden death, drug and alcohol abuse, and physical and sexual abuse.Â Added to this daunting list are tragedies and disasters--school shootings, hurricanes, and terrorist threats-- where the counselor is one of a handful, or the only mental health professional trained to intervene in school.Â Still, much of our day is focused on counseling students and helping them improve their skills, plan for college and work, and pass their courses. Dahir and Stone (2005) state, "Not to be confused with advising, or guidance or therapy, counseling is the most significant component of the school counseling program, and the one by which the counselor's professional identity often is established" (p. 31).
School counselors need to move to the next level of professional identity attained by school social workers, school psychologists, teachers and principals. Schmidt and Ciechalski (2001) caution, " If no school counselors were employed, could teachers and other school personnel help students meet the standards that have been developed?" (p. 332). Are school counselors "indispensable"?
Movements influencing school counseling's drift away from the mainstream of the counseling profession into a separate educational profession, rather than a counseling specialty, may serve to further confuse school counselor roles and identity. Rather than strengthening the professional identity of counselors, whose training and skills can make a difference for all students, these reforms may lead to the unintended consequence of seeing other professionals take a place we have fought for decades to establish (Brown & Trusty, 2005).
Professional school counselors serve a vital role in maximizing student success (Lapan, Gysbers, & Kayson, 2007; Stone & Dahir, 2006). Through leadership, advocacy and collaboration, professional school counselors promote equity and access to rigorous educational experiences for all students. Professional school counselors support a safe learning environment and work to safeguard the human rights of all members of the school community (Sandhu, 2000) and address the needs of all students through culturally relevant prevention and intervention programs that are a part of a comprehensive school counseling program (Lee, 2001). The American School Counselor Association recommends a school-counselor-to-student ratio of 1:250.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a professional organization whose members are school counselors certified/licensed in school counseling with unique qualifications and skills to address all students' academic, personal/social and career development needs. The Ethical Standards for School Counselors document specifies the principles of ethical behavior necessary to maintain the high standards of integrity, leadership and professionalism among its members. The Ethical Standards for School Counselors were developed to clarify the nature of ethical responsibilities held in common by school counselors, supervisors/directors of school counseling programs and school counselor educators. These ethical standards are the ethical responsibility of school counselors. School counseling program directors/supervisors should know them and provide support for practitioners to uphold them. School counselor educators should know them, teach them to their students and provide
support for school counseling candidates to uphold them. Professional school counselors are advocates, leaders, collaborators and consultants who create opportunities for equity in access and success in educational opportunities by connecting their programs to the mission of schools and subscribing to the following tenets of professional responsibility.
The full code of ethics can be found on the ASCA website. The main details of the code states that each person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Students also have the right to have access to a comprehensive school counseling program that affirms and advocates for all students, regardless of diversity. Each person has the right to receive the support and information needed for self-direction and self-development. Each person has the right to understand the full importance and significance of his/her educational choices and how those choices will affect future opportunities. Each person has the right to confidentiality and the right to expect the relationship to comply with all laws, policies and ethical standards dealing with confidentiality in the school setting. Finally, each person has the right to feel safe in the school environments, protecting them from abuse, bullying, neglect, harassment or other forms of violence.
Biblical Values and Insights
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