Defining School Counseling

Defining School Counseling

(Source: Counseling in Schools)

Guidance is a term used to describe a curriculum area related to affective or psychological education. The guidance curriculum generally consists of broad goals and objectives for each grade level and, ideally, is integrated into classroom instruction by teachers and counselors in a cooperative effort. Sometimes guidance is used to designate a particular instructional or informational service such as "classroom guidance" or "small group guidance." Other times the word guidance is used to label or describe a particular schoolwide activity and focus such as "career guidance."

Counseling is used to define ongoing helping processes that are confidential in nature and assist people to focus on concerns, plan strategies to address specific issues, and evaluate their success in carrying out these plans. Counseling services take the form of individual or small group counseling and are primarily for students. Depending on circumstances, school counselors sometimes offer brief counseling services to parents and teachers in short-term counseling, school counselors give indirect assistance to children and adolescents. Successful counseling relationships require a high level of knowledge about human development and behavior as well as effective and facilitative communication skills.

Developmental Guidance and Counseling describe activities and services that are designed to help students focus on the attainment of knowledge and skills for developing healthy life goals and acquiring the behaviors to reach these goals. Sometimes these activities are delivered in large or small group guidance sessions appropriate for all students, and other times they are designed specifically for targeted audiences in small group counseling sessions. In elementary, middle, and high school, these developmental services are aimed at helping students focus on tasks and issues appropriate for their age and stage of life. For example, a middle grades' teacher might present the career implications of learning to speak fluently and write appropriately to help students see the connection between language arts in school and future vocational choices.

Consultation comprises relationships in which school counselors, as student development specialists, confer with parents, teachers, and other professionals to identify student needs ans select appropriate services. Occasionally, counselors determine that the best way to help students is to provide information to parents or teachers. In these instances, consultation takes the form of parent education groups, teacher in-service workshops, or individual conferences.  Counselors also consult with students by providing brief individual and group sessions to disseminate information or offer instruction about particular topics. For example, counselors assist with the guidance curriculum by presenting, or copresenting with teachers, particular classroom guidance lessons and activities. Another example is high school students interested in a peer helper program and consulting with their counselor to find out what peer helpers do and how they could join this special group of students.

Schoolwide guidance identifies planned activities that help all students focus on a particular issue or topic. Such schoolwide events might be planned jointly by school counselors, administrators, and teachers. Samples of these types of activities are a "Career Day" for senior high school students, a "Develop-a-New-Friendship Week" for middle graders and a "Most Improved" bulletin board for elementary children.

A Student Services Team is a group of professionals who specialize in providing counseling, consulting, assessment, and other related services to ensure the emotional, educational, social, and healthful development of all students. Typically, a student services team consists of school counselor, social worker, psychologist, nurse, and other related professions.

A Counseling Center is composed of the office and facilities of the school counselor. These facilities consist of office space, furnishings, equipment, and materials that are needed to implement a comprehensive program. Depending on the level of the program and the size of the school and staff, the counseling center might include private offices for the counselors, a waiting or play area, a room for testing, and a conference room for group sessions.

A Teacher-Advisee Program is designed to give every student adequate access to an adult advisor. While teacher advisee programs (TAPs) are found most commonly at the middle school level (sometimes they are called advisor-advisee programs), they can be designed and implemented at all school levels (Gallassi & Gulledge, 1997; Manning & Saddlemire, 1996; Myrick,1997). Basically, these programs assign groups of students to teachers for advising about academic, social, and personal needs. Teacher-advisors also present special guidance sessions for their advisees during the year. In addition, teacher-advisee programs are excellent networks by which teachers can refer students to counselors for additional services and attention.

A Peer Helper Program is established to identify and train students who can assist classmates and other students (Lewis & Lewis, 1996; Scarborough, 1997). Often school counselors work in isolation, particularly in elementary and middle schools where ratios of students to counselors are frequently high. Peer helpers can assist counselors and teachers in meeting the needs of a greater number of students. They can be trained as listeners to be first-line helpers in the school, as mediators to assist with conflict resolutions, as tutors to assist students who are experiencing learning problems, as guidance aides to help teachers present guidance activities in classes, and as office assistants to answer the counselor's phone, run errands, and do other helpful tasks. Training is essential for students who are selected as peer helpers so they can be successful in addressing the identified needs of fellow students and meeting the targeted goals of the program.

A Parent Education Program is designed to provide information about child development issues, discipline strategies at home, school progress, and other related topics. Some counselors use packaged, commercially produced programs to assist parents. Two examples are Systematic Training for Effective Parenting [STEP] (Dinkmeyer & Mckay, 1989) and Active Parenting (Popkin, 1993). Other counselors design their own programs and activities for their schools. Occasionally, these programs are a single session, such as a presentation to a meeting of the PTA, and other times they are ongoing sessions, such as a support group of single parents led by an elementary counselor.

An Advisory Committee is a volunteer group established to guide the planning and development of a comprehensive program. The scope and breadth of comprehensive school counseling programs require input from administrators, teachers, parents, and students (Duncan, 1989). An advisory commitee is one way that counselors enlist the assistance of these groups to determine the needs of school populations, advise the counselor about essential services to meet the needs, and plan schoolwide activities to enhance student learning, improve relationships, and create a beneficial school climate.

Many other terms are used to describe various aspects of comprehensive school counseling programs, and most of them are included in this and other chapters. A clear understanding of the language and terms counselors use to describe who they are and what they do puts you in a stronger position to outline your role and professional identity. Identifying this role is essential to your success as a school counselor.
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