School Counselors: Who Are They & What Do They Do?
Long are the days when “guidance counselors” hid in their offices rearranging schedules and spent all day working on… well, who knows! Most Generation X parents (those born between 1960-1985) may not even have an idea of who their counselor was, being when it came to most issues they were left to just “handle it.”
However, our kids are now living in a completely different world! They are very much in touch with their feelings and are encouraged to “talk things out.” Just as our kids are different, the role of SCHOOL COUNSELORS is also very different! First and foremost, they are no longer referred to as “guidance counselors” (or at least they shouldn’t be!). While they may provide students with guidance, their degrees, experience and expertise center on much more than basic student services such as scheduling. Effective School Counselors should spend approximately 80% of their time providing direct services to students, which may include individual academic counseling, group counseling, classroom counseling lessons, and other responsive services. When School Counselors are not meeting with students, you can often find them consulting and collaborating through meetings with parents, teachers and administrators, advocating for their students’ needs.
So that leads parents to ask, “What do I contact my child’s School Counselor for?” Although School Counselors’ responsibilities differ slightly at the elementary, middle and high school level, there are themes that may overlap at each level, including academics, social-emotional development, and career development. If your child is experiencing any of the following, be sure to contact your child’s counselor:
Difficulties with academics
Difficulties with organization of materials
Difficulties with a sibling
Difficulties with a teacher
Difficulties with classmates
Change in friendship groups
Mistreatment in school
Loss of a pet or loved one
Parents fighting / separating / divorcing
Change in living situation
Difficulty with transitions from elementary to middle, middle to high, or to a new school
While this list is not exhaustive, it may give a better understanding of the topics under the realm of School Counselors. If your child has a diagnosis such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Anxiety, it would be of utmost importance to communicate that information to your child’s counselor. Furthermore, at the middle school and high school level, when kids usually have more than one teacher, communicating with the School Counselor is most ideal, as they can then communicate any important information to your child’s teachers.
Your child should be familiar with their counselor and should feel comfortable in seeing him or her, being counselors should not be seen as, or function as, disciplinarians. School Counselors are an integral part of your child’s team of supporters at school. Be sure to visit the American School Counselor Association website for more information, or your child’s school’s website to get to know who your child’s counselor is.
Being a middle school counselor myself, I consider it to not only be my passion, but also my superpower! May you and your child have an awesome academic year so they can LEARN, GROW, and INSPIRE with the help of their teachers and counselors!
For additional information on School Counselors, check out additional blog posts on Advocating for the School Counselor Role, learning about a School Counselor's Bag of Tricks and Tips on Organizing Small Groups.
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and Licensed Professional Counselor with nearly two decades of experience in working with children and families. She is the CEO of Free to Be Mindful - located in Ridgefield, NJ - which provides counseling and mindfulness education for kids, parents and educators.
Vanessa has been featured on the Today Show and is passionate about helping others Learn, Grow & Inspire… all with mindfulness in mind.