What is School Counseling?
School counseling is working with and helping students with life stressors throughout grade school, middle school, or high school, depending on the field you would like to enter. A counselor’s responsibility is to help students cope with everyday issues so they can focus on school in a productive way. Some topics that may come up include:
• Drug addiction
• Parental issues
• Poverty issues
• Peer pressure and bullying
• A underlying mental disorder
• Social issues
• Minor psychological issues
• Struggling grades and attention issues
There are many other topics that a counselor may deal with but the most common revolve around peer or parental issues. Counseling services within a school environment typically seek to remedy personal issues that are affecting the student’s ability to perform in the classroom or interpersonally.
What Type of Skills Should I have to Enter School Counseling?
Typically, professional counselors have a series of different skills that allow students to open up to them in a judgment free way. Some key features that school counseling professionals possess include, but are not limited to:
• The ability to empathize with students
• Strong professional boundaries
• The ability to be objective while working with students
• Being non-judgmental to different issues
• Wanting to help those in need
• Have a desire to constantly learn and develop
• The ability to maintain confidentiality with all clients
• Referring students to higher forms of therapy if need be (psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.)
• Handling each case with care
There are other traits which are necessary to succeed in school counseling such as patience and strong communication skills, but the ability to keep issues confidential as well as empathize is very important. A student should feel safe when entering the office of a professional counselor so they can have a meaningful way to cope with stressors.
What Schooling is Needed to Enter School Counseling?
There are stringent guidelines in the field of social work, and typically, a master’s degree in social work is needed to enter the field of professional counseling due to the sensitive nature of the work. Also, a background in developmental psychology may be beneficial to deal with problems that affect students at important times in their lives. Some schooling options may include:
• Bachelor’s degree in psychology (online may be available)
• Master’s degree in social work (online may be available)
• Certification (may not be mandatory depending on institution)
• Fast-track or part-time options for course loads
Courses in social work as well at the degree level will help you better understand the school counseling role and how to address typical issues. Depending on the school, certification may or may not be needed, or extra credentials may be needed. During clinical placement, requesting to work within a school would be the best way to get an advantage in a school counseling role.
How do I get Started?
If school counseling seems like afield you would like to enter, speaking to a reputable post-secondary school about degree and course requirements is a great first step. As well, speaking to others in the field of school counseling is the best way to understand the lifestyle and job enjoyment of current counselors.