The Role of a School Counselor: Why Are They Important?

Gone are the days where a school counselor’s main responsibility was helping students apply for college. Now, their responsibilities encompass a great deal more. In other words, “school counselors help students thrive academically, personally, and socially.”[1] Whether students feel overwhelmed by their class loads, overstressed with their lives outside of school, or concerned about other aspects of their personal well-being, they can go to school counselors to discuss these issues and learn coping mechanisms. School counselors aren’t intended to be personal therapists for each individual student, but they are the “front line in terms of assessing what the issues are in a child’s life.[2]

Thus, it is important that school counselors are able to focus on appropriate tasks for their role as counselor, as opposed to being required to divide their attention between their role as a school counselor and additional duties that are often assigned to them. “In some schools, for example, the school counselor serves as the test coordinator and may spend hours preparing the test materials.”[3] When school counselors are unable to focus on helping students and instead must also focus on administrative duties, they become less effective as counselors.[4] Schoolcounselor.org offers an interesting chart that outlines what are and aren’t appropriate responsibilities for school counselors. For example, guidance counselors are sometimes used as substitute teachers when teachers are absent. This takes away time that a school counselor could be spending coordinating with teachers on counseling programs, helping students assess and address academic or personal issues, or other critical duties.

What is the Impact of Effective School Counselors and Counseling Programs?

Schools with effective school counselors and counseling programs often see significant positive results among students who participate in counseling programs, such as:

    • Reduced test anxiety among students
    • A reduction in the number dropouts
    • Fewer classroom disturbances
    • Students with higher expectations of themselves
    • Better grades
    • Better social skills
      • And many others

[5]

Furthermore, schools with stronger counseling programs also see an overall improvement in the positivity of their school climate.[6]

How Can Schools Facilitate Counselor Effectiveness?

It is important for administrators to make sure that they and their school’s counselor(s) are all on the same page. It can be helpful to schedule a meeting at the beginning of the school year to determine the goals of the counseling program, as well as to delineate how counselors will use their time.[7] Make sure that, in determining how counselors will utilize their time, they will have plenty of opportunities for direct interaction with students.[8]

It is also important for administrators to regularly discuss counseling programs with school counselors to determine their effectiveness and help improve them.[9] If possible, make sure that you have enough counselors in your school to support the number of students. The American School Health Association recommends that there be no more than 250 students per one counselor; unfortunately, the national average is 488 students per counselor, and some schools have one counselor for every thousand students.[10] Moreover, the Institute of Medicine also recommends that counseling services be more of a regular occurrence as opposed to an optional, infrequently used service.[11]

If you are expanding or adjusting your school’s counseling programs, be sure to evaluate them before and after making any changes so that you can tailor them appropriately for your school. A great way to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and how your school’s counselors are fitting into their roles is to conduct school-wide learning environment surveys, which evaluate a number of factors including school climate, student mental health, and much more. For more information, call (877) 957-6870 or contact us online here.


[1]Pannoni, Alexandra. “3 Ways High School Counselors Can Help Students, Parents.” U.S. News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2015/02/02/3-ways-high-school-counselors-can-help-students-parents on August 18, 2016.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ratliff, Dr. Kimberlee. “School Administrator’s Guide to Supporting the Role of School Counselors.” Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/admin-guide-to-school-counselors-kimberlee-ratliff/a> on August 18, 2016.

[4]Ibid.

[5]“Effectiveness of School Counseling.” The American Counseling Association. Retrieved from https://wvde.state.wv.us/counselors/administrators/Effectiveness+of+School+Counseling.pdf/a> on August 19, 2016.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ratliff, Dr. Kimberlee. “School Administrator’s Guide to Supporting the Role of School Counselors.” Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/admin-guide-to-school-counselors-kimberlee-ratliff/a> on August 18, 2016.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Ibid.

[10]“Effectiveness of School Counseling.” The American Counseling Association. Retrieved from https://wvde.state.wv.us/counselors/administrators/Effectiveness+of+School+Counseling.pdf/a> on August 19, 2016.

[11]Ibid.



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