If you’re looking for a new career or you’re curious about the people around you, then you may be wondering about just what do school counselors do. These counselors are the ones that you find at high schools as well as elementary and middle schools but are not necessarily the same as the ones you find at colleges and universities.
When we talk about these types of counselors, there are actually two different ways to look at the profession. That’s because the question ‘what is a school counselor’ could apply to a guidance counselor who is trying to help students with their schooling and future plans or a traditional counselor who helps students with difficulties in school or their mental health.
What is School Counseling?
School counseling primarily refers to a mental health professional that is located within a school setting and helps students through different problems they may have in their education, with fellow students or others and even mental health situations. These counselors will work directly with the student in these areas to help them through difficult situations and experiences.
School counseling can take on many different forms. Still, it’s essential that students understand that this professional is available and that school counseling is always ready and waiting if they need it. That’s because these counselors are generally at the school during all open hours, and students can walk in to talk to someone or make an appointment.
What is a School Counselor?
A school counselor is someone who works with students to improve their overall mental health. They talk with students about what they’re experiencing and help them to work through difficult situations, get the help they need to get out of problem situations, and improve their mental health.
This type of counselor will help the student to understand what’s going on and what they can do about it. Not to mention they can help the student work with actual mental health problems they might have. That’s because these counselors are still trained, and certified counselors like the ones you would find in other areas.
School counselors may recognize symptoms or signs of specific mental health conditions or situations for a child that might need more support, or they may serve as a supplemental force for students already seeing an outside counselor or psychiatrist.
On the other hand, the term ‘school counselor’ is sometimes used to refer to what’s also called a ‘guidance counselor.’ This type of counselor is there to help students with their education and their future plans. For example, they might help with scheduling, disciplinary issues unrelated to mental health, or preparing for the future, such as college applications and scholarships.
Guidance counselors at some schools may serve both purposes and provide both mental health and non-mental health support for students; however, in many schools, there are both types of counselors separate to offer better and more direct support for the student.
How Do School Counselors Help Students?
When it comes to actually helping students, there are a number of ways that school counselors can make a difference. The most important thing is that these counselors will work with students to take care of themselves and learn more about just what they’re going through or need help with.
Mental health problems – One of the first things that school counselors can help students with are mental health problems, either directly or as a supplement for outside mental health professionals.
School scheduling – Some school counselors will also help with things like scheduling classes so students can graduate on time. This also allows the student to take courses that they enjoy for electives and for their future goals.
Future planning – Many school counselors will also help students to make plans for their future, whether that’s going on to a college or university or trade school or if they plan to enter the workforce or the military.
Resolving problems – Students who have trouble with other students, school staff, or anyone else can also see their school counselor to work through the issues or develop solutions that work for everyone involved.
What are the Duties of School Counselors?
There are a number of different things that school counselors do. But the main part is that they help students at their schools in many different ways. For example, the main thing they do is watch out for the students in their care by looking out for their mental health, but it can be more than that as well, and it can vary based on different levels.
Duties of Elementary School Counselors
In elementary school, children are just starting to get used to the school environment and everything it entails. That can be difficult for some, and a school counselor may be able to help with the process.
Appraising students – The school counselor will work with students to better understand their abilities and how well they are coping in the school environment. In addition, they work with students to understand their unique needs and help communicate those to teachers and other educators.
Counseling – Of course, the school counselor is responsible for directly counseling the students as necessary. Students who struggle either in school or outside of it will get additional help from the counselor to understand what they are experiencing and how to overcome it.
Mental health guidance – Students with developmental delays, mental health troubles, or more serious situations can be referred to outside mental health help with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional.
Mental health support – The school counselor can still provide support and assistance to the student and their outside mental health professional as well, or may even be in charge of the student’s mental health needs.
Group counseling – At this stage, a school counselor may also provide group counseling for students facing similar troubles. These sessions could be based on any type of mental health needs.
Duties of High School Counselors
In middle school, students are starting to venture into what feels like a whole new world. They feel more advanced than elementary schoolers but don’t quite have everything figured out. That’s where a school counselor can help.
In high school, things can get even more complicated, and students may struggle with new situations and experiences they don’t feel prepared for. Also, they may develop mental health precursors or concerns and need career and college advice. A school counselor can help with that.
All of the above – Middle school and high school counselors will address all of the areas that we discussed above for elementary school counselors. This includes appraisal, mental health referrals, support, group counseling, and more.
Advice & support – In middle school, counselors might start venturing into guidance and support in preparing for the future. They help students understand what they’re facing now and what might be coming next in high school and beyond.
Future planning – In high school is when students will need to start considering the different options for their future, and this is another area that school counselors may assist. They can help the student to decide what they want for their future.
Duties of College Counselors
In college, the school counselors are not necessarily as much about mental health as they are about preparing students for the future and helping them make the right decisions for themselves. Though, of course, they will generally help with mental health concerns as needed, or there might be dedicated counselors for this type of assistance and those for other needs.
All of the above – Depending on the school and the type of counselors available, you’ll generally find that they are able to do all of the things that you could find in the earlier sections. These include all the counseling services as well as advice and support for you moving forward with your life.
Career advice – School counselors may help college students better understand the programs available and how those programs can prepare them for the career they want or may guide them to the right program for their interests.
Course planning – School counselors may also help students plan out the courses they need to take and when. This helps get students through their chosen course or program faster and lets them get to the career or other future that they want for themselves.
How to Become a School Counselor?
If you’re interested in becoming a school counselor yourself, it’s essential to know all about the different requirements. It’s going to be an intense process, but you can absolutely manage it. You just need to make the decision for yourself to get started and then get through these steps.
- Get a degree – You will need to start with a bachelor’s degree in order to become a counselor. In general, programs like general psychology or developmental psychology are good options, but you can actually start with a bachelor’s degree in just about anything. From there, however, you will need to be accepted into a master’s program for school counseling. All of this takes a minimum of six years, but it may take longer than that, depending on your schedule.
- Finish clinicals – You’ll need to complete an internship process which is generally referred to as clinicals in the medical field. This is typically several hundred hours (the exact number varies by school) of hands-on experience and shadowing with patients. The student will be under direct supervision during the entire process. You’ll spend time actually putting your new skills into action in order to make sure you know what to do in an actual situation.
- Pass the exam – In order to become a school counselor, you’ll also have to pass the licensing exam for your specific state. This is separate from a standard counseling license. Make sure you talk with the teachers and others in charge of your program to be sure you know what exams you need to take to practice. You can find out more about the rules and regulations for your state or anything that’s different about your specific area.
- Get your certificate – Finally, you need to get a certificate that shows you’re qualified and able to be a school counselor. There is a fee for the application, and you’ll need proof of all of the other steps before you get approved. Make sure you have your transcripts, proof of your internship/clinicals, and proof of your exams as well. The certificate is necessary for you to get a job anywhere as schools have stringent regulations about who they can hire for this type of position especially.
- Apply for jobs – Okay, the actual last step is going to be actually applying and getting that first job. So once you’ve completed the other steps and you’re fully certified, you can start applying to different schools that you want to work at. And from there, you’ll actually be able to use your degree.
By going through each of these steps, you’ll be able to get the job that you’re looking for, and you’ll be able to make a difference in the lives of students as well. It’s challenging to go through the process, but you can absolutely do it if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Wrapping Things Up: What Do School Counselors Do?
When it comes to helping students, there are a number of things that school counselors can do. If you are interested in this profession, it’s all about getting started and deciding which level you feel the strongest about.
There are plenty of ways that you can make a difference in the lives of your students as a school counselor, whether you decide to go with elementary, middle, or high school or even all the way up to college. The key is finding out just what means the most to you and where you feel you can make the most significant difference.