October 26, 2018

 

The December 2018 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution featured a story about school counselors. The headline, "Not the guidance counselor of yesterday," may have raised the eyebrows of some readers, but certainly not those in the profession.

Without a doubt, many of the tasks performed by school counselors today aren't new or significantly different than what school counselors did 20 years ago.

High school class schedules? Check.

Jobs skills training? Check.

Paperwork? Check.

ACT and SAT prep? Check. 

College advising and financial aid processes and paperwork? Check.

However, today, more than ever before, the do-do list for school counselors includes the important task of providing social and emotional support to students in need:

"...talking to students who are dealing with suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, and problems at home."

"...(taking) the early morning call from a student whose ride to a summer college-readiness program suddenly fell through."

"...(caring) for the student who was with his grandmother, his guardian when she died. He checked her pulse, called 911, and still managed to get to school that morning.

Gerta Bardhoshi, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Education's School Counseling Program, says school counselors are being presented a significant opportunity as the national discussion focuses squarely on the mental health needs of students.

"If we have healthy students, we have engaged students, if we have students who have empathy and show self-control, and are interested in others, we can help them work on college awareness, work on career needs, and work on academic needs," says Bardhoshi.

Bardhoshi adds that the foundation for success begins with building bridges to students through familiarity borne from, for example, time in the classroom and not just the counselor's office. She also adds it's important for school counselors to know and share local resources and expertise that are available to students experiencing persistent and/or intense mental health challenges.