Until recently school counseling was more of a byword because most believed that the position could be filled by any qualified teacher, and, generally, it was. Teachers would get a master's degree in guidance or vocational counseling, and be considered able to work as a school counselor. The reason for this was that counselors in schools were not seen as a person who needed to deal with the emotional issues of the students (they had parents, pastors or an outside counseling specialist for that), a school counselor was supposed to act only as a guidance vehicle. This meant that the counselor had a broad knowledge of colleges, admission criteria, and assessments that would help the student achieve a better overall placement upon leaving high school. But the utility of the school counselor position is much greater than that.
Looking at the common usage of the word counseling it is possible to determine where this original philosophy, that has persisted in many circles, is wrong. A counselor, in general, is a member of a helping profession that looks to the emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of consumers. Even though the consumer in this case is a student in a high school or elementary school, the basic mission does not change. Of course, like all other counseling types, there are specific duties that fall under a title, but that does not mean that a person does not perform the basic duties that all in the counseling profession share. School counselors are also tasked with college, vocational and career guidance, as well as guidance through the high school halls of academia, so they must be versed in these functions as well. This research paper looks at the school counseling from a historic, biblical and utilitarian viewpoint. Basically, what is the worth of the profession, are school counselors still needed, and what is the biblical view of this form of counseling.
Brief History and Development
As mentioned above, school counseling began as career and vocational guidance that was offered by teachers who had a knack for the dealing with this obligation. The first person who looked at the practice as a profession in the United States and began developing theories of practice was Frank Parsons (O'Brien, 2001). Mr. Parsons was the first to establish a guideline that could be followed by school counselors, and a professional organization to support them. He legitimized the profession by helping others realize the difficulty of transitioning from school to the occupational world, and he performed research, along with others interested in the field, to support his suppositions (O'Brien, 2001).
Parsons may have legitimized the practice, but there was still a large collection of small town and rural school districts that could not afford a separate individual to counsel the students. This began to change in the 1920's when more money began to filter into the educational system, and far-flung school districts began to coalesce. School districts could not afford to pay for a separate position, and the counselor began to look more at emotional issues rather than just guidance.
Since that time the profession has seen it ups and downs, mainly due to either money issues in the nations school systems or neglect from the time's present federal administration. The 1930's were difficult because of the depression, but the profession regained strength in the 1940's and 1950's because of testing for potential soldiers. The 1980's and early 1990's saw a decline in all educational funding and this particularly affected school counseling departments. However, there has been a push in the past two decades to bring the profession back to foundational principles. This means that students, parents and administrators are beginning to see the school counseling profession as integral to student development.
Importance to Counseling
Counseling has so many divisions because there are a lot of people that need good counsel, and they cannot often get it from someone who considers themselves a jack-of-all trades counselor. The utility of the school counselor is that he or she will be with a young person to help them through the difficulties of the primary and secondary school environments, but also help them determine what path they are on. Guidance cannot be underestimated, but the chaos of the middle school and high school years may hold the show the greatest importance of the school counselor.
Guidance or career counseling is an integral part of the school counselor's role that is probably the most fundamental. Since the days of Frank Parsons, it has been seen by most as the most important function of the school counselor (O'Brien, 2001). When a young person enters their educational track at the age of five or six, they are not thinking seriously about what they will become years later in the occupational world. The young person may have some dreams of continuing in their father's or mother's footsteps, but even these are fleeting thoughts because someone that young probably does not know exactly what their parent does. However, as the child develops, they start to see occupations through field trips and days when parents discuss their occupations in the classroom. The individual is starting to understand some of what they may want to do. This process continues through the middle school years when a child can better grasp abstract concepts, and is seeing what they have aptitudes in based on how they react to certain classes. More importantly, the individual is beginning to form distinct likes and dislikes. As the student goes through their final few years in high school, they will try one or more job types, and the counselor can also help them with certain instruments which will better define their distinctive gifts.
Although, the most important function of the school counselor may have previously been seen as helping students choose next year's classes, what college they are going to, and their eventual career, certain national events have dramatically changed the full scope of school counseling. Wigfield, Lutz and Wagner (2005) conducted a study on the developmental growth of adolescents and what that meant for school counselors. One of the findings is that children are more uncertain than they used to be, but that they are also more likely to lash out. This can be seen in the rash of secondary school shootings that have recently plagued the United States, including the most recent in Chardon, Ohio. A troubled young man walked into a school cafeteria before school began shooting five people and killing three. Although details of his reasoning have not surfaced, he did admit to randomly choosing his victims. The reason that this is important for school counselors is that they are called in more today for emotional support and advocacy than they ever have been before. Many of the school shooters have identified bullying as being a primary cause of their rampage, and some have just been very troubled loners.
Another issue that schools are having to deal with is suicides caused by bullying. This has become more prominent because of the prevalence of internet bullying that is taking place. It is an easier method to target other students, and it can involve a much larger group. School counselors cannot take the full responsibility of this on their shoulders, but they are the first line of defense for these kids. Once these students enter the adult world, they will be served much better if they had a therapeutic relationship with their school counselor.
School counseling themes can be broken down into the same two major divisions that were discussed in the previous section: guidance and mental health. Counselors as a whole work with people to help them discover the root of their issues, and that is exactly how school counselors work with students. Whether the issue is one of guidance or mental health, the counselor acts as a helper for the student rather than a teacher. The roles are distinct.
A primary theme is that of advocacy. Many students do not come from strong families and they have no one to help them with issues that may arise for them. An advocate is someone who helps the subject find the resources they need. Whether the current role is one of guidance or emotional support, the school counselor needs to advocate for the student in all cases. Sometimes this may also mean that they have to betray the students trust by going to a higher authority, but the counselor has to be the advocate for the child that they cannot be for themselves.
School counseling has also become a place where grief counseling takes place. The life of a teenager is difficult and they will have many times when they need someone to discuss endings, and how to deal with that. From breakups to death, the school counselor needs to be grounded in the concept of grief.
Identity, Function and Ethics
The identity of a school counselor is primarily wrapped in their position as the…