What Is A Guidance Counselor?

Updated October 4, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

These counselors are a great source of help for both parents and students alike, a person you can count on to understand educational goals and meet them. It is not uncommon to be struggling with school, mental health, or life in general. Many feel isolated, especially young people who are still developing their voice and their place in the world. The United States and about 50 other countries across the world have mandated school counselors, giving young people the resources to meet their challenges and thrive in school and life.

More than 200,000 counselors are working in schools in the U.S. right now. They may not teach a class directly, but these counselors have as much impact on the student as teachers and offer help that sometimes a teacher cannot provide.

Learn More About The Benefits Of Counseling

A Brief History In Schools

In the Western world, counselors in schools began in the early twentieth century and focused mainly on preparing students for the workforce. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, guidance counselors became more prevalent. In the beginning, many teachers doubled as counselors; however, this is no longer the case. In the 1960s, counselors in public schools were afforded more funding, allowing the vocation to flourish. The profession expanded beyond the focus on academic and career achievement.

Originally, some teachers opposed the idea, believing that schools should be limited to more traditional educational concerns rather than personal and social development. But its popularity continued, and by the 1970s, the role of guidance counselor was being implemented in schools from kindergarten to high school. In the 1980s and early 1990s, new concerns were raised. Many questioned the effectiveness of school counselors.

As a response to these concerns, in 2003 the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) released a national framework for school counselors. In 2004, that model underwent revision to close opportunity and achievement gaps and ensure all students from kindergarten to grade 12 had a counselor providing specialized guidance. In 2012 the ASCA released another final revised version, and this is the system we have now.

What Role Does A Counselor Play?

Today, guidance counselors offer a range of services and are a crucial part of the education system. They help students in preparing for life. Counseling can help students achieve in their future careers and their social interactions. Counselors are available from kindergarten through grade twelve and begin by helping students grow their self-understanding, as well as acceptance of themselves. School counselors assess students individually, catering to the specific needs of each youth.

Students can rely on a counselor for assistance in their academics, personal problems, career goals, and social life issues such as bullying. A counselor often conducts one-on-one or group sessions, presentations, and workshops to better students.

Overall, the goal of a guidance counselor is to ensure that every student reaches their fullest potential in life. A counselor can help develop coping, organizational, and communication skills, as well as supply students with the tools to attain a sense of self-acceptance. Counselors sometimes provide students with psychological counseling. Counselors lead students on the track to becoming resourceful, adjusted members of society.

Grade Level Differences - Varying Degrees of Counseling

Counselors' responsibilities differ slightly depending on what branch of education they are involved in. Of course, with different ages and levels of development, the problems students face will change and evolve. These differences are most noticeably seen between different levels of schooling.

At the elementary level, there will often be one counselor assigned to the entire school. These counselors generally deal with students ranging from kindergarten to grade six. Elementary counselors often keep an eye out for troubled students, such as those suffering abuse, neglect, depression, mental disabilities, and self-harm. They also deal with typical school difficulties and help students overcome bullying, gossip, and disagreements with teachers and friends.

At the middle school level, a counselor takes on many of these same student issues. This group typically includes students from grades six to eight. The onset of puberty during this stage of development often brings along a host of new concerns. This can include relationship issues, body image, sexual troubles, more extreme self-harm, as well as substance use.

For grades nine through twelve, counseling tends to be more based on academics—counselors aid students in making choices regarding their future career and their academic goals. A High school counselor is focused on preparing students for their life beyond school. They of course still assist with personal issues, though most students at this level go to a counselor for career advice and academic assistance.

Some colleges and universities offer guidance counseling as well. A campus will often have multiple counselors to accommodate the number of students. At this level, students usually go to counselors with graduation, career, and scholarship concerns. Students may also seek financial advice, childcare advice, and other issues in their personal life. With students being over 18, there is no worry of parents being involved, allowing open and honest communication between the two adults.

What About Parents?

The reach of guidance counseling may go beyond students. In the creation of a productive and caring environment for students, some counselors may work with parents.

These counselors can explain and strategize about student academics and provide support for families in difficult phases in their life, such as coping with the loss of a loved one or a divorce.

Parents can reach out to the school to request academic evaluations for their children, to better understand their child's grades. They can also express any other concerns regarding their child to the counselor, such as worries about bullying, mental illness, and so on. Parents can and should communicate with the counselor about any outside help the student may be receiving.

How Do They Differ From a School Psychologist?

Many people are unsure of the differences between school counselors and school psychologists. The first difference is the schooling each receives. While the education prerequisite of guidance counselors may vary, they are often preferred to hold a master's degree. Typically, they will have studied counseling, life planning, and how to stop a crisis. In most cases, they will go on to an internship before finding a solid workplace.

School psychologists are usually required to hold a master's or even doctorate. In their training, they will usually focus more on child and cognitive development, prevention, and intervention tactics, as well as being trained in the assessment of children and youth. These programs also require students to participate in clinical training, research, and assessment.

There tends to be a difference in the way counselors and psychologists function within the school. Guidance counselors meet with and focus on the success of every student. They provide academic assistance, as well as career and personal advice, to optimize the potential of the students.

School psychologists, on the other hand, meet with students to assess their needs. The psychologist usually works closely with specific students, namely those with developmental or learning disabilities, or those who are being held back by stressors outside of the school. This could include counseling students and parents, developing educational plans, and working with teachers to implement the academic aid each student requires. They may also work closely with the school administration and outside entities, recommending programs to improve student achievement, and consulting with teachers to ensure the school community is emotionally and academically optimized.

How Can They Steer Students To Success?

Counselors are on hand to assist students in any way possible. They can help, even when you may feel there's no one else, or you're beyond help. They can help to guide you in the direction you want to go with your life inside and outside of school.

They are someone you can confide in and trust. If you're having troubles at home, at work, or even in your circle of friends, a counselor can be a listening ear. More than that, they can often offer helpful advice on how to deal with your situation. They can help you achieve academic goals, deal with bullying, improve self-esteem, and can even help those in extreme circumstances, such as homelessness.

Other Solutions - Options Aside From A Counselor

Your resources are not limited to just guidance counseling. There are many social programs available with the same structure. The role these will play in your child's life will be tremendous.

Having someone by your side to support you as you are reaching your goals will also help. A support system and community are essential. Having someone to cheer you on makes a bigger difference than you might think!

Counting On BetterHelp To Lend A Hand

Learn More About The Benefits Of Counseling

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that online therapy is an efficient way of connecting with a counselor when a person is seeking help. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, a peer-reviewed research journal, examined information from over 100 different online counseling trials. This study found that overall attitudes between both counselors and participants were as positive as with in-person counseling. This can be added to several studies that have proven online therapy to be a unique form of counseling—eliminating barriers associated with face-to-face counseling such as stigma, cost, and time constraints—while being equally effective at treating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other mental health issues that can affect young people.

As mentioned above, online counseling can be a helpful service if you or your child is dealing with issues at school, the workplace, or any other aspect of life. The counselors at BetterHelp are trained to help people every day and can connect with you via message, live chat, voice call, or video conference. This flexibility means you won’t have to deal with the added stress of dealing with traffic, sitting in a waiting room, or skipping a lunch break just to talk with your counselor. And without the costs associated with office space or related expenses, online therapy through BetterHelp can be more affordable, with subscriptions starting at $60 per week. BetterHelp’s licensed counselors have helped thousands of people navigate their busy lives. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Christina has been so extremely helpful to me. She has guided me to better myself, build a strong foundation, help me know my self-worth, and to know that I am an individual and strong by myself. She has helped me process and move past my traumas."

"I've worked with Jamie for several months and he's helped me with everything that life has thrown my way. Difficulty in work, my relationship, and other stresses that I've struggled to navigate by myself. He listens and he helps. I always feel validated and supported. He gives me tools and perspectives that have made a big difference in my overall happiness."

Conclusion: A Guidance Counselor Can Help Your Child Grow

The role of a counselor takes on many shapes and forms. The bottom line is, a counselor is someone who can help your child succeed. Endless opportunities for your child are just around the corner. Take the first step to a fulfilling future today.

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