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School counselors are professionals who are surcharged with the task of helping students to achieve their individual developments. Previously, school counselors were simply known as guidance counselors. In the modern settings, school counselors are often highly trained individuals who are expected to display high levels of professionalism. Consequently, school counselors perform various roles within the school setting including “addressing all students’ academic, career and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success” (Amatea & Clark, 2005, p. 18).
The role of school counseling staff is fundamentally different from that of counselors in other specializations. First, the impact of a school counselor is arguably higher than that of other counselors because he/she interacts with an impressionable group of clientele. Consequently, unlike other counselors, school specialists are expected to have higher levels of expertise than other individuals do. For example, in most American school systems a counselor has to have a Masters Degree in School Counseling so as to be well equipped to handle student matters.
School counselors are expected to uphold the basic ethics and professional standards of the counseling profession as well as the American School Counseling Association (ASCA). The ASCA guidelines apply specifically to school counselors and not other counseling professions. These guidelines are meant to preserve and maintain high levels of integrity within this profession. Unlike in other counseling professions, school counselors have to work under structured environments that include counseling-programs.
These counseling programs are aimed at prioritizing student-based outcomes such as enhancing competencies. Another distinct specification of school counselors is that they are expected to encompass their counseling activities with assessments and tools that can address ‘local’ students’ needs. A school counselor delivers his/her services to a targeted group that consists of members of the school community among others. Other types of counselors such as prison and grief counselors have a more limited scope of service delivery. Another distinct role of school counselors is that they have to maintain strict data records. This data acts as a guide for indicating the progress of a school counseling program. The high levels of accountability that are characteristic of school counseling are not replicated in equal terms across other specializations.
Wellness, Resilience and Prevention in School Counseling
School counselors do not have a lot of freedom when it comes to their practice because they operate under strict guidelines. However, this profession is still open to revolutionary practices that can enhance its impact on students and school welfare in general. An average school counselor is often put in his/her position as a mental health specialist who exercises his/her profession through unlimited interactions with the students. Although school counselors are positioned to benefit the entire school communities, their primary concern is the students’ welfare.
Consequently, the concept of wellness in regards to school counselors mostly applies to the overall mental health of the students. One way of incorporating the concept of wellness into school counseling is by entrenching its aspects in the “curriculum and instructions that help screen students for the basic skills needed for successful transition from cradle to college and career” (Roach & Young, 2007).
This model can act as a systematic process of encompassing wellness in school curriculums. On the other hand, a system of wellness will help students to focus on assisting students to address their personal, social, academic, and career-based goals. School counselors help students to achieve these goals by assisting them to design, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive wellness program. Wellness programs are often gauged by their ability to heighten the students’ level of success.
School counselors can also enhance the levels of resilience among students by cultivating a safe learning environment within the school. Consequently, students and other members of the school community will be able to co-exist in a manner that does not lead to conflicts of interest. For instance, resilience can be achieved where counselors “regularly monitor and respond to behavior issues that impact school climate such as bullying, student interpersonal struggles, and student-teacher conflicts” (Choate, 2007, p. 320). This practice also enhances prevention whereby school counseling programs follow a path of collaboration between all the major stakeholders (students, counselors, families, and teachers among others) that aims at creating an environment of student achievement.
Course Specifications for School Counselors in New York
The profession of school counselors mostly falls under the realm of the public school system of America. The basic requirement for an entry-level public school counselor is an advanced-degree course that addresses various important topics. Some of these important topics include human growth and development, counseling theories, individual and group counseling techniques, the social foundations of humanity, testing methods, research, career development, and supervised practices among others.
The ASCA is at liberty to update these course requirements in accordance with prevailing conditions. All these topics are universally accepted but the New York entry requirements are as follows. An individual who wishes to be a school counselor in New York has various options of prequalification. First, he/she must have completed a counseling program in an institution that is registered in New York. Second, the individual must have a “Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education or from an institution authorized by NY Department of Education; AND At least 30 semester hours of approved graduate study in the field of school counseling” (Paisley & Borders, 2009).
Finally, an individual can be a counselor if he/she is nationally certified as a school counselor through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The first option of licensure requires no coursework but the other two options require “completion of a Child Abuse Identification and a school violence prevention and intervention Workshop” (Bemak & Chung, 2015). Fresh graduates are also expected to go through an internship in a K-12 school setting under the supervision of an institution of higher learning. The internship must be competed when the individual is preparing to go through the preparation of certification.
The state also accepts a full year experience in a paid-capacity in lieu of internship. A letter of recommendation is only required among individuals who are from registered counseling programs. Reciprocity of certification is only allowed between parties that are in agreement with New York. However, a candidate who seeks to enter the New York system through a reciprocal agreement must be in possession of valid documentation and be ready to complete a preparation course in New York.
Alternatively, a viable candidate must have at least three years of service in a valid jurisdiction and be employed under the reciprocal certificate. Some of the non-course requirements for licensure in the city of New York include the New York State Teacher Certification Examinations and fingerprint clearances. In addition, the employer has to conduct a background check on suitable candidates.
Technology and Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counseling is one of the clinical specializations that carry significant weight when it comes to advanced psychology. This field is also one of the specializations that have been impacted by technology the most. The advent of the internet and all its accompanying tools has ushered in a new era of mental health counseling. The internet technology has also been applied to various counseling specialties. However, its impact has mostly been felt within mental health counseling where predictions are that some applications might act as replacements for face-to-face therapy.
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A closer analysis of the influence technology in mental health counseling reveals that this phenomenon is more of an aid than a replacement. For instance, technology has facilitated anonymity during the course of mental health counseling sessions through applications like identity-stripped text messages. These types of messages are useful when counseling occurs through virtual spaces such as Second Life Virtual communities. These technological tools act as avenues where individuals might go to relief their mental tensions.
Observers have noted that “as a tool for self- or assisted therapy and for self-education, the Internet offers a greater sense of equality and reduces the stigma traditionally attached to mental health concerns” (Thomas, 2012, p. 177). Consequently, this form of technology can be useful in the training of mental health counselors. Some of the other forms of technology that can be applied as an aid or supplement in the face-to-face sessions of mental health counseling include wikis, blogs, and podcasts. Most of these avenues can be used for both learning and practice.
Amatea, E., & Clark, M. (2005). Changing schools, changing counselors: A qualitative study of school administrators’ conceptions of the school counselor role. Professional School Counseling, 9(1), 16-27.
Bemak, F., & Chung, R. C. Y. (2015). Advocacy as a critical role for urban school counselors: Working toward equity and social justice. Professional School Counseling, 2(1), 196-202.
Choate, L. (2007). Counseling adolescent girls for body image resilience: Strategies for school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 10(3), 317-324.
Paisley, P. O., & Borders, L. D. (2009). School counseling: An evolving specialty. Journal of Counseling and Development: JCD, 74(2), 150-151.
Roach, L. F., & Young, M. E. (2007). Do counselor education programs promote wellness in their students?. Counselor Education and Supervision, 47(1), 29-45.
Thomas, H. (2012). The use of technology in mental health: applications, ethics and practice. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 40(2), 177-178.