An Analysis of Texas High School Counselors' Roles: Actual and Preferred Counseling Activities

By Nelson, Judith A.; Robles-Pina, Rebecca et al. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

An Analysis of Texas High School Counselors' Roles: Actual and Preferred Counseling Activities


Nelson, Judith A., Robles-Pina, Rebecca, Nichter, Mary, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


The purpose of our investigation was to explore the differences between the actual and preferred activities of high school counselors in Texas using the School Counselor Activity Rating Scale [SCARS] (Scarborough, 2002). Evident in the results was that the majority of high school counselors participating in our study have between 10-20 years of experience, work in suburban areas, and are Caucasian. Further, counselors reported that they actually engage in less counseling, consultation, curriculum, and coordination activities than they would prefer. Additionally, counselors with more than 10-20 years of experience reported more counseling activities than those with less, and Hispanic counselors prefer to do more counseling than Caucasian counselors. Implications for research and training programs are noted.

Professional school counselors must re-define their roles as advocates for all students and become leaders in the educational reform movement (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005; Bemak, 2000; Bemak & Chung, 2005; House & Sears, 2002; Martin, 2002). In particular, high school counselors need to redefine their roles, because they are at risk of performing other duties to include clerical work or non-counseling duties such as scheduling, maintaining records, and coordinating testing programs (Coll, 1979; Hardesty & Dillard, 1994; Myrick, 2003; Scarborough, 2005; Sink, 2005). Some studies investigated the nature of the role of high school counselors (Coll, 1979; Hardesty & Dillard, 1994: Myrick, 2003; Sink, 2005), and Scarborough developed an instrument for identifying actual and preferred school counseling activities. Missing in the literature was a study examining actual and preferred counseling activities of high school counselors using a psychometrically sound instrument. The purpose of our study was to fill in this gap and to survey the role of the high school counselor by using a psychometrically sound instrument, the School Counseling Activity Rating Scale (SCARS) (Scarborough, 2002) that focuses on the appropriate activities identified by ASCA. These duties include curriculum, counseling, consultation, and coordination.

The Non-Counseling Counselor

When principals and counselors do not understand the benefits of implementing ASCA's (2005) National Model for school counseling programs and do not agree on the role and responsibilities of the professional school counselor, too many non-counseling duties may be assigned to the counselor. Too often counselors are assigned responsibilities that have little or nothing to do with counseling. These noncounseling duties have been the topic of research studies (Gysbers, 2005; Perusse, Goodnough, Donegan, & Jones, 2004) and are reported to significantly detract from counselors' delivery of a comprehensive school counseling program. After a thorough investigation of what counselors do with their time, Campbell and Dahir (1997) and the committee for the ASCA National Model (2005) suggested that clerical and non-counseling activities such as registering and scheduling students, coordinating testing programs, substituting for absent teachers, disciplining students, and data entry are all inappropriate activities for professional school counselors.

The New Vision

This new vision for professional school counselors, according to the educational reform movement, broadens the traditional view of counseling as an ancillary program providing one to one student services. Further, the vision includes program development, management, and evaluation. Individual and group counseling (traditional responsive services) as part of the new vision's delivery system are only two components of a comprehensive developmental guidance program. Greater emphasis is now placed on counselorgenerated programs that promote academic success for all students, are data driven, and elevate the school counselor to a new leadership role (ASCA, 2005; Bemak, 2000; Erford, House, & Martin, 2003; Gysbers & Henderson, 2006; Martin, 2002). …

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