Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Challenge to Change from Guidance Counseling to Professional School Counseling: A Historical Proposition

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Challenge to Change from Guidance Counseling to Professional School Counseling: A Historical Proposition

Article excerpt

Professional school counselors (PSCs) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) have been working diligently to reconfigure the professional identity of PSCs from its historical guidance epistemology to a comprehensive developmental model. Nevertheless, the historical influence defining a school counselor's identity has been difficult to alter. The purpose of this article is threefold: (a) to review the historical origins of school counseling, (b) to outline the current PSC identity model promoted by ASCA, and (c) to introduce steps to support the transition to a consistent professional identity for the school counselor.


School counselor preparation programs and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) advocate professional roles and standards of practice for school counseling professionals. However, incongruence is apparent between what is advocated and the actual duties most professional school counselors (PSCs) are performing. This divergence has cultivated role ambiguity and conflict, increasing occupational stress in PSCs (Lambie, 2002). Furthermore, school administrators, teachers, parents, and other groups tend to view the role of a school counselor in different ways (Burnham & Jackson, 2000).

Role ambiguity is present in school counseling to the extent that even PSCs have different perceptions of their roles in the school environment. Role ambiguity exists when (a) an individual lacks information about his or her work role, (b) there is a lack of clarity about work objectives associated with the role, or (c) there is a lack of clarity about peer expectations of the scope and responsibility of the job (Lambie, 2002; Sears & Navin, 1983). Following their study comparing PSCs' actual role with roles prescribed in two accepted counseling models, Burnham and Jackson (2000) concluded that PSCs are too often involved in non-counseling-related activities including multiple clerical tasks, which require an inordinate amount of time and pull them away from "more appropriate counseling activities" (p. 47). Additionally, Hutchinson, Barrick, and Grove (1986) found that PSCs are required to perform increasing nonprofessional duties in a limited amount of time (e.g., attendance, record keeping, testing coordination, hall and bus duty). Furthermore, other noncounseling duties commonly reported include scheduling; transcripts; office sitting; clubs and organizations; parking lot, restroom, and lunch duties; averaging grades; and homeroom duty (Burnham & Jackson, 2000).


Countries, events, and people often are defined by their histories. Memorial services communicate a historical narrative of an event or person, providing attendees with a defining portrait. Therefore, the realities of an event, institution, or person are socially constructed (Freedman & Combs, 1996). The same holds true for school counseling, which is defined by its historical story. Within this conceptualization, "Beliefs held by individuals construct realities and realities are maintained through social interaction which, in turn, confirms the beliefs that are then socially originated" (Fruggeri, 1992, p. 43). Therefore, school counseling's historical narrative constructs the lens through which individuals interpret the profession. To understand and possibly alleviate the current incongruence between the actual and the ideal professional identity of PSCs, the historical narrative configuring the profession needs to be understood, appreciated, and then possibly reconstructed.

From its inception in the early 1900s, school counseling was very different from the current functions advocated by the ASCA (2004) professional role statement. The term employed during the early 1900s for the profession was vocational guidance, which involves roles that were similar to modern career counseling with a focus on the transition from school to work, emphasizing an appropriate client-occupational placement match. …

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