Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Cultivating Strengths-Based Professional Identities

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Cultivating Strengths-Based Professional Identities

Article excerpt

This article shares how school counselors-in-training are oriented to cultivate strengths-based professional identities based on culturally relevant and evidence-based practices that support the developmental learning abilities of all students. Professional identity and positive youth development are tied to practices, Web sites, and resources that preservice school counselors and graduates use to promote and construct Strengths-Based School Counseling programs (Galassi & Akos, 2007) that align with the ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005).

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Professional identity is complex and best viewed eco-contextually to include social identities such as race, ethnicity, religion, economic status, social class, gender, nationality, chosen interests, sexual identity, politics, and personal history (Miller & Garran, 2008). School counselor professional identity is embedded in and connected to a multilayered network of ecological relationships that influence both our inner and outer worlds--an inner world where we aspire to author our own identities, and an outer world where the social reality of our identities can be assumed by others or even imposed by others, a world where we seek to be recognized and validated as professionals (Miller & Garran). Framed in this article, strengths-based school counselor identifies enable professional school counselors to cultivate an understanding of themselves in multiple systems and a willingness to take action to construct educational environments grounded in the belief that all students have learning power.

Like all social identities, strengths-based professional identities develop in the person's relationship to the environment and in the person's understanding within oneself; identity is never fully external or internal, it is constructed holistically in individuals transacting with the environment and generating stories within themselves (Appiah, 2005; Conyne & Cook, 2004; Miller & Garran, 2008). Strengths-Based School Counseling (SBSC; Galassi & Akos, 2007) opens possibilities for practitioners and school counselor educators to enter conversations and to advocate for social justice directed toward promoting more inclusion, more agent status, expanded notions of leadership, and an understanding that all students have islands of competence (Goldstein & Brooks, 2006; Lewis & Borunda, 2006; Palmer, 1998; Westley, Zimmerman, & Patton, 2007).

As an evolving framework, SBSC draws upon knowledge and interventions from a variety of philosophical positions, conceptual frameworks, and accepted methodologies. Strengths-based school counselors have the courage to engage the data and to evaluate it from a developmental and reflective position necessary to critically explore what worked, for whom, and from what perspective (Westley et al., 2007). Courage and the ability to dwell in uncertainty are necessary in creating systems in which success and failure are not evaluated as fixed points but as developmental markers in a process centered on learning. In order to illustrate how strengths-based professional identities are cultivated in action, the remainder of this article highlights three of the six SBSC principles.

STRENGTHS-BASED PRINCIPLES IN ACTION

Promoting Strengths-Enhancing Environments

Counselor educators have an important role in assisting preservice school counselors to gain cultural consciousness and the knowledge, attitude, and skills necessary to respectfully enter diverse school communities. As Californian counselor educators, we know diversity has a profound impact upon counselor education cohorts and public schools; a supportive and diverse cohort can promote conversations on issues such as White privilege, institutional racism, and more. Although difficult, such conversations bring to light that diverse communities are resilient, are life enhancing, and open up possibilities for all who are engaged in contributing to them. …

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