Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Advocating Student-within-Environment: A Humanistic Theory for School Counseling

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Advocating Student-within-Environment: A Humanistic Theory for School Counseling

Article excerpt

The author introduces a humanistic theory for school counseling called Advocating Student-within-Environment (ASE). According to this theory, the student is an adaptive agent who operates within ever-evolving environments. With ASE, a school counselor can use the capacities of the student, the school environment, and their shared agency to promote wellness, justice, and development.

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A counselor's role within a school is to support the academic pursuits and related behaviors of the individual student and of the total school environment (Dollarhide & Saginak, 2008). Therefore, it follows that such support must be relevant and helpful to both the student and school environment levels simultaneously. Unfortunately, the simultaneous support of the student and the school environment too often exceeds the various theoretical postures, codes of practice, and other mechanisms typical to the school counseling profession. In the absence of a conciliatory approach, school counselors frequently operate in a way that supports either the student or the school environment separately, or both sequentially, hoping that a focus on one will benefit the other vicariously. In such cases, the individual student and each individual representing a school environment is minimized; consequently, the relevance and significance of any counseling services rendered are also minimized.

To better support the student and school environment as interacting determinants within a shared social structure, I introduce a theory for school counseling practice called Advocating Student-within-Environment (ASE). Given that even the most able and opulent schools are often mired in restrictive and dehumanizing practices (Patterson, 1973), ASE was developed to provide school counselors with a framework that accentuates the potentials of every student while ameliorating socially just conditions that are necessary for development within and between the student and the school environment. This approach beseeches a school counselor to challenge the dehumanizing happenings in the school by positioning that counselor adjacent to the abilities and goals of the student. At the same time the counselor is providing services that are aimed at maximizing the potential within the individual student, he or she must arouse the ability and authority within the various agents of the learning dynamic, including the educators and members of the broader society. To this end, a school counselor advocates for the student and school environment by engaging each as indivisible pursuers of learning and development.

The following sections of this article provide a brief primer of the ASE approach to school counseling, including philosophy and theory for counseling practice. For each section, ASE will be crafted in a way to reflect the spirit of humanism and the conditions that nourish the development of the student. By design, the nature of a student is to learn, interact, and contribute. This nature represents the definitive manifestation of the spirit of humanism and the need for social justice in schools and beyond.

PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEORETICAL BASES FOR ASE

Counseling theories describe processes that contribute to individual or system development. Generally, these theories have their foundation in related philosophies that describe the manner in which the counselor conceptualizes the nature of that individual or system (Patterson & Watkins, 1996). The theory of development for ASE draws from both humanistic and social justice philosophies. The former philosophy, humanism, is generally concerned with the creative capacity of the individual person to actualize and experience significance (Buhler, 1971). The latter, social justice, is concerned with the creation and maintenance of conditions that are fair and equitable for all individuals within systems (Bell, 2007). Together, these philosophies converge as a scheme for the ASE-influenced school counselor to conceptualize the individual capacities of the student, the factors experienced in the school environment, and how system factors influence the expression of individual capacities. …

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