Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselor Induction and the Importance of Mattering

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselor Induction and the Importance of Mattering

Article excerpt

This study explored the personal and professional needs of novice school counselors and the ways in which they feel mattered through qualitative methodology. Findings revealed that mattering manifested through interactions with administrators, positive student connections and student success, and collaborations with others. Factors that reduced feelings of mattering included lack of formal interaction with administrators, ineffective transition processes, and lack of an assigned, formal mentor.


School counselors enter schools with existing organizational structures, cultures, histories, and institution-specific practices. Although school counselors generally experience a practicum or internship in which they have counseled in a school (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs [CACREP], 2009), once hired, they often enter a system that is completely new to them. The introduction into a system can bring a host of professional challenges for emerging school counselors, who must acclimate to the context of their particular schools. The purpose of this investigation was to determine how novice school counselors' personal and professional needs were met, through a framework of mattering. School counselors face many obstacles in the course of their work. They must be culturally competent, proficient in assessment and use of data, and effective counselors, leaders, and advocates (Amatea & Clark, 2005; American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005). Further, school counselors balance large case loads, low social status, student crises (Baggerly & Osborn, 2006), role ambiguity, role conflict, and the lack of a unified, professional identity (Amatea & Clark, 2005). Counselors experience work-related and institutional stress factors, such as implementing comprehensive school counseling programs based on the ASCA (2005) National Model within systems where stakeholders may expect the counselor to function in an antiquated model (Escandon, Kroes, Boren, & Stewart, 2007; Scarborough & Culbreth, 2008; Young & Lambie, 2007). These factors contribute to occupational stress (Young & Lambie), which negatively correlates with career satisfaction and commitment and positively correlates with burnout and attrition (Baggerly & Osborn; Rayle, 2006; Wilkerson & Bellni, 2006).

Equally concerning, stress impacts job performance by impairing school counselor functioning, which may lead to emotional exhaustion, a lack of empathy and compassion, poor judgment, and increased risk to clients (Wilkerson & Bellni, 2006; Young & Lambie, 2007). Novice school counselors might be most vulnerable to issues of stress and job impairment because they must acclimate to the culture, learn structures and practices of the school they serve, and plan, develop, and manage a program for unfamiliar students and stakeholders.

Although many novice professionals are formally inducted into the organizations in which they work, induction processes differ. Schlecthy (1985) stated that some common types of induction activities include clearly stated expectations, clinical supervision, demonstrations and coaching, constructive feedback, time, support for learning new skills, and resources such as additional training. Later, Matthes (1992) asserted that education is unique in that it is a profession that has an implicit expectation that novice workers will be able to perform the same tasks with the same competence as experienced workers. Further, little support is given to novice school counselors as they begin their professional lives (Matthes).

Using survey research methodology, Matthes (1992) studied induction processes experienced by novice school counselors. With the exception of one participant, all first year novice counselors were expected to carry the same work load as experienced counselors. Further, 77% of novice counselors had not been assigned a mentor, and resources such as discretionary funds, clerical staff, and referral services were inconsistent and minimal. …

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