Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Attitudes of American School Counselor Association Members toward Utilizing Paraprofessionals in School Counseling

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Attitudes of American School Counselor Association Members toward Utilizing Paraprofessionals in School Counseling

Article excerpt

School counseling professionals often experience challenges finding ample time for providing direct counseling and guidance services to students (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000). Specifically, noncounseling duties assigned to school counselors may interfere with implementing counseling programs and with counseling students (Baker, 2000). Many school counselors must strategically balance their time between actual counseling and guidance with students and numerous noncounseling responsibilities including lunch supervision, hall duty, extracurricular activity supervision, substituting for absent teachers, administering achievement tests, scheduling and registering students, supervising study halls and detention, and assisting with various duties of the principal's office (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Wilgus & Shelley, 1988).

As the number of noncounseling tasks delegated to school counselors increases, the amount of time devoted to counseling with students suffers. Studies have indicated school counselors generally spend only about 50% of their time in direct guidance and counseling contact with students (Partin, 1993; Wilgus & Shelley, 1988). Furthermore, one of the primary reasons students fail to seek out the school counselor for help is the perception that the counselor does not have time to see them (West, Kayser, Overton, & Saltmarsh, 1991). Not surprisingly, many articles in the school counseling literature have addressed time-management strategies and time-saving ideas for school counselors (e.g., Eddy, Richardson, & Allberg, 1982; Fairchild, 1986; Fairchild & Seeley, 1994, 1995; Kareck, 1998; Partin, 1983, 1993; Wilkinson, 1988). Clearly these suggestions attempted to maximize the percentage of time school counselors spend providing direct counseling services.

In addition to numerous noncounseling responsibilities, elevated counselor-student ratios place further strain on school counselors' time available for providing direct counseling services to students. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 1999a) suggested that the ideal counselor-student ratio was 1 counselor per 250 students. By contrast, Moles (1991) found that high school counselor-student ratios nationwide averaged 1 counselor to 350 students, while Marino, Sams, and Guerra (1999) reported the nationwide counselor-student ratio at 1 counselor per 513 students. Such elevated ratios ultimately reduce school counselor availability to counsel with students (Borders & Drury, 1992).

One solution proposed for increasing school counselors' time for providing direct services to students involves employing school counseling paraprofessionals (Carlson & Pietrofesa, 1971; McCollum, 1996; Zimpfer, 1974b). Counseling professionals introduced paraprofessionals into school counseling during the 1960s in order to alleviate critical school counselor shortages (Carlson & Pietrofesa, 1971) and to supplement the heavy caseloads required of school counselors (Zimpfer, 1974b). Their rationale was that paraprofessionals could reduce the noncounseling-related duties of the school counselor and assist school counselors in a variety of direct and indirect counseling services (Carlson, Cavins, & Dinkmeyer, 1974; Carlson & Pietrofesa, 1971). In turn, school counselors would have more time to develop and implement counseling programs for students.

To clarify the specific role of paraprofessionals in school counseling, the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA, 1967) outlined suggested job duties. The policy statement by APGA (1967) clearly differentiated the roles of the professional school counselor and counseling paraprofessional staff. The counselor was to provide actual counseling services, whereas the paraprofessional performed tasks and functions that contributed to the overall guidance program including direct helping, indirect helping, and clerical tasks. A position statement was also developed by ASCA to clarify the role and specific duties of paraprofessionals in school counseling. …

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