Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counseling for the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counseling for the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities

Article excerpt

The history of school counselling as a specialty of the counselling professional has been well documented in the literature (Baker, 2000; Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Herr, 2001; Myrick, 1997; Paisley & Borders, 1995). The specialty was initially shaped by the social reform movement during the late 19th Century and has evolved from an early focus on career and moral development to today's comprehensive, developmental, and collaborative school counseling programs. During the intervening years, school counseling programs and their particular areas of emphases have alternated based on the social, political, economic, and psychological issues facing schools, communities, families, children, and adolescents. At times, school counselors have worked more exclusively in educational and career arenas while at other times, much more attention has been paid to the personal and social development of students.

Most recently, the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) adopted by the American School Counselor Association have outlined a balanced approach to school counseling, including support for student development in three domains: academic, career, and personal/social. Programs based on the National Standards employ several intervention strategies, including individual counseling; small group counseling; classroom interventions; consultation with parents, teachers, and outside agencies; and coordination of certain related whole-school activities. These strategies may be appropriate as crisis interventions or for remediation as well as for preventative purposes or to promote healthy development. In addition, programs based on the National Standards are clearly anchored in the mission and needs of the school, and school counselors in such programs serve as advocates for all students. School counselors working with the National Standards also understand the need to collaborate with all stakeholders in order to effectively meet the needs of school-aged children.

Currently, discussions concerning appropriate roles and areas of focus for school counseling are taking place in the professional literature, through conference presentations, and informally through professional collaboration. As the specialty continues to evolve, school counselors and school counselor educators and supervisors will need to continue to engage in these important discussions. As the 21st Century unfolds, there is a need to consider the context in which school counselors practice as well as the corresponding challenges and opportunities that this context presents. Some of these challenges and opportunities have been debated throughout the evolution of the specialty; others are new based on changes in society, educational expectations, and the issues facing schools, communities, families, and students. This article identifies a number of the challenges facing school counselors and school counseling programs, and attempts to respond to these challenges as opportunities to better meet the needs of students as well as to strengthen the professional specialty.

Challenge for school counselors and School Counseling Programs

School counseling programs are developed and implemented within school systems located within communities. Community members often have different expectations for the outcomes of school counseling programs. This means that school counselors often find themselves attempting to meet the demands of multiple stakeholders in an increasingly complex and political environment. Entering the 21st Century, counselors will need to address these challenges with commitment and creativity. First, however, professionals need to consider some of the challenges that need to be addressed.

Ambiguous Role Definition

Perhaps, the most significant challenge for school counselors rests in the ongoing debate over role definition. Although the current focus is on program rather than person or services (Gysbers & Henderson, 2001), individual counselors still struggle with priorities. …

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