Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

A Response to Common Themes in School Counseling

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

A Response to Common Themes in School Counseling

Article excerpt

My first experience as a school counselor was in Neah Bay, Washington, the home of the Makah Indian Nation. As a K-12 counselor, I experienced diversity issues from many directions--developmental, multicultural, educational, and occupational. From that experience, I learned a great deal. Currently, I am a high school counselor and department chair at Anacortes High School. We began developing a K-12 comprehensive guidance and counseling program in 1986 as a part and extension of my doctoral dissertation (Anderson, 1987). When I was working on my school counseling certificate, the Washington state regulations regarding counselor certification began with the following statement, "The counselor facilitates individual development" (Washington Administrative Code; 180-79-180, p. 9). It has served as my guiding professional principle for more than two decades. Professional school counselors provide a unique and integral role for students, which no other educators can duplicate. Since change is perpetual and counselors have "individual development" as their focus, they can act as change agents for individuals as well as institutions for the benefit of the diverse individuals with which they interact. To accomplish this individual development in the context of a diverse and dynamic world, the school counselor must consider the structure of a comprehensive program such as the one presented in the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). It is from this frame of reference that I respond to the common themes in the focus articles (Baker, 2001; Green & Keys, 2001; Gysbers, 2001; Paisley & McMahon, 2001) published in the December 2001 issue of Professional School Counseling.

Common Themes

Issues of Change

Someone once told me that the only people who like change are cashiers. The four lead articles had one dominant theme--change. Baker (2001) and Gysbers (2001) discussed the evolution of school counseling and documented the changes in the role of the school counselor, from the earlier vocational guidance period to the current time, where the counselor's role is defined within the context of a comprehensive program.

Green and Keys (2001) also reported a need for change, offering another view for counselors. Rather than continue with the model of stage development, Green and Keys recommended that students would be better served when the counselor adopts a perspective of each student developing within a context or environment.

Culture and society are rapidly evolving. Paisley and McMahon (2001) reminded readers that counselors must keep pace with change to be of value to their students. They suggested "reframing" these challenges into opportunities. They offered "a snapshot of the ideal school counselor for the 21st Century" (p. 113). Similarly, Baker (2001) documented 40 years of history for school counseling. This evolution has included multiple changes for the school counselor, beginning with a nearly complete description of the counselor as administrative assistant. In 1966, Baker and two other counselors, for example, shared 1,500 students. They were responsible for "scheduling all students over the summer (without pay) and making schedule adjustments in the fall--all by hand" (p. 76).

However by 1967, Baker (2001) noted that the student-to-counselor ratio had dropped to about 300:1. With the addition of the summer guidance institutes funded by the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (P. L. 85-864), new ideas and activities were passed on to the burgeoning number of school counselors, and Baker was able "to engage in proactive guidance programming for the first time" (p. 77). Change continued but, for Baker, the role continued to evolve from a quasi-administrative approach to a client-centered model (which included individual, small group, and career counseling) to working with at-risk students. Unfortunately, there was no unifying theme for school counseling practice. …

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