Kinds of Support Anticipated and Preferred during Counseling: The Perceptions of Israeli School Counselors

Article excerpt

The frequency and intensity of recent school violence incidents have raised questions regarding the effectiveness of the counseling services offered to schoolaged children and adolescents. For many years, school counselors have been expected to take on most of the roles and tasks related to fulfilling students' mental health needs. Various constraints have limited counselors' ability to maximize the effects of their counseling interventions: (a) an unacceptable ratio of students per counselor in educational institutions (Boser, Poppen, & Thompson, 1988), (b) the many tasks continuously added to their job (Tennyson, Miller, Skovholt, & Williams, 1989), and (c) the high proportion of time that school counselors must devote to administrative functions at the expense of the counseling and consulting roles for which they were trained (Tatar, 1997).

In addition, many students do not approach their school counselors primarily due to feelings of embarrassment and an unwillingness to talk to a 'stranger' about personal matters (Kayser, Fraker, & Lyles, 1999; West Kayser, Overton, & Saltmarsh, 1991). Other students, including those especially in need of counseling, may avoid approaching counselors because of the accompanying stigma (Giles & Dryden, 1991).

One of the ways by which school counselors may become more responsive in their interactions with students is by adapting their interventions to the expectations held by their clients, instead of ignoring those expectations or trying to modify them. The main idea is that students should be treated as "customers" who have legitimate expectations about their counseling sessions (Eisenthal, Koopman, & Lazare, 1983). Matching clients' expectations can enhance their satisfaction with the service provided and is likely to increase the impact of counselors' interventions (Harrington, 1993). Counselors, however, are not required to necessarily meet all of their students' expectations, because some of these may be unrealistic or inappropriate (Hart & Bassett, 1975). Thus, the first stage in a counseling encounter should include efforts aimed at eliciting students' expectations and informing them of the counselor's expectations.

The present research examined the perceptions of Israeli school counselors regarding their own and their students' expectations during counseling and, in particular, their perceptions of the kinds of support both sides expect the counselor to provide the student.

This study focused on Israeli school counselors' perceptions, since these professionals are becoming increasingly important and influential in the Israeli educational system. This is reflected in the dramatic increase in the number of counseling professionals from 50 counselors nationwide in the 1960s to about 2,500 at the end of the 1990s. Israeli school counselors are considerably involved in school life and perform diverse tasks-assisting pupils with learning problems or social or emotional issues, taking an active role in pupil placement and referral, serving as consultants for teachers and parents, and assisting principals with organizational issues that impact students' lives (Karayanni, 1996; Tatar, 1995). As the 21st century begins, professionals are raising challenging questions concerning the future of school counseling in the United States (Baker, 1999; Sandhu & Portes, 1995). It is an optimal time for a cross-cultural debate of various school counselors' perceptions (Murray, 1995). School counselors in Israel fulfill functions similar to those preferred by the U.S. counselors, with two significant differences. Firstly, Israeli school counselors tend to provide less career guidance, as most adolescents start compulsory military service immediately after graduating from school at the age of 18. Secondly, Israeli school counselors' jobs include both counseling students and teaching them. For example, counselors are expected to devote one third of their workday to actual classroom teaching (most of them teach students that are not under their counseling responsibility; Tatar, 1997; Tatar 1998a). …


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