School Counselor Roles and Preparation

By Trolley, Barbara C. | Michigan Journal of Counseling, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

School Counselor Roles and Preparation


Trolley, Barbara C., Michigan Journal of Counseling


School Counselor Roles and Preparation

Counselor educators are frequently confronted with the daunting task of providing school counselor graduate students with a solid theoretical foundation, while at the same time, keeping abreast of practical skills essential to securing and maintaining such a position. Gone are the days when school counselor candidates are solely asked about their counseling theory. Interviews today are frequently packed with a multitude of practical applications of the job, such as responding to crisis oriented case scenarios and demonstration of psychoeducational lessons. These interviews are reflective of the actual expectations of s chool counselor roles and tasks within the educational system. Intimately tied to the discussions is the fundamental question of school counselor identity. With such a plethora of tasks assigned to school counselors, and the diversity in their roles across school districts and levels, counselor educators are left wondering how they may best communicate the professional identity of school counselors to their graduate students. This lack of uniformity is not only a concern in regard to the academic preparation of future school counselor professionals, but presents challenges in educating the community as to what they actually do, and defending their positions and the need for such professionals to school boards and legislators. Thus, the first question is posed: "What are the present day roles and tasks of school counselors?"

Once the roles and tasks of school counselors are further defined, the fundamental issue of how graduate trainees may receive adequate preparation during their academic study is raised. It is still as an essential element of graduate study to incorporate classic counseling theories and techniques. However, educators must take a step further and examine what are the essential practical skills with which trainees need to be equipped. In line with this area of exploration is the consideration of how such academic preparation may be best presented to trainees, e.g.,

* should classes involve guest speaker and/or adjunct professors who are practicing counselors;

* what kinds of assignments might best provide trainees with such skills; and

* are these concerns primarily left to the site supervisor to address? While the format of academic classes and assignments is beyond the scope of this article, it is worthwhile to pause and give some reflective thought to this area, which is the second focus of the current discussion: "What are academic preparation considerations with respect school counselor trainees?"

Therefore, the purpose of this article is twofold: to review the plethora of school counselor roles and tasks; and to examine the academic preparation of such graduates with respect to the job demands they face; all with an overarching goal of looking at the professional identity of school counselors. These goals will be accomplished through a review of the literature and provision of results from an initial exploratory study.

School Counselor Roles & Tasks

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has set forth a well-defined description of the primary role of school counselors: "Professional school counselors are certified/licensed educators with the minimum of a master's degree in school counseling and are uniquely qualified to address the developmental needs of all students through a comprehensive school counseling program addressing the academic, career and personal/social development of all students" (ASCA, 2011). Despite the specifications shared above, school counselor graduates often encounter widely diversified job expectations. While there may be clarity in the general role of school counselors, there remains much discrepancy in their tasks. For example, some graduates are assigned administrative tasks such as scheduling and disciplinary functions, while other are involved in direct counseling. …

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