This article presents an overview of guidance counseling in U.S. public schools, and the common methods used in school counseling. Guidance counseling has grown over the last 90 years due to a variety of social changes that have affected youth in their social, personal, and educational development. The emergence of the vocational guidance movement in the early 20th century furthered the development of counseling in education. The National Defense Act of 1958 provided funding for counselor training, which led to over 30,000 high school counselors integrated into U.S. public schools. In addition the emergence of counseling theories and approaches including Person Centered, Reality, Behavioral Interventions, and Family therapies provided educators and counselors with a range of competencies and skills to use with student guidance. Today, presenting social problems have created additional efforts by schools to provide a range of interventions and programs. These include Individual, Group, Multicultural, and animal-facilitated counseling approaches. Some programs include mentoring, transition, conflict resolution, peer counseling, drug prevention, and career exploration and development. School counseling programs also are integral in providing and executing consultations with other individuals and staff such as parents, teachers, psychologists, and social workers to assist students in their development.
Keywords Family Counseling; Group Counseling; Guidance Counseling; Individual Counseling; Mentoring; Multicultural Counseling; Play therapy; Transition Programs; Vocational Guidance Movement
Guidance and Counseling: Counseling Methods
Guidance counseling can be defined as assisting children and youth with programs and interventions that help them with changes in their lives. While guidance and counseling can take place in a variety of settings, public schools serve as one of the largest organized entities to provide these services. When utilized, school counseling can be a significant contributor to a child's formative development and provide access to information about effectively dealing with life issues. The methods, programs, and interventions are primarily provided by school counselors who work with other staff in a collaborative manner to help support the educational and social objectives of the local school. The primary focus areas for school counseling can include the areas of personal, social, and academic growth and development. Counselors work with a range of individuals such as teachers, administrators, psychologists, parents and social workers.
During the 1950's and 1960's, individual counseling approaches gained recognition. William Glasser, the founder of reality therapy, encouraged the early use of group counseling approaches to mediate issues with students and to work with teachers in the classroom. He encouraged teachers to "talk to children and to entertain dialogue so counseling becomes possible" (Glasser,1969, p. 86).
For public schools The National Defense Act of 1958 provided money to state and local systems as an impetus for the development of guidance counseling roles and staff development training for counselors (Gibson, 1990). School Counseling approaches broadened during the 1970's, when multicultural counseling and tolerance were topics with which counselors worked with students. Family counseling approaches gained momentum with the increases in the divorce rates during this same time period. During the 1980's and 90's, social issues continued to affect guidance counselor's roles and approaches to counseling in schools. Currently the school counseling realm is in the midst of a federal agenda of increased accountability and testing through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Further drug prevention programs, school violence incidents, issues related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and increased pressures for effective transition from school to work also are pressing issues in schools.
Today, students sometimes need guidance to develop coping skills to deal with a variety of social issues and challenges in an age of technology and globalization. The 21st century is also notably identified with more access to self-help literature through the internet and other print resources for students within the public school system. For many students, counseling and programmatic interventions can be significant resources to help them through issues as they develop. The counseling approaches and strategies public school counselors use vary from elementary, middle/Jr high, and high school levels in relation to presenting problems and issues that arise due to personal, social, or developmental issues of the student or students. Many of the counseling approaches are integrated in curricular or topic specific programs.
Elementary School Presenting Issues
Elementary school is a time for children to learn about themselves and the world around them. Working well with others and cooperation skills are just two of the areas of development that teachers and counselors try to foster and develop. Counselors can facilitate these pro-social behaviors through individual and group counseling approaches within and out of the classroom. Glasser (1969) noted in his early work that it is critical to apply teaching and educational interventions during the first five years within the elementary school classroom to help students succeed and develop a positive self identity. Individual counseling can be helpful to to elementary students, but it is typically conducted in coordination with parents due to minor consent laws.
An emerging role for the school counselor is that of consultant to teacher, parents, and school administrators, according to Hall & Lin (1994). School counseling departments often provide consultation services to effectively mediate presenting issues with parents, teachers, and psychologists. Consultations help to develop a plan of action to assist the student with an issue or problem. Increases of national attention to issues of war, terrorism, hurricanes, and other natural disasters have required school counseling programs and staff to support students through such traumatic events.
Group counseling approaches may also be used by a counselor in a public school environment. Group approaches have been used for anger and stress management in elementary school settings. Group work is helpful in approaching student/family issues such as divorce or traumatic events (such as the loss of a classmate) or environmental stressors within the context of the school community. Schmidt, Lanier, & Cope (1999) noted group guidance and group counseling as two areas of emphasis in school counseling programs over the last twenty years.
The coordination of Special education services for children with disabilities is another key role for elementary school counselors. Counselors help develop Individual Education Plans (IEP's) and often provide training to teachers, psychologists, social workers, and parents to work with the child's individual disability and needs. Parents are integral to the process in guiding and supporting their child's needs at home. Helms & Katsiyannis (1992) recognized that a "team approach be used in order for a counseling program to be successful" (p. 236).
Each developmental stage of a child's growth requires different interventions or counseling approaches. School counselors at the elementary level are tasked with "establish[ing] comprehensive developmental programs...to help students develop life skills to become contributing members of society" (Scarborough, 1997, p. 29).
Elementary teachers and counselors have always played a large part in providing students with opportunities to explore careers and the many roles that are played by individuals in their community through Career Day events. According to Hoffman & McDaniels (1991), elementary school counseling career programs should be "tailored" to help children acquire skills to foster "self understanding and the acquisition of knowledge and skills for helping children experience success" (p. 165).
Family counseling has also played a role in the elementary school counseling programs. Advocates of family counseling, see interventions with family "producing rapid change in problematic behavior" according to Goodman & Kjonass, (1984, p. 255).
Another type of approach primarily used in elementary settings is animal-facilitated counseling. Children tend to have a natural inclination for animals. In the literature it is recognized that the presence of an animal can foster a feeling of warmth and companionship and when coupled with individual or group counseling techniques can lead to more productive conversation and sharing by students (Trivedi & Perl, 1995).
Play therapy has been used with children experiencing post-traumatic stress. With the rising identification of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) many school counseling programs assist with behavioral interventions or strategies. Behavioral approaches that use "positive praise, positive internal self talk, behavioral rehearsal, cost response, earning special privileges, and mentoring can help mediate some of the problematic behaviors in children with ADHD" (Erk, 2003, p. 436). In addition, utilizing self esteem training and social skills education are also some approaches school counseling programs may use with these students.
Incidents and early identification in elementary school of childhood autism have also presented a challenge to counselors who may play a role in accessing services and programs for parents along with psychologists, special education teachers, and social workers. Counselors assist in the coordination efforts to help with interventions that assist these students in their social skill development
Middle School Presenting Issues
Students entering middle school...
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