Counseling programs are a vital component to any school. They provide students with resources, support, and nurturance throughout the entire duration of their elementary and secondary school years. Elementary school years are a time when children are growing socially, outside of the home. In the first few years of school they learn social skills that help them to interact with other students and adults. Counseling activities should focus on the healthy socialization of all students. Counselors at this level should offer group counseling, individual counseling, classroom guidance, media presentations showing positive interactions, and "no put-downs" type of curriculum that promotes kind social exchanges. The secondary school years bring rapid changes, physically and environmentally, to students. Adolescents are growing and changing, turning away from authority, and developing their own sense of self. Effective counseling activities must focus on human relations development such as: career training or education programs, college preparatory programs, group and individual guidance, sensitivity training, and classroom guidance (Gibson, 2003, pp. 5-51).
Counseling activities branch well beyond assistance with various career choices or personal counseling into the realm of human potential where physical, emotional, educational, and other aspects of the individual are considered. These separate parts are often difficult to distinguish, as individuals possess talents, needs, and desires that are enmeshed with one another. There are dardized tests, student assessment, consultations, career information and guidance, educational guidance and placement, prevention services, intervention activities, administrative duties, developmental tasks, information dissemination, and public relations. School counselors can engage in many different activities in a one-hour time period. The period of work is well defined to the traditional school calendar.
Elementary school counselors have recently become a staple in most states. They are the most recent addition to school staffs. However, Secondary counselors have been employed in schools for the longest time, as their role in helping students in transition between school, college, and work, has been easily identifiable. Secondary counselors provide educational information like scheduling and college placement, individual counseling, administrative services, prevention activities, group counseling and guidance, developmental activities, information sessions, standardized testing and interpretation, and consultation activities. In addition, secondary and elementary counselors are often involved in non-counseling activities (lunchroom duty, etc.). Remediation is a focus for counselors like addiction counseling, sexual concerns, and relationship adjustments. Preparing students becomes less important as making decisions since there are immediate or impending choices to be made. Consultation and an understanding of the student's environment shape behavioral modifications. Both elementary and secondary counselors are proactive in their approach to their counseling population.
All students should have access to guidance and counseling services, appropriate to their developmental stages. The program will be based on the tenet that learning is a lifelong process and therefore, counseling services should be a part of an overall continuum that contributes to the continued growth, learning, and development of each student. The guidance program must encompass the entire school community and shall be developed and implemented by the counseling staff and school administrators. All students have the freedom and responsibility for making choices within the constraints of the educational system, and will have access to the counseling staff to assist them with making those choices (DoDDS-E, 1994, p. 7).
At the elementary level, this program will promote learning by helping children to master the skills and develop the attitudes necessary to be successful. There will be an emphasis on decision making skills, developing awareness, and foundational career exploration. The program will stress the self concept development and skill enhancement necessary for each student. The middle school program will focus on the ever changing needs of young adolescents. It will emphasize continuation of skills learned in the primary grades but will alter the program to fit the needs of these students. It will address high school planning, account for student educational and occupational plans, and address any social factors that may limit potential. The high school program will assist students in becoming responsible adults who can develop realistic and promising life plans based on clear comprehension of themselves and their needs, abilities, interests, and skills. Attention will focus on helping students to develop competencies in decision making, career planning, working with others, and taking responsibility for one's own behavior.
In order to reach the goals set for each level of the program, the counseling program must be seen as an integral part of each school's total educational program. The program will be organized and implemented by the school counselors with the support of faculty, staff, parents, and the community (Gibson, pp. 2-5). It will be proactive in addressing the needs, goals, and concerns of all students by including the following components:
Analysis and counseling of individual students
Student placement services for special programs (gifted and talented, special education, etc.)
Follow-up services post special program placement
Information and resource services (guidance activities related to vocational choices, group instruction on topics of interest, educational planning, etc.)
Research and Evaluation of scholastic policies and procedures
Test administration services
Group counseling services
Parent and Faculty support services
Administrative services to assist with necessary school functions.
This program will seek to serve youth populations and assist with developmental adjustment. It is the mission of this document to establish a comprehensive competency based guidance program that can be implemented school-wide. In making provisions for this program, all students will have the opportunities and guidance necessary to develop skills for:
Accessing and processing information
Dealing with change
Thinking, reasoning and problem solving
Demonstrating positive human relationships
Practicing learning as a lifelong process
The program will benefit students, parents, teachers, administrators and counseling staff by promoting educational development, increasing knowledge of self and others, increasing interaction, providing support, increasing opportunities, providing structure, and clearly defining responsibilities that must be carried out to accomplish school-wide goals (Gibson, p. 1).
The counseling program will be structured systematically and should include the following goals:
Students have applied knowledge of self and others
Students have developed competencies in life and career planning
Students have achieved educational success
In addition to the above, annual goals should be established to monitor the effectiveness of the program. The following should be considered:
Educational- Have students developed study skills, and awareness of opportunities, engaged in lifelong learning, shown appropriate test scores?
Career- Do students have knowledge of career opportunities, vocational requirements, and need for positive work habits?
Personal- Have students developed healthy self-concepts, appropriate social behaviors, and effective communication skills? Lastly, the counseling staff should evaluate all of the following areas of services to ensure that they are meeting the diverse tasks that may be required:
Absences or truancy
Drop out prevention
All types of abuse
Grief, loss, and death
Crisis intervention (Gibson, pp. 9-11).
The comprehensive competency based guidance program includes sequential activities organized and implemented by certified school counseling in collaboration with teachers, administrators, students, and parents. The program will provide a fill array of guidance and counseling services and activities through these components:
1. guidance curriculum
2. individual students planning
3. responsive services
4. system support
Students will be assisted in acquiring competencies in career planning and exploration, knowledge of self and others, educational development, and career development (Gibson, p. 6). Personnel
There will be one counselor allotted for every 250 students enrolled in a given school. These counselors will be hired from a pool of eligible applicants who have completed a graduate program in school counseling with no less than 30 semester credit hours of graduate level study. The courses should have covered the following topics:
Human growth and development
Multicultural issues in counseling
Tests and measurements
In addition to the above areas of study, eligible counselors will have also completed an internship in an educational setting consisting of no less than 300 hours. They also must be state certified in guidance and counseling. Budget
The school counseling program budget should be included in the annual school budget planning process. It should be established per annum to ensure that the program is developed, implemented, and managed effectively. Funds should be provided to cover the following:
Equipment and materials
Continuing education and professional development
Career guidance materials
The above list of resources should be considered a requirement for the proper functioning of the competency based guidance program (p. 9). Evaluation of Effectiveness
In order to evaluate the counseling program, it is vital to develop standards and indicators based on the program organizational framework, to ensure the effectiveness of the program. It is also necessary to develop and used appropriate forms to supervise and evaluate school counselors based on their qualifications and job descriptions. Administration should encourage professional growth of counseling staff and assess student mastery of guidance competencies. The school administration must evaluate the impact of the program on the school climate and how well it reaches established goals. This can be done through personal evaluation, independent observation, and by surveying program users as to their use of and satisfaction with the program (p. 31). The following criteria can assist in further evaluation of effectiveness:
Is there evidence that all students are given the chance to gain awareness, knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that lead to a socially responsible and sufficient life? Is there proof that students have acquired frequent information to help them make informed choices?
Is there evidence that all students have access to guidance in overcoming problems that are impeding their personal, social, education, or career development?
Is there proof that a team of educators provides counseling services to students within the school environment?
Is there evidence of the implementation of the program that reflects the wise use of resources according to the needs of the students?
Is there evidence that staff members are in roles that meet their professional qualifications and competence?
Is there evidence that the program is an integral part of the overall educational program?
Is there evidence that the counseling program is reviewed and renewed annually? (Gibson, pp. 31-39).
Integration of the Counseling Program into School Functions
Integration of the counseling program into the overall educational program will require a community effort. There is a survey form at the end of this document that can be used in the implementation of the counseling program. It should be given to teachers, parents, administrators or anyone else who would like to provide feedback on their expectations of the counseling program. It is important to remember that counselors do not work in a vacuum. They are constantly interacting with students come from varying cultural and environmental backgrounds, which impact their development, interpersonal skills, and behavior. Because the counselor is concerned with holistic wellness for each student, they must be sensitive to the differing needs of the students they serve.
Each counselor develops a personal style based on educational training, personal preference, values, attitudes, experiences, and cultural influence. Since no two counseling settings are the same, counselors must have highly developed adaptive abilities to succeed. Professional training programs and organizations, licensure boards, limitations, and accreditation standards all shape the counselor's role. Personal factors that influence counseling include personal likes and dislikes, rewards and encouragement for accomplishing tasks, and the perception the counselor has to the appropriate role and function for a specific setting (Gibson, 2003, pp. 204-226). In as much as each counselor will contribute unique characteristics in each school, there must be some uniformity in the implementation of the program. Each program should be implemented by:
Considering each individual as a unique being whose uniqueness is to be valued.
Recognizing that variations exist within each individual. Counseling should be geared toward identifying special skills, talents, and interests while avoiding over-generalizations about abilities. Strengths should be highlighted while shortcomings are recognized, overcome, or bypassed.
In order for counseling to be meaningful, a person must be directly involved. Input, feedback, clarification, and interpretation are all included in this participation.
Accurate human counseling is limited by instruments and personnel. There are shortcomings unique to each technique or instrument so it must be assumed that assessment only provides clues or samples, not absolutes.
Counselors must accept the positive and potential of each person.
The counseling program follows established professional guidelines, which define ethics, standards, and protection for client and counselor.
Accountability refers to the provision of objective evidence to prove that counselors are successfully responding to needs that have been identified. Accountability evidence can be obtained from written documents, records, reports, tables, and computations. Counselors are responsible for the management, development, and leadership of any program they are involved in. In addition, counselors are responsible for continued progress and improvement. Therefore, continuous and accurate assessment of needs of the target population becomes key to successful planning for goals and objectives. This assessment is critical in establishing and maintaining program relevance and fostering accountability. Accountability can have positive and reaching impact on the furtherance of the counseling profession through:
Meeting the specified needs of the target population
Finding needed areas of specialization
Demonstrating the effectiveness of human service organizations
Showing cost effectiveness of counseling programs
Providing programs that respond to client needs with proven results in an efficient manner
It must be geared not toward individuals, but toward whole populations.
The design of the program must emphasize the unique nature of the population and environment.
An assessment of influencing forces over the lives of the target population must be performed to maximum effectiveness.
Organizational support for the counseling program must by strong, indicating a willingness to follow through with goals.
It must be based on some systematic approach for identifying the needs of the student populations.
Counselors engaged in prevention programs must be able to communicate and work with parents so that a health relationship with children can be fostered from infancy.
In addition to the above list, the program will include:
Assistance in developing coping skills
Development of self-esteem and values
Building of support systems
Parental involvement for children engaged in prevention activities.
Instruction in life skills
Commitment to the time required for the program to be successful
Evaluative processes designed to ensure effectiveness of the program (pp. 297-309).
Finally, the school schedule should be structured in such a way as to provide ample opportunities for students to seek counseling services. This may involve the adoption of a block schedule where there is a seminar period offered, or it may simply require teachers and administration to be sensitive to the needs of their students so that they can find a convenient time during the course of the day to permit their students access to the counseling staff.
This inventory should also be given at the beginning of each year to assess specific needs and goals for the implementation of the program.
Person filling out the form: (please circle one) student parent teacher administrator Please circle your response to each item below. Use the numbers to indicate the importance of each question: 1= not important 2= important 3= very important 4= extremely important 5= vital
1) How important is it that students have access to career guidance 1 2 3 4 5 information and materials?
2) How important is it that students have access to a counselor so they 1 2 3 4 5 can discuss personal problems?
3) How important is it that students have access to information about 1 2 3 4 5 colleges, vocational programs, military service, and other post- graduation options?
4) How important is it that the counselor be involved in over- 1 2 3 4 5 seeing academic standardized test programs?
5) How important is it that the counselor utilize tests to identify 1 2 3 4 5 career options and talents for each student?
6) How important is it for the counselor to emphasize the 1 2 3 4 5 relationship between education and careers?
7) How important is it that the counselor provide job placement 1 2 3 4 5 assistance and referrals to students?
8) How important is it that the counselor be involved in course 1 2 3 4 5 selection and planning?
9) How important is it that the counselor assist students who 1 2 3 4 5 are dropping out or failing?
10) How important is individual Counseling for students? 1 2 3 4 5
11) How important is it that the counselor provide group 1 2 3 4 5 counseling opportunities?
12) Please list any other services that you think the counselor should provide in the remaining space.
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