In the school setting, the role of the school counselor is more complex since the needs of students can vary widely. This.gives rise to the more dynamic and complex role of school counselors; it depended on a school’s local circumstances as well as by the dynamism within the profession itself. As such, school counselors assume many different responsibilities and tasks based on the particular needs of students and the school context. Historically, it was understood that “guidance process occurs in an individual in a developmental sequence to the age of maturity” (Coy 1999). Guidance, based on this insight, tends to be more centered on the developmental needs of individuals.
Frank Parsons, known as the “Father of Guidance and Counseling,” developed a vocational program that matched an individual’s traits with a vocation (Coy 1999). This insight-oriented school counseling to vocational guidance. The roles of guidance here “were similar to modern career counseling with a focus on the transition from the school to work, emphasizing an appropriate client-occupational placement match” (Lambie & Williamson 2004). In the United States, with the launching of Sputnik in 1957 and the passing of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958, the NDEA “poured millions of dollars into schools of education to train a new generation of counselors who would be expected to identify and assist promising American youths to enter the sciences and pursue higher education” (Hayes, Dagley, & Horne 1996). School guidance counselors began to encourage students with high aptitude in the areas of math and science to take more courses to prepare for college so that they. might become future technological innovators.
Changes in the School Counselor Training
Today, the training of school counselors has changed. Counselors are taking on many new tasks and roles. School counselors are now educated and experienced in knowledge and skill-based programs that stress counseling, guidance, consultation, coordination, and referrals (Coy 1999). The role of the school counselor has progressed from providing guidance and career information to addressing the developmental needs of students. They can help students to learn effectively by addressing the diverse areas and the challenges that may interfere with their learning.
Common Concerns that May Interfere with Student Learning
Some common concerns that can interfere with the learning process include: suicide, violence, divorce, child abuse, unwanted pregnancy, drug addiction, truancy, increasing dropout rates, decreasing economic resources, peer pressure, poverty, and decision-making skills. Guidance counselors can provide early intervention for the prevention of various school-related problems. In this sense, the school counselors have to collaborate with their school colleagues in the expansion of new models for interventions. Therefore, the role of the professional school counselor is intricate and versatile. It is very important that school counselors “define their role better by recognizing that they cannot do their work alone and they need to collaborate with other stakeholders” (Sears & Granello 2002). The role of counselors is hugely consultative. They are not the center of a school counseling program or advocates for students and their caregivers; they are facilitators who are highly educated to effectively collaborate and coordinate direct and indirect services required for students to be able to succeed in the school environment and their personal lives.
Multiple Roles of School Counselors
Apart from their counseling roles, school counselors are also assigned non-counseling roles. Non-counseling tasks can range from part-time teaching, secretarial responsibilities, substituting for teachers when they are not available, lunch duty, and other responsibilities assigned by administrators and staff looking for extra assistance. Non-counseling tasks can take a considerable amount of time and pull school counselors away from more appropriate counseling activities. Presence of these non-counseling roles often brings confusion and lack of effectivity to the guidance programs of school (Dahir 2004).
Evidence show that the efforts to delineate the school counselor’s work have been done in the United States and in the Philippines. In 2003, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Model was developed and was “preceded by efforts at delineating the best way to organize and manage professional school counselors’ work” (ASCA 2005). While professional associations such as ASCA have strongly encouraged their members to endorse and utilize their model and the national standards associated with it, school principals have historically exerted a major influence on the role of school counselors regardless of recommendations by professional organizations (Paisley & Borders 1995).
In the Philippines, the roles of schools counselors have been prescribed and professionalized the practice (Republic Act No. 9258). However, due to lack of qualified school counselors, the guidance counseling functions are rarely fully implemented and provided. Furthermore, school counseling programs are understaffed and school counselors are faced with an increasing student to counselor ratio. A ratio of 250 students for every counselor is recommended by ASCA while the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for the Philippines recommends 1:500 or in a worse situation, 1:1000 (CMO 21 s. 2006). Far from providing a full range of guidance services, schools’ guidance programs have tended to provide the minimum services such as administering psychometric tests, interviewing new students and transferees, reacting to problems of students, and counseling the problematic students.
Strengthening School Counseling
Acting proactively implies that school counselors supported by administrators, “use data gathered on student performance to develop their school counseling programs and to help teachers customize educational practices to meet students’ individual needs” (Sclafani 2005). They can also “collect data on the effectiveness of their overall program, rather than documenting random lessons and the number of children they see” (Vail 2005). In any case, increased accountability require that measures are undertaken by school administration to ensure that data are collected on school counseling programs to prove program effectiveness in the lives of students. Since school counselors have a responsibility to serve all students, the main path for school counselors to reach all students is to put into practice through the use of comprehensive school guidance counseling programs that include classroom guidance lessons (Gysbers 2001). All students can benefit from school guidance programs if they are realistically designed and collaboratively implemented in an environment that is keen at scaffolding growth of children and young adults.
By all means, guidance and counseling services are indispensable to the full transformation of a child that unblocks all barriers to students’ individual and holistic development. While everybody sees the manifestations through the student’s behavior and performance, the serious job of looking beneath the manifestations and address the root causes is indeed a critical role of guidance and counseling leadership. As such, the school counselors have to constantly develop and maintain an effective school counseling program. The programs must have a distinct focus per cluster of students from K-12 and collegiate levels while keeping the generic guidance and counseling services.
The Role of the Elementary School Counselor (K-6)
Developmentally, the social-emotional needs of humans at this stage can be marked distinctively. However, there are several factors that may be responsible for behavior differences such as home environment, family size, economic status, intellectual ability, and so on. Counselors build their program expectations on common experiences of this age group. The roles of counselors are that of intervention and prevention in connection with the common problems that are likely to interfere with the ability of children to achieve their greatest academic, social, and personal potential (Ward & Worsham 1998).
In this light, Ward and Worsham (1998) see the primary role of the K-6 or elementary school counselors to include development and implementation or facilitation of classroom guidance activities, individual and group counseling, parent education, parent and teacher consultation, referrals to professionals and public agencies, and crisis intervention and management. The goal is to address and remediate the students’ problems early enough to increase the chance of helping them successfully cope with unique demands that confront adolescents when they reach middle school and high school. A smooth transition at this stage prepares students for smoother transition in the next stage of life and in the future.
The Role of the Junior High School Counselor (Grades 7-10)
At this developmental stage of life as young adolescents, grade 7 through 10, the primary role of the junior high school counselor is to provide guidance and counseling in dealing with peer relationships and social interactions, and as such, includes work with students, teachers, and parents in an attempt to help each understand the other (Ward & Worsham 1998). Outside of this focus are the general guidance services such as consulting with teachers, parents, and staff regarding meeting the developmental needs of each student, interpreting tests, and providing orientation to transferees and new students.
The Role of the Senior High School Counselor (Grades 11-12)
For Ward and Worsham (1998), the primary role ‘of senior high school counselors is to provide guidance and counseling pertaining to educational and career decisions as well as college placement counseling. In addition, other common services are also made available to meet the needs of individuals or groups, and provide orientation activities for transferees or new students to the school.
The Role of the College Level Counselor (College to Post-graduate Level)
On the collegiate level, the roles of school counselors include counseling, appraisal and assessment, information, placement, research and evaluation, follow-up, and student activities (CMO 21 s. 2006).
- Maintain students’ confidential, appropriate, usable, and regularly updated cumulative records, which contain relevant information about students such as family background, test data, court, notes, etc.
- Facilitate maintenance of an active networking with the home, community, industry, and other relevant agencies for career and job placement of students/graduates.
- Work in collaboration with all other units and personnel of the school like the faculty, staff, and administrators to effect a holistic guidance program.
- Help ensure that academic accommodation is made available to learners with special needs.
- Provide referrals whenever necessary.
- Provide information materials on career and job opportunities.
- Provide skills development programs.
- Maintain an institutional and valid students’ appraisal data for curricular and co-curricular placements for students.
- Sustain a continuous follow-up and monitoring of student placement on a regular basis.