Roles, Functions, and Competencies of Counselors

Roles of Guidance Counselors

Given that the youth are the future of every nation, the role of providing guidance to them at critical moments of their growth is a serious nation-building undertaking. Counseling is a process and a relationship between the client(s) and counselor. The role of the counselor is to assist the person or persons (clients) in realizing a change in behavior or attitude, to assist them to seek the achievement of goals, assist them to find help, and in some cases, the role of counselors includes the teaching of social skills, effective communication, spiritual guidance, decision-making, and career choices. A counselor’s roles may sometimes include aiding one in coping with a crisis. In some settings, counseling includes premarital and marital counseling, grief and loss (divorce, death, or amputation), domestic violence, and other types of abuse, special counseling situations like terminal illness (death and dying) as well as counseling of emotionally and mentally disturbed. individuals. Counseling could be short-term (brief counseling) or long-term.

Functions of Guidance Counselors

The Philippine Republic Act No. 9258 (Sec. 2-3) defines a guidance counselor as a natural person who has been professionally registered and licensed by a legitimate state entity and by virtue of specialized training to perform the functions of guidance and counseling. The guidance counselor’s functions include the use of an integrated approach to developing a well-functioning individual primarily through:

  1. helping a client develop potentials to the fullest;
  2. helping a client plan to utilize his or her potentials to the fullest;
  3. helping a client plan his or her future in accordance with his or her abilities, interests, and needs; 
  4. sharing and applying the knowledge related to counseling such as counseling theories, tools, and techniques; and
  5. administering a wide range of human development services.

Competencies of Guidance Counselors

Guidance counselors have the ability to administer and maintain career guidance and counseling programs. They are capable of properly guiding the. students toward becoming productive and contributing individuals through informed career choices with reference to appropriate bureaus, relevant stakeholders, and national programs, and in light of the available opportunities in the community, the country, and globally. They are capable of designing and implementing programs that expose students to the world and value of work and guide, provide, and equip the students with the necessary life skills and values. 

They can administer career advocacy activities. These are activities that are designed to guide secondary-level students in choosing the career tracks that they intend to pursue. They also involve the provision of career information and experiences, advising, coordinating and making referrals, career talks, career and job fairs, parents’ orientations, and conducting seminar-workshops on career decision-making.

Guidance counselors are capable of career advocates. They can conduct career advocacy activities for secondary-level students of the schools in employment sites. They can collaborate with various government agencies, student organizations, industry associations, guidance and counseling associations, professional associations, and other relevant stakeholders to foster student understanding and appreciation of the world of work and to prepare better and aspire for it.

Guidance counselors can facilitate the conduct of career advocacy in collaboration with career advocates and peer facilitators. The career advocates are not necessarily registered and licensed guidance counselors but they provide direct guidance on career and employment guidance. They include homeroom advisers and teachers of all learning areas who can implement career advocacy activities. Peer facilitators, on the other hand, are secondary-level students trained to assist career advocates in implementing career advocacy activities.

Other Competencies that Apply to the Broader Counseling Work

There are many competencies that apply to almost all kinds of counseling contexts but not uniformly. Different authors have thematized them differently. Egan (2002) calls them the three-stage theory of counseling and marks out three broad competencies for a counselor that includes:

STAGE I. What’s going on? This involves helping clients to clarify the key issues calling for change.

STAGE II. What solutions make sense for me? This involves helping clients determine outcomes.

STAGE II. What do I have to do to get what I need or want? This involves helping clients develop strategies for accomplishing goals.

Many other writers also use a three-stage model that looks at this working relationship as having a beginning, middle, and end (Culley & Bond 2004; Smith 2008). Alistair Ross (2003) provides a similar model: starting out, moving on and letting go. However, stage models have less use for many informal educators. The sort of relationship generally involved in informal and community counseling does not generally involve an explicit contract, and the time, duration, and frequency of encounters are highly variable. Endings can be extremely abrupt, for example. This said, by focusing on beginnings, middles, and endings such models do help us to think about what might be involved at different moments in relationships and to develop appropriate responses (Smith 2008). 

Much of the literature around helping and helping relationships explores ‘helping skills’ (Carkoff 2000; Egan 2002; Shulman 1979; Young 1998). The critical skills pertain to the process of fostering conversation and exploration. The tradition of professional counseling requires trainees to possess a set of skills and a body of knowledge to study in the curriculum of accumulated scientific knowledge and the skills needed to be an effective helper in counseling.

Culley and Bond’s Foundation Skills

Culley and Bond (2004) have described all these as foundation skills. They have grouped these foundation skills around three headings: attending and listening, reflective skills, and probing skills.

1. Attending and listening.

Attending and listening skills refer to active listening, which means listening with purpose and responding in such a way that clients are aware that they have both been heard and understood. (Culley & Bond 2004)

2. Reflective skills.

These skills are concerned with the other person’s frame of reference. For Culley and Bond (2004), reflective skills ‘capture’ what the client is saying and plays it back to them—but in the counselor’s own words. The key skills are restating, paraphrasing, and summarizing; for instance, the counselor may begin with, “Did you mean to say…?” (Culley & Bond 2004)

3. Probing skills.

These skills facilitate going deeper, asking more directed or leading questions (leading in the sense that they move the conversation in a particular direction). Culley and Bond (2004) looked at the different forms that questions can take (and how they can help or inhibit exploration), and the role of making statements. Making statements is seen as generally gentler, less intrusive, and less controlling than asking questions—although that does depend on the statement. Probing tends to increase the helper’s control over both process and content, and as a result, “should be used sparingly and with care, particularly in the early stages of counseling” (Culley & Bond 2004). As Alistair Ross (2003) has commented, counseling skills such as these are important and can be developed through reflection and training. However, no matter how good a person’s skills are, they must be matched by relational qualities. Counselors also need to be strong in their relational qualities. The distinction between good and poor practitioner lies in the belief system of the helper, and how it translates into helping the relationship that he / she puts forward. (Combs & Gonzales 1994)

Four Common Skills

Elsewhere and across applied social science disciplines, there are four common skills that require studying the curriculum of accumulated scientific knowledge across disciplines; which are skills for communicating, motivating, problem solving, and resolving conflicts.

1. Communication skills.

These include the ability to actively listen, demonstrate understanding, ask appropriate questions, and provide information as needed. Active listening involves listening to the words, the gestures, and’ other body language. It involves listening for what is said and what is not said. It requires listening to content—its meaning and the emotions behind the it. Demonstrating understanding includes responding to what is said by repeating the same words or using other words, stating the meaning of the words, and describing the feelings that accompany the words.

Effective communication means the message you want to communicate is received as you intended it to be received. However, it is common for the intended message to be misunderstood. This happens because people have different ways of saying things or similar statements may have different meanings for some people. Understanding the communication cycle (Sender » Message » Channel » Receiver » Feedback) and the barriers (noise, interruptions, uncomfortable surroundings, stereotyping, message. complexity, misstatements) that can get in the way of effective communication are very important for developing communication skills.

2. Motivational skills.

These skills are the ones that influence a helpee to take action after the helping session or consultation. There is an old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Sometimes, we label students as being ‘hard-headed’ because of their non-compliance with suggestions. But we do not reflect on the why and how come. There are varied theories related to this skill area. Needs, desires, incentives, drive, cognitive dissonance, and other factors have been purported to motivate-behaviors. Recognizing the client’s readiness for action must be considered. Does the client have the necessary knowledge, skills, or ability to perform the necessary tasks to correct the problem area? Are there (attitudinal) concerns interfering with taking action?

3. Problem-solving skills.

These include differentiating between symptoms and the problem, pinpointing probable causes and triggers for the problem, and then generating a range of possible solutions to the actual problem.

4. Conflict resolution skills.

These involve learning about styles of conflict resolution. It also includes recognizing the signs of it and learning the process of conflict resolution. Helping professionals should have the skills to facilitate communication and problem solving between parties that are having a conflict as well as to help them focus on facts rather than personalities or blaming one another. Skills here are necessary in unblocking some barriers that are inevitable to counseling. Skill-building in this area is important.