School counselors support students in many ways. They listen, provide individual and group counseling, advocate for student needs, and help students to set goals and cope with challenges. They also connect students with resources and opportunities. Counselors use a variety of counseling techniques, including those listed below. Strategies may differ depending on the ages and needs of students. Elementary school counselors typically help young children develop social skills and provide additional support to students coping with trauma or mental health issues. Middle school counselors help students with the tumultuous transition to adolescence. High school counselors assist students with college and career planning.
Perhaps one of the most effective interventions available, skilled counselors use group formats to help adolescents cope with many of the issues they face. Group counseling provides students with a safe place to work on the problems they share and receive emotional support from each other and the counselor. The counselor selects students who can benefit from group counseling and helps them to establish goals. The counselor also helps the group to set ground rules that ensure respectful participation and build trust among group members. Counselors plan and facilitate group sessions, and end the group once the members make adequate progress.
Group counseling provides students with a safe place to work on the problems they share and receive emotional support from each other and the counselor
Solution-Focused Brief Counseling
Since school counselors typically serve large caseloads within a limited time, many schools employ SFBC to deliver needed counseling services to students in only a few sessions. Using this technique, the counselor helps students identify and implement positive solutions to their problems. After establishing a rapport, the counselor helps the student create a specific, measurable, positive goal statement that offers a solution to the problem at hand. Together they identify times the student experiences success to build on the strategies the student uses in these instances. The counselor provides the student with opportunities to report and reflect on attempts to carry out the new solution.
With the growth in online distance education and virtual schools, virtual counseling offers new ways to use technology to provide counseling services. Counselors can provide one-on-one counseling sessions to students through video conferencing, for example. Students attending virtual or online schools require the same types of counseling available to students in brick-and-mortar schools. Virtual counseling offers a way for school counselors to provide these services; however, the newness of this technology requires close monitoring to ensure safety and effectiveness.
When counselors act as mediators, they help students express themselves, listen to each other, and develop a workable solution together
Counselors use conflict resolution strategies to help students resolve their interpersonal conflicts and develop social and problem-solving skills. Counselors help students understand how conflict can escalate and how they can de-escalate it. When counselors act as mediators, they help students express themselves, listen to each other, and develop a workable solution together. Peer mediation remains a popular conflict resolution strategy used with older students, where trained students act as mediators. Counselors often direct peer mediation programs and train student mediators.
Counselors provide short-term counseling to students in times of crisis and refer them to outside resources when they need longer-term support. This type of counseling aims to help individual students or groups of students through a traumatic event or crisis, such as a natural disaster or the death of one or more school community members. In times of crisis, counselors lead discussions with students and answer their questions. They may follow up with students needing additional support through individual or group counseling or set up crisis rooms where students can receive extra support.