School Counselor:  If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Jump inI found through my research that part of the problem of not implementing the ASCA National Model was found in the strong beliefs of the school culture.  Two different pulls from the college/career model to the mental health model are evident. Both the school counselor and the school culture have deep-rooted beliefs in either model.  If these belief systems clash the school counselor is found to be ineffective.  Also, if the school culture doesn’t see the benefits of the school counseling program, the school counselor is not utilized properly in their profession.

I wrote a blog explaining this dissonance, School Counselors: The Unspoken Divide.

There is so much more to this topic that needs to be explored. I found an article that addressed this exact issue of the “Unspoken Divide”.  Susan C. Whiston (2002) wrote about this phenomenon and called it, “Torn Between Two Lovers”.  In Response to the past, present, and future of school counseling: raising some issue,  Whiston indicated,

“This leads to a critical question: Why is defining a school counselor’s role so difficult? It may be that school counselors continue to be torn between two or more “lovers” (e.g., education versus guidance, guidance versus counseling, vocational health versus mental health). Continuing with the lovers metaphor, role definition would probably be simpler if the field of school counseling would decide to be monogamous and only focus on one area. Focusing on one area, however, requires the abandonment of other areas where students truly need assistance. None of the authors in the previous issue provided a simple solution to the problems of multiple expectations and role definition, but an easy solution is probably not realistic until the profession is willing to make some difficult decisions.”

I am finding these same issues and looking for ways to solve them. One idea I have is, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

My idea is to have the school counselor specialize in one area and do it well.  If your school culture calls for college/career, then become the best college/career counselor.  Put all of your training into this specialization and become the expert.  Your action plans and results reports would be based on your college/ career program.  Program goals and calendar would reflect the college/career program.

If your school culture has a lot of at-risk students and the school culture calls for the mental health model, then put all of your focus into helping the needs of the school.

Then as you gain the trust of your principal, parents, students, school board, and community….start to add, based on your needs assessments.

I believe this may work for school counselors that have 400 to 1000 students on their caseload too.  Look at what your school culture wants from you and specialize in that area.  Then as you gain trust and more school counselors you can add to your program.

I would like to develop a school culture needs assessment to help identify these deep-rooted beliefs.  Then I would like to create a specialization model for each area and show how to adapt it to the ASCA National Model.

I hope that by helping the school counselor to do one area well, that they will be effective in their role.  Slowly, trust may be gained and hopefully a shift in the school culture could be attained.

What do you think?  Could this work? Should the school counselor divide?



2 thoughts on “School Counselor:  If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

  1. I love the idea of building a school culture and/or climate related survey. I think building a survey for students and staff, separately would be important. Identifying questions and concerns from staff and students, being able to disaggregate this data to identify similarities and dissimilarities and addressing them accordingly.

    Great ideas, can’t wait to see the further investigation…


    • Thanks Chris! I found that businesses have already discovered this phenomenon and have called it Cultural Fit. They have developed a survey for new employees. I also saw that ASCA released a new book, Making Diversity Work: Creating Culturally Competent Programs.

      I will need to see if they have any assessments or research on this issue.

      I really appreciate your feedback and ideas! I think giving an assessment to the students and staff is important. Do you feel parents should also take the survey? They seem to reflect the community which would also have strong beliefs on how to direct the program. I know that by running a program you decide the direction but I think it’s important to get input from all areas.

      I will be ordering the new ASCA book to get more clues!


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