My Story: The Unspoken Divide

ChurchNow that I have been able to identify the “Unspoken Divide”,  I want to share with you what side I identify with and practiced as a school counselor.

I really didn’t realize that I had identified with a side until I found this divide in my empathy research on school counselors.  I was able to reflect on my deep-rooted beliefs and found that I had identified with the College/Career Model.

I see it now.

Now looking back so did the department chair that I first worked with as a high school counselor. The clues were that she never ran a small group.  She was passionate in the academic and college area.  She put all of her energy into the college/career model.

I see it now.

We had four school counselors in our department.  Small groups were optional so some counselors ran groups and some did not.

I see it now.

The other high school believed in the mental health model.  The clues were that they ran a lot of small groups and put their energy into the mental health model.  They questioned being able to show data through their counseling, how could you measure that?

I see it now.

Two of the four middle schools in our district were not allowed to take teacher time for mental health lessons. They were not allowed to pull students from class for group, either.  The school culture strongly believed that school counseling should be done around class time.  They were given time for certain presentations but not in the mental health model.

 I see it now.

Now, I see that I didn’t want to take teacher time away either.  As a former teacher, I had listened to the teachers frustrations with getting all of what was expected of them into the curriculum.  I wanted the teachers to respect us instead of despise us for taking away their precious class time.  We shifted to large group instruction during a seminar period.  Taking up their class time caused dissonance in me.

I see it now.

I also didn’t want to pull students from a class period to run a group.  I felt like they would get behind in their class work and some were already struggling.  I felt like this was not the time to work on mental health issues. I do believe that social/emotional lessons can be integrated into the school.  I ran my groups during the seminar period.  Taking them out of class caused dissonance in me.

I see it now.

I only ran at-risk groups.  One was an at-risk 9th grade group and the other an at-risk 8th grade mentor group.  I was passionate about helping my at-risk students.  I put a lot of my time into this population. I never ran a mental health group.  I did co-lead a divorce group in my counseling internship.  I had found dissonance in doing this group.

I see it now.

Admitting to identifying with the college/career model when I was trained in the mental health model causes dissonance.  It feels like when you are raised going to church every Sunday and then you stop going.  You may have kept some of the values but you stopped the main event.

I see it now.

Finally, I found the most dissonance when I had a situation happen with my own son.  We had a teacher meeting and she had recommended for our son to see the social worker for anxiety. (we do not have elementary school counselors)  I felt so conflicted.  I knew as a school counselor that if my son needed mental health help then I wanted him to have it.  But I also knew that if the social worker saw him that it is placed on his record and he could have a stigma placed on him throughout the rest of his school career.  I also felt that I wouldn’t want my son out of class for sessions and would rather pay for private practice. Deep down I knew he didn’t need it and it was situational but I had felt so conflicted by my training and what I believed.

I see it now.

I value education so highly that when I am asked to take away class time from a student, it causes dissonance.  To alleviate this I found ways to align my beliefs.  I think that if I would have been placed into a school under the mental health model I would have clashed.  I didn’t realize that my first school counseling position was aligned with the department chair and school culture’s college/career model.  I felt like my mental health training was crucial for all of the crisis situations and at-risk students I encountered. I did not feel prepared with college advising or a comprehensive counseling program.  I sought out this training on my own.

I feel by finding this divide in ourselves and others, we can come to understand each other.  When we don’t understand we become frustrated and angry.  Only by looking at ourselves and then looking at others can we start to make gains in our profession.

politicalIt almost feels like the Republican vs. Democratic clash.  I wonder if one model identifies more with one of the political values of the two parties?  Say that a school has predominantly Republicans, would these same values perpetuate the reason for wanting one model over the other?

Do you identify with one model more than the other?  Do you see other counselors identifying with one model? By revealing these deep-rooted beliefs can it help the profession?

Christina

Photos courtesy of Microsoft Clipart.

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