WHY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL COUNSELORS?
The elementary school years set the foundation for developing the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary for children to become healthy, competent and confident learners. Elementary school counselors have an impact on these years by implementing a comprehensive school counseling program and collaborating with school staff, parents and the community to create a safe and respectful learning environment. By providing education, prevention, early identification and intervention, elementary school counselors help their students achieve academic success, develop an understanding of career opportunities and develop social/emotional skills in response to issues they face. Elementary school counselors hold a master’s degree and required state certification in school counseling. Maintaining certification includes ongoing professional development to stay current with education reform and challenges facing today’s students. Professional association membership enhances the school counselor’s knowledge and effectiveness.
The elementary years are a time when students begin to develop their academic self-concept and feelings of competence and confidence as learners. They are beginning to develop decision-making, communication and life skills, as well as character values. It is also a time when students develop and acquire attitudes toward school, self, peers, social groups and family.
School counselors must complete a master’s degree, at minimum, in school counseling, psychology, or social work and obtain the relevant state certification, endorsement, or licensure to gain employment. This may involve taking a comprehensive exam and logging hours in a supervised counseling setting. In many cases, counselors will need to complete an internship or practicum, and some states also require previous teaching experience.
School counselors are required to renew their licensure every three to five years. This timeline depends on the requirements of the state in which they are employed. In order to renew licensure, continuing education classes or professional development courses are generally necessary.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a student-to-school-counselor ratio of 250:1, although the average ratio is currently 471:1.WHAT DO THEY DO?
Elementary school counselors are educators uniquely trained in child development, learning strategies, self-management and social skills, who understand and promote success for today’s diverse students. They implement a comprehensive school counseling program to support students through this important developmental period. The program provides education, prevention and intervention activities, which are integrated into all aspects of children’s lives. The program teaches knowledge, attitudes and skills students need to acquire in academic, career and social/emotional development, which serve as the foundation for future success. Elementary school counselors do not work in isolation; rather they are integral to the total educational program. They provide a proactive program that engages students and includes leadership, advocacy and collaboration with school staff, administration and community/family members in the delivery of programs and activities to help students achieve success. Elementary school counselors also collaborate with teachers and parents on early identification and intervention of children’s academic and social/emotional needs, which is essential in removing barriers to learning and developing skills and behaviors critical for academic achievement.
The duties of school counselors may include:
- Providing instruction on psychological and social issues. School counselors might teach social skills classes, provide information to students about bullying, or offer seminars on study skills.
- Vocational guidance. Many school counselors help students prepare for college or select careers.
- Counseling. School counselors often help students mediate conflicts with their peers, teachers, or parents. Many school counselors also provide short term, solution focused counseling services to students during school hours.
- Early intervention. School counselors receive training about learning difficulties and psychological concerns that commonly manifest in children and adolescents. They may also provide referrals, recommendations, and education to parents about mental health concerns.
- Special needs services. Counselors often help special needs students integrate into classrooms and may oversee programs that address requirements for students with special needs or learning difficulties.
Further, counselors often help students:
- Maintain academic standards and set goals for academic success.
- Develop skills to improve organization, study habits, and time management.
- Work through personal problems that may affect academics or relationships.
- Improve social skills.
- Cope with school or community-related violence, accidents, and trauma.
- Identify interests, strengths, and aptitudes through assessment.
School counselors offer individual counseling to help students resolve personal or interpersonal problems. They may also offer small group counseling to help students enhance listening and social skills, learn to empathize with others, and find social support through healthy peer relationships. For students who are otherwise unable to access mental health services, school counselors provide support at no cost. School counselors also provide support to school staff by assisting with classroom management techniques and the development of programs to improve mental health or school safety. When necessary, counselors may also intervene in a disrupted learning environment.
Serious diagnosable mental health conditions affect 21% of U.S. children between the ages of 9 and 17, but only 20% of these children obtain a diagnosis and receive treatment in any given year. While school counselors may suspect the presence of learning difficulties or other conditions such as ADHD, they are not licensed to diagnose or prescribe medication.
When a school counselor suspects the presence of a learning, behavioral, or mental health concern, they will typically provide a referral to a specialist in the community. Learning difficulties can be diagnosed by school or educational psychologists or neuropsychologists, and ADHD is generally diagnosed by psychiatrists, physicians, or clinical psychologists in private practice.
Numerous studies demonstrate the value of school counseling for students in the domains of academic development, college and career readiness and social/ emotional development. Results of research about the effectiveness of school counseling can be found by clicking here.*Charlotte County Public Schools neither endorses or belongs to any of the independent (outside site) links on this page. They are provided as a resource only, and CCPS is not responsible for each site's content.