Every child is unique─from their genetic makeup to individual characteristics and behaviors. However, one thing is true about every child, they all have emotions. Every child tries to express their emotions, which are influenced by factors like family changes and physical conditions like allergies. As they experience these emotions, they spend a lot of their time in school, which means that the school environment plays a huge role in their breakthrough. In this article, we will discuss the role of school counseling in supporting the emotional resilience of their students.
Common socio-emotional challenges
Even though parents and guardians work so hard to give their kids everything they could need, that doesn’t mean they don’t face any socio-emotional challenges. Below are some of the most common challenges that school-going children face.
Negative academic experience
Academic performance can affect a student’s self-worth. Many stakeholders in the education sector tend to associate academic performance with their intelligence. Therefore, when students don’t do well in class, their sense of self-worth might take a hit as they struggle with feeling like a failure. This is particularly true in the traditional education system, where students are ranked against their peers. That could lead to frustration, anger, and even school avoidance.
Not fitting in
Every human being longs for a sense of belonging. Therefore, it can be emotionally frustrating when a child feels like they don’t fit in in their immediate community. It could be in class or within their neighborhood. It is also possible that the child lacks a safe space to express their true self. For instance, a student with learning disabilities might remain quiet in class out of fear of being judged.
Bullying behavior is a serious problem among school-age children and adolescents. It has both short-term and long-term effects on the victim and the perpetrator. The victim might constantly feel insecure and on guard, even when they are not actively being bullied. Emotional implications include feeling unaccepted, isolated, angry, and withdrawn.
Asocial and antisocial behaviors
In response to these emotional challenges, children might lack care or empathy toward those around them. They might even conform to peer pressure as an attempt to seek acceptance, thus possibly developing antisocial behavior. Others might react aggressively, even to authority figures like their teachers.
The role of school counselors
School counselors play an active part in helping children to develop key life skills. Counselors provide support for emotional resilience, healthy relationships, and healthy mental practices. Let’s take a closer look at their participation.
Providing emotional support
School counselors strive to impact student growth in three academic, career, and social/emotional development domains. They are emotional guides for students as they navigate their educational lives. The counselor can initiate various activities to support a child’s emotional intelligence. One of those activities is organizing parent education programs. It could be a daylong event during which parents are taught how to handle issues such as communicating with adolescents and managing stress. The counselor can also initiate anti-bullying programs to ensure no child is afraid of being bullied.
Additionally, a school counselor creates a safe space where students can openly express their feelings and thoughts. Trust and empathy encourage the student to explore and process their emotion, which puts them in a better position to regulate those emotions and thoughts. Talking to a school counselor can lead students toward better emotional awareness.
Besides giving a listening ear, counselors can help students understand various mental health issues they might be going through, such as anxiety and depression. Left unattended, these issues might affect a child’s emotional resilience. Advanced training from schools like St Bonaventure University, graduates are prepared to handle a wide range of issues students face with confidence and the appropriate tools.
Individual and group therapy
School counselors conduct individual and group therapy, both of which are vital in fostering emotional resilience among students. It’s important to understand how each approach contributes to emotional well-being.
During individual therapy, the counselor holds one-on-one sessions with the student. Typically, this creates the perfect environment to address specific emotional challenges the child might face. Therefore, the counselor offers personalized support since students can explore their unique emotional needs, experiences, and goals. The counselor can develop a personalized support plan tailored to the student’s needs. Individual therapy is also a good approach to implore students to understand their emotions better.
They can gradually identify negative patterns, after which they can build healthier coping mechanisms, thus building emotional resilience. The counselor can also use this time to teach the student various skills they can use to build emotional resilience, such as effective communication skills, as well as yoga and mindfulness. Individual therapy is helpful for students who have experienced trauma. The counselor can provide support and coping skills as they process and heal from the trauma. They have the right knowledge and skills to uncover underlying emotional wounds and help students break free from the grip of emotional distress.
In contrast, group therapy is when the counselor leads a session with a group of students who share similar concerns or experiences. It allows students to meet and connect with peers who are walking in their shoes. That way, the students can get a sense of validation. Hearing other people’s experiences also gives them the reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles, cementing their sense of belonging. Consequently, the sense of belonging enhances their emotional resilience.
Group therapy also helps with perspective-taking. A student gets to see issues from different perspectives while learning about different coping strategies from what they observe from their peers. It is also a perfect opportunity for students to build their social skills. They practice skills like active listening, assertiveness, and empathy.
Another benefit of group therapy is that it helps to destigmatize the issues faced by students. Some students might think that their experiences make them abnormal. Once they meet other people with similar struggles, they understand they are perfectly normal, reducing feelings of shame and isolation.
Counselors use education and skill-building strategies to build emotional resilience among students. We have discussed above how counselors teach students skills such as mindfulness and conflict resolution to help them work through their emotions. In addition to teaching these skills, counselors also provide psychoeducation to increase students’ understanding of emotional resilience. They might teach them concepts like the nature of emotions, stress management, and the impact of resilience on overall well-being.
Counselors can also develop and implement resilience-building programs within the school environment. For instance, they can organize workshops and extracurricular activities promoting self-esteem and emotional resilience.
Facilitating collaboration and referrals
School counselors act as the bridge between students and the resources they might need to develop emotional resilience. They do so in many ways, such as working hand in hand with teachers and other school staff members to create a safe environment. For instance, they may inform teachers about the emotional needs of certain students. That way, the teachers can provide the necessary support.
School counselors may participate in meetings that discuss students’ welfare. During these meetings, they share insights that are used to develop comprehensive strategies to promote emotional resilience among students.
Another way that counselors facilitate collaboration is through establishing connections and partnerships with external resources. That goes a long way in expanding the range of support for students. For instance, they might invite guest speakers or organize community programs that create a broader support network.
In some cases, a student might require multiple interventions. The counselor steps in as the coordinator to ensure that every professional involved in a student’s care is aware of each other’s role. That ensures a holistic approach, which is necessary when it comes to building emotional resilience.
Most importantly, the school counselor monitors students’ progress to see how they respond to various interventions. They can use these findings to determine how to best support students and increase the likelihood of the long-term impact of counseling interventions.
Crisis intervention is a short-term management technique aiming to reduce permanent damage to the affected individual. School counselors handle such situations all the time in their line of work. Perhaps a student is wrapping their mind around losing a loved one, or their parents are getting a divorce. The counselor intervenes to help the student process all those feelings and build emotional resilience.
The first thing the counselor does is provide immediate support. They offer a listening ear, which helps to reduce distress and begin the healing process. The counselor also helps students regulate their emotions, which may spiral out of control during a crisis. They foster emotional resilience by promoting healthy coping mechanisms like journaling and meditation.
School counselors are trained to assess the crisis. Programs like an online master’s degree in school counseling offered by St Bonaventure University ensure that counselors learn all the necessary skills to work with the young population. Besides crisis assessment, the program teaches crucial skills like cultural competencies and critical thinking. Choosing an online program provides you with the flexibility to manage your other responsibilities while completing your degree.
In case the crisis involves student safety, such as handling a suicidal student, the counselor intervenes to put safety measures in place. The counselor might also discover that the student needs long-term support beyond the school environment; they play a vital role in making that possible. It is also worth acknowledging the role of school counselors in crisis prevention and preparedness. They provide training for both students and staff to equip them with skills to recognize warning signs and seek help.
Barriers and challenges in school counseling
While school counseling plays a vital role in fostering emotional resilience, counselors face several barriers and challenges in their job. One of the most prevalent challenges is a high student-to-counselor ratio. Most schools have inadequate resources. Therefore, it becomes incredibly challenging for a counselor to provide personalized care to students. That may lead to some students not receiving adequate support for their challenges. Lack of adequate resources also leads to counselors taking up multiple responsibilities in the school. For instance, a counselor might also double as a career counselor and administrator. That limits the amount of time they have to attend to the emotional needs of students. In that case, counselors might be forced to forego individual therapy and resort to group sessions.
Another common challenge is the stigma surrounding mental health care. Some students might hesitate to get help for fear of judgment from their peers. Others might not be aware of the benefits of seeking help from the school counselor.
There is also the issue of confidentiality and privacy concerns. Some students might hold back information from the counselor for fear that it will be used against them by teachers or parents. Therefore, a counselor must work hard to reassure the students that their data will be treated with utmost confidentiality. However, the counselor has to be aware of their legal obligation to the child. For instance, they might be required to report if they think that the child might be in danger. Some parents might also be reluctant to partner with the counselor. That poses a challenge since a child needs support both in school and at home to develop emotional resilience.
Collaboration and communication can also be a problem. That is the case, especially when a student needs multiple interventions. It can be challenging for the counselor to ensure everyone on the team is on the same page, especially since different people might have varying opinions about a single problem.
It is also worth noting that systemic and institutional factors like budget allocations and administrative priorities heavily influence school counseling services. Therefore, counselors have to advocate vehemently to garner the necessary support to overcome these challenges.
Overcoming challenges to school counseling
Emotional resilience is incredibly essential among young adults. It helps them navigate the several transitions that come with that age. Therefore, even though there might be barriers to school counseling, it’s important for stakeholders to work hard to overcome them. Fortunately, several strategies come in handy.
The most important one is advocating for resources. They can advocate for additional staffing and funding for counseling materials and programs. They can also lobby for more resources by building strong relationships with communities, parents, and administrators.
Another important strategy for overcoming barriers to school counseling is increasing awareness of the benefits of counseling among students and parents. They can employ techniques such as organizing awareness campaigns and workshops. These open discussions also go a long way in reducing the stigma surrounding seeking mental healthcare.
It is also important for school counselors to continuously work on their cultural competency. This is a lifelong process during which a counselor learns how to respond respectfully to individuals of all cultures. It helps them to view students through a cultural competency lens, which is the foundation of a lasting relationship. One has to demonstrate consciousness of the dynamics of the school setting. One can sharpen their cultural competence by self-assessing implicit bias, cultivating inclusivity, and fostering a growth mindset.
Reasons to become a school counselor
School counselors help students become the best versions of themselves. It can be a rewarding career since it allows someone to impact the next generation. If you are considering becoming a school counselor, below are some reasons why that might be a perfect idea.
More vacation time
As a school counselor, you work with school schedules. That means you get time off for summer, spring, and winter breaks. That gives you a chance to strike a work-life balance since you will have more time to spend with your loved ones and do the things you love.
Are you someone who enjoys social interaction? If yes, being a school counselor would be right for you. To accomplish your duties, the job requires you to interact with students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders.
A shot at self-discovery
You can learn more about yourself even as you help students achieve emotional resilience. For instance, you can watch students transform from the point of negative emotions into love and acceptance. You can then draw from these experiences to become a better person yourself.
A flexible and autonomous schedule
Although you will have a lot of work to do as a school counselor, you will enjoy autonomy. Most schools allow you to structure your day as you would like and meet students when you want.
There is a high demand for school counselors since most parents nowadays prefer taking their kids to schools with counselors. Therefore, if you demonstrate competency in what you do, you will become an indispensable staff member.
Switching to school counseling
Are you in another field and are compelled to make a switch to school counseling? As you have seen, there are so many benefits in that career. Luckily, transitioning is incredibly easy, especially in the digital age. You can enroll in an online master’s degree in school counseling even as you continue with your current job.