Benefits of a Proactive School Counseling Department
February 1st, 2023
School counselors provide a critical support system for students and are an integral part of the overall student experience. Many school counseling departments have traditionally operated in a reactive manner which, as the name suggests, focuses on responding to issues as they arise, usually with a one-size-fits-all approach. Research has shown that reactive strategies tend to provide only surface-level support and can result in an overall negative educational experience for impacted students (Doman, 2019). Proactive counseling strategies, on the other hand, aim to be just as dynamic as the students they support. In addition to creating long-term, individualized solutions for students, proactive practices are driven by the goal of anticipating student needs, addressing problems before they arise, and fostering ongoing improvement in line with the long-term vision of the school. A proactive approach encourages counselors to strive for optimal school environments that are supportive and engaging for all students (Doman, 2019).
Sevier (n.d.) highlights the impact of proactive counseling programs on both student and school success, with data demonstrating that these programs lead to improved test results, graduation rates, attendance, and school environments.
The best practices below are an excellent starting point when it comes to transitioning your school counseling department to a more proactive model.
Focus on the “Whole” Student
While reactive counseling programs tend to deliver standardized solutions, proactive programs take a more comprehensive approach. This ensures that the solutions provided are tailored to the unique strengths and challenges of the students needing support. Doman (2019) states that counselors should look at student health, social function, speech, academic development, sleep quality, self-esteem, family changes, both positive and negative behaviors, and other factors in order to get to the root cause of student-related issues. By taking all facets of a student’s life into account, professionals can better support student growth and development within the school environment.
Create Proactive Initiatives
A key piece of establishing proactive counseling programs is being proactive about implementing student-focused initiatives into the school curriculum. Counseling in Schools provides several examples of programs that are focused on helping students build lifelong skills and attitudes, such as participating in respectful interactions and being engaged in the learning process. For example, a junior high school in Brooklyn has explored how their robotics program helps students build self-esteem, positive relationships with peers, new knowledge, and collaboration skills while encouraging creativity and healthy risk-taking behaviors (Counseling in Schools, n.d.).
Address Multiple Points of the Student Experience
Traditionally, many school counseling programs have focused on student performance, behavior, and college and career preparation. Sevier (n.d.) argues the importance of implementing programs and strategies that provide equal support to all students, regardless of academic ability, behaviors, or future goals. For instance, schools can implement programs and systems related to suicide prevention, conflict resolution, bullying prevention, studying, test preparation and test score interpretation, career exploration, college planning, job seeking, and vocational training. These programs can help students gain a deeper understanding of themselves, including their strengths, weaknesses, passions, and goals.
It’s also important to provide support to students during all transition periods. Rather than just focusing on school-to-school or school-to-career transitions, students should also be supported during more minor shifts, such as transitioning between grades.
Keep Expectations Manageable
In an ideal world, all school counseling programs would be proactive and provide tailored support to all students, not just those who fit the mold. In reality, the workloads and expectations placed on school counselors are often too large for individualized student support to be a reality. While the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends that schools assign no more than 250 students per counselor, caseloads are often much larger.
Additionally, administrative tasks can get in the way of student support activities. To remedy this, school leadership could consider hiring administrators to take care of student schedule changes and other administrative responsibilities (O’Connor, 2018).
When it comes to improving the impact of your school counseling department, a proactive approach should be at the forefront of your strategy. By supporting students in reaching their full potential, school counselors can foster more passion, engagement, and student success within the learning environment. The era of inflexible, surface-level counseling is no more. As with all people, students are nuanced, and school counseling programs must reflect this.
Use SuperEval to help set and achieve goals for your school counseling department.
If making your school counseling program more proactive or starting new student-driven initiatives is part of your plan for your district, SuperEval can help. Schedule a 15-minute call today and see how SuperEval can benefit your leadership team.
ASCA. (2019). School Counselors Matter. The Education Trust, Reach Higher, and American
School Counselor Association (ASCA). PDF. https://www.schoolcounselor.org/getmedia/b079d17d-6265-4166-a120-3b1f56077649/School-Counselors-Matter.pdf
Counseling in Schools. (n.d.-a). Success Stories: Of Robotics and Self-Confidence. Counseling
in Schools: Awakening Possibilities. https://www.counselinginschools.org/impact/success-stories/of-robots-and-self-confidence/
Doman, B. (2019). Developmental/Therapeutic Intervention: Proactive or Reactive? The
National Association for Child Development (NACD), 32(5). https://www.nacd.org/developmental-therapeutic-intervention-proactive-or-reactive
O’Connor, P.J. (2018). How school counselors make a world of difference. Kappan.
Sevier, S. (n.d.). Using Your School Counselor to Achieve the Most Impact and Best Results for
Your Students, Staff and Community. Missouri School Counselor Association. https://www.masaonline.org/vimages/shared/vnews/stories/58124c3edbf60/COA%20USING%20YOUR%20SCHOOL%20COUNSELOR%20TO%20ACHIEVE%20THE%20MOST%20IMPACT%20AND%20BEST%20RESULTS%20FOR%20YOUR%20STUDENTS,%20STAFF%20AND%20COMMUNITY%20.pdf