My impression of school counselling has certainly evolved. It did not have a great first impression. For the first half of my career I worked in a rural K to 12 school. School counsellors were mythical creatures similar to teacher librarians and lab technicians. I saw « school counselling » as something that was done by the vice-principal in addition to his other tasks. He « counselled » the students on which courses to put in their schedules in order to graduate. Meeting the entrance requirements of a post-secondary program was a wonderful bonus.
My understanding grew when I became the vice-principal. I found a copy of the Alberta Education publication of « Building a Comprehensive School Guidance and Counselling Program » released in 1995. On page 35, it lists the three key issues facing school counsellors: promoting academic growth skills, encouraging positive student transitions, and developing positive interpersonal relationships. As a new school administrator, I tried to help students plan their academic course loads. I worked to help students develop better interpersonal skills when they were sent to me for disciplinary actions.
A side effect of disciplining students that I began to realize is that every one of them had a back-story. I began to hear the terms such as « anxiety, » « depression, » « anger issues » and « stress. » While I was initially overwhelmed, I was intrigued about this vast field of counselling. I realized I was allowed into a privileged place to help guide these students to find their strengths. At that point came the wonderful opportunity I still get to work in today. I became the principal at Vermilion Outreach School. Outreach schools are alternative schools set up to « meet the needs of students who either cannot or will not pursue their education in traditional high schools » (from the Outreach Program Handbook, 2009, Alberta Education, pg. 1). Many people describe it as a school for « those » kids with addictions, criminal records or violent pasts.
Certainly, every school has a tremendous variety of individuals each needing different types and amounts of support. Working in an alternative school setting has provided a wonderful place to learn more about mental health and supporting youth. I hope to explore various aspects of school counselling and the field itself from this viewpoint. There is a strong need to advocate for trained school counsellors. Hopefully, I can hear from others about their experiences.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA