This will be a short and to the point blog. I have been recently asked by my schools to work with students outside during lunch hours as a way of interacting with those students who may not be candidates for my services, but could still use a positive role model in an unstructured environment. I was apprehensive of this at first as I felt that my time would be better applied doing group work with students. Two days outside and I already find myself reaping the benefits of the all-student interactions. I do miss eating and chatting with my colleagues but I have students coming up to me to chat, walk around, hang out and ask for advice. What a great unobtrusive and informal way of getting work done. I was stuck with this idea that we work in our offices, one on one or small groups, doing lesson plans and talking to teachers about ways to help children. All that is great and I am very comfortable with that, but perhaps it is time for me to see and try other ways to counsel students.
I admit that change is not an easy thing for me and I do tend to get anxious when expectations of me change. However, change can be a very good thing and in this case it has given me the opportunity to look at my job in a different way. School counsellors are moving away from the ‘office’ and into the classrooms and playgrounds. This is a good thing and I plan to do my best to embrace it. I know there will be times when I will want to stay inside on the cold winter days, huddled in the staff room with my fellow teachers. When these thoughts creep up I will have to remember that the benefits of working with students in their own space while at the same time getting fresh air and shaking out my own cobwebs is well worth the 30 minute change in my schedule. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
In school counselling we often work with children who need support due to issues in school or at home. These issues run the spectrum just as any other group would. The one major difficulty I have in working with elementary children is the need for parental consent. I do understand why we need consent from parents as not all children are developmentally prepared to understand my role as a guidance counsellor and how we can help. In those cases it is important for a parent to be able to say “Yes, I feel my child needs help in their social/ emotional development and Yes I think the guidance counsellor can help”. For those reasons parental consent is vital. However, I worry about the group of young children who deal with serious issues at home and parents/guardians are not willing to allow their child the support they need through counselling. Parental arguments, alcoholism, neglect, divorce and separation and unstable home lives can have major impacts on a child.
But what do we do when parents will not give consent, or asking parents for consent may cause even more harm? I also must have consent from both parents if the situation involves separation/divorce and there is shared custody. In many cases one or both will deny consent. Where I work, any child under the age of 12 must have parental consent for counselling after the initial session. Many of the students who are in the most desperate need are denied services due to the lack of parental consent. What do we do in these situations? How do we go about providing a service that is being turned down by parents, even when we know the service is necessary?
In the past I have used my judgement with older students whom I feel need my help and have the ability to recognize they need help. However, I only see them for short periods of time and more than likely on a quick ‘one time only’ situation. I always let staff know if they are worried about someone to let me know and I will see them once without consent and then determine what the next step will be after the initial contact. At this point I have been using my judgement if I believe the student is capable of making that decision, but children between the ages of 4 and 10 really are not ready for that. Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I have very recently began a new position as a guidance counsellor in three schools, all of which have never had a guidance counsellor before. Although all schools are extremely grateful to have me, there are still some challenges surrounding the creation of a brand new position. Where are they going to locate me, will there be a private space, private phone line, filing cabinet to store confidential files, a space that is suitable for counselling? How will staff, parents and students react to this new role? Some of this is out of my control and I must live with that. However, there is still a lot I can do to make this an easier transition for everyone.
At this point in the game I am simply trying to allow students and staff to see me in the school. I am walking around before school, talking to students, going into the staff room to meet teachers. Overall, I want them to know that I am here. Now is not the time to come into their classrooms and start pulling out students. They have only been back to class for two days and I am unfamiliar to everyone. I feel that staff must first get to know me and what it is I do, before they will be willing to send their students to see me. I think that is reasonable. I feel it will be a while before they are comfortable enough to send students my way, and that is OK. Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Change is inescapable in life. It follows us wherever we go, and at each stage of our lives. Some of us are better suited to manage change than others, and some even thrive in times of transition. But for others, change can be a source of anxiety, stress, and discomfort. Sometimes we see change coming, and can brace ourselves for the fall out, or prepare ourselves so things can transition more smoothly. Other times it is unexpected or thrust upon us with little to no warning, and can leave us completely lost and disoriented.
Students, no matter their level of study – whether they be undergraduates or post-docs – are under a great deal of stress and pressure. How can I as a career counsellor provide support and strategies to these students to help them manage the multitude of changes that will be thrown at them throughout their academic lives and beyond?
With the academic labour market such that it is right now, I am seeing an influx of clients who are transitioning out of careers quite unexpectedly. Many of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows that arrive in my office, started out on their academic path with a certain goal in mind. They were going to be professors. They would contribute to an existing body of research and literature on their topic of specialization, and they would mentor, coach and teach junior academics to follow in their footsteps. The Canadian academic labour market has become increasingly saturated with PhD qualified academics, but vacancies for tenure track positions are becoming scarce. There are a slew of reasons as to why this is happening, and sometimes I will share these with the student, but that’s not really of importance at this stage. Providing an explanation as to why the labour market is how it is doesn’t do much to ameliorate the situation for the individual faced with abruptly changing the course of their career and life trajectory. Instead, I focus my energy on the individual in front of me, and the situation they are experiencing. How can I support this individual to cope with this transition, and develop skills that will hopefully allow them to navigate future transitions? Often I incorporate into my counselling practice the 4 S’s of Transition Theory as discussed by Goodman, Schlossberg and Anderson from their work titled “Counseling Adults in Transition (2006). I use this model to help guide the questions I ask and the direction that our conversation takes. Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
While many students would hate to admit it, their parents often play a key role in their post-secondary decision-making. They often finance the education, may have expectations based on their own experiences, or simply be there to support their child during a stressful decision-making process. After all, choosing a university is often the first major decision which has a long term impact on her or his life’s journey. When I counsel students making their decisions, I try to ensure that the parents are included in the process in a supportive role. In order to do so, I spend a great deal of time dispelling myths, helping them to understand current post-secondary realities and educating them about where they might find reliable information regarding their child’s choices. I do find much of the conversation is reminding parents that all they read or hear in the media is not factual nor reliable. I recently heard a TV financial celebrity talking on a highly respected talk show state a number of “facts” about university admissions which were so far off the mark, I cringed. Part of the problem is that much of the other advice he gave was valid. How does a parent discover what is valid and what is not? Another pet peeve of mine is the annual university rankings which are published by popular media magazines and newspapers. These are often based on criteria which have no influence of the individual student’s experience. How does one combat this? I have found that my most successful strategy is to educate the parents about resources which do provide reliable and valid information which is useful in supporting their child’s decision. Some like the University Canada (www.universitystudy.ca), the Common University Data from the Council of Ontario Universities (http://cou.on.ca/numbers/cudo) and eInfo (http://electronicinfo.ca) websites I have mentioned in earlier blogs. I recently read an article reviewing Major Maps, a new resource from Queen’s University Career Services (careers.queensu.ca/students/wondering-about-career-options/major-maps-2015). This is a truly valuable resource helping students (and especially parents) to understand the possible directions a student might take when completing a degree which is not specifically career focused. The maps offer more than a simple list of potential career paths, they also offer suggestions about how a student might get involved beyond the classroom to better prepare for the job market upon graduation. Contrary to the media, there continue to be remarkable opportunities for graduates in all university disciplines. Parents, who are worried about the employment opportunities upon graduation, need to see this type of resource so they can support the son or daughter who has a fascination in an area where career opportunities are not quite as obvious.
For a list of many of the web resources I like to use, visit my website at www.PeirceEducational.com/Links.html. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I have been a counsellor in elementary, middle and high school for 15 years now. Over those years I have dealt with a lot of students who truly needed my help. They come in with their hearts on their sleeves looking for ways to heal a wound that most people do not even see. I am glad to help these students not because it is my job but because it is what I love to do. It feels good to know that I have helped another person who may have otherwise suffered the pain of family chaos, abuse, neglect, anxiety, depression, etc.
Some students will see me for a few days until the problem lessens (issue with friends, anxiety over a test) and others will see me for longer periods of time (major family issues, personal difficulties). Sometimes you can get an idea of how often or how long you will see a student based on the issue and how they are able to cope. Some students are very resilient and learn how to pick up the pieces and move on quickly. Others need more time to work through issues, or perhaps they have no other means of support and I become the only person who they are comfortable talking to. I am here for all of my students, whether the problem is big or small. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
June 2, 2015
Self-care has become a hot topic within the realm of counselling, and rightfully so. As counsellors we are witness to an incredible amount of pain, loss, trauma, and a myriad of other emotions. In order to forge a positive therapeutic alliance with our clients it is important that we as counsellors are in a place of wellness so that we can bring our own strength into the counselling relationship to assist our clients by asking those hard questions, and listening without judgement. In my own experience I find that I often don’t know that I need to indulge in self-care until I finally do it. Once immersed in a self-care activity it becomes strikingly apparent that, boy, did I need it! Last week I had the privilege of spending three and a half days at the CCPA National Annual Conference in Niagara Falls. It might sound odd to equate attending a busy, mentally taxing conference with self-care, but I can assure you that is exactly what it was. This is an interesting point to consider – self-care needs to be tailored to the individual. Not everyone will find the same activities rejuvenating or restful.
Currently I am working as a Career Counsellor in an Ontario university. Although I have seen some attitude change, I believe that there is a belief that career counselling is different from personal counselling. I’ve heard colleagues in non-counselling roles indicate that career counselling was the “light” side of counselling. I suppose in some instances this may be true. However, as a career counsellor I can attest to the fact that the clients that join me in my office are often experiencing emotions linked to loss, grief, disappointment, confusion, frustration and shame. Over the past several months I have seen students – both at the undergraduate and graduate level – arriving in my office and sharing stories of financial crises, marital separation, health concerns, stress and anxiety, familial pressure to succeed, and suicidal ideation. The number of instances where I have asked the student sitting in front of me “are you planning on harming yourself?” is now so high I’ve lost track. The idea that career counselling is “light” counselling does not align with the experience I have had throughout my career.
Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I recently attended the Ontario Universities “Dialogue” conference at McMaster University and heard many of the same discussions raised…. mark inflation, credit factories, use of additional information forms… and then a counsellor asked a question I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was a relevant question but it took me back a little. “What is the retention rate of 1st year students going into 2nd year?” Many of the universities couldn’t answer off hand but for those interested, the information is readily available on the Council of Ontario Universities under the Common University Data page: http://www.cou.on.ca/facts-figures/cudo. There are numerous excellent sources of information about our post-secondary institutions which we need to encourage students and parents to use in their research. The question also reminded me of how often I run into parents and students who are asking the question “Who has the best reputation for….?”
Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Have you ever considered working as an elementary school counsellor but were not sure how to implement your program? How do I connect to 5 to 11 year old? How do I go about making the biggest impact I can? Here are 5 things to think about if you want to work with younger children in the school setting.
Kids do not always know or understand why they need to see you. Many students get referred to the counsellor by family and/or staff members. Perhaps it is for bullying, friendship issues, disruptive behaviors, or personal issues at home. Whatever the case, not all students will understand and so it becomes your job to work on the specifics, and do not assume anything.
Class lessons work very well for larger school issues. Bullying, friendship, respect, listening are all areas in which students can use a little extra support. Rather than pointing out the few in the class that need attention in this area, it works effectively to implement classroom lessons that all students can participate in. Classmates get to see other children’s points of view and help each other when they see issues arising. Also, class lessons can build into bigger class rules and incentive programs that can be used for everyone. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
A number of years ago I conducted a student health and lifestyle survey in my school to consider the effectiveness of our student support resources. What we discovered won’t surprise many but it was still an eye opener. In spite of having access to trained counsellors, health professionals and supportive teachers, our students turned to their peers first when they faced the struggles of adolescence. Thus began my journey in the world of peer support programs. Some may call them peer counsellors, peer mentors or peer advocates but by any name, they added a tremendous resource to our school’s student support structure. They now serve as primary referral agents for our student services. Without trying to be dramatic, I can honestly say they have saved lives.
There are several core components to having a successful peer program in a school setting. The adult facilitators in a school setting need training in order to support an effective training program for students. The administration, faculty and staff at a school need to be educated about the role these students will play. Students are not primary caregivers but receive training to support their peers as they struggle with adolescent issues while understanding when a peer might need a greater level of support. At this stage, they refer on to an appropriate resource.
Student training typically revolves around several fundamental skills, listening being the key focus, followed by questioning, decision-making and values. In my school, students applied for the role and are trained year long. Other than our start-up year, returning peer counsellors select the next group to be trained based on an application, essay and interview. The outcome of the selection process ensures that successful applicants broadly represent the diversity of the school population. For the training, other than the first and last sessions, returning peer counsellors run the sessions with the adult facilitators serving in a supportive role. Students study the importance and meaning of confidentiality and develop a code of ethics for the group. During my more than 20 years in peer programs, I have found the students to take this responsibility extremely seriously and have gone to great lengths to maintain this as the trust other students put on them is dependent on their performance.
There is a great deal of research showing the effectiveness of peer networks in schools and other communities. The Peer Resources Network (www.peer.ca) has been an invaluable tool for me over the years providing training, manuals, research findings, and professional development opportunities for peer trainers. In an age where bullying, mental health issues and social media have all made supporting students more and more complicated, students helping students can be a very effective strategy for any counselling department to consider. The system established in my school has now run for more than 20 years and continues to be a critical part of our student support initiatives. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA