What to Expect From A High School Counsellor? What Is The Difference Between A School Counsellor and A Guidance Counsellor?

Posted by: Barbara Schneebeli on January 26, 2012 10:38 am

It is the end of January and the time to meet with our new entering grade 8 students. Next week, my colleagues and I will go to elementary schools to start program planning. Program planning is the process where we explain to elementary school children what to expect when entering high school, we talk about various classes, extra curricular activities, life in high school in general etc.… 

When I ask students what a high school teacher does the typical answer is, “they teach their subject of choice”. It’s guaranteed I’ll hear a few “ duh ” and “ OMG, that was a weird question!” here and there in the process. But when I ask what a high school counsellor does there is usually a pause, followed by a timid uncertain answer, “a high school counsellor helps us out in choosing our courses?” Yes, I’ll guide you in choosing your courses, although in BC grade 8 options are not very complicated. Your only choice is to make sure you register in an elective that you like and not just because your friend is going into it. Anything else you think I might do besides guiding you in choosing your courses? Anyone…??? 

Am I surprised? No. Why would our new grade 8 know when most adults are not even aware of what school counsellors do? I can’t tell you enough how many people have approached me and asked, “ So, what does a school counsellor do exactly? Did they not have a good experience with their school counsellor or maybe they never needed to access one? Perhaps they just simply do not realize how much our profession has changed.

I believe the school counselling profession has transformed itself dramatically over the last twenty years. More and more school districts are now requesting trained and qualified counsellors. Our work is no longer exclusively about guiding students entering post secondary institutions. Although it is still relevant to what we do, it has become a minimal aspect of our caseload. I always get annoyed when I am being referred to as a guidance counsellor (no offense intended). I prefer the term of ”school counsellor”, as it is inclusive and it encompasses so much more.  

As a school counsellor, my role is to promote emotional, social, and personal development in students. I help students to overcome any struggles or difficulties they might have. I collaborate with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community agencies. The BC Ministry of Education describes some of our many functions as including “counselling students, their families and the community to foster growth in the students’ self esteem, individual responsibility, and in skills such as decision making”.

I work with students with self-harming behaviours, eating disorders, behavioural disorders, etc. The list is rather exhaustive so I‘ll stop here, but you get the idea. 

I am a” school counsellor” not a “guidance counsellor”. With my skill set, I can help as much as I can yet I cannot replace parenting or the role of a community in a student’s life. I am also no savior. I will be, however, your child’s advocate for the next five years.

British Columbia Ministry of Education. (march 2011). Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines. In Counselling in Schools. Retrieved January 22, 2012, from www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/special_ed_policy_manual.pdf#page=31




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

2 comments on “What to Expect From A High School Counsellor? What Is The Difference Between A School Counsellor and A Guidance Counsellor?”

  1. I wanted to do the same but after some time chasing this dream, I changed course ( pun intended ) but the info here is useful, thanks for that

  2. Nice write-up. The role of a School Counsellor is gaining relevance, especially in today’s world — moral decadence, unemployment, skills gap, etc.

    Would love to know a little more about getting started as a School Counsellor because I intend to do this on a volunteer basis, aside my job of career information research and publishing of career journals.

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