Qualities of a Good School Counselor
It takes a special person with the right characteristics to be a successful school counselor. This is a job that requires long hours spent with students, parents, and school staff, which means you need a set of certain school counseling skills. School counselors are expected to help students work through academic, health, social, personal, and family problems The school counselor listens to people, documents their findings, and helps students process their problems, providing referrals to other resources as needed. They are mediators, negotiators, and advocates for students, and they design and implement programs to help everyone thrive in the school setting while preparing them for the next stages in their lives. We have compiled a list of characteristics of a school counselor and school counselor skills below.
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School Counselor Skills: Empathy
Communicating with children and teens is most effective when the school counselor inspires trust, which is why empathy is one of the most important qualities of a school counselor. Being a good listener is one attribute, but it won’t be enough without sincerity, patience, and a sense of humor, especially when talking with young students. Children who are affected by trauma, regardless of how small the incident may seem, are more likely to confide in adults who make an effort to be relatable without minimizing their experience and opinions.
School Counselor Skills: Good Listener
School counselors spend a lot of time interacting with students individually or as part of a group. The guidance counselor will be under pressure to do so much in a limited time, and it may be tempting to take shortcuts to get everything done. Counselors, who are trained in the art of listening, should be able to guide the conversation while being supportive of the students’ feelings and opinions. Understanding body language, contextual clues, euphemisms, and things left unsaid takes training, empathy, and sincerity on the part of school counselors.
School Counselor Skills: Strong Assessment Skills
Documentation is a key requirement in most aspects of the counselor-student interaction, but it is not a substitute for assessment of verbal and nonverbal indications of the students’ issues, which is why strong assessment skills are featured on our list of qualities of a school counselor. School counselors should be able to read situations, understand context, connect related facts, and draw preliminary conclusions to move students to the next steps in counseling or to discover the next plan of action to resolve their issues. The school counselor must have keen observation skills and the ability to guide and support students as they articulate their issues.
School Counselor Skills: Authoritative as Needed
Strong leadership skills are crucial to succeeding as a school counselor. The counselor must develop the ability to take control of situations that may be emotional and even traumatic at times. School counselors are expected to take the lead in conferences with students and their parents, guiding the interaction to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved. They have to be firm and assertive yet compassionate, even under the most stressful conditions.
School Counselor Skills: Organization
According to the American School Counselor Association, the functions of a guidance counselor within the school system cover a broad range of services, from behavior assessment to conflict resolution and from program design to test administration. In many cases, the school counselor works with minimum supervision or assistance in handling all of these functions. The ability to multitask is a key requirement of the job and one of the most valuable characteristics of a school counselor. Being organized is necessary to keep up with the rigorous pace of a job with so many responsibilities. It may not be entirely possible to plan the day, as the school counselor’s services are expected to be available on demand as needed.
What if one of these characteristics of a school counselor doesn’t sound like me?
If one or more of the above characteristics doesn’t sound like it describes you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be a school counselor. It’s possible to work on each of these things and improve your skills in that area. Of course, if any of these sound extremely unpleasant to you – for example, if listening to people talk about their problems makes you feel annoyed, sad, or otherwise unhappy every time it happens to you – it might be a good idea to reconsider a career as a school counselor. Also, be sure that you enjoy spending time with children and adolescents, as you will need to spend a lot of time with them as a school counselor.
If any items on this list sound like areas you need to work on, here are some ways to do that.
Ways To Improve
If empathy is difficult for you to express when around other people, you may simply be shy. Being shy is okay, but it is a difficulty you will need to overcome if you plan to be a school counselor. Keep in mind that the kids that you interact with are coming to you for help. It is not about you or your shyness, it is about their needs and how you can help them. If your shyness sometimes stops you from expressing that you care about others, work on thinking more of what they need than of how you feel about talking to them. Of course, if you find hearing about others’ lives or problems to be irritating and unpleasant, it may be time to reconsider your career choice. However, problems with communicating empathy can be overcome with practice.
It can be hard to be a good listener. Being a good listener means more than just being able to be quiet long enough to let other people get a word in, although that is certainly an important part of it. It means being able to reflect back what people are saying in your own words to let them know you’ve understood. It also means understanding what people are not saying in order to understand what they really mean. This can be a difficult skill to master. One thing to work on is making your body language reflect interest. If you appear disinterested in what someone is saying, they will assume you are, in fact, not interested. Another thing to work on is resisting the urge to interrupt people. No matter how good a point you were going to make, it is important to hear what the person was going to say. Of course, if these things sound impossibly difficult, it might be a good idea to think of going into another career. Still, being a good listener is a skill that can be developed.
Strong Assessment Skills
Assessment skills may be one of the hardest to acquire on your own, especially assessment skills that relate to specific situations. While being a good listener and reading between the lines are important, you will also need to know what to look for specifically. When a child or teenager describes their situation, you will need to draw on your education as well as your intuition to decide what should be done in the situation. If you don’t already have strong assessment skills or the knowledge to face a situation and know what should be said or done, these may be skills that can be learned over the course of a four-year or master’s degree. If the idea of assessing a situation relating to other people and having to act on it relatively quickly seems unpleasant to you, however, this might be a job to be reconsidered. Assessment skills develop over time, as with other school counselor skills, so it comes down to making a decision on whether this is something you believe you can develop.
Authoritative as Needed
This is a difficult skill for many who would like to be school counselors. You may be used to seeing everything from others’ perspectives, and you are able to see where they are coming from. It may seem unpleasant to you to have to settle conflicts and assert authority. However, it is important to remember that this authoritative behavior will be best in the long run. It is also important to remember that you are in charge, and not be afraid to take charge. If conflict of any kind is terrifying to you, it may be a good idea to reconsider working as a school counselor. However, leadership and authority skills can be developed, just like the other skills needed to be a school counselor.
Being organized is fairly important, and if this is hard for you to do, consider improving your skills in this area, since it’s part of what makes a good school counselor. One basic step to take is making a schedule for yourself. This can help you make time for everything you need to get done. However, it’s important to also remain flexible, as there may be multiple interruptions in what you are doing each day. Being organized is not something that is learned overnight; rather, it is a set of habits. If having a busy schedule and always having to multitask seems like a nightmare to you, school counseling may not be the best profession for you. But just like many of these school counseling skills, being organized is just a matter of building a set of habits.
What personality types make good school counselors?
There are quite a few personality types, and multiple personality tests have been created to explain and understand these types. The types of personalities listed below are often recommended to work as counselors due to their natural ability with school counselor skills.
Note that personality tests can be useful tools; however, in the end it comes down to a personal choice as to whether you have the skills needed to be a school counselor. With that being said, here are some personality types that often work well as counselors.
On the DiSC Assessment, Si is cited as being a good personality type for school counselors. Si stands for Steadiness and Influence. This personality type tends to want to be at peace with other people, and often finds themselves making friends with everyone in their workplace. The DiSC test was primarily created to describe people’s behavior in the workplace and what careers might fit them best, so those who are categorized as Si are described as being natural counselors, whether or not that is their profession. They may find school counselor skills to be easy to master due to their caring nature.
On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, there are sixteen personalities. Several of those are often listed as having qualities of a good school counselor. One of these, which is actually often known as the Counselor personality type, is the INFJ (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging). People with this personality type enjoy connecting with other people and learning about them, as well as helping them whenever possible. Another personality type described as having school counselor skills is the ENFJ (Extroversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging). This personality type cares a lot about helping others, and they may find working as a school counselor to be a rewarding career.
A career as a school counselor can be a difficult one, and school counselors must remember to take time for themselves and avoid getting burnt out. Despite the potential difficulty of their job, however, school counselors can make a tremendous difference in the lives of children, whether it is by helping them get through a difficult time related to family, helping them through issues with authority or teachers, welcoming them to the school when they have changed schools, or helping them choose the career that is right for them. The school counselor is a vital part of the education team. The successful school counselor should have adequate training and experience along with the right personal characteristics to face a demanding and challenging, yet personally rewarding, job.
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