While guidance counselor is an outdated title, the function of professionals who help students deal with problems on a daily basis hasn’t changed. Many students still need help with the college application process, but many students are also seeking help for other issues too.
“Students come to our offices for all reasons,” said Renee Rutski, an elementary school counselor at the Valley View School District.
“In the morning we may have a student who comes to our office upset about cyberbullying, then we may have a student come to our office later on for anxiety over a test they’re taking that day, then we may come across another student later on in the day who discloses that he/she has been abused by a parent.”
Are there any issues that are off limits for a counselor? And what do students feel they just wish they could talk with their teacher about?
“There are issues that are traditional, but there are newer ones, too” said Dr. Jennifer Barna, associate professor and coordinator of the Counseling Program at Marywood University.
She said there’s been an increase of students seeing counselors about mental health issues, whether it’s depression, anxiety or other trauma related events.
“I think a lot depends on the school counselor and being out there in the school, sharing what they do,” Barna said. “If you have a school where there’s a counselor who’s in the classroom, it’s very effective and students feel like they can talk to them.
Barna said social media has become the biggest challenge in how counselors deal with students, but she said many counselors have been out in front of the issue including online safety.
“Bullying used to happen face-to-face,” Barna said. “Now because of social media, kids can get harassed 24/7 and some of that is leaking into the school day and when it does, counselors are involved in helping through those situations.”
“There are a lot of issues and pressures on kids that are different from when I went to school,” said Dr. Richard Hazler, professor of Counselor Education at Penn State, “so they are impacted by those pressures in a lot of ways.”
He said when it comes to kids talking to school counselors, much depends on the student.
“Personal problems are hard for anyone to talk about and for kids, that can be even tougher. Teachers, as understanding as they may be, are still authority figures and it’s hard to talk about those problems with authority figures.”