Assessing the Professional Identity of School Counselors
In the wake of the Parkland, Fl., school shooting last month, a debate has been raging—among other things—about whether or not students with mental health disorders are having their needs met.
And by all indications, students with mental health disorders are not getting the services they need. According to the American School Counselor Association, “It is estimated that one in four children has a diagnosable mental health disorder.” What’s more, “75% of children in needs of mental health services will not receive” services for their disorders.
Recent mass school shootings, political changes, and a growing and diverse school population have forced professional school counselors to ask difficult questions about their professional and personal roles in helping students with mental health disorders. As is often cited, many schools are under budgeted and short staffed, and this not only applies to educators but it also applies to school counselors.
In a recent article published by the American School Counselor Association, “Concurrent with the development and popularization of the ASCA National Model has been a heightened awareness of the large numbers of students in K – 12 schools with mental health needs of these students are not well met by schools.”
These facts have forced professional school counselors to become more engaged with the student populations whom they serve. “Emerging data has suggested that school counselors are often minimally involved in supporting students with mental health needs,” writes Lorraine DeKruyf, who recently published the article, “The Role of School Counselors in Meeting Students’ Mental Health Needs: Examining Issues of Professional Identity.”
As the authors of the article above point out, beyond the problems of short staffing and budget cuts, viewed from the perspective of professional school counselors, not all school counselors see themselves as counselors per se in that their role is to seriously address the mental health needs of the student populations they are serving. Moreover, as DeKruvf points out, traditionally, at least, the professional identity of school counselors had been varied.
That said, however, in the wake of school violence incidents that has garnered the attention of the nation, a spotlight has been shed on school administrations, teachers, school counselors, and districts as a whole in order to get to the problem of why violence in schools appears to be an ongoing problem in the United States. Moreover, research suggests that school counselors need to better define their role in what services they provide and how far they are willing to go to intervene in addressing the mental health issues of their students.
Finally—and sadly—the problem of school violence does not appear to be diminishing, as the recent school shooting in Florida illustrates. School counselors may be part of the solution in identifying the mental health needs of students and possibly using their professional credentials to assess the severity of those problems.
DeKruyf, L., et al. The Role of School Counselors in Meeting Students’ Mental Health Needs: Examining Issues of Professional Identity. American School Counselor Association, 16(5), 271 – 281.