A brief look at how school counselors might help you
Counselors who work in schools
There are two kinds of counselors who work in schools: school counselors who traditionally have been referred to as school guidance counselors and school-based mental health clinicians. Not all schools have both types, although most have school counselors. Both are mental health professionals who can help you manage the issues that stress you out. Both will work with you to find a solution to the problems you’re facing, which could include difficulties at school, problems with friends or teachers, and homework and exam stress, as well as issues you might be having at home.
School guidance counselors spend time making sure all of the students assigned to them satisfy the academic requirements needed for graduation. They also assist students with other academic concerns such as course selection, study habits, and time management, as well as planning for college and other post-high school career opportunities. Because these activities may take up a majority of a counselor’s time, students often don’t think of their counselor as someone who can help with more personal problems.
School-based mental health clinicians may be trained either as counselors, psychologists, or social workers, or in some cases as family therapists. Generally they are employed by a community-based or private agency that contracts with the school system to provide services to students in offices located within the school grounds. School-based mental health clinicians focus primarily on helping students with personal problems and helping those students with chronic or more severe mental health problems.
Both school counselors and school-based mental health clinicians also consult with teachers and family members and in some cases will involve family members in counseling sessions.
Making an appointment
Each school has a different policy on how to visit your school counselor or your school’s mental health clinician. In most cases, you’ll need to make an appointment. To find out how your school operates, ask a teacher or friend that you trust, check out the school website or ask the front office.
Paying for services
Generally if you see a counselor at your school you will not have to pay. This is always the case with school counselors who are employees of the school system. School-based clinicians are generally paid under a contract with the school system; however in some instances the clinician will bill your insurance company if you are covered by insurance. Different school systems have different arrangements with school-based clinicians so it is best to ask about payment when you make your first appointment.
Ask about your privacy
It’s a good idea to talk to the counselor you see about keeping your information private. This is generally something that your counselor will bring up in your first session, but if they don’t it’s OK for you to ask. In most situations, unless you ask the counselor to share information, your counselor will keep what you tell him or her confidential. If you would tell your counselor something that suggests you are in serious danger to yourself or another person the counselor would be ethically bound to share that information so that you or the other person could be safe. Counselors are also required by law to report instances of abuse.
Other people you can talk to
If you’d rather talk to someone immediately, try Lines for Life’s YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491. This hotline is free and staffed by trained volunteers who are available 24/7 to talk to you. They also have texting and online chat options available. You can also try Youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800 448-3000, run by Boys Town for everyone. If you’d like more resources, check out our crisis helpline directory.
Everyone has problems. It might feel scary to step out and talk to someone. Just sharing your problem with someone who will listen can bring some relief.
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Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com