A school counselor or guidance counselor is a person appointed by the school authorities to counsel students in fields of career development, importance of education and even personal problems. They can work in elementary, middle or high schools. They can also work in universities and other educational institutions. Children in school are troubled by problems like death of a relative or pet, peer pressure, dysfunctional family problems, etc.
"Children are like wet cement, whatever falls on them makes an impression." To prevent dents from forming on the innocent soul's mind, it is important to deal with the psychological issues the child is dealing with, so that the child will grow up into a mentally healthy adult, with a high emotional quotient. It's the responsibility of the counselor to help students with their problems and queries. To become a guidance counselor, there are some specific requirements that need to be fulfilled.
How to Become a Guidance Counselor
The requirements to become a guidance counselor vary from one country to another and one state to another. Some general requirements are mentioned below.
Becoming a guidance counselor means undertaking a big responsibility: the responsibility of guiding people from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. Only if you genuinely feel led to helping people come out of their pits of hopelessness, despondency, depression, self-pity, self-condemnation, etc., should you opt for this career. It is not an easy task to prevent children or teenagers from sinking into depression or resorting to alcohol, drugs or sex to find comfort and meaning in life. Counseling can be quite frustrating at times, thus, only if you feel you are called out to be a guidance counselor, should you take it up, as your career.
Guidance counselors need an analytical mind to understand the situation or circumstance placed before them. Often people who come for counseling only talk about the smoke, because they themselves do not know what is the root cause of the fire in their lives. If you want to help them, you cannot just wave off the smoke, but you need to find the root cause of the problem and provide the right solution. Wrong advice can lead to further harm and since we are dealing with people's lives here, we need to be really careful.
Patience, Gentleness and Willingness to Listen
Not everybody comes to a guidance counselor for a solution. Often teenagers just want to be listened to. They just want somebody to listen to all that they have to say, without anybody judging or criticizing them. They need genuinely concerned people to lend them their ears. Thus, as a counselor one needs to have the willingness to listen. Sometimes, one will hit very difficult cases, wherein the person being counseled keeps telling fibs and spinning tales. It becomes so difficult and irksome to deal with dishonest people, seeking only sympathy from you. They may even strongly cling to you for emotional support. During such times one needs lots of patience. You need to gently detach yourself from their emotional clutches and help them stand on their own feet.
If a guidance counselor has the burden; is patient, kind and gentle, is a good listener, has analytical skills, etc. but does not maintain confidentiality, then all the above points get nullified. People will only pour their heart out to you, if they are dead sure you will not let anybody hear of their personal struggles. It takes a long time to build this kind of trust among students. They will keenly observe you and only if they are convinced of your trustworthiness, will they open up to you. Or else you will remain a counselor that is like a tree that bears no fruit.
Guidance counselor education requirements vary from one state to another. While some schools require only a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in psychology or career counseling, other states demand a Masters of Arts degree, for high school counselors. Some may even require a PhD in psychology. Then there are additional certification courses that one can do, which although not mandatory requirements will add to your resume and give an edge over other candidates, applying for the same position. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers a National Certified Counselor general practice credential.
Among the different requirements, the educational requirements has been listed at the bottom of the list. Without this qualification one cannot get a job as a guidance counselor, however, it is not necessary that just because one has this qualification, one can become a true counselor. More importantly, one needs to have the burden and compassion for aching hearts and the patience and willingness to help them through their struggles. Trustworthiness, integrity, analytical ability, etc. are also crucial to be able to win their trust and give them the right counsel.