Who is responsible for providing supervision for professional school counselors? Is it the responsibility of their site administrator? Or perhaps, a district level individual whose job entails overseeing various educational support professionals?
Just as there is quite a bit of ambiguity in the role of school counselors, the same applies to their supervision. When in graduate school, counselors-in-training typically receive individual and group supervision on a regular basis. But what happens upon employment? Well, it becomes an all too common practice that school counselors do not receive regularly scheduled supervision, whether in an individual or group format.
Equally important to note is the suitability of school counselor supervisors. If the site level administrator is charged with the task of supervising school counselors, how is s/he equipped to provide appropriate supervision and guidance? Very few educational leadership or administration programs contain content about counselor supervision. So, I would deduce that site level administrators should not be providing supervision. According to a study of more than 1,500 professional school counselors, more than 60% indicated that they received supervision from school principals (Perera-Diltz & Mason, 2012). This leads me to district level supervisors. Depending upon your school district, one may or may not have someone that is suitable for the job. For instance, in my school district, my supervisor’s title was Director of Support Services and she was responsible for managing the school counselors, psychologists, speech/language pathologists, district nurses, and health assistants. Yet, she has never been any of the mentioned roles. I know that many larger school districts like Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, FL, do in fact, have a Director of Guidance. This individual’s job consists of managing all of the district’s school counselors and prevention programs at school sites. Being a former counselor, this person does have the appropriate background to provide the necessary and on-going supervision that school counselors need.
Unlike other types of counselors, such as mental health and marriage & family counselors, school counselors are not legally mandated to obtain ongoing supervision to complete licensure requirement. As a result, this only diminishes the importance of acquiring supervision beyond your graduate program. If counselors do not receive such supervision themselves, it in turn becomes more challenging for practicing school counselors to be effective supervisors for counselors-in-training and more reluctant to want to take on the responsibility of having interns.
In my opinion, if we, as professional school counselors are abiding by our legal & ethical mandates, we need to include what is often advocacy towards receiving the appropriate supervision. And while it may not be feasible if you are employed in a small school district, we each need to reach out beyond our district boundaries and find a colleague that is willing to provide the necessary supervision and support our role as professionals.
Sandi Logan is school counselor and currently a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at University of Florida. Prior to pursuing further studies, she worked as an elementary and middle school counselor in Southern California.