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David McCord
May 27, 2010

School Counselors-Mental Health Counselors, Different? Alike?

As I read through the various blogs on the ACA website, I started to think about how school counselors are different from and alike with other mental health professionals. We both share the hope of being able to help people. We all work to help people with their personal and interpersonal needs. However, we work in very different settings, with different expectations of how we do our work. How can we learn from each other's differences and similarities to benefit our clients?

I drive home from work everyday (at least an hour, so I have plenty of time to think) reflecting on the work I have done that day. In my average day I see approximately 10-20 students, have one counseling group, a meeting (or 2 or 3), one or two lunch bunches (hang out time with the kids at lunch), one or two Guidance classes (character education, social/emotional lessons), and talking with parents, teachers, staff, and administration. Then you have days where all your planned work must be rescheduled to help a child struggling with a life change, ranging from the passing of a pet to a traumatic family event. The day flies by so fast that I have to struggle to keep my head above water. Though no matter how hard the day is I always feel like I made a difference.

I have not worked as a counselor in any setting other than an elementary school. Therefore, my notion of what a typical day is like for other counseling professionals is limited. From my understanding counselors who work in a non-school setting seem to work in a much different way. Clients are seen on a scheduled basis, have longer and routine counseling sessions, and time is spent exploring deeper therapeutic connections. Despite these differences, I imagine that those of you who work as a counselor in a private practice or mental health clinic have the same feeling that I do as you head home after a long day of helping others. I assume you have the self satisfaction that maybe that day you helped someone change themselves for the better.

As I begin this blog experience, I hope that you can learn something from my experiences as a school counselor. I also hope that I can learn something from other counseling professionals, and take that back to help my students. I hope that school counselors can establish better connections to other counselors. I have many students who have counselors outside of the school, but it seems that we are often not connected. Imagine how we could help our mutual clients if we just reached out to each other and shared our experiences and counseling strategies. Counselors, in both settings, who work with children and teenagers, could improve their clients growth and development by coordinating and collaborating our work.

David McCord is a school counselor for Montgomery County Public Schools. His theoretical interests are in solution focused theory and play therapy.

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