Over the last several years after graduating with my master’s degree in school counseling, I have bought many counseling books via Amazon, American Counseling Association, and American School Counselor Association for my own library at home. The reason for this is that I have dreams of starting my own counseling center one day where I can offer academic, career, and mental health counseling to students of all ages and educational levels. I think many school counselors would love to have their own private center either part time or full time. It would be ideal for many counselors that want to focus on their main counseling interest areas in helping students and adults. Of course, a counselor having their own center would still have to collaborate some with local school districts and colleges to help students, but they could use their own techniques and set up their counseling setting however they choose in a way that fits their counseling interests and personality. There are many different things a counselor needs to consider when establishing their own counseling center.
Things to Consider for Your Own Center
One of the first things to consider is obtaining a suitable and convenient location for your center. If it's too far away from possible clients, then they may not be able to, or want to, drive far to come for their sessions. It would be ideal to establish your center in a convenient location. Another thing to consider is size of the center depending on what services you want to offer students and other clients. It would be important to have a lobby and receptionist area for students to sit and wait for their sessions with you. It would be ideal to decorate your lobby in an inviting and warm manner with comfortable seating; a TV, of course; and some reading material for various grade levels.
Another area of your center to decorate in an inviting and warm manner would obviously be your counseling office. You want to make it as inviting and comfortable as possible for your clients. Of course you can add your own personality to it, but it’s a good idea to include diverse décor that show students that you are accepting and that they feel they can trust you to help them. It's also a good idea to post the important message about informed consent and you could also hang your credentials on the office wall and a poster that displays your counseling interest areas, or counseling techniques you mostly use in your sessions.
Another addition to your counseling center could include a small café, if you can afford it in your budget, for students to enjoy water, tea, coffee, or other healthy drinks and snacks. It would be ideal to have healthy snacks — a counselor would hopefully promote good physical health because we know that some foods affect our emotional and mental health also. Of course you want to keep your center clean and organized, and protect clients from COVID-19 by disinfecting your office every day and by offering safe and approved hand sanitizer, a supply of masks in case clients don’t have one, and those "keep six feet between you" items on the floor in front of the receptionist’s desk. Don’t forget budgeting for rent, electricity, property taxes, and a business license.
My Dream Counseling Center
My goal is to have my own counseling center one day to help students on all educational levels and from all diverse backgrounds. I plan to include an inviting front lobby with comfortable seating, a variety of books for all grade levels, a TV, and inviting décor. I also plan to decorate my counseling office with comfortable seating for counseling sessions, several bookcases for my counseling library, a storage cabinet for various counseling games, therapy items like puppets, and other counseling-related toys. I plan to decorate my walls with my credentials, motivational posters, my informed consent message, posters of famous therapists, and decorate my office with items from various diverse backgrounds. I hope to have several thematic rooms like art, music, travel, nature, and a zen room that can help students with a variety of issues. Of course, I hope to include a restroom and small café if the budget is available — even I need my coffee to start my morning.
These are my goals for my ideal counseling center. Each and every counselor will have their own ideas in regard to adding their personality and interests to their own counseling center, but this should help provide a good start for any ideas.
Joe Murphy, Jr is a multilingual certified school counselor (English, Spanish, and some French) working as an elementary counselor this year in Fayette County, Tennessee. He has three years of high school counseling experience and at least thirteen years of teaching experience. His counseling interest areas include academic, career, multicultural, mental health, substance abuse, sports counseling, family, migrant youth, and LGBTQ youth issues.