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Work values for an academic counselor

In a high school setting, many students have extreme issues, be it with mental health, family, drugs, poor academic performance, etc. As a counselor, it should be one of your core values to care. However, where is the line drawn? To what point can you help them without crossing boundaries or compromising yourself?

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Jenna’s Answer

Hi Nghi!
You ask a very insightful and valid question. As a mental health professional, it seems like the weight of the world's problems (or whatever population you work with) are in your hands/your responsibility. While this may feel true, the reality is that we are not here to change the world (and frankly are not capable of doing so), we are here to support our clients, often in ways others do not/cannot.
We are also human beings, and while the world expects us to fix every mental health problem known to man, we are only capable of what we can provide. In addition to education and skill, we must be very in tune with how we feel. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
There has been research done around a few key topics that help us to understand and also cope with these thoughts and feelings: compassion fatigue, burnout, secondary trauma, and different types of empathy (cognitive, emotional, compassionate). We have support around us, whether it be other MH professionals, supervisors, or even family/friends/pets that keep us afloat.
If you are interested in this field, I'd suggest tapping in to what draws you to it. Are you a people person, are you curious about how people work or what makes them tick, do you have personal experience that drives and motivates you to do this work, or do you love helping others? Satisfying these internal motivations, as well as CONSTANTLY utilizing your support systems and self-care practices, will continue to keep you moving forward in this work. Hope this helps! (:
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice. nghi
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Clint’s Answer

Hi Nghi!

What a great question and a topic that I am not sure we will resolve! I am sure the other responses are terrific, but I am not going to read through them as I believe this is an area as a counselor that you develop an understanding for throughout your career; and I believe you are always assessing and evaluating your professional approach or discipline. I view this topic as the most important mindset, personal & team understanding, as well as continuous area for assess regarding any guidance/school counselor.

Having a more defined, possibly shared, and process/standards for evaluating are unbelievably valuable and important. When considering any of the academic considerations/factors/benchmarks, social-emotional considerations, various stakeholders involved, and an individual's current and future goals/well-being; simply reflectively listening and then providing opportunities for that student should supply confidence in providing quality professional service. Self-care and maintaining a wellness program that supports your own well being is vital, and an area that I believe counselors trend towards not investing in enough.

Personally, I enjoyed my experience being a school counselor at the 5th-8th grade level more than at the High School level; but also recognize that I struggled more with considering my efforts successfully completed. My approach was much more of Reality & Choice Theory when considering barriers to a student's success, supplying ways for a student to overcome certain barriers, and openly discussing the choices they were making to be successful. Care-frontation & Goal-setting were staples, recognizing that failure can be a great learning mechanism, consistently being open to conversation & always approachable, but always reiterated that the responsibility is on the student to achieve (be resourceful).

Lastly; I do believe that age & individual-development standards have to be well-understood and communicated. From there; organizing my calendar, blocking my time, and being very cognizant of expectations & laws regarding sexual activity and suicidal thinking supplied a strong foundation. Thanks!

-Clint-
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