What Should I Expect During a Student/Counselor Meeting?
Counselors meet with students individually or in small groups. The most common setting for most students is a private meeting just between the student and the counselor. Most school counselors have an office where you can sit down and talk.
You don't need to know exactly what's bothering you when you talk with the school counselor. It's perfectly OK just to make an appointment because you're feeling bad or not doing as well in school as you'd like. It's the school counselor's job to help people figure out what's going on. In fact, it's often better to see your counselor as soon as you know something's up, even if you don't know what the trouble is. Chances are you'll be able to solve a problem faster when you have the skill and resources of the counselor behind you.
How often you meet with your counselor depends on the issue. Some concerns are dealt with in a one-time meeting. Others require regular meetings for a while. It all depends on the topic at hand and the plan that you and your counselor decide on.
Counselors also sometimes meet students in groups. Group meetings can really help people who are dealing with similar issues, such as a divorce. In these group settings, people can share their feelings and learn coping skills. Not only do you get great ideas in a group setting, but it can also help to know that other students are going through the same thing and that they understand.
Counselors often come into the classroom, too, to teach a class on a subject that affects everyone, such as good study skills.
How Confidential is My Meeting with a School Counselor?
Your conversation will most likely be confidential when meeting with your school counselor. In very rare cases, a counselor is unable to keep information confidential. A counselor who thinks that someone is at risk of being harmed is required by law to share that information. Even in these rare cases, the counselor will share that information only with the people who need to know.
If you're seeing your counselor and your parents don't know about it, don't worry that the counselor will talk to them about your meetings. Unless you've given the counselor the feeling that you may harm yourself or others, what's said in your meetings will stay just between you and the counselor.
School counselors are all about helping to make your school experience the best it can be. The role of the school counselor today is very different from what it was like when your parents were in school. Instead of just focusing on schoolwork and careers, today's counselors are there for students in a broader way. They help students handle almost any problem that might get in the way of learning, guide students to productive futures, and try to create a positive environment for everyone at school. So if you need a counselor's advice, just ask!
How Do I See My School Counselor?
You may have been assigned a counselor when you started the school year. Or your school may leave it up to you to go to the counseling office on your own. A counselor might also visit your class to talk about certain subjects and let you know when he or she is available. In some schools, teachers or school nurses refer students to counselors if they think there's something the student needs to work through.
Your school's website, administrator's office, or a trusted teacher can also tell you how to contact the counselor for an appointment. In some schools, there's a guidance secretary who coordinates appointments. Many counselors are willing to meet with students at times that fit into the student's schedule — such as before or after school or during lunch.
It's probably a good idea to visit your counselor and get to know him or her even if you don't have a problem. This helps you feel comfortable with the counselor in case you ever do need to meet in a time of crisis. It's usually easier to talk about a tough issue or a problem when you already feel comfortable with the counselor. Meeting your counselor when you're not in the middle of a crisis also gives you a chance to discuss such issues such as what the counselor will keep confidential and how he or she works with a student to resolve a problem.
So, go on up to your school's front office and ask how to make an appointment to see the school counselor.
How Do I Prepare to See My School Counselor?
BEFORE THE MEETING
Identify what the nature of your problem is. To help a school counselor advise you on a problem, first you need to make sure you are clear about what is the cause of the problem you're facing or at least be able to describe what you are feeling.
Plan what you're going to say. Having a few questions prepared will make it much easier for a counselor to address your problem more accurately and help you develop strategies to cope with it. You can make a list of the problems and turn them into questions that you can ask your counselor. For instance, if you listed "teachers don't get me" as one of your problems, rephrase it into a question like "How can I improve my communication with teachers?", or "How can I better explain teachers my problems with schoolwork?"
Make an appointment. School counseling is often offered as either one-to-one sessions or group sessions. Think of which one would work best for your problem and book an appointment as soon as possible, or check whether your school allows you to just stop by the counselor's office without an appointment. It's always better to start with a one-to-one meeting to get acquainted with your counselor and help him/her get to know you better. The counselor will determine whether what you need is individual or group counseling after meeting you in person.
DURING THE MEETING
Explain your problem as clearly and honestly as possible. Don't hold out on information that could help your counselor. The counselor will listen and offer either individual counseling or group counseling, or a combination of the two. If you don't know what the source of your problem is (school-related, family-related, personal), give your counselor a bigger picture of your life and they will help you figure out what it might be linked to. If you're unsure whether a piece of information could be useful or related to your problem, it's always best to say it. The more your counselor is told, the easier it will be for him/her to help you find a solution. Don't feel guilty if you don't open up on everything on the first appointment. However, remember that the objective is to establish a relationship with your counselor based on mutual trust. A counselor will speak to you frankly and expect you to be just as upfront in expressing all of your concerns.
Listen to your counselor's advice. Depending on what your questions are about, it may be helpful for you to carry something to take notes on. For example, college application can be a very elaborate process and you want to make sure you don't miss or forget any point and step you need to take. If you disagree with your counselor over something, politely tell your counselor you don't think their suggestion could work and explain why. Feel free to suggest other courses of action and discuss them. Saying yes to your counselor just to please him/her and then disregarding their advice won't be of any help!
Be prepared for complex solutions. Counselors are not magicians who can solve any problem with the touch of a wand. Their job is to listen to you carefully, help you cope with a problem and find a solution, not give you ready-made solutions. This won't always be easy and will first of all demand your cooperation and active involvement. For example, if someone bullies you, your counselor won't make this person magically disappear from your life. They will discuss the problem with you and suggest some strategies on how to deal with this person. Or, they might approach the bully themselves, a teacher or even your parents if you think that would help.
Thank your counselor after each session. Although helping you is the counselor's job, it's polite to show appreciation for their time and advice. Expressing your gratitude will build a stronger bond between you and your counselor.
Seek external help if needed. School counselors will do their best to help you on a wide range of issues. However, sometimes it's best to consult someone outside school, like a therapist, doctor or social worker, if your problem is not related to school or could be better solved by someone else. You can still make an appointment with your counselor and ask them whether he/she thinks you should seek external help. They will advise you on what is best to do. Sometimes professional help can be combined: if you're going through a difficult time because of your parents' divorce and have trouble concentrating at school because of this, you can regularly see your counselor and a therapist at the same time. The counselor will help you not let this affect your academic performance, while the other will focus on your well-being and advise you on coping with your feelings about the situation.
Resources for this information can be found at https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/school-counselors.html or https://www.wikihow.com/Talk-to-a-School-Counselor#Preparing-to-Meet-Your-School-Counselor