There are a lot of different positions that make up a school workforce: teachers, nurses, and speech therapists are just a few of the many crucial positions in schools. Two additional positions that are essential to the school workforce, but are often confused with each other, are guidance counselors and school psychologists. Many schools employ counselors, with the American School Counselor Association recommending a ratio of 250:1 for students to counselors. But schools don’t always employ school psychologists. So what exactly is the difference between these two positions?
Guidance counselors have a heavy focus on academics. From choosing classes to talking about college, students work with their guidance counselor to make important decisions regarding their curriculum in school. By working with a guidance counselor, students can decide on and work towards their academic goals. School counselors have a student focused mentality and provide individual or small group counseling sessions to aid in academic and career development. Additionally, students may rely on their guidance counselors for assistance with dealing with difficult situations in school, like bullying or struggling in a class. When dealing with a serious situation, like mental health concerns, a guidance counselor may work alongside a school psychologist to provide the necessary assistance to the student. But overall, guidance counselors help students with academic-related situations.
While school psychologists also have a student focused mindset, they focus more on providing intervention and support services to students who may be dealing with more mental health-related concerns. These psychologists provide services not only to their students but to their students’ families and teachers as well. With a background in both psychology and education, school psychologists are equipped to handle students with emotional or behavioral problems. Students with special learning disabilities or those who may need extra support in classes are generally evaluated by school psychologists so they can be given the best support possible. Overall, school psychologists provide a deeper level of support rather than just focusing on academics.
Including These Positions in a School Staffing Plan
To provide the best services to their students, schools should work with education staffing agencies to ensure they have either the best guidance counselors or school psychologists in place. Guidance counselors generally remain at one school while school psychologists can bounce around to different schools as needed. Either way, it’s important for schools to have the positions filled at their school to ensure their school is keeping a student focused mentality.
Guidance counselors and school psychologists have very different roles when it comes to student needs — but when they work together, students can get the right kind of support they need.