Redefining the role of counselling in schools

Redefining the role of counselling in schools

A recent national survey revealed that an alarming 20% of Australia’s high school-age students identify as having ‘low’ levels of mental wellbeing, with the top drivers of their anxiety being schoolwork, tests, or grades.

Concerningly, nearly half of those surveyed felt that their school wellbeing programs were of little help, indicating a gap between the availability of wellbeing resources and their perceived effectiveness by those most in need of them.

In February, the peak body representing Australia’s counsellors and psychotherapists warned that highly qualified mental health counsellors are being shut out of the mainstream school system despite unfilled vacancies and the growing youth mental health crisis.

Factors like these have led some families to the belief that traditional schools aren’t the right fit for their children, and have subsequently enrolled them in schools outside the mainstream system.

‘One-size-fits-all’ approach isn’t helping

Some experts say the combination of the youth mental health crisis and the failure of many school wellbeing programs to help has exacerbated the issue of school refusal, which is now impacting two in five Australian families.

“Traditional schools are not always fit for all students as they take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education,” Jan Blair, a School counsellor at Crimson Global Academy told The Educator.

“Children have different learning styles and needs and these need to be catered for to achieve the best learning outcomes.”

Blair noted that some students are unable to thrive in a traditional school due to anxiety induced by this environment.

“Fear of bullying, non-acceptance of differences, large classes, inflexibility and distractions are all factors which can cause a heightened emotional state or the inability to focus which isn’t conducive to learning and absorbing information,” she said.

“Crimson Global Academy provides an environment which can address these issues and barriers to success.”

Blair said this model enables opportunities for flexibility in learning styles and programs, less distractions, smaller classes and support, and provides opportunities for independent learning all while students feel safe and comfortable in their home environment.

“All students are given ongoing support through their teachers, Deans, and counselling if necessary, to eliminate barriers to success.”

Preconceptions about counselling must be addressed

Blair points out that young peoples’ preconceptions of counselling need to be addressed if they want them to engage with these critical services.

“Schools need to ensure they have an established environment where students know it is ok to seek help in a safe and confidential way through the guidance network and counselling,” she said.

“Schools need to dispel common views that a Counsellor gives advice and tells you what to do and instead highlight they are there to give support while the students discuss the difficulties they may be having and then together work out ways to overcome them in a safe and confidential environment.”

Blair said it is important that counsellors are “visible, approachable, and easy to access”.

“Students need to know they are there for students who are facing anxiety, depression, difficulties coping with workloads and fear of failure, grief, dealing with change and just general feelings of loneliness, relationship issues and life problems in general,” she said.

“It is important to normalise the view it is ok to say - ‘I’m not Ok’ and seek help.”

Blair pointed out that CGA has a supportive guidance network from the Principal, senior staff, teachers , Deans and, of course herself as Counsellor.

“We are all there to give support and encouragement when the world feels tough for our students. We are there to eliminate barriers to success and foster overall happiness.”