Student Affairs Counseling
Counseling is a necessary function in the psychological well being and development of human life. The need for counseling varies from person to person and should never be compartmentalized into a specific area. One may need year’s worth of counseling with a professional to understand their problems, while others may only need a few hours of communication with a counselor to walk through and resolve their issues. Each person views, understands and values their psychological state in a variety of different ways and it is the counselor’s job to interpret the issues and problems of the specific individual.
Pursuing counseling should be the sole decision of the person looking to be counseled. Obviously there is state mandated therapy sessions through counseling but the counselor should always communicate that the client is there to better their lives and reaching that final goal will be through the client’s efforts. There should also be no restrictions on why or how long and individual should pursue counseling. The ability to stop and start counseling should always be an option
A. Goals of Counseling
Counseling should be divided into four separate areas. The first goal is creating a clear line of communication between the client and the counselor. Both parties must open the path of communication. Clients should have a clear understanding of the counselor’s abilities, their limits legally and ethically, and contracted meeting times if more than one session is needed. The counselor should be aware of the client’s initial stated problems, feelings, counseling hesitations and fears and their expected outcomes from counseling. Obviously this line of communication may not be able to open in just one session and may take a considerable amount of time. Communication between both parties is an ongoing process and will continue to develop throughout the counseling period.
Second, a specific problem or group of problems the client is suffering from should be identified. Related directly to the first goal, problem identification is also a developing step in the counseling process. Both parties should work to understand why the client has decided to take part in the counseling process. Counselors should also work to make sure this is a part of the process, even though a client may initially communicate what they assume to be their problem or problems, underlying issues may go unnoticed and it should merit investigation to identify all issues.
Next, the counselor should give a clear and concise analysis of the issues described during the counseling process. There should be no time frame set on when the analysis should take place and the information at hand should include what information the client has stated and how the counselor thinks the issues can be resolved. It is important for the counselor to reiterate all information touched on to make sure no information was missed or misinterpreted.
Last, and if all other goals in the counseling process are reached, the most important step in the process should be initiated: training. This stage in counseling should be informational sessions on the tools necessary for a client to overcome their issues and, more importantly, learn how to resolve these issues independent of a counselor. In this step, clients have learned to communicate, analyze, understand and comprehend their issues and they have reached the stage where they can learn how to overcome them and eventually eliminate problems from their lives.
B. Roles and Functions of the Counselor
The main role of the counselor is to be a proactive force in the lives of their clients. They should be educated, constantly looking for new ways to better their practices, open-minded, non-judgmental and effective and literal communicators. Counselors must also be competent in working with students from diverse backgrounds. It is projected by 2030 African American, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans will make up a majority of the U.S. population and counselors must ready for this influx in diverse populations (Altekruse, Harris & Brandt, 2001).
Counselors must also be great trainers and educators. Their ability to analyze and interpret client issues and create a plan of action is an integral part of success in counseling. Although the time, degree and results of each client is different, it should be the mission of the counselor to try and reach that goal.
Functionally, a counselor must also help a client come to a realization of their own needs and solutions. Although a counselor gives professional opinions and advice on improvement, throughout the entire process the function of the counselor should be a mirror. From the beginning with identification of problems through the progression into a client free from those problems a client should utilize the counselor to understand where they are at in the process.
C. Student Affairs Counseling
Student Affairs practitioners should have the same essential skills as counselors in the private counseling sector: good communicators, open-minded, educated, and willing to enhance their skills whenever possible. College counselors must also be able to work with a large, diverse audience of students and play the role of a confidant with students. They should stay abreast of current issues and policies within the institution in case it has a direct effect on a specific population of students. Besides counseling knowledge, college counseling professionals should also have a broad understanding of terms in higher education, like FAFSA, articulation, accreditation, remediation and so on. This way they are able to speak intelligently with a student who may have an issue with their financial aid, or a class they have to repeat.
Professionals in the college counseling field must also be able to work in different capacities than counseling to promote their office and bring an understanding to the campus population about the office. Counselors first play the part of the educator. They must educate students, faculty and staff as to the services offered by the office. Even those counseling professionals who work in an advising or other departmental capacity should make their abilities known. Next, college counseling professionals need to market themselves and their office. Campus-wide services allow counselors to disseminate their information in a number of ways: utilizing freshmen orientation class presentations, putting up flyers, creating a campus-wide Facebook posts on study skills and anxiety during midterms and finals are just a few ideas to market themselves. Last, counselors should be open to feedback about the approachability of the office and how it is run. Every office on campus has its own subculture within the institution and the counseling office should be very flexible and open to what ideas are available to make it as approachable as possible (Much, Wagener & Hellerbrand, 2009).
Working in this environment can also restrict a college counselor. In working with college students they may run across very sensitive information including rape, hazing, drug and alcohol addiction, and abuse. Counselors must know how to handle these situations in a proactive manner and understand when to reach out to college administrators or other legal avenues.
Confidentiality also plays a large part in the college counseling office. Professionals must know when they can and cannot disclose information to outside sources besides the student. State-funded and government regulated entities like an institution of higher learning may limit a counselor to only certain access of a student’s information – this falls under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA, although there are some cases in which the information may be disclosed (University of Virginia Office of the Registrar).
Change is an essential part of life. From the time one is born until the time they die, physical, emotional, and psychological change are constantly occurring. A human being should be able to accept change in their life and react to the many directions life may go. Part of this change is drawing from the experience. Sudden changes or change from a long though out decision all have outcomes. An individual needs to be able to take the most from the experience, even if what they learns takes years to understand (Texas A&M Office of News and Public Affairs).
In essence change is an external force which plays off our psychological processes. How people are raised, disciplined, sheltered from the world all have to do with how they react to the changes in their lives. One who has been exposed to many changes in their life may be able to deal with change in the future, because it has been a constant external force in their life; whereas someone who has never dealt with major changes may deal with an unbearable amount of stress when a major change finally occurs.
Based off of these environmental factors one may resist change whenever possible. Sometimes one may undergo a sudden change in their life and psychologically they revert back to an old habit because it reminds them of the time prior to this new change in their lives. Whether it is a fond memory, or a time when a loved one was still alive, people resist change because they are unable to deal of life without a specific factor. This reversion will eventually lead to other psychological problems because it is a simple avoidance technique. One must learn to deal with unique situations and adapt to lifestyle changes (Texas A&M Office of News and Public Affairs).
E. View of Human Nature
Human nature is primarily governed by outside forces. Just as reactions to change are created from external forces, human nature comes from the same set of factors. Although people born with a specific set of physical details, ones psychological self becomes susceptible to the environment around them from birth.
Although people are set to certain genetic predispositions like blindness or attention deficit disorder, they are influenced by outside factors. From the time a person is born they are constantly barraged by the environmental forces around them. These influences build an individual and affect them throughout their lives. The British philosopher John Locke called this idea “tabula rasa” which is the idea that when we are born we are as blank tablets and from that point outside factors effect who we are and what we become (Knezek, 1997).
Great psychologist like Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler theorized that humans gain a great amount of our personality traits from the experience in the early parts of their lives (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). It is true that individuals learn and develop greatly during the early years of their lives because we experience new environmental factors, but humans develop throughout their entire lifespan. Through tragic events and environmental factors, personality traits transform who human beings are, including habits and personality traits.
As a whole, human nature cannot be determined as either good or evil because it is so reliant on outside factors. Humans are born as naïve beings ignorant of the world around them. But as human beings grow the outside factors around them start to affect their reactions to the world and deciding whether a human is good or evil relies solely on the environment they live in. For example, Charles Whitman, the 1966 sniper who killed 13 people from the bell tower on the University of Texas campus. On the outside he seemed like a normal guy who grew up in a normal home, but as police further investigated they found that Charles grew up in a controlling, gun-centered home and that he was exposed to guns and killing from an early age. These underlying environmental factors led to his actions. (Time Magazine).
Altekruse, M. K., Harris, H. L., & Brandt, M. A. (2001). The role of the professional counselor
in the 21st century. Counseling and Human Development , 34, 1-11.
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Knezek, W. (1997). Nature vs. nurture: the miracle of language. Duke University .
Retrieved March 15, 2010 from http://www.duke.edu/~pk10/language/psych.htm
Much, K., Wagener, A., & Hellenbrand, M. (2009). Building the counseling center’s reputation.
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Time Magazine. (1966). Nation: the madman in the tower. Retrieved March 15, 2010 from
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