Counselling in School: An Academic Necessity?
Being part of a school, children are expected to put forth positive attitudes of diligence, tolerance and respect for others. When students exhibit undesirable attitudes, it directly impacts the community, including teachers, parents and fellow students. Unacceptable behaviors and attitudes threaten school safety and security when students manifest them within the premises or outside.
With the continuous pressure to perform, academic institutions and parents must realize that helping students deal with their stress must be considered part of the learning process. Although initial funding difficulties are overwhelming, schools benefit immensely from having counselors on staff.
Current Counselling Trends in India
Although school counselling was introduced in India over a decade ago, it’s not being practiced as much as it should. Psycho-social issues are still not widely accepted by the people of this country, who have an aversion to discussing their own psychological or emotional problems, even with family members or friends.
The main reason for the lack of acceptance is the stigma attached to mental illness, making people reluctant to reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings. This social stigma is what makes it difficult for children to freely express their worries and concerns without fear of being ridiculed or punished for having such feelings.
Moreover, parents and teachers often fail to recognize the warning signs of mental health issues among children and dismiss them as normal phases that all children undergo. But when they notice these signs, they tend to ignore them because they are unaware of asking for help. This leads to delayed treatment, which often aggravates conditions further. The absence of a unified School Mental Health Programme in India speaks volumes about how much still needs to be achieved for mental health in the country.
Benefits of Counselling in School
School counselors provide a safe space for students to discuss the stressors affecting their academic performance, relationships, or well-being. Many students find that talking about their problems with an objective adult who can listen and provide perspective helps them cope with these stressors and often leads to greater self-awareness. But while no one-size-fits-all, counselling in school can benefit in the following ways:
👉 Schools would have a Healthier Environment
Children often feel overwhelmed by the myriad of expectations and responsibilities put on them each day – from peer to parental pressure and prioritizing school work, extracurriculars, and tuition. Counselors could help students manage stress by working through their problems with them and identifying appropriate coping mechanisms. On top of that, students are developing who they are as people – every experience is an opportunity to learn, improve and become better. With these experiences come growing pains. Counseling can give students an outlet to discuss problems they may have with teachers, classmates or administrators. It provides a place for them to get advice from someone who isn’t involved in the situation and isn’t biased in any way.
👉 Better Student Outcomes
A student’s inability to control his emotions can lead to various adverse outcomes, including poor academic performance and an increased likelihood of dropping out. Counselors can help children develop better-coping strategies for dealing with emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety and sadness. Counselling also teaches social skills essential for building healthy relationships with peers and valuable life skills like problem-solving and conflict resolution.
👉 Optimal Use of Resources
Counselors are highly trained professionals who help students develop their full potential. They recognize and evaluate a student’s academic, social or behavioral issues and provide diagnostic evaluations and recommendations for support services. These services could include tutoring or special programs directed at specific learning disabilities. For example, suppose a student comes forward to discuss their feelings about being bullied or harassed at school or online. In that case, they can get help before those feelings turn into something more serious, like depression or anxiety disorders.
👉 Helps Students feel Valued, Supported & Safe
Students can feel safe and supported in their schools with access to counselling services. Consistent counselling sessions can help students learn how to interact with others in healthy ways while avoiding bullying or other negative behaviors that may cause conflict between peers or teachers. They can also teach students how to handle stressful situations without resorting to violence or other inappropriate behavior, such as cheating on tests or bullying through social media platforms.
Counseling sessions can be held once a week at school and focus on:
- Introduction and assessment of the student’s level of functioning and how it impacts their school performance.
- Identification of academic strengths, interests, skills and potential areas for growth.
- Discussion of current work and/or home issues that may need attention or support.
- Identifying triggers and warning signs of mental disorders.
- Developing new coping strategies for stress and anxiety.
- Planning strategies to address the identified needs or concerns with clear goals and objectives that are measurable over time.
- Working with parents to identify ways to help them support their children more effectively at home.
The Bottom Line
Schools around the world are recognizing how integral counseling services can be to their student’s success. Yet, in India, only a handful of schools have a full-time counselor or a person on call for students to talk to. Students need more trained personnel and resources to get the help they need and deserve. Early intervention is essential to avoid long-term problems that lead to stress and decreased quality of life. A necessary part of the school experience, counseling allows students to maintain a positive outlook and get control of the problems they face.
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