Does Your Kid Need a Counsellor?

In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again…

- James Agree




The concept of child developing through a series of stages requiring differential treatment by his caretakers, a notion that some historians of Western childhood consider “modern” has always been a part of Indian folk consciousness. It is expressed through proverbs like “Treat a son as king for first five years, like a slave for the next ten and like a friend thereafter”. The contribution of Ayurveda to the Indian image of childhood lies in its formal recognition of different periods of childhood and its assignment of “appropriate ages to each period”.

Children should have a special place in any society for they are the society’s future. An important concern is that too many children today will not reach their full potential because of innumerable factors ranging from inadequate living conditions, lack of opportunities to extreme exposure to too many things at very early age and inept identification as well as appropriate treatment for medical, psychological or behavioral urgencies.


DEFINING FEATURES OF COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY

Three roles have been central to the field of counseling psychology: the remedial, preventive and the developmental. The remedial role entails working with individuals or groups to assist them in remedying problems of one kind or another. The preventive role is one in which the counseling psychologist seeks to anticipate, circumvent and if possible, forestall difficulties that may arise in the future. The third role of counseling psychologist is referred to as the educative and the developmental role, the purpose of which is to help individuals to plan, obtain and derive maximum benefits from the kind of experiences which will enable them to discover and develop their potentialities. In the developmental role, the focus is on the enhancement under which the emphasis is on to teach skills or enhance attitudes that facilitate dealing with inevitable, everyday problems and maximize satisfaction and effectiveness.


Why counseling at Primary/Elementary level?

Elementary school years set the tone for developing the knowledge, attitudes and skill necessary for children to become healthy, competent and confident learners. Through a comprehensive developmental school counseling program, we work as a team with the school staff, parents and the community to create a caring climate and atmosphere. By providing education, prevention, early identification and intervention, efforts are made to help all children achieve academic success.


DYNAMICS OF A COUNSELOR-STUDENT RELATIONSHIP

A positive relationship between a student and counselor may be one of the most important but occasionally overlooked variables for predicting the student’s response to an intervention. Researchers have found that establishing a helping alliance and having good interpersonal relationship are more important than professional training in achieving positive treatment outcomes.

Counseling takes place in the context of a helping relationship in which the counselor and the student work together to resolve a problem, change behavior or foster personal growth and awareness. Although students may have a number of helping relationships with friends or family, the counseling relationship is different in a number of ways:

The counseling relationship is reciprocal. The counselor’s job is to focus on the student's concerns and offer their support and encouragement and it is the student's time to focus on themselves. but the process f counseling is such that despite the established roles of both the parties, one who seeks help and the one who provides, clear –cut pronunciation of the beneficiary is something that cannot be commented upon, reason being the expansive enlightenment gained throughout the journey at both ends.


The counseling relationship is confidential. Whereas with friends or family, you might hope that they will respect your privacy, a counselor is ethically and legally bound by confidentiality. Unless the student is an immediate danger to themselves or others, their conversations with a counselor will be private.


There are times when a student may have a very specific question or concern that can be resolved quickly in one or two sessions. Sometimes, this is not the case and it may take a longer time to build a trusting relationship with the counselor and to resolve the problem. The student and the counselor can talk over what the goals for counseling are and how long it will take to achieve these goals


The Counseling relationship is empathic in nature

To have empathy means to feel another's feelings (pain, sorrow, joy and other emotions). Empathy is the cornerstone of ability to love, and therefore empathy is at the core of good and stable therapeutic relationship. Considering it in the context of children, we should not forget that they are unique individuals in themselves with a plethora of emotions, expectations, dreams along with a bundle of fears, worries, restrictions which they keep closely guarded inside a world which they carry with themselves everywhere. This is the world which is not visible to us nor are they aware of it. But to establish a close and trustworthy relationship with the students, it is imperative that the counselor is able to tap into the unsaid things, those little changes in expressions, body language, the subtle substitutions of predominant emotions and conflicts with some other actions or emotions by doing which the child might put a brave front infront of others but at the core might expect someone out there to understand his agony, his fears, his wishes.

To be able to bring justice to this aspect of relationship building, it is important that the counselor has a good understanding of one’s own emotions too and is open to introspect whenever required. Because during innumerable interactions with students, the counselor gets opportunities to not only help the students at large, but a deeper understanding of the emotional world of children is also something which enlightens a counselor’s perspectives and attitudes towards the intricacies the relationships and life comprise of.

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Responsibilities to Students

Professional school counselors have a primary obligation to the students, who are to be treated with dignity and respect as unique individuals. They are concerned with the educational, academic, career, personal and social needs and encourage the maximum development of every student. They respect students’ values, beliefs and cultural background and do not impose their personal values on students or their families.


Counseling in its widest connotation existed in one form or the other from time immemorial. In India, elders especially parents and teachers thought that imparting counseling in the form of advice and guidance was one of their fundamental and seared duty. Ancient epics of India are replete with depictions of counseling and in most of these ancient transactions it is not difficult to see the scientific practice and ethics of modern counseling techniques. The most widely acknowledged counseling situation in the epics is that of the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna in the battle of kurukshetra. Whether this dialogue had all the characteristics of modern counseling may yet have to be answered by the researchers but experts of this field from across the globe are of the opinion that the culture of India with the above heritage is potentially oriented to the modern techniques of counseling.(Shridhar, 2001)


The services of school counselors help students resolve emotional, social, or behavioral problems and help them develop a clearer focus or sense of direction. Therefore effective counseling programs and efficient counselors are important to the school climate and are a crucial element in improving student achievement. Review of literature cites innumerable instances which highlight the importance of counselors in a school setting and also how mutually satisfying and strong relationship between a counselor and students can prove to be extremely helpful.


Research has shown that student’s ratings of the student-counselor relationship are the most consistent predictor of student improvement. If the student/ client doesn’t believe that you can help them change their behavior or help them deal with their conflicts and lack the ability to understand them, they will be unlikely to overcome their resistance to treatment. Strong therapeutic relationships are predictors of positive outcomes in all treatment programs studied thus far. Moreover the relationship between client/student is more important than the type of therapy or intervention being applied.


Another study reported that group counseling provided by school counselors significantly decreased participants' aggressive and hostile behaviors. School counselors were effective in reducing victimization by assisting victimized children, reducing bullying behaviors, and modifying the school climate and structure. (Hanish, & Guerra, 2000). A study on the effects of counseling on classroom performance found that the underachieving students who received counseling improved significantly on the Self-Rating Scale of Classroom Behavior and in mathematics and language grades. (Gerler, & Anderson, 1985).


Children face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that have an impact on academic achievement. Recognizing the importance of “growing up gracefully”, we all should try to ensure with maximum of our expertise and resources that children get all the required guidance and encouragement to maximize their potential, besides providing them with an emotionally and intellectually secure environment.


Children should have a special place in any society for they are the society's future. It is the Elementary school years primarily which set the tone for developing the knowledge, attitudes and skill necessary for children to become healthy, competent and confident learners. By providing education, prevention, early identification and intervention, efforts are made to help all children achieve success in academic, personal and social areas. A positive relationship between a student and counselor is one of the most important indicator of a positive outcome and it is more important than the type of therapy or intervention being applied. Therefore besides technical expertise, ability to build strong, empathic and mutually trusting bond between the counselor and the student in a traditional way, it is also important that the counselor remains open to employing alternative, creative methods to enhance the quality of therapeutic alliance making the experience rich for both.


Astha Sharma

Clinical Psychologist


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