School Counseling: A Brief Historical Overview

By: Dr. Christine Schimmel (2008 - Dissertation Summary)


Since the inception of the profession of school counseling, the role has been redefined and modernized, oftentimes to meet the needs of a changing society or in response to societal events (Beesley, 2004; Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Gysbers & Henderson, 2001; Paisley & Borders, 1995).  The role, position, and duties of school counselors have historically been muddied by the many influences that have shaped the very profession itself over the last century.  According to Dahir (2004), “The history of school counseling has depicted a profession in search of an identity” (p. 345).  According to Burnham and Jackson (2000), “The role of the school counselor has been redefined and broadened through the years” (¶ 4).

Consistent with Burnham and Jackson (2000), prior to 2000, 34 articles were published in Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, a peer reviewed journal published by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), that were directly related to the topic of school counselor roles.  For example, a 1997 study by Coll and Freeman investigated elementary school counselors’ self-perception of role conflict as compared to middle/junior and secondary school counselor’s perceptions of role conflict. Three years prior, Hardesty and Dillard (1994) explored how the duties performed by elementary school counselors can often be regarded as “less essential” (¶ 5) to the day-to-day running of the school when compared to their middle and secondary school counseling counterparts. One may assume that the abundance of attention paid to the role and function of the school counselor would have led to greater clarity and focus for the profession. Yet, the confusion and discrepancies persist.  The services provided by school counselors have shifted and changed (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Chandler, 2006).  The literature that traces the evolution of school counseling is explored in this chapter.

The Early Years of School Counseling

The first school counselors emerged in the late 1800’s (Beesley, 2004; Gysbers & Henderson, 2001; Gysbers & Henderson, 1997; Paisley & Borders, 1995). An outcome of the American public school’s response to the Industrial Revolution, the vocational counselor was often a teacher who inherited the position of counselor along with a list of duties to accomplish in this role with no relief from his regular teaching duties. Additionally, there were no financial gains to be had in the position of vocational counselor (Ginn, 1924 as cited in Gysbers & Henderson, 2001; Gysbers & Henderson, 1997). Gysbers (1990) defines this organizational structure as “the services model” (p. 3); that is, school counselors’ activities were organized around six major services: orientation, assessment, information, counseling, placement and follow-up. Problems existed with this model from the onset in that it did not lend itself to school counseling in settings other than the secondary setting and it did not specify how school counselors should spend their time (Gysbers, 1990). 

These vocational counselors that functioned under the services model were viewed as a mechanism by which schools could assist in better preparing students for the work world (Gysbers, 2001).  A primary role of school was to prepare students to go to work, and vocational counselors could assist in the sorting of students into the appropriate work paths (Gysbers, 2001). Gysbers and Henderson (1997) outline the primary 15 duties that were commonplace in the vocational counselor’s position of the early 20th century.  They include such items as meeting with students in grade six and above who were failing, finding out why they were failing, and attempting to find a remedy; encouraging teachers to make connections between what they were teaching and occupational problems; using the cumulative record card when advising children; consulting records of intelligence; urging students to stay in school; and interviewing and “checking cards” of all students who were leaving school to ensure understanding of the requirements for obtaining a work card (Ginn, 1924 as cited in Gysbers & Henderson, 1997, p. 2).  Paisley and Borders (1995) report the primary duties of the school counselor during this time period to include promoting character development, teaching socially appropriate behaviors, and assisting with vocational planning.  School counseling models contained elements of this approach well into the 1960s.

School Counseling in the 1950s and 1960s

In 1953, the fifth division of the American Personnel and Guidance Association (currently the American Counseling Association or ACA) was formed.  What is currently known as the American School Counselor Association has had a tremendous influence on the development of the profession as well as the development of school counseling in general (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Paisley & Borders, 1995).  The launch of the space satellite Sputnik in 1957 set into motion a fear and sense of panic among many American citizens.  In the time it took to launch the Russian satellite, the American educational landscape began to change.  There was at once a feeling of immediate need to put into place social and educational reform that would quickly bring Americans back to the forefront of science and technology.  One direct implication was the effect the launch had on the rapid development and redefinition of school counseling at the middle and high school levels (Wittmer, 2000). 

            This redefinition of the position of school guidance counselor can be partially credited to the passage of the National Defense Act of 1958 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (Beesley, 2004; Gysbers & Henderson, 2001; Paisley & Borders, 1995; Wittmer, 2000), direct responses to the launch of the Russian satellite. Almost immediately, this piece of federal legislation directed a large amount of funding to the training of school guidance counselors (Baker, 2001; Wittmer, 2000).  The purpose of this investment was to enhance the knowledge and the skills of school counselors as well as to increase the number of appropriately prepared counselors (Baker, 2001).  Due in part to support from federal funds encouraging the increase of counselor preparation programs, according to Baker, the number of school counselors increased (2000).  According to Wittmer (2000), in the time between 1958 and 1967, the number of school counselors actually tripled.  The teacher-counselor position of the early 1900s was replaced with full-time school counselors and the development of a field of personnel known as “pupil personnel” was begun (Gysbers & Henderson, 2001, ¶ 8). Gysbers (1990) adds that the model that dominated professional theory during this time period was the “counselor-clinical-services” (p.1) or the process model approach where the elements of counseling, consulting, and coordinating were emphasized.             

The Position in Turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s

As early as 1969, the University of Missouri-Columbia conducted a national conference on career guidance, counseling and placement to attempt to begin the process of redefining the role of the school counselor (Gysbers, 1990).  This led to the granting of funds by the U.S. Office of Education to the University of Missouri-Columbia for the purpose of assisting each state, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, in developing guides for implementing career guidance, counseling and placement programs in schools (Gysbers, 1990).  The product of this effort was a manual first published in February of 1974 that provided the first true organizational structure for comprehensive guidance programs.

Beesley (2004) reports that the 1970s and the 1980s were dark times for the profession of school counseling.  It was during this time period that declining enrollments and staff reductions caused many school counselors to find themselves at risk of being eliminated.  Baker (2000) notes that the school counseling “boom” (p. 6) did begin to wane during the 1970s, due in part to this role identity crisis and the lack of ability on the part of school counselors to appropriately show the positive effects of their work in the schools (Baker, 2001; Beesley, 2004).  At the same time, there began a call to action toward several themes regarding the appropriate roles of school counselors (Baker, 2000).  One theme called for school counselors to become more active in schools and communities and to rely more on concepts found in sociology, political science and economics rather than the previously held schools of thought that relied on psychology (Baker, 2000). 

It was during the late 1970s that the developmental approach to guidance was gaining strength and the concept of elementary-school guidance saw resurgence (Baker, 2000).  Additionally, there began the “services approach” (Gysbers, 1990, p. 2) to guidance; that is, school guidance counselors were encouraged to base guidance programs on clearly stated goals and objectives founded on a set of functions from primary prevention to diagnosis and therapy.  These services were all provided with the goal of maintaining a focus on the personal development of the student (Baker, 2000; Gysbers, 1990).

It was the outcry for promoting accountability and evaluation that began in the 1970s that has landed school counseling where it is today (Baker, 2001).  This outcry led to the developmental guidance movement of the 1980s that sought to reorganize school counseling around a comprehensive guidance curriculum or a comprehensive school counseling program (CSCP) (Baker, 2000; Baker, 2001; Gysbers & Henderson, 1994). According to Galassi and Akos (2004), comprehensive school guidance and counseling programs:

(a) de-emphasize administrative and clerical tasks as well as crisis-centered modes of intervention and (b) promote guidance activities and structured group experiences designed to support students in developing the personal, social, educational, and career skills needed to function as responsible and productive citizens. (¶ 3)

The New Vision for School Counseling – the 1990s - Present

Gysbers wrote in 1990 “The present day emphasis lies in developmental, organized programming that replaces even the more recent view of school counselor as ‘counselor-clinical-services’ provider” (p.167).  Gysbers reports that “the change from position to program as the basic organizer for guidance in the schools represents a major paradigm shift for school counselors” (p. 168). As early as 1990, Gysbers outlined the five axioms upon which school counseling programs rest.  Primarily, he reported, guidance is a program; second, school counseling programs are developmental and comprehensive; third, school counseling programs focus on individual competencies rather than just on deficiencies; fourth, school counseling programs are built on a team approach; finally, school counseling programs mandate articulation; that is, effective linkages between developmental levels, K-12, exist so that program continuity is assured (Gysbers, 1990). 

In the early 1990s, Paisley & Borders (1995) recognized the emergence of a focus on developmentally appropriate programs to address this abundance of issues as being at the heart of school counseling reform. They report that delivery of a comprehensive developmental school counseling program is frequently cited as the foundation for the role of the school counselor.  That is, school counselors of the 1990s were to some degree given the task of designing, developing and delivering programs that were, according to Brown (1999), “designed to facilitate human growth and learning and at the same time foster resiliency with a preventive, proactive focus while providing a support system” (¶ 38).

Responding to the ever-changing role of the school counselor and the historical problems recognized by major contributors to the field, the ASCA and its parent organization, the American Counseling Association (ACA), reintroduced the Elementary School Counseling Demonstration Act in 1993 which was eventually signed into law as the Elementary School Counseling Demonstration Act of 1995 (Paisley & Borders, 1995). This legislation required funding for schools that proposed promising and innovative approaches to the expansion of their school counseling programs.  These programs, by definition, would encourage cooperation among the school counselor, the school psychologist and social workers in teams.  Additionally, this legislation called for student-counselor ratios not to exceed 250:1 and for 85% of the counselor’s time to be spent providing direct services to students, with no more than 15% of their time devoted to administrative tasks (Baker, 2000).

Additional key legislation that influenced the school counselor’s role was the passage of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act in 1994. This legislation’s goal was to focus attention on aiding students in their transition from school to work. The school counselor’s involvement in this process is emphasized because the school counselor is viewed as a person who has a vast knowledge of vocational decision-making and interpersonal skills development.  This combined with the school counselor’s knowledge of child and adolescent growth and development seemingly made the school counselor a key player in delivering a comprehensive program that would assist students in the school-to-work transition (Granello, 1999).

The Transforming School Counseling Initiative

In 1996, the Education Trust, a Washington based, not-for-profit organization, began a five-year, national initiative for transforming school counseling (Martin, 2002). The 2003 Transforming School Counseling Initiative (TSCI), supported in part by the Dewitt-Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, attempted to reconcile the differences between the school counseling theory being taught to pre-service school counselors and the actual practice that is required of the school counselor to assist in the achievement of all students, especially minority and low-income students (Baker, 2000; Martin, 2002).  The emphasis of this reform effort was to provide school counselors with the knowledge and data that they need in order to close the achievement gap between underserved populations of students (Dollarhide & Saginak, 2008).  The goal of the initiative was ultimately to ensure that “the school counselor serves as a leader as well as an effective team member working with teachers, administrators, and other school personnel to make sure that each student succeeds” (The Education Trust, 2001 as cited in Dollarhide & Saginak, 2008, p. 199).  Above all else, the National Education Trust was concerned with promoting high academic achievement for all students and enhancing career development opportunities for all students at all levels (Baker, 2000). 

The first guiding principal of the Transforming School Counseling Initiative is a belief that students can achieve at a high level when high expectations are set (The Education Trust, 2007).  The TSCI has at its roots the belief that students enter the school building each day with the ability and potential to achieve and that school counselors are in a unique position to advocate for all students to see that this ability is fulfilled.

            The second guiding principal of the TSCI is that all students need access to a high-quality, rigorous curriculum that will adequately prepare them for work and college (The Education Trust, 2007).  Again, The Education Trust and TSCI hold a belief that school counselors play a critical role in ensuring that all students have access to just such a curriculum. 

            The Transforming School Counseling Initiative has additionally outlined five skills at which the progressive school counselor must be effective.  They include teaming and collaboration, leadership, assessment and the use of data to effect change, advocacy, and counseling and coordination (The Education Trust, 2007; Musheno & Talbert, 2002).  The TSCI believes that proficiency in these five areas will equip the school counselors of today to become leaders of educational reform within their respective programs as well as advocates for students and their academic achievement (Musheno & Talbert, 2002).

In 1997, the American School Counselor Association surveyed more than 2,000 elementary, middle/junior high and high school counselors in K-12 settings to determine their thoughts on exactly what a set of national standards in school counseling would entail.  Professional school counselors from across the country suggested that the national standards should accomplish the following tasks:

As a result of the 1997 survey and the compilation of the six key areas that national standards should encompass, ASCA began the process of developing a set of national standards for school counseling programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Dahir, 2001). 

No Child Left Behind

The 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act legislation known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) became what many consider the most sweeping national educational reform in some time (Phelps, 2002).  The stated primary purpose of NCLB is to narrow achievement gaps between and among minority groups or students of color and their white and Asian-American counterparts (USDE, 2001).  Three of the five primary goals of NCLB addressed curriculum and achievement, while goals four and five referred to school climate, affective development, and the opportunity to graduate from high school (Chandler, 2006; Stone & Dahir, 2004; 2006).  With the inclusion of goals four and five, the role of the school counselor in modern-day educational reform is solidified. According to Dahir and Stone (n.d.), “The No Child Left Behind Act (USDE, 2001) is a clear imperative for achievement, share the pressures of school accountability, and demonstrate advocacy for every student to experience success” (p. 4).

The National Model for School Counseling

The American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) (2003) National Model promotes ASCA’s primary goal of school counseling programs and highlights the emphasis on developmentally appropriate curriculum implementation (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Dahir, 2001). ASCA’s National Model focuses on the enhancement and development of student achievement by focusing on three “widely accepted and interrelated areas” (Dahir, 2001, ¶ 17): academic development, career development and personal-social development (Dahir, 2001). According to Baker (2000), the national standards should be designed to: (1) shift the focus from counselors to counseling programs; (2) create a framework for a national school counseling model; (3) establish school counseling as an integral part of the academic mission of schools; (4) promote equal access to school counseling services for all students; (5) emphasize the key components of developmental school counseling; (6) identify the knowledge and skills that all students should have access to as a part of a comprehensive school counseling program; and (7) provide for the systematic delivery of a school counseling program.  The role of the school counselor as a member of the academic team within schools and the school counselor’s role in the academic achievement of all students are highlighted in the development of the ASCA’s National Model (Baker, 2000; Campbell & Dahir, 1997).

ASCA’s (2003) National Model emphasizes the school counselor’s role in assisting all students to achieve academically, a systematic and developmentally appropriate set of interventions that can influence families, schools and communities, and the use of data and research to guide the development of programs and practices and to evaluate the effectiveness of such programs (ASCA, 2003; Center For School Counseling Outcome Research, 2000). Baker (2000) predicts the 21st century school counselor will be more effective when she is working to provide proactive programs that “meet and enhance developmental needs, as well as react to demands for interventions when required” (p. 2).

ASCA’s National Model is based on an operational structure that outlines four major systems on three levels.  They include the foundation, the management system, the delivery system, and accountability (ASCA, 2003). The levels, as previously discussed in chapter one, outline the influence that the foundation places upon both the management system and the delivery system and then how the management system and the delivery system drive the need for accountability.  Finally, accountability provides for changes and restructuring of the program at its foundation (ASCA, 2003).

Encompassing ASCA’s National Model are the four themes of leadership, advocacy, collaboration and systemic change. According to the National Model’s description of those themes, “school counselors play a significant part in improving student academic achievement and are uniquely positioned to be student and systems [sic] advocates” (ASCA, 2003, p. 24). Each of these four themes outlines part of that role that school counselors play. For example, leadership highlights the role that school counselors play in bringing about systemic change to school. Through leadership efforts, school counselors work in collaboration with other professionals in schools to implement reform. Additionally, as a part of the leadership theme, school counselors help students gain access to a rigorous curriculum that will enhance their future opportunities. Finally, in a leadership role, school counselors work to close achievement gaps between students of color, poor students or underachieving students when they exist (ASCA, 2003).

Under the theme of advocacy, school counselors work to meet the educational needs of all students. As student advocates, school counselors work to remove any and all barriers that impede student success. Through the use of data, school counselors can recognize certain areas of the academic system that prevent students from achieving at a high level and therefore limit student options for post-secondary education and training (ASCA, 2003).

            When the terms collaboration and teaming are mentioned in the National Model, the ASCA is referring to the school counselor’s work with all stakeholders who have an interest in the success of students. This theme focuses on the school counselors work with professionals both inside and outside of the school to develop and implement responsive educational programs aimed at meeting student goals. School counselors recognize the contributions that teachers, parents, and community members make in the education of students and work to bring strong contributions from each party into the formal educational landscape (ASCA, 2003).

            The final theme of systemic change highlights the role school counselors play in using information uniquely available to them to examine and change current policy and practice. Whether it be course-taking patterns, student placements, or student success and failure rates, school counselors are poised to be key change agents within the school (ASCA, 2003).

            In 2003, Dahir and Stone began work on a survey that would examine the work of the school counselor in accordance with the concepts inherit in the ASCA’s National Model. That survey, The School Counselor Professional Development Survey, has, since its development, been used in school counseling studies in states such as Florida, New Jersey, New York and school districts inside New York City (Chandler, 2006). More importantly, recent adaptations of the survey have been used in statewide studies of school counseling in Alabama and Tennessee. In her study, Chandler (2006) found that school counselors in Alabama continue to be plagued by the role conflict and ambiguity that has compromised the profession of school counseling throughout history. For example, in Alabama, school counselors in high schools reported levels of activities such as student scheduling and master schedule development at a much higher rate than did their elementary and middle school counterparts. Additionally, all grade levels reported responsibilities associated with coordination of statewide assessments and registration of new students; all recognized as non-counseling duties.

            Although the comprehensive results of the Tennessee study of school counseling are not yet available (C. Dahir, personal communication, February 23, 2008), early indications point to professional development needs that assist school counselors in the four themes of leadership, advocacy, teaming and collaboration and systemic change. According to Dahir, a contributor to the development of the school counseling policy currently in place in West Virginia, a statewide study similar to the Alabama and the Tennessee study in West Virginia could help paint a clearer picture of school counseling in the southern part of the United States.

The Struggle to Define Counseling Duties

Non-Counseling Duties: The Duties that Distract from Program Implementation

The implementation of contemporary school counseling programs can be difficult without the appropriate amount of support from administration and faculty.  Many times, school counselors are told what to do by administrators who fail to understand the contribution the school counselor can make to the school (House & Hayes, 2002).  When compounded with the fact that confusion over the role of the school counselor still prevails (ASCA, 1996; House & Hayes, 2002), the task is more difficult.  According to House and Hayes (2002), the tasks that school counselors are asked to perform vary from state to state, district to district and even school to school.  Beale (2004) points to one factor that contributes to the difficulty in program implementation – the pressure to perform non-counseling duties. 

While a complete list of non-counseling duties, or activities not appropriate for the school counselor, is provided in Appendix B, some of the duties that have historically been assigned to the school counselor are data entry; clerical record keeping; registration and scheduling of all new students; coordinating or administering cognitive, aptitude and achievement tests; responsibility for signing excuses for students who are tardy or absent; performing disciplinary actions; sending students home who are not appropriately dressed; teaching classes when teachers are absent; and computing grade-point averages (Campbell & Dahir, 1997).

Additionally, school counselors often fall into the habit of providing long-term individual counseling services as defined by Gysbers as the “counselor-clinical-services” model (Gysbers, 1990, p. 1).  A 2000 study by Burnham and Jackson found that school counselors in two southeastern states, serving grade levels from Kindergarten through 12th grade, relied too heavily on individual counseling (Burnham & Jackson, 2000).  Additionally, Burnham and Jackson (2000) found that school counselors in this study were highly engaged in duties associated with test coordination, distribution and planning; duties in which Gysbers and Henderson (1997) specifically state the school counselor should not be involved.  Finally, Burnham and Jackson (2000) found that participants spent a large portion of their time on activities categorized as inappropriate, administrative or clerical.

In a similar study mentioned earlier, Chandler (2006) found that secondary school counselors reported more involvement with activities such as student scheduling, including responsibilities associated with the master schedule.  All grade levels in Chandler’s study reported high levels of responsibility for coordination of state assessments with the elementary and middle school levels being the highest.  Finally, school counselors who identified themselves as working in a K-12 setting reported high levels of involvement in non-counseling activities such as new student registration, record maintenance and master schedule development. Ironically, this group of school counselors also reported the highest amount of involvement in counseling activities in this study.

Counseling Duties: The Real Work Involved in Program Implementation

According to House and Hayes (2002), school counselors can “promote student achievement if they provide a well-articulated developmental counseling program with attention to equity, access, and support services” (¶ 20).  Within this scope, school counselors engage in appropriate counseling duties that involve not only counseling, but also involve collaboration, school leadership and student advocacy (ASCA, 2003; House & Hayes, 2002). 

A key component to comprehensive school counseling programs as promoted by the ASCA’s National Model is a clear outline of specific activities appropriate and essential to the implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program.  The process of delivering a comprehensive school counseling program includes individual and small group counseling, large and small group guidance, consultation, case management, and coordination of services (Dahir, 2001; Sink, 2005a.).  All of these relevant and necessary activities are conducted under specific areas defined as individual planning, guidance curriculum, responsive services, or system support (Dahir, 2001; Gysbers & Henderson, 1994; Sink, 2005a).

Gysbers (1990) writes that appropriate duties associated with comprehensive school counseling programs include classroom guidance activities and structured group experiences for all students.  Additionally, a comprehensive program “de-emphasizes administrative and clerical tasks” (Gysbers, 1990, p. 170).  The very nature of comprehensive programs also limits one-to-one counseling only (ASCA, 2004; ASCA, 2003; Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Gysbers, 1990) as a primary intervention for students suffering emotional and personal stress.

In addition to specific areas under which school counselors perform specific duties, ASCA (2003) has further outlined a set of activities that are most effectively performed by the school counselor who possesses the necessary academic training required.  These activities include individual student academic planning; interpreting (not administering) cognitive, aptitude, and achievement tests; counseling students who are tardy or absent; counseling students who have disciplinary problems; and collaborating with teachers to present guidance curriculum lessons (ASCA, 2003; Campbell & Dahir, 1997). According to Dahir (2001), “School counselors plan and coordinate the objectives, strategies, and activities of a comprehensive school counseling program to meet the academic, career, and personal-social needs of all students” (¶ 26).

School Counseling in West Virginia

No literature on the history of school counseling in West Virginia was found.  This may be due in part to the fact that no major university in West Virginia, in the last 30-35 years, has had on faculty a person devoted to research in the field of school counseling (E.E. Jacobs, personal communication, December 28, 2007).

According to Dr. Robert Rubenstein (personal communication, February 12, 2008), Marshall University Professor in the School Counseling Program, counseling in West Virginia prior to 2000 was primarily based on the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program; a program after which many states in the 1970s and 1980s modeled their school counseling programs.  This program, with its focus on guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support is the basis for the National Model’s delivery system (Starr & Gysbers, 1993). This model combined with West Virginia statute 18-5-18b which states that “school counselors shall be full-time professional personnel spending seventy-five percent of work time in a direct counseling relationship and one fourth of the work day to administrative activities” (¶ 6) was the basic road map for school counselors in West Virginia until 2000.

In 2000, the West Virginia National Standards in School Counseling Task Force was organized and given the task of reviewing and updating West Virginia Board rule 126CSR67, “Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Policy” filed May 14, 1992 and effective September 1, 1993 (WVDE, 2004).  Upon examining the existing policy, the task force rethought the position taken in existing policy and pushed for West Virginia State Code revisions. A broad, sweeping approach effectively led to change in West Virginia State Code and therefore in school counseling. The result was a 2002 collaborative effort between the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia School Counselor Association, and education leadership of the West Virginia Legislature leading to reform that redefined school counseling in the state of West Virginia (WVDE, n.d.).  At the heart of this collaborative effort was the creation and adoption of a revised West Virginia State Board Policy 2315: Comprehensive Developmental Guidance and Counseling (WVDE, 2002).

According to the West Virginia Department of Education (n.d.), the state of West Virginia maintains a shared vision with the American School Counselor Association.  That is, the West Virginia Department of Education website promotes a mission statement that parallels that of the ASCA: “The mission for West Virginia school counseling programs is to focus on academic, career and personal/social development to ensure that every student benefits from a program that is comprehensive in scope, preventative in design and developmental in nature” (WVDE, n.d., ¶ 3).  Additionally, with regards to the vision for school counseling in West Virginia, the WVDE states “All West Virginia students will acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to reach their fullest potential and successfully manage their lives as healthy, responsible, competent and productive citizens who respect themselves and others” (WVDE, n.d., ¶ 4). To that end, in addition to the ASCA’s National Standards, Policy 2315 contains language that encourages West Virginia school counselors to, in their practice; implement the ASCA’s National Model themes of leadership, advocacy, collaboration and teaming and systemic change. Under policy sections titled Application and Definitions, West Virginia school counselors are encouraged to engage in advocacy, collaboration, and consultation (WVDE, 2002), all stemming from the National Model’s themes.

The West Virginia comprehensive policy addresses not only the scope and practice of school counseling in West Virginia, but it also attempts to define appropriate and inappropriate activities in which school counselors should and should not be a part. According to Policy 2315 (WVDE, 2004):

The purpose of this policy is to define the components of a comprehensive and developmental guidance and counseling program based on nationally recognized standards, as well as define the direct and indirect counseling services and counseling program service delivery and monitoring guidelines that are to be reflected in county policy and to be implemented at each school. The nine national standards for school counseling defined in §126-67-4 and §126-67-7 of this policy link the comprehensive and developmental guidance and counseling program to the county/school academic mission by promoting national, state and local education goals, by making the school counseling program an integral part of the total educational program, and by helping assure a nurturing and orderly, safe, drug-free, violence- and harassment-free learning environment. (¶ 6)

Section §126-67-4, sub-section 4.7 of Policy 2315 limits “counseling related administrative activities” to include such items as organizing events such as financial aid workshops for students and parents, assisting in the career and college planning process, developing preventative guidance programming and lessons, and “other student-centered activities; writing letters of recommendation; and coordinating with appropriate school officials to assure the maintenance of student records” (¶ 16). Further, sub-section 4.11 defines “non-counseling” activities as “any activity or duty not related to the development, implementation, or evaluation of the counseling program” (¶ 20). These definitions and limitations are in line with recommendations in the ASCA’s National Model.

            Finally, beginning with section §126-67-6, Policy 2315 attempts to outline further the percentage of time West Virginia school counselors spend on actual program delivery, encouraging counselors to spend at least 75% of their time in direct counseling relationships with students and no more than 25% of their time to counselor related administrative activities (WVDE, 2002). More specifically, sub-section 6.7 provides a table with a suggested distribution of total school counselor time in each of the areas of classroom guidance, individual student planning, responsive services, and system support as found in the National Model. These functions are based on the ASCA’s National Standards for school counseling programs and should include a focus on student development in the areas of academic, career, and personal/social development. This table, as well at the National Standards for school counseling, was previously discussed in chapter one of this study.


The future of school counseling holds much promise. Thanks in part or in whole to the ASCA National Model, there is a new energy and excitement around the important role that school counselors play in the development of students. Additionally, there is little argument that the profession’s past is partially responsible for shaping what school counseling looks like in the 21st century. However, in order to advance school counseling in West Virginia, we must first be sure that there is firm acknowledgement of where we currently stand in terms of implementing a policy whose purpose it is to promote National Model delivery. What follows is further explanation of, results of, and a discussion of a study aimed at examining whether or not school counselors in West Virginia are implementing the elements of the National Model to the extent that West Virginia Policy 2315 requires them. Once we understand where West Virginia’s school counselors are, we can help them better serve the students of West Virginia.


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