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What Is an M.Ed. in School Counseling?

The modern professional school counselor is an integral part of a well-functioning school and is crucial to the success of its student body. The increasingly complex and specialized field of school counseling requires in-depth knowledge and well-developed skill sets based in a strong foundation of educational theory and methodology, psychology, and leadership. School counselors must also have the experience to effectively apply that knowledge. In order to develop the next generation of effective, professional school counselors, online graduate programs like Lamar University’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling combine intensive coursework with practicum and internship components as well as residency seminars.

How Is a “Professional School Counselor” Different From a “Guidance Counselor?”

In the past, school counselors were generally referred to as guidance counselors. These professionals have long been a regular part of the school community, yet their role and responsibilities are shifting. Guidance counselors used to be largely responsible for the college and career direction of their students as well as the intervention and remedial counseling of “problem students.” Unfortunately, these guidance counselors have become all but ineffectual due to the exponentially increasing ratio of students to counselors, especially in underfunded school systems. Consequently, many administrators and human resource specialists have moved toward eliminating the guidance counselor position. Yet many educators still see the counselor as an indispensable part of an effective educational community.

Schools must begin to redefine the role and move toward the professional school counselor model. This role goes far beyond that of guidance counselor. The professional school counselor takes a holistic approach to the academic, social, and emotional health and guidance of the school’s student body. And beyond individual counseling, school counselors strive to develop supportive relationships between students, teachers, parents, and anyone else involved in the school community. They also delegate some of the responsibility affecting academic, social, and emotional growth to community leaders.

What Else Is Involved in Being a Professional School Counselor?

This redefined position integrates many responsibilities in order to maintain many aspects of student health and growth. At times, counselors still fill the traditional role: intervening through direct counseling of struggling students as well as the guiding of students through their course choice, pursuit of college, and career path outlook.

But on top of these responsibilities, modern professional school counselors attempt to affect overall growth in student academic pursuits, social and emotional health, community involvement, and other such aspects of student life. In short, counselors directly promote and reinforce student choices which lead to their development as critical thinkers and contributing members of society. Furthermore, the concept of intervention counseling has morphed from singular intervention to ongoing counseling and the pursuit of student internalization of learning and growth.

Clearly, an individual counselor cannot effectively maintain all these responsibilities at the same time. It is simply too much for one person to handle, no matter how well educated, trained and experienced they are. So an integral part of the modern counselor role is to educate the entire school community in methods of promoting community health and academic, social, and emotional wellbeing. This can involve the professional development of staff, the engagement of parents and community, and actual focused workshops for students, which give them the skills to pursue personal wellness. The most effective professional school counselor strives to foster an entire school community focused on the health and development of each community member.

What Is Involved in an M.Ed. in School Counseling Degree Program?

Lamar University prepares candidates for a career in school counseling through a combination of education in theoretical knowledge, research-based methodology development, and practical experience in observation, application, and reflection. In its holistic nature, this degree program mirrors the field of school counseling, integrating all aspects of effective training and development for the professional.

As testimony to the value of what she gained from Lamar University’s M.Ed. online programs, graduate Elizabeth Miller says, “Don’t wait. Get started right away. There are so many opportunities waiting for you and so much growth that will occur for you. In the end, I wish I would have done it sooner — but I don’t regret a minute of it.”

Lamar’s online M.Ed. in School Counseling program includes coursework in a number of areas:

  • Human development, including physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth.
  • Counseling theory, technique, and application, with focused study and coursework on individual counseling, group counseling, developmental counseling and multicultural counseling.
  • Standards, ethics and laws specific to the profession of school counseling.
  • Career development and options for students.
  • Techniques for dealing with crises and personal counseling, including the study of interpersonal relationship dynamics in and out of school.
  • Individual and group assessment and evaluation.
  • Counseling research, including its analysis and evaluation as well as application to practice.

The Residency, Practicum and Internship Components of Lamar University’s M.Ed. in School Counseling

The residency, practicum and internship elements of Lamar’s online M. Ed. in School Counseling are integral to the program, combining theoretical knowledge, observation and practice. Candidates in the program will participate in intensive, face-to-face residency seminars in correlation with concurrent online coursework. This allows faculty and students to interact in person, providing the opportunity for direct observation as well as feedback and coaching in the various aspects of practical counseling.

The practicum component of Lamar’s program provides candidates with direct experience counseling clients, under supervision from faculty members, student supervisors and site supervisors. Candidates are then placed in internships where they gain further, in-depth experience in real-world counseling. These experiential learning opportunities can prepare candidates thoroughly for the challenges they will face in their careers.

Although the role of the guidance counselor in modern schools may be fading, that of the professional school counselor is perhaps becoming more important than ever. Professional counselors can affect positive academic, intellectual, social, and emotional growth at the individual level, in the context of student, teacher, and community groups. They also have a role in the wider context of systemic educational change and development. School counselors are put in the unique position of dealing with crises of both academic and behavioral situations, which necessitate immediate intervention. They also provide long-term counseling to promote continual student development (and the avoidance of intervention situations in the future). Earning an M.Ed. in School Counseling can be an effective way to develop the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to pursue a career in the difficult yet rewarding field of professional school counseling.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in School Counseling program.


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American School Counselor Association: Role of the School Counselor

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