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How do middle and high school counselors guide their students? In this lesson, we’re going to look into the different formats they use and how these benefit their students.

Middle and Secondary School Counselors

School counselors have a special challenge on their hands when they deal with middle and high school students.

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They get to meet with them during some rocky times where they may be having issues with self-esteem, family issues, peer problems, mood disorders ; the list goes on. But counseling students in this age range is also a privilege because an impact can be made during a pivotal time of mental and emotional development.School counselors have the opportunity to offer support and understanding that the adolescent may not otherwise have. In fact, they may be the only source of encouragement and positive direction in the student’s life. So how does a middle and high school counselor do their job? We are now going to be looking into the formats, or types of interventions, that are used for counseling middle and high school students.

These include: individual sessions, group sessions, career development, service coordination, and IEP work.

Types of Interventions

Individual Counseling

When we think of counseling, we typically think of an individual counseling session, which is a timed session where one student meets with a counselor regarding personal issues. For example, Ingrid has gone to see the school counselor, Laura, several times this past year.Her parents got a divorce, and she is having trouble adjusting. Ingrid appreciates having individual time with Laura to say whatever she feels and knows she will be accepted.

Laura helps her put words to her thoughts and teaches her some exercises to reduce her stress. Ingrid continues to meet with Laura into the school year for maintained support.

Group Counseling

You may have seen group counseling in a movie, or you may have taken part in it yourself.

Group counseling involves a meeting of about 5-8 students that is facilitated by a counselor. Students may not be able to get into as much depth with their issues as they would one-on-one with a counselor; however, they get to hear other students share their thoughts. What is unique about group counseling is the chance for students to connect with each other and realize they are not alone.

Take Ingrid, for example. She might feel like she is the only one whose parents are divorcing or the only one who is having trouble with it. However, during the group session on parental divorce, three other middle schoolers shared how hard it was for them in various ways.

Ingrid likes getting their understanding and feedback, and listening to Laura guide them in their situations.

Career Development

Along with someone who will guide them through emotional issues, middle and high school students need a person to direct them through academic issues and prepare them for college or future careers. Some schools have counselors who offer solely academic or career-centered advising. But in other schools, one school counselor wears this hat as well.Carmen is in seventh grade and desires to be a journalist one day.

She loves to write and is a creative thinker, but her difficulty with grammar is setting her back. Counselor Laura sets her up with a tutor who can help with these skills, and she keeps in touch with the tutor to monitor her progress.Of course, high schoolers are especially in need of academic guidance as they consider possible careers and options for college.

Charles has just entered his senior year of high school and wants to look into various colleges and financial aid. Counselor Laura shows Charles online and book resources for different colleges and helps him sort out his ideas when he needs clarity. She also gives him advice when he is writing drafts of his college essays and filling out applications for financial aid.

IEP Work

Counselors have a unique role with children who are disabled. They work on the child’s IEP, or an individualized education program. This program guides a student through a personalized plan designed for academic success. While staff and teachers have a role in different parts of one’s IEP, the school counselor has a particularly important role in facilitating this program.Let’s consider Laura again.

Laura has just met with Danny, a new tenth grader who has a disability. Laura must first do an assessment of Danny, measuring things like his cognitive development and physical development, emotional maturity, work values, and goals for after high school. She will share her findings with the rest of the IEP team and continue to reassess these features over Danny’s school career. Laura will also offer advice regarding any assistive technology that she thinks is needed, like specialized material or technological devices that can help with assignments.

Laura also sets up community resources for Danny, like an outside tutor and professional counseling for the family, when needed. Lastly, Laura helps Danny with transition planning, which is a plan for what he wants to do after high school. She helps him determine his interests and evaluate which are feasible for him and his family.


Fortunately, school counselors do not have to do their jobs alone. Counselors are always encouraged to enlist the support of teachers and staff in order to aid students. This teamwork approach to reaching and supporting students is known as collaboration.

Let’s say Laura is working with a ninth grader named Cynthia, who has just suffered the loss of her grandmother. Laura can make Cynthia’s teachers aware that she is going through this time of grief, so that the teachers can be understanding with her if she begins to be less focused in class or not as prepared for tests. This also goes for students like Ingrid, whose parents recently divorced, or students who are going through any number of challenging life events. Teachers can also report to counselors when they suspect one of their students is acting out or struggling emotionally.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Middle and high school counselors have a special opportunity to reach children at a pivotal age in development. They seek to support, guide, and direct them through the use of various routes like: individual counseling, where the counselor sees one student at a time; group counseling, where the counselor sees about 5-8 students at a time; career development, where the counselor advises on academic, college, and career topics; IEP work, where the counselor guides students with disabilities through an individualized education program; and collaboration, where the counselor works with members of the staff and faculty on a student’s behalf.

Learning Outcome

Completing this lesson should prepare you to list and explain five types of interventions that middle and high school counselors use to help their students.

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