Guidance Counsellors provide competent, ethical, and professionally delivered knowledge, information, and services on educational orientation and training, helping current and prospective students work toward achieving their personal and academic goals. They administer and interpret standardized interest, aptitude, and ability tests to help students identify their strengths and develop self-awareness.
In some cases, Guidance Counsellors are also responsible for overseeing students’ mental health by administering clinical pre-screeners and psycho-educational assessments, as well as referring students to other specialized services when required.
Guidance Counsellors are usually employed by school boards and post-secondary educational institutions often working within the Health and Counselling Services department. Sometimes, smaller schools will have a Teacher or the school’s Psychologist work as a Guidance Counsellor or vice versa, as long as this individual is qualified in both fields.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Guidance Counsellors are required to complete.
- Providing individual, group, and class work, as both intervention and prevention services.
- Ensuring the students’ personal and social development:
- Offering concrete tools and discussing strategies to improve leadership, stress management, self-confidence, decision-making skills, as well as communication and interpersonal skills, such as peer helping and conflict resolution skills;
- promoting effective work/study habits (e.g. reading, note-taking, and time management skills) by developing and coordinating work/study skills groups and workshops;
- ameliorating factors which may precipitate problems for students;
- working with external partners (e.g. psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and social workers ) to best serve and support students with mental health issues and challenges; and
- reporting any abusive situation to appropriate authorities, whether the student is experiencing physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse (e.g. bullying and maltreatment).
- Administering and interpreting tests designed to determine interests, aptitudes, and abilities.
- Advising students on educational issues, such as course and program selection:
- Providing students with a wide range of educational information as requested; and
- enhancing students’ educational achievement through goal setting and performance tracking.
- Advising students on career or vocational issues, including career exploration and planning:
- Providing students with a wide range of career information, as well as professional development sessions;
- helping students enhance their résumés, cover letters, and portfolios;
- providing interview preparation, including performing mock interviews; and
- providing information on job search strategies, including networking best practices.
- Designing and implementing a variety of assessment practices to measure and monitor student progress effectively.
- Coordinating recruitment activities and facilitating orientation programs, as well as workplace integration:
- Visiting colleges and schools to provide academic information to prospective students;
- overseeing or participating in student orientation programs in colleges or universities; and
- arranging for employers to recruit graduating college and university students, and students for co-op education work terms.
- Providing consultation to staff/faculty on an individual basis, and offering a variety of educational and training workshops.
- Participating in the evaluation of services, outcome measurement, and research initiatives within the Student Services department.
- Offering support in personal, educational, and vocational development by identifying students’ goals and helping them work toward achieving them.
- Identifying students’ skills and helping them improve these skills or develop new ones.
- Advising students on educational, professional and/or vocational issues.
- Providing students with a wide range of educational and occupational information.
- Providing information on job search strategies, including résumé and cover letter writing, as well as interview preparation and networking best practices.
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- Strong interpersonal, communication, and assessment skills:
- Communicating clearly and confidently, both in writing and verbally, in order to create a clear, communicative, and transparent, yet confidential environment with students, parents, and faculty members;
- expressing genuine interest in another person’s thoughts, opinions, and background;
- easily and efficiently identifying students’ needs and difficulties (e.g. learning difficulties);
- being an active listener and displaying a strong sense of empathy and compassion; and
- displaying strong rapport building, as well as the inherent ability to make others feel cared about.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills:
- Being able to translate ideas into practical goals;
- using creativity and imagination to develop new insights and to apply new solutions to problems; and
- handling potentially adversarial situations using a calm, tactful, discreet, and effective approach that promotes peer mediation as well as conflict resolution.
- Intuition and decision-making skills:
- Being able to exercise great judgment, redirecting students to appropriate resources as needed.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Strategically structuring and customizing counselling approach;
- prioritizing and planning work activities as to use time efficiently while handling a high volume, diverse workload; and
- multitasking; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
- Exceptional professionalism and strong work ethic:
- Being trustworthy enough to handle sensitive/confidential information.
- Optimistic, with a can-do attitude and a strong ability to motivate others.
- High levels of flexibility and responsiveness.
Aside from the skills listed above, Guidance Counsellors also need to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the following: labour market trends; job loss cycle; community and government resources; mental health providers and addiction support providers; and privacy legislations, such as Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) and Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). They must also demonstrate a comprehensive theoretical and practical knowledge and application of counselling practices and psychotherapeutic modalities.
Guidance Counsellors must have completed a Teaching Certificate, as well as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Counselling, School Counselling, Social Work, Psychology, Education, or in any other related discipline. Certifications in Social Emotional Assessment in Schools and/or Functional Assessments of Behaviour are definite assets, as well as proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite.
Most Guidance Counsellor positions require a minimum of 0 to 5 years of educational counselling and/or teaching experience – sometimes including a minimum of 2 years of successful classroom teaching experience and/or a minimum of 3 years of experience working in a mental health, community healthcare, or post-secondary setting.