I love the OlympicsOlympic athletes are legendary in that they are always pushing themselves to improve mentally and physically.  Whether its seeking a coach who will push them to perform, committing to long days of workouts and training, or maintaining a rigid diet, these athletes have made a commitment to improvement.  In fact, Olympic athletes cannot make half a commitment to be the best…they go all in!  

My excitement about watching the Olympic games in Rio (on tv of course) had me thinking about my own personal journey

on becoming a school counselor. I often wonder if I have the latest information for students, if my skills are still sharp, or if students can even relate to me.  I constantly must ask myself if I am stagnate because I believe I have reached the top of my game or am I willing to go to the next level?  So, here is my question to you,  do you want to improve your skills as a school counselor or stay stagnate?  Well, I am sure the majority of you would say, “I want to improve my skills as a school counselor!”  I hear you!  So if you want to take your skills up a notch, this post is for you!!  

Tips for Taking Your Skills to the Next Level

In this post, I am going to give you some tips from Dr. Scott Miller, a psychotherapist and founder of the International Center for Clinical Excellence. ICCE is an international community of practitioners, educators, and researchers devoted to promoting excellence in behavioral health by providing connections, education, and sharing among therapists.  Okay, what is this secret you speak of in terms of improving my skills?  Well, according to Miller, there are the four practices of highly effective therapists:

1.  Effective therapists do not rely on their judgment alone, but reflect on their practice by using evaluation methods.  As school counselors, we are no stranger to evaluation.  In fact, there are two types of evaluations you can administer as a school counselor: program evaluation and evaluation of the counseling relationship.  First, let’s talk about program evaluation.  Typically, school counselors employ a yearly needs assessment to get feedback from staff, students, and parents to drive their focus of the program for the next school year.  The Spirited School Counselor has created an end of the year evaluation for her program and has graciously given her assessment as an example to other school counselors. Effective school counselors employ evaluation in their programs!

However, have you ever considered evaluating the effectiveness of your relationship with your students?   Dr. Scott Miller has created an ultra-brief evaluation instrument that measures the alliance with your clients/students.  Although the instrument was created for psychotherapists, there is an advantage of using this assessment with your students to measure the effectiveness of your therapeutic relationship.  Why should you measure your therapeutic relationship?  Researchers have found that a positive alliance is the number one predictor of change in the therapeutic relationship.  

If you are interested in knowing more, please check out the SRS Evaluation instrument on Dr. Miller’s site.  The instrument is free if you download it for individual use and contains three different instruments: adult, youth, and child.  The client is asked to rate the session in four areas and then the counselor will plot the responses on a grid. These four areas include:

  • Did the client feel satisfied with the relationship with the counselor?
  • Did the client feel his or her goals were discussed in the session?
  • Did the client think the therapist’s approach was effective?
  • Was the client satisfied with the session?

In the next meeting, the counselor will begin the session by going over the client answers to those questions. 

Not saying this is for everyone, but if you are serious in making improvements in your relationships with your students, this could be a definite game changer.   

2.  Another practice of effective therapists is to join a community of other professionals.  As school counselors, we are very fortunate that we have many professional organizations and online communities to join.  

If you are new to online communities, here is a list of groups you may consider.  

 Facebook Groups

K-12 Counselor Exchange –  “A place for superhero school counselors who (somehow) manage all grade levels in his or her district. A place to share resources, concerns, and ideas with one another. Please join!”
High School Counselors’ Network“A place for high school counselors to network, share ideas, ask questions, etc.”
School Counselors on the Perimeter – “This is a place for those of us in alternative settings/schools to share ideas, resources, frustrations, etc.” 
The School Counselor Store  – “A place for counselors to share their resources with other counselors” By the way, this group just started last week and is already grown to over 500 counselors!
Peer Program Network  – “Network of former, current, and future peer program coordinators and trainers. The purpose of the group is to share ideas about starting, improving, or expanding school peer helping programs.”
Peer Mediation Programs  – “The Peer Mediation Programs site welcomes collaboration, information regarding mediation training, and helpful resources for existing and new peer mediation programs in schools.”
Conflict Resolution Education in Teacher Education  – ” Site to share information, training, and resources for conflict resolution education!”

Google+ Groups

Professional School Counseling – “The Professional School Counseling community is the first G+ community for all involved with the field of School Counseling.”

Counselor Connect – “This is an open community sponsored by the Indiana Online Academy and the Central Indiana Educational Service Center. It is a place for school counselors from across the globe to share resources, collaborate, and learn. All posts should benefit the members of the community. Welcome to Counselor Connect!”

Google Apps for School Counselors  – “This community was created for school counselors to leverage technology resources with school counseling curriculum in order to create enriching lesson plans and enhance what school counselors do for their school.”

Peer Programs  – “Community of peer program professionals sharing resources, information, and expertise. All are welcome to join this community whether you are an expert or novice looking for new ideas!”

Peer Mediation Programs  – “This community supports conflict educators who have or want to create a sustainable peer mediation program in their schools. All members are invited to share their resources, ideas, conflict training skills, and creativity with the community.”


#hscchat – High School Counselor Chat hosted by Amber Shepherd  – chat will be the second Monday of every month.

#scNOTaluxury – New School Counselor Chat hosted by Shujuan Hill Shannon.

#scchat  – School Counseling Chat

#etmooc – Chat about educational technology

#sccrowd School Counselor Crowd – Q & A Day for school counselors-This is an awesome live chat moderated by Ross Wolfson and Susan Spellman Cann every third Tuesday from 8:30-9:30 EST.  Find resources to help in your school practice; get answers to complex situations; or find out if others are facing the same situations you may face in your school.


School Counseling Pinterest Boards  – Shared by Tracy Jackson
(Truly the mother-lode of all things school counseling!)

School Counseling Blog  by Danielle Schultz

High School Counseling

High School and Middle School Counseling by Jenny Vowell

School Counselors on Pinterest by Susan Spellman Cann


School Counseling Livebinders – A plethora of livebinders shared by Tracy Jackson.

You Tube

School Counseling On Air – Series of school counseling topics hosted by Jeff Ream (aka The Counseling Geek).

The Counseling Geek  – Another great series of videos about technology for school counselors.

One Tool at a Time – A series about different technology tools for school counselors hosted by Erin Mason.

Russ Sabella – Great series of videos about how to use technology in school counseling.

Want more communities?  Check out my blog post 66 Top Counseling Resources in 2016.  

66 Top Counseling Resources in 2016

3.  Successful therapist seek valuable professional development opportunities.  Want to find some ideas for professional development?  Check out these sites:

Extraordinary School Counselor 

Schools Out for Summer: Professional Development for School Counselors

Also, I want to attach some summer reading suggestions by other school counselors.

Helpful School Counselor
Spirited School Counselor

4.  Effective therapists seek supervision.  I know I hear you saying, “Wait a minute, I have finished with my days of supervision”!  However, the most successful therapists continue to improve their skills and one way to do this is to continue with supervision and practice.  Also, consultation cannot be understated as an important part of improving your skills as a counselor.  According to Dr. Jeff Miller Program, Director UNC @ Pembroke, consultation for school counselors has many benefits.  

These benefits include:

  • Face to face consultation is useful in directly promoting positive mental health among teachers/students.
  • Consultation can address teacher emotions, micro-behaviors, or stereotypes that impede delivery of instruction.
  • Consultation is a direct path to change.
  • Consultation is an integral component of leadership.
  • Consultation increases cultural competence.
  • Can directly and indirectly impact family-school-community connections. 

    As I am writing this post, I am thinking about ways to improve my skills, but I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to share any ideas or suggestions that you feel may be helpful!

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