Being back to school in the UAE is a big deal for mums and children alike. After almost two years of virtual learning, children are exposed to new experiences with face to face learning. One of the best ways to help your child adapt to this new routine is visiting the school counselor. Many mums wonder, what is a school counselor? Are UAE school counselors therapists? And can they help my children? You will find all the answers here.
What is a school counselor?
A school counselor is a qualified person who helps students in major parts of their academic journey. The first and main responsibility of a school counselor is to help students with academics and provide career guidance. Another main responsibility for counselors is to help children through any crisis they might face in or out of school. Like bullying, building social connections. Also, they help identify children with psychological troubles like ADHD or ASD.
UAE School Counselors work in different models to help reach out to children. This can either be through group sessions, individual counseling, or giving core curriculum lessons.
What does a school counselor do?
The job description for school counselors focuses on these main responsibilities:
1| Identifying crises and helping students through them.
2| The ability to reach out and connect to students from all ages.
3| Helping students choose the right academic paths. Whether it is what courses to take, what extracurricular activities to participate in, and which colleges to apply for.
4| They also collect data from students to help teachers create a better and more effective learning environment.
5| Finally, they help students overcome fears, challenges – both social and educational – and they work on discovering and developing students’ creativity and skills.
Are UAE school counselors therapists?
UAE schools have a thorough screening process when it comes to picking a school counselor. They all require counselors to have a bachelor and masters degree in a field related to counseling psychology like clinical social work or school counseling. In addition, it is mandatory for UAE school counselors to be licensed from an accredited institution.
Some of those school counselors are also school psychologists. Meaning that they are also therapists. School psychologists have wider responsibilities when it comes to helping students. They help students who are struggling with their mental health and help through any mental health issues they might be facing. This is the main difference between school counselors and school psychologists – counselors provide more general services, while psychologists are more specialized.
If your children’s school only has a counselor, that is just as good. Those counselors can identify if there is any need for your child to see a psychologist and they will help your children just as much.
How can school counselors help my children?
As we mentioned above, school counselors help children with any crisis they might face both in and out of school. They are a safe space for children of all ages to express themselves and discuss any troubles they may have. For students in early grades, a school counselor helps them to express their feelings, make friends, and be socially and academically active. They encourage them to get out of their comfort zone and explore their skills and creative mindset. Counselors can figure out children’s interests through certain tests and forms and help direct them towards them. For example, if a student is leaning towards arts and drawing, they push them towards taking art classes and after school art programs. This helps young students to figure themselves out, express their emotions in a healthy way, and achieve academic goals early on.
As for older students, school counselors help them set their career path and goals. High schoolers tend to visit school counselors in order to talk about careers and applying for college. Some even rely on the help of school counselors to get scholarships in arts or sports. One thing for sure, school counselors always have college programs to suggest for students to help them follow their dream career path.
But my child would never visit the school counselor
This is a common thing that most mums face when it comes to school counseling. Many of their children refuse the idea of visiting the school counselor because they fear being labeled “uncool”. There are three things to do about this. One, talk to your children about how a school counselor can help them. Most children avoid talking to their parents about what they are going through, so you can ensure your child that a counselor is a safe space for them to talk about whatever. Two, you can reach out to the school’s administration or board to make school counseling mandatory. After all, the administration and board can talk students into it without labeling anyone “uncool”. Finally, if you are a part of your children’s school community, we recommend discussing this with other mums and parents. We assure you, you will find out that they share your concerns.
Is it a bad sign that my child is visiting the school counselor?
Absolutely not. Some mums and parents react negatively to knowing their child is visiting the school counselor. They lead themselves to believe that it is a sign that something is wrong with their child. But on the contrary, if your child is visiting the school counselor and reaching out for help in whatever they need – this means your child has developed independence and enough confidence and self esteem. Visiting a counselor at school is a sign that your child is mature and responsible to make good decisions.
Your role as a mum here is to encourage your child to keep seeking help whether about academics or any other matter. Some mums hate the idea that their children do not open up to them like they do to school counselors. And as much as we understand that, think of it this way: as kids, did we always turn to our parents for help about school stuff?
Can school counselors diagnose students?
This depends on whether the school counselor is also a school psychologist. If the answer was yes, then they can diagnose physical or mental health and plan standardized testing. However, if they are not, they can identify certain issues and refer students to the right psychologist. They do so through conducting interpret aptitude, cognitive, and achievement tests. The results of those tests can help the school counselor make the best next step for their students.
Finally, we recommend you ask your children’s school administrators about the counseling they provide. Encourage your children to visit them whenever they need and talk about whatever they want. This will highly benefit your little ones for the long run.