Erin Mason, assistant professor in the College of Education & Human Development’s Department of Counseling and Psychological Services, frequently hosts Twitter chats for school counselors to share tips and best practices with one another. Mason is the co-founder of the #scchat hashtag, the first official hashtag for school counselors. A recent March chat highlighted moving school counseling services online.
Mason spent 13 years as a school counselor and has five main tips for those looking to provide quality school counseling in an online format.
- Follow recommendations from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).Moving school counseling online requires the consideration of many ethical and legal issues, including confidentiality, FERPA compliance, and professional liability. ASCA provides continuous updates to FAQ documents and other resources to assist school counselors with managing best and safe practices during this unprecedented time. Some of these resources can be accessed without membership by visiting org. State school counseling associations may also provide helpful information to members and non-members.
- Make decisions in collaboration with school and district administrators. School counselors should make decisions with as much information as possible, and in adherence to school and district policy. Collaboration with administrators and consultation with colleagues is essential all the time, but especially in this time of uncertainty. Online operations are not the norm for many school counselors so decisions about platforms, logistics and contingencies should be made with others rather than independently.
- Have a clear crisis plan. In moving school counseling online, crises may emerge in new and unanticipated ways.Collaborate regularly with administrators, social workers, school psychologists, other mental health professionals and local agencies to adapt existing crisis plans or create new ones. Use websites or regular communications to provide clear instructions and accessible resources to your school community about what to do in case of crisis situations.
- Focus on meeting students’ immediate needs. Many school counselors manage and deliver comprehensive school counseling programs throughout the school year. However, under the circumstances, students’ most immediate needs take priority. Scale back to the most realistic and essential program activities. Provide information about what services you are offering through a website or regular communications.
- Prioritize your own wellness. As the saying goes, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Just as your students and their families are experiencing upheaval, so are you. Recognize that you cannot operate the way you are used to and that online operations are physically and emotionally taxing. Plan consistent, dedicated times of rest, downtime with family and opportunities to prioritize your wellness. Ask your support systems to help you set boundaries, organize fun activities and hold you accountable for taking breaks.
For more information about Mason and her research, click here.
To see more CEHD faculty experts related to COVID-19, click here.