Individual counseling in schools is a popular January topic since the Winter Blues can cause lots of counseling referrals this time of year. For many counselors, there are so many individual counseling questions to ponder like:
- How often should we meet?
- What should we talk about in the session?
- How do I get resistant students to open up?
- What is a good number of sessions to schedule?
- How do I handle a meltdown during a session!
So let’s dive into this topic and answer these questions above and more!
Individual Counseling in Schools- SFBC
First of all, I’ll start by saying that solution focused brief counseling (SFBC) is the most effective model to follow for individual counselling in the school setting. The reason for this is that school counselors’ time with students is limited due to big caseloads and the need to keep kids in class. As a result, we must accomplish a lot in about 4 sessions (or less), where we meet with the student on a repeating weekly or monthly schedule. SFBC is also used by many therapists since it is so effective and insurance usually caps the amount of sessions it will cover. If you don’t already have it, start by getting yourself a copy of Dr. Gerald Sklare’s SFBC book, Brief Counseling that Works– it is THE manual on how to run best-practice SFBC counseling sessions in schools.
For some other answers and helpful tips on individual counseling in schools, read on below!
Individual Counseling in Schools- Session Tips
- Begin your session with ice breaker activities to build rapport and get to know the student better. You can choose icebreakers that will help lead the student to the goal that they want to achieve in their time working with you. Here is a post with lots more info on icebreakers, as well as an icebreaker guidance lesson that can be easily modified for use with one student in an individual session.
- Once you and the student have chosen their SMART goal, write it on a note card and make some photocopies; this allows you to send it out to them weekly with a personalized note and also give the student a copy each time you meet with them. The weekly goal reminder will help your student to remember, and thus achieve, their goal.
- Above all, counseling should be a positive experience, so incorporate some fun and humor into sessions whenever possible. The key is to keep the child coming back for more, while you teach them the tools to handle life’s challenges on their own.
Individual Counseling in Schools- A Few Hacks
- If you have a a resistant student, spend the first session or two just playing a board game to establish rapport and help them to open up. For lots of other ideas on working with resistant students, look for my trauma-informed counseling guide, Helping in Hard Places, that will be available through Youthlight later this year. My favorite board game to use is The Talking, Feeling, and Doing Game. This game-playing technique also works really well in getting students calmed down if they have a meltdown during the session.
- It is also a good idea to get teacher feedback on student goal progress. You can do this by sending the teacher a general followup note after your meeting with the student. Here’s a link to the teacher feedback form.
- Give session homework so students can apply the skills they have learned and practiced. In the spirit of keeping things fun and positive, consider offering a prize if the student does their session homework.
Obviously, the ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg. If you need more individual counseling resources, check out my individual guide, Where There’s a Goal, There’s a Way (After clicking the link, just scroll down until you see it in the right column). Alternately, if you need the Spanish bilingual version of this individual counseling guide, you can find it here: ¡Gol!
Newsy & Noteworthy
- A Full Year of Guidance Lessons Volume Two is finally here! This has been a MAJOR labor of love over the last several years as I created and then field-tested various guidance lessons in order to find a way to consistently lower student crisis and increase student grades. I’ve compiled all my best ideas and strategies into ONE yearly guidance curriculum!
- I’m super excited to be presenting all over Texas and in Seattle this spring/summer on various counseling topics! You can find my upcoming presentation dates, topics, and handouts here– come and see me if you are in town!
That brings me to the end of this January counseling post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences on individual counseling! You can catch up with me again in February for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month! In the meantime, you can find out about my latest promotions, free stuff, or counseling adventures by following me on my School Counselor Stephanie Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest pages!!