Guidance Counseling

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History and Evolution of Guidance Counselor Role

Guidance counselors, also known as school counselors, are specialized, and highly trained individuals who contribute to the academic, social and emotional development of students. First surfacing in the 1800s, the role of guidance counselors have slightly evolved over the years. In the following paragraphs, further discussion will be aimed at the history of guidance counselors and their role in high schools.


In the 1800s, guidance counseling was used as a method to help students who failed. In the 19th century, the aim focus was to prepare students for college. High school students were given tests to determine their level of achievement; once those tests were done, they were placed in business, vocational, and general studies to prepare them for college. This type of method created issues because all other academic subjects were being neglected. This issue created the need for vocational planning. In an effort to achieve vocational planning, Frank Parsons, wrote the first textbook on vocational guidance to help pave the way for future vocational counselors. The textbook, published in 1908 after his death, would help transition students from high school into a world of work.

Vocational planning and counseling later dominated high schools and resulted in counselors working in schools assisting young students and adolescents with other issues and problems in their lives. This shift and adoption of dual roles created the change from vocational guidance to school counseling.

In the 1900s, when school counselors or guidance counselors broadened their horizons, they had to conduct a host of duties that involved coming up with interventions or helping teachers structure their curriculum; they also had to engage in student planning, administering intelligence tests, promoting character development, and teaching socially acceptable behaviors. As the role of the school counselor evolved, the word "guidance" was no longer accepted by counselors. They believed that they were much more than guidance counselors, and were not guiding students to the workforce; they provided them with personal and social support.

Today, school counselors in the United States can be members of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) which works assiduously to create, maintain and improve student achievement. Assessment of students' needs are done through the creation of programs and services such as school counseling, individual counseling, responsive services, and indirect student services in order to drive social, emotional, academic and career development.


The role of guidance counselors has not changed much since its inception in the 1800s. Roles employed in the past have been enhanced, and improved to achieve the full outcome of services. Some of these roles:

Conducting Standardized Tests
Standardized tests are done to assess student learning and performance. The test helps counselors to make decisions about students, schools and districts to determine academic placement, promotion and graduation.

Helping Students Achieve Goals
High school counselors help students prepare for life after graduation. In addition, they meet with students individually to help combat their social and academic struggles.

Counseling Students with Personal Issues
Counselors interact with students who have experienced a tragedy in their life, whether it is the lost of a loved one or going through a difficult time. Other issues would include counseling students short term on mental health issues and helping them receive assistance.

School counselors work with parents, the community and teachers to help provide full support services to students.

Other major roles performed by the school counselor includes identifying issues, teaching teachers and staff about sensitive topics, maintaining records, making referrals, report cases of neglect and harm, and help students overcome behavioral problems. High school counselors are mainly situated to help students overcome personal issues that interrupt their academic development. These issues include, and are not limited to, the above-mentioned list.

With the increasing need for a school counselor's intervention in schools, many counselors are overwhelmed with caseloads. This thus calls for changes in policies through advocating, to help decrease drop out rates for the low income and neglected population. With the implementation of funding and the necessary workforce, counselors can conduct their roles efficiently to help transform society.


To conclude, guidance counseling has been around since the 1800s. Born out of the need for career or vocational planning, the roles have not changed much since then. Rather, the roles are increasing and enhancing student outcomes by providing them with emotional, social, academic and career development. Important roles such as conducting standardized tests, counseling students with issues, indirect services and collaborating are essential to helping society.
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Guidance Counselor Statistics

While there is no pre-existing information to fully answer your question, we've used the available data to pull together key findings: According to the Bureau of National Labor Statistics, there are 291,700
guidance counselors in the United States, with 44% being employed at schools. There are currently 132,800 schools in the United States, with 34,600 of them being private and 98,200 being public. Below, you'll find an outline of our research methodology to better understand why information you've requested is publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into our findings.


After extensively searching white papers, government websites, the ASCA and other websites, I have determined that this information is not published. I was able to find that 27 states and the District of Columbia have 100% of schools with guidance counselors or some type of official that offers counseling to students. 23 states do not have laws regarding a mandate, therefore this information is not tracked. I was also able to find a breakdown by state of a ratio of guidance counselors to students.


According to the Bureau of National Labor Statistics, there are 291,700 guidance counselors in the United States with 44% being employed at schools. (4.6% at private, 0.6% at state and 38.8% at local.) From this we can calculate the following:

44% work in schools of the total number (291, 700 guidance counselors)
(291,700/ .44= 128,348)
128,348/ 132,800 number of schools = 96.64%

From this assumption, we can conclude that 99.64% of schools have
guidance counselors. The problem with this assumption is it is not taking into account that some schools have a mandate to employee guidance counselors by student ratio, thus having more than one counselor at that school.

We can also conclude that private schools make up 26% of total schools, but only employee 4.6% of all guidance counselors whereas, public schools make up 74% of schools and 49.4% (38.8+.6=49.4) of guidance counselors.
(34,600/ 132,800 schools = 26%)

(98,200/ 132,800= 74%)

There is only one guidance counselor for every 482 students in the United States, even though a 1:250 ratio is recommended by the American School Counselor Association. This is the most recent publishing. (2014-2015). 100% of some schools in select states are required to have at least one guidance counselor. They may be mandated to have more than one based on student population. 100% of these states have guidance counselors in their schools :
Arizona, DC, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. (Not all have a mandated student ratio)

An estimated 99.6% of schools have guidance counselors, although this does not counter in the fact that some schools have mandated more that one guidance counselor to student population. I hope that this helps you!

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Guidance Counselor Pain Points & Challenges

Guidance counselors today are facing a growing number of pain points and challenges regarding organizational and management issues with their own positions, in addition to rising changes in adolescent struggles. With the ever-changing technological and political subjects constantly taking hold of young minds, it is becoming increasingly difficult for guidance counselors to assist students the way that they were meant to. Below you will find five major aspects of difficulty that guidance counselors are facing today, and why.

Public Perception of Guidance Counselors

The role of a guidance counselor has transformed significantly in the past few years. From an outside perspective, teachers and other administrative personnel view guidance counselors as people who are meant to act as advocates for students, administering guidance in both personal and school lives. According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), however, guidance counselors are defined as individuals that enhance the personal, social, academic, and career development of students through organized and comprehensive counseling. To take it even further, guidance counselors themselves have another definition. To start, many do not even like to be called "guidance" counselors, but instead prefer the terms "school" counselors. Furthermore, they believe it is their job to assist students in three ways: post-secondary/career readiness, social-emotional personal issues that may affect education, and academic progress. Based on these definitions, it would seem as though the one provided by the ASCA lines up most with what actual guidance or school counselors take their job to be.


Stress and burnout are likely the largest challenges that guidance counselors are facing today. This is due to a wide range of reasons, including the fact that counselors are heavily overwhelmed with students. While they would love to help everyone, the student-to-counselor ratio is exceedingly high compared with the recommended value. It is suggested that the ratio between students and counselors is 250 students to every 1 counselor. However, the national average is almost twice as much, sitting at 490 students per counselor. There are some schools in the U.S. that have it even worse, leaving 1,000 students to be handled by 1 guidance counselor. The astronomically high ratio makes it nearly impossible for counselors to perform their jobs correctly, which takes a heavy toll on them, and has negative effects on all students in the school.

In addition to unrealistic student-to-counselor ratios, guidance counselors are often overwhelmed with the large list of tasks and duties to uphold. Many counselors have reported that the challenging demands of their position causes high levels of stress for them personally, negatively affecting both their personal and direct counseling activities. This has been found to lead to emotional and physical health deficits, and thus most counselors do not even stay in the educational industry for more than five years.

Tough Student Issues

Perhaps the second most difficult challenge that guidance counselors are facing today is the wide array of deep student struggles. This includes things such as bullying, mental health, suicide, family problems, and even political issues. When students are in high school, this proves extremely difficult, as such issues quickly translate into adulthood if not resolved. So many students are facing heavy amounts of peer pressure, but with such a heavy caseload, it can be difficult for the guidance counselor to approach such situations completely.

In addition, bullying takes place on a broad spectrum now where it is difficult to control (social media). This is difficult to stop and prevent, leaving students vulnerable to degrading and hurtful content. Even when guidance counselors are able to address such issues, there is no easy answer to solving them. Guidance counselors can mainly act as an objective party on issues and give advice, but there is not much else. Political issues are also providing to be detrimental to students, as issues about race, sexuality, and more are becoming more prevalent. Just like bullying, this is not an issue that is easy to resolve. All counselors are able to do in situations like this that arise so often, is to provide a therapeutic role and be supportive. There are some guidance counselors that have even become psychiatrists in some way, acting as therapists for students that have no other viable outlet.


Guidance counselors are faced with issues of inequality and inequity on a daily basis. Whether from the issues that a student is struggling with, or the physical resources available to counselors, the challenge is prevalent. Counselors that work in schools with students from low-income neighborhoods are often facing a disparity in resources. This can cause issues for guidance counselors, as they lack the resource and space to properly do their job. For example, consider a guidance counselor with no access to a computer. They would find it extremely difficult to assist students in molding their post-high school paths. This is a common struggle faced, and one that is specifically noticeable in lower income neighborhoods. Guidance counselors, however, still have to find ways to overcome the disparities, whether that be referring students to other sources, community businesses for jobs, or something else, and this can prove to be extremely stressful for all parties involved.

Immigration Issues

The issue of immigration is one that has specifically come about in the last year since the election of President Trump. Many students are struggling mentally with the possibility of their parents, or even themselves, being deported to a country that is not their own. As a guidance counselor, there is no easy way to go about answering questions about this topic from students, and there is no possible solution that can be provided. The only thing a guidance counselor in this situation can do is ensure that their students feel as safe as possible, and eliminate bullying due to immigration or racial issues.

Balance & Planning

In the midst of the chaotic struggles of maybe not having enough resources or attempting to assist too many students at once, guidance counselors still have to focus on planning out paths for their students, in addition to balancing the guidance program throughout the school. This includes setting up paths for individual students to reach either higher education, post-secondary training programs, or going straight into the workforce. For 500 kids, this can be a lot for one person to handle. In addition, the balancing aspect requires guidance counselors to set up a program or methodology that may possibly allow them to help as many students as possible, while still working on a classroom and individual level. Future plans must be individualized, as not everyone is going to take the same path, and no student as the same circumstances in life as another. The process of fitting a student's difficulties into a school counseling and planning program is just one of many issues that is difficult for counselors and produces stress.


The challenges that guidance counselors are facing today are spread wide and far when it comes to producing and integrating plans while managing student disparities. The large ratio of students-to-counselors is only making the job more difficult, and it affects both counselors and students negatively. The extenuating circumstances of every individual in a school system, too, is proving to be too much for a single counselor to take on by themselves. The overworking and lack of organization in the educational sector is only causing more points of difficulty to arise for both students and guidance counselors.