An internship as a school counselor is an excellent way to get hands-on experience in the field. Preparing for your internship, however, requires more than simply showing up on the first day.
You must prepare yourself mentally and physically to ensure you are ready for the job. You need to be ready to work with a variety of people to achieve common goals and help students prepare for life beyond their academic years.
In many cases, students will only approach you about their problems if they feel comfortable around you. You may also be dealing with children who have not yet developed proper social skills, so it will be your responsibility to ensure they feel comfortable talking with you about their problems.
The traits that will help you thrive as a counselor
Here are essential qualities of a good counselor that you should work to cultivate as you advance your career.
When clients come to counselors, it is essential that they feel heard and accepted for who they are. A non-judgmental attitude will help create a safe environment for them in which they feel comfortable sharing their struggles so they can gain the necessary insight to move forward.
This attitude allows the counselor to understand the client’s situation without focusing on a particular opinion or judgment. It also allows the counselor to remain unbiased if any outside influences arise to threaten the client’s progress.
Patience allows counselors to take the time to listen, understand and be responsive to the needs of their clients. Counselors with patience can effectively communicate, stay calm and remain non-judgmental when dealing with difficult situations.
With patience, counselors can provide the support their clients need to overcome their challenges. Additionally, tolerance helps counselors develop more effective strategies to help their clients succeed. By cultivating patience, counselors can ensure that their client’s needs are met in a non-stressful manner.
To gain patience and other skills needed for a school counseling role, St. Bonaventure University offers an Online School Counseling Master’s program. By participating in stimulating coursework and practical experience, you can assist those you counsel in overcoming their struggles and fulfilling their aspirations.
With the right training, you can serve as a model of excellent service to the public, encouraging the community’s prosperity while excelling as a leader and advocate.
Trust is a fundamental trait for counselors because you must be trustworthy and dependable to help your clients effectively. Clients must be able to discuss things openly and honestly to get the most out of their counseling sessions.
They must feel that their information is secure and that there is no judgment or condemnation when discussing their thoughts and feelings. Having a trusting relationship between client and counselor is essential for successful counseling.
Trust also encourages clients to be open to learning new skills, facing their fears, and embracing change. Counselors must strive to build strong, trusting relationships with their clients and treat each individual respectfully.
Being empathetic and putting themselves in the position of the person speaking can help counselors gain insight into the problem and better understand the true complexity of the situation. A counselor can only give reasonable assistance by grasping the student’s struggles.
Empathy is essential for helping counselors listen to and assist their clients effectively. Establishing an atmosphere of compassion and understanding makes clients feel safer sharing their thoughts and
feelings and encourages them to explore options that may lead to resolving their problems.
For counselors to be more understanding, they must actively listen to the perspective of the individual they are assisting. Although this does not necessarily mean they must agree, they must acknowledge and appreciate the individual’s perspective.
This entails recognizing that their opinion is valid and deserves a legitimate response rather than just trying to overpower it. Putting themselves in their client’s shoes gives them an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their point of view.
To carry out their duties, a counselor must have a certain degree of power to implement programs, direct student activities and coordinate tasks. School officials must give the counselor authority to carry out their tasks and be seen as a leader by parents and students.
The school counselor must demonstrate leadership, using their authority to direct activities, set standards, and ensure all parties involved meet goals and deadlines.
The counselor must know when it is appropriate to draw a line between being a friend and being professional. If a student is engaged in abusive behavior, the counselor must take action with a more professional response, prioritizing the student’s safety. It is the counselor’s responsibility to act and follow through.
Having a sense of humor
The ability to approach situations with a humorous perspective has many benefits. It demonstrates to students that the counselor is a relatable human being who can appreciate specific scenarios and make light of themselves.
Creating an atmosphere of trust and fostering a positive relationship with students involves using humor to make a point and build a connection. Having a sense of humor helps counselors maintain a more relaxed attitude toward setbacks and other everyday frustrations, preventing stress from being overwhelming.
For school counselors to be successful, they must be able to relate to students on a personal level yet be willing to be authoritative when needed.
Coordinating efforts and activities
Counselors must prepare to manage various tasks, such as organizing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and other specialized student plans. In addition to formulating IEPs for students and coordinating with teachers and other staff members, a school counselor is often responsible for overseeing other activities and initiatives.
In many cases, the school counselor is responsible for handling parent newsletters and school announcements, overseeing social media accounts, and carrying out community outreach and event-organizing initiatives.
Counselors can teach students strong leadership and organizational skills by enabling them to take ownership of their educational plans and activities, serving as an example of effective leadership.
How to prepare for an internship as a school counselor
Here are six ways to prepare for an internship as a school counselor.
Have a positive attitude
A positive attitude is essential for success in any job, and that includes serving as a school counselor. Having a positive attitude when preparing for an internship can foster a strong sense of professional growth and capability and help inspire other interns, staff and students.
For those preparing to become a school counselor, a positive attitude can help to create an environment of success and opportunity. It is vital to approach challenges with optimism and resilience, to foster meaningful and productive relationships with students, faculty, staff, and parents, and to operate with integrity and professional ethics.
A positive attitude is also invaluable for creating a successful internship experience. Interns can approach their position with enthusiasm and drive, looking for challenges and connections that can improve their skills and understanding.
It is also important to practice active listening and open-mindedness to understand clients’ concerns and perspectives better. A positive attitude encourages interns to take risks and provide valuable feedback to staff.
Familiarize yourself with the school environment
School counselors must understand the school’s unique characteristics, culture and expectations to effectively work with students, faculty, staff and administration. Understanding the school’s philosophy, mission, timeline, faculty and staff roles, student demographics, and family involvement can help interns acclimate to their new environment.
Visiting the school before the internship begins can help interns understand the layout and dynamics of the school. Once on site, counselors should introduce themselves to staff members, inquire about upcoming events, and meet with their supervisor to discuss expectations for the internship assignment.
It is essential to learn the staff members’ names, understand their roles, and get to know the services they offer. Additionally, counselors should observe the student body and teachers. Observing how teachers interact with students can provide information about their teaching style and behaviors to be aware of during any future interactions.
Build your network
Building your network is essential in preparing for an internship as a school counselor because these connections can help you advance your career when the internship is over.
By connecting and engaging with others who already work in the field, you can expand your professional connections and get advice on finding the best internship opportunities. An established network will give you a better understanding of the challenges, best practices and expected trends associated with becoming a successful school counselor.
Networking can prepare you for an internship by providing contacts who can serve as mentors, provide references, and guide you through the internship process. Additionally, speaking with experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the field will equip you with the skills needed to be successful in your future school counseling role.
Prepare your materials
Gather information about your formal training and certifications, along with any personal experiences or work you’ve done with children. It can also be helpful to create a resume outlining your education and any relevant job experience in social work, psychology or counseling.
You should bring copies of any forms or paperwork needed during the internship, such as background checks and proof of insurance. It is essential to be familiar with the policies and regulations related to the work you will be doing and any research related to the population you intend to serve.
As the internship begins, it can be helpful to have materials already prepared and organized so you can easily refer to them.
Attend industry talks
Attending industry talks is an excellent way for potential interns to understand the field better. It allows students to receive insight from experienced professionals about what to expect when working in this role.
These talks are beneficial because they allow students to ask questions and gain insight from the personal experiences of those already working in the field. It also allows students to form connections and build relationships, which is essential for success.
There is no better way to prepare than to listen to stories and advice from experienced professionals. Participating in talks is a great way to gain insight and advice before embarking on an internship as a school counselor.
Practice interview skills
Ahead of your interview, you should practice answering the specific types of questions you may be asked. A great way to start is by asking a mentor or partner to help you come up with sample questions and answers.
Practicing in front of the mirror can help reduce any anxiety or hesitancy associated with speaking or expressing yourself. Try to replicate the interview as much as possible to practice answering questions in an appropriate setting.
Preparing for an internship as a school counselor requires significant research and reflection. It is essential to explore the specific needs and expectations of the school to select the best match.
Understanding the environment and culture of the school, including its surrounding community, will help ensure a successful experience. Consider and review the responsibilities of the school counselor’s role, as well as the counseling areas that are open for exploration.
Up-to-date knowledge of current trends and laws regarding school counseling procedures can set interns up for success. Staying organized, creating a timeline, and setting realistic and achievable goals to monitor success are vital steps in the preparation process. Researching, preparing and planning as much as possible will ensure interns have a successful and beneficial experience.