Practicum in School Counseling

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in School Counseling, Tina Alcorn:
Hi everyone! Before I jump into my practicum experience, I wanted to briefly introduce myself. I’m currently in my second semester as a graduate student in the school counseling specialization. It’s somewhat overwhelming to know that you will be thrown into practicum within your first-year of the program, but fret not my friends. I assure you that it is a great learning opportunity and it’s exciting to see what you, as school counselors, will actually be doing.
I am currently placed at La Mesa Middle School for my practicum. I’ve been there for a month and I love it. I look forward to it every week! I was lucky enough to have most of the students on my caseload return their permission slips, which meant I could start providing them counseling services. Right now I work with 8 students a week. I only have time to meet with each one of them for about 25 minutes and it is definitely challenging. In fact, one student told me that the time we spent together wasn’t enough and asked if I could meet with her another day of the week. If your site allows you to come at other days and times, I would highly encourage it. It allows you to build better rapport with the students and you’d be surprised by how meaningful your meetings become for them.
One thing I learned right away was the importance of organization. A way I try to remain organized is by creating case files for each student. During our initial meetings, I had each student complete an “About Me” form and I taped it to the front of each of their files (pictured below). Not only did the form provide some basic information about the student, but it was also a good activity to get them to open up. Completing the forms allowed them to free up their minds so that they were able to talk more freely and openly with me right from the beginning. You also get to know a lot about them by the way they fill out the form. For instance, one of my students drew only his mom and his sister for his “Family Portrait.” This indicated to me that he was living in a single-parent household, which is helpful information.
Tina one
Another way I stay organized is by making sure I have my students scheduled for our next meeting (pictured below with names changed). Admittedly, this part can be difficult because it means having to know which classes you can pull students from, what their schedules look like depending on the semester/trimester, and making sure you aren’t pulling them from the same class every week. However, it helps you stay on track so that you are able to meet with every student. I also provide a copy to my supervisor so she knows where to find me if she needs me.
Another thing I highly suggest doing is setting up a Pinterest board with others in your cohort. This allows you to share counseling resources, such as lesson guides, one-on-one activities, icebreakers, and tips. Here is a link to our Pinterest board as an example. It is open to anyone, so feel free to browse around and use anything you find might be helpful. I have used several activities from Pinterest, including the “About Me” form for the student files.
My last suggestion is to be yourself! The students appreciate being able to talk to someone who is real with them. I know it can be intimidating at first, but you have to realize that they are just as nervous, if not more, as you are. I’ve found that it is best to just be honest and upfront with them. Let them know that you want to get to know one another and that you appreciate the opportunity they are giving you to talk with them. You will learn more about how to build rapport with the students in your Counseling Skills class, but know that it is important to be yourself because that is what you expect from them.

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