Who's Who in School Counseling?

This is a general who-does-what overview of the roles and duties of various people in the school counseling world. The specifics will vary by school, district, city, and state:

School Counselor

This is the basic role – school counselors usually help students with a variety of issues, from the serious to the mundane, from personal to academic to careers. They may also do some scheduling or other more academics-focused duties, depending on the grade levels of their students.

Intervention Specialist (or Prevention Specialist)

This is often similar or identical to the basic “school counselor” role. Depending on the school district, this title may indicate a more proactive, prevention-based approach, but not always.

Lead Counselor

If a school has several counselors, one may be designated as the “lead counselor” or department head. Often this person acts as a mentor and keeps the team focused and functioning efficiently. Sometimes the lead counselor is the official supervisor of the counseling department, but in most cases, all of the counselors officially answer to the school administrators.

School Psychologist

In Arizona (and many other states), school psychologists most often spends the majority of their time administering testing which determines whether a student is eligible for special services within the school or district. Sometimes (more often on the east coast of the U.S.), school psychologists work individually with students regarding personal issues or co-facilitate a support group, but this isn’t the norm.

School Social Worker

The school social worker is sometimes employed by the school or district, and sometimes works for an outside agency that contracts with the school district for services. The social worker often deals with the most “nitty gritty” issues – helping to find food, clothing, or shelter for families, dealing with students and families in any kind of crisis, etc. Social workers are most often allowed to deal with issues that are beyond the scope of the regular school counselor (although they usually get paid significantly less – go figure).

E.D. Itinerant or E.D. Counselor

The term for this position changes every few years. Currently E.D. stands for “Emotionally Disabled” students, who are often (but not always) in a self-contained classroom. The E.D. Itinerant usually has a caseload of around 20 students, and is split between three to six schools in a district, serving each school one or two days a week.

Because of the intensity of these students’ needs, each student on the E.D. Itinerant’s caseload is seen every week, usually for 30 minutes or more. The issues addressed will be academic, behavioral, and personal. The itinerant and the student may do homework together, practice specific social skills, talk about issues at home and school, or process after a crisis.

Academic Advisor

This title is usually reserved for the community college level, but some high schools are now employing academic advisors too. Most often, this is the person who focuses on scheduling, credits, graduation requirements, and other purely academic subjects, rather than on students’ personal issues.

Paraprofessional for Scheduling

Some high schools are now employing several traditional guidance counselors, plus a paraprofessional who is hired mainly for scheduling, drop-add, and similar duties. This position usually doesn’t require a master’s degree, and is on a different pay scale than the rest of the counseling staff.

Prevention Director (or Prevention Coordinator)

The title may vary, but this usually refers to the district coordinator over all of the school counselors. If you are a school counselor or intervention specialist, you may see this person a few times a year, or he or she may be your main mentor and another direct supervisor, along with your site administrators.

There may be other school counseling positions in your school district, although these are the most typical positions and titles. If you’re not sure what someone’s title means, or what the person does in your school, I would encourage you to ask! He or she may be a great resource for you and for your students.

Go to the next page, "Grade Level Differences."

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