Professional School Counselors: An Urging for Proper Titles

Last week I received a letter in my school mail from a college in Iowa. It was addressed to, “Instructors, guidance counselors, and  administration.” I cringed. Nothing ruffles my feathers more in education than being called a “guidance counselor.”  It is 2022 and the profession of school counseling has been around since the early 1900’s. It has evolved and adapted to modern and current times, yet somehow, the title of guidance counselor has been hard to shake. 

Over the years professional school counselors have grown to be more than the original vocational counselors they were first designated to be. Professional school counselors are responsible for educational (academic), vocational (career), and social/emotional (mental health) needs for all students in their designated assignment. The American School Counseling Association ( recognizes these areas as the three domains professional school counselors are responsible for within their roles. That does not seem like much until you break down what each of those areas entail. 

On any given day there is a student who got into college, a student who is contemplating suicide, a student without school supplies, a student needing help registering for the ACT, a student failing all their classes, one who broke up with their significant other, a student who needs help with FAFSA, a student that needs their transcript, a student whose dog died, a student who is discussing future plans, one who is skipping class, students whose parents are getting divorced, one who needs help registering for classes, a student who is new to the country, a student who won a scholarship, and a student who just needs to be seen. And these students are in addition to the duties, meetings, and leadership teams that professional school counselors are involved in. This is the reality of the school counselor's world. 

The antiquated term of guidance counselor describes someone who is working to solely determine a pupil’s vocational goals. A modern professional school counselor does work beyond the simple tasks of the turn of the century. In 1990, ASCA issued an official statement calling on the profession to change the title to “school counselor” rather than the previous title of “guidance counselor.” The multifaceted professional school counselor must be ready for each student who walks through the door with whatever unique situation they carry. The term “guidance counselor” no longer suits the roles a modern professional school counselor serves. 

Language has changed in other areas of education mainly in the realm of special education. The acceptance of ‘person first’ language has brought the education system to modern times in working with students who have a disability. Education itself is constantly chasing the next buzzword to be competent in or to designate your building as such. With the strive in education to be considered “current,” job titles should be reflective of those accomplishments. 

Why does all of this matter to the other educators in the world? The value of an educator is invaluable. With teacher shortages and more burnouts on the horizon, making those who currently still hold merit in your building feel worthwhile is important. Professional school counselors have been whittled down to glorified schedulers making much of the job they trained for sadly placed aside. The expertise that each educator holds should make their title as professional as their job. A valued employee will go above and beyond when feeling cared for. Just like a professional school counselor will serve students more dutifully when properly titled. Professional school counselors matter. Educators matter. Terminology matters. And that letter I received from that college? I contemplated throwing it away but thought it would be better served to motivate my campaign for proper titling. Maybe that college is reading this right now and my voice has done its duty. 


Taryn Mottet
Professional School Counselor
University of Iowa M.A. Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, M.A. Professional School Counseling, B.A. Communication Studies

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