NAME CHANGE: ‘Guidance Counselors’ Now Referred To As ‘School Counselors’ In Wilmington

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Public Schools recently renamed its “Guidance Counselors” to “School Counselors” to reflect the position’s current responsibilities.

“I’m really excited to recommend this change to the district,” Guidance Department CTL Mollie Dickerson recently told the School Committee. “It’s something that’s been coming in the profession for awhile. The American School Counselor Association and Massachusetts School Counselor Association have used ‘school counselor’ exclusively in place of ‘guidance counselor’ for many years and have encouraged districts to do the same.”

In fact, in 2017, Massachusetts actually changed the license title from “Professional Support Personnel — Guidance Counselor” to “Professional Support Personnel — School Counselor.”

“The goal of the name change is to help people think more comprehensively about the roles of counselor,” explained Dickerson, who presented alongside the district’s Coordinator of Behavioral Health & Social Emotional Support Christine Murray. “The roles of counselors have been changing as the needs of students change. Modern day counselors are trained to help students in (1) academic achievement, (2) career readiness, and (3) social/emotional development.”

“You may think of your former school experience and the guidance counselor that you had. This change is an attempt to keep the profession up-to-date with the discipline and the changes in our roles,” continued Dickerson. “We’re not necessarily doing the same work that you would have seen a guidance counselor do 20 years ago. We’re covering those three key domains — academic achievement, career reaidness, and social/emotional development — now, [not just] sitting in our office and helping students apply to college.”

Dickerson’s memo to the Committee also noted that school counselors are now deployed at all grade levels, and not focused solely at the high school dealing exclusively with vocational issues.

“‘School counselor’ should be considered an updated term in the same way that ‘foreign langue’ teachers are now often referred to as ‘world language’ teachers, or ‘shop’ teachers might be referred to as ‘technology education’ teachers,” Dickerson contended. “The goal of this title change is to encourage students, staff, and community members to think of counselors as integral to a student’s educational experience across all three domains.”

Dickerson also noted that today’s ‘Guidance Counselors’ must earn a Master’s Degree in School Counseling and take courses in counseling, learning and behavior, human development and mental health, in addition to college/career planning.

Ultimately, the School Committee agreed with Dickerson’s position, although a formal vote was deemed unnecessary and not taken. The change had already been OK’ed by the high school and district administration.

In addition to changing “Guidance Counselor” to “School Counselor,” the “Guidance Office” will now be known as the “Counseling Office.”

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