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Monday Ideas for School Counselors

Weekly articles for school counselors with ideas on how to resolve typical school situations with students, teachers and parents using the solution focused approach.

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Want to Solve Problem? Stop Worrying About them.

February 24, 20234 min read

My colleague and former student, Elliott Connie put on a webinar today that I loved listening to. Elliott is so good at simplifying things about the solution focused approach and his words resonated with me about how we can help students, parents and teachers who present problems to us. 

As school counselors, of course, we always need to make sure the student is not in harm’s way first, and that they have physical resources for keeping them healthy and safe. But after that, any problem they bring can be addressed with the solution focused approach.

In Elliott’s words, “when a client is dealing with a tough situation, our job is to simply bring out the awesomeness in the client.”

Easily said, right? So how do we do it? Here is how I interpret those wonderful words for school counseling, in a case where I visited with an adolescent whose parents had a fight the night before, yet the student still came to school.

The student arrived at the high school before I got there and waited outside my door, looking upset but controlled. He was dressed well, had his backpack ready to go, hair was combed and he had a lunch with him. He was a senior and it was April of his senior year. He was six weeks from graduating. He told me that the night before, his mom and dad got into a fight again and the dad left to go back to Mexico. The fights had been going on for a while. He said his mother was going to have to get a job to help support his three brothers, all school age. He said he was set to graduate in a month but he was worried about whether he should just quit school to help support the family.

LM: “So, what are your best hopes for our time?” 

Student: “I just need to decide what to do. Do I quit and go to work or stay and finish school?”

LM: “Okay, we can talk about that, but before we get into that, I am curious about something. How did you know to come talk to me today after such a tough night. I’ll bet you didn’t sleep at all!”

Student: “No, not at all. I talked to my mom all night. She was very scared and upset.”

LM: “Wow, I am quite impressed. What would she say you did that helped?”

Student: “She always likes it when we talk. She keeps telling me I am her hope. I will be the first to graduate from high school.”

LM: “That’s incredible. And, you know what else I noticed about you today, was that you are dressed well, you have your lunch, your backpack, and when I look at your grades, you are making all A’s and B’s. How is it that you have been on track to fulfill what sounds to be your mom’s expectation even through such tough times?”

Student: “I don’t know, Miss. I suppose it’s what she wanted me to do and now I do too.”

LM: “So, since your best hopes are to decide what to do, and given that you apparently make good decisions like making good grades, getting up and going even when it’s been a tough night, what do you think would be a good decision for you, given your mom’s belief in you?”

Student: “I probably need to finish school. Can you help my mom find a job?”

The student left my office smiling. 

What went on in this dialogue?  

Our job is to always “bring out the awesomeness in a student, parent or teacher (Connie, 2023).”

That means we put on the glasses to see beyond problems into the eyes of the expert in front of us. Within every person who walks into your office is a person who wants something, even if that student is referred and even if the student says “I don’t know.” Our job is to simply look for the traits and resources that are not as visible at the moment and ask what others will begin to notice about them when those traits and resources come out more often. 

Imagine too, how this will simplify your work. You become the master of bringing forth the awesomeness in every person you see. The solution focused approach is not just life changing for our students, parents and teachers, it is life changing for us too.

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Dr Linda Metcalf

Linda Metcalf is the best-selling author of Counseling Toward Solutions and 10 other books. Linda is a former middle school teacher, all-level certified school counselor, licensed professional counselor supervisor, and licensed marriage and family therapist in the State of Texas. She is a Professor at Texas Wesleyan University.

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Practical tools and strategies for school counselors to help students achieve their goals

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