What Is The Difference Between A Guidance Counselor And A School Psychologist?

The roles of school psychologists and guidance counselors are often confused, but they have different functions within a school. While there is some overlap in duties, school psychologists tend to focus on mental health services, while guidance counselors provide more academically focused services.

The Role Of The School Psychologist

School psychologists offer assistance to students, families, and teachers. Typically, this help is related to mental health. The school psychologist has gone through a specialized degree program that gives training in both psychology and education. This special training makes them uniquely qualified to deal with issues relating to child development and educational interventions. School Psychologists must also be certified by the state in which they are practicing.

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School psychologists work with students to help with emotional or behavior problems. For example, an elementary school student may see a school psychologist to help cope with a divorce in the family. A school psychologist can help to identify and fix barriers to learning, such as helping a child deal with test anxiety or dyslexia. They may also work with students and parents together to identify learning disabilities and behavior problems that can hold a child back in school. Many school psychologists are now called on to help diagnose ADD and other such handicaps to learning. They may assess if a student needs to be in a special education program and then work with teachers to help monitor learning.  School psychologists are trained to know when a child is in need of an intervention. The National Association of School Psychologists website provides more information on the many roles of school psychologists.

The Role Of The Guidance Counselor

The traditional role of the guidance counselor is more academic in nature. The guidance counselor helps guide students through the curriculum, which they may have helped design. Guidance counselors often help students choose classes which will advance them towards their goals. Guidance counselors will often help a student figure out what his or her educational and vocational goals should be by administering aptitude tests and evaluating what the child thinks they want to do with their life. Based on these discussions, a guidance counselor can help them choose which degree program may best fit those goals.

A guidance counselor can overlap with a school psychologist’s role when providing counseling to students, often in a group setting. Many times the close relationship a student can develop with a guidance counselor also leads to the counselor helping to resolve problems or cope with stressful situations. However, guidance counselors may need to refer a student to other school services, including psychology, in order to best help the student.

Although there is some overlap in responsibility between guidance counselors and school psychologists, especially when helping a student deal with mild emotional issues, the two roles actually have different and complimentary functions. One is best with dealing with mental barriers to learning, while the other helps students navigate their way through the academic world. They can both be an integral part of a child’s mental, emotional, and academic growth.

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