The School Counselor and the Identification, Prevention and Intervention of Behaviors That Are Harmful and Place Students At-Risk
(Adopted 1989-90; revised 1993, 1999, 2004, 2011, 2017, 2023)
ASCA PositionSchool counselors design and implement comprehensive school counseling programs that include processes for identifying students who may be engaging in harmful or disadvantageous behaviors. As part of that program, school counselors provide developmentally appropriate, culturally sensitive interventions and supports to assess the unmet need or lagging skill behind those behaviors and to promote the mindsets and behaviors all students need for success now and in the future.
The RationaleAll schools and communities have students who could potentially drop out of school and/or engage in disadvantageous behaviors, such as absenteeism, performing below their potential academically, substance abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, suicidal ideation, physical violence, or engaging in self-harm and other destructive or dangerous behaviors. Additionally, schools and communities may have policy, environmental or resource issues that leave students vulnerable to disadvantageous behavior (Holcomb-McCoy, 2022). These behaviors may have lifelong implications and often stem from social/ emotional concerns, including low self-esteem, identity issues, family and relationship problems, grief, trauma, neglect, abuse and/or substance use.
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors develop school counseling programs designed to prevent harmful behaviors while also taking proactive leadership to identify and intervene with students who demonstrate these behaviors. School counselors advocate for systemic, trauma-informed and culturally inclusive, school-based means of identification, multitiered interventions and, when necessary, behavioral and mental health referrals to school, district and/or community supports.
Using data to develop and assess preventive and responsive services to address these risks is an integral part of a school counseling program. School counselors collaborate with staff, school teams, other students, families, and the community to identify students participating in harmful behaviors and intervene with these students to limit or eliminate the risk of harm or negative consequences.
Taking a leadership role in promoting student success, school counselors:
- Provide preventive schoolwide initiatives and classroom lessons to increase student knowledge and awareness of the dangers of harmful behaviors, as well as to cultivate mindsets and behaviors promoting student success, including learning strategies, self-management skills and social skills
- Provide multitiered intervention services, including Tier 1 classroom lessons and Tier 2 short-term counseling in individual or group settings
- Collaborate and consult with families to increase involvement, including referring students and families to support services and community agencies
- Recognize the limits of confidentiality and the inherent parent/guardian/caregiver's legal and inherent rights to be the guiding force in their child's life as indicated in sections A.2.f & A.2.g of the ASCA Ethical Standards (2022)
- Work to reduce the stigma of mental health and reinforce help-seeking behavior
- Implement trauma-informed practices that may help staff utilize appropriate interventions while maintaining sensitivity to students (Haviland, 2017)
- Collaborate with school administration and community members to identify and assist students in crisis
- Enhance social support by using an ecological and multicultural approach to understanding the sociocultural factors at work in their communities
- Conduct staff development for school and district staff on prevention and intervention of harmful behaviors
- Advocate for change in policies and procedures that are not culturally responsive and/or perpetuate inequities
- Advocate for changes in the school and community that promote well-being, success and equitable access to resources
SummarySchool counselors design and implement school counseling programs that prevent harmful behaviors, while also taking proactive leadership to identify and intervene with students who demonstrate these behaviors. As a part of this program, school counselors collaborate with other educators and stakeholders to provide prevention, early identification, and trauma-informed interventions for all students to minimize or eliminate harmful and disadvantageous behaviors.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association. (2022). ASCA ethical standards for school counselors.
Haviland, S. (2017). A districtwide effort. ASCA School Counselor, 54(3), 14-18.
Holcomb-McCoy, C. (2022). School counseling to close opportunity gaps: A social justice and antiracist framework for success. Corwin.
O’Grady, K. (2017). Transforming schools with trauma-informed care. ASCA School Counselor, 54(3), 8–13.