3 Ways to Cope if You Are the Only Counselor at Your School

It’s tough being the only counselor in a school.

There can be lots of issues.

It’s hard to take a day off (even when you are sick!), when there is no one else who understands your job. You worry about the kiddos when you aren’t there.

There is no one to talk to about counselor stuff: difficult challenging kids, teachers who aren’t cooperative, parents who expect too much and do too little.  Even when coworkers are awesome, they don’t truly understand. And not only that but you are supposed to have all the answers anyway.

And somehow, no matter what you are doing (teaching, counseling, eating lunch), everyone feels you should be available at the drop of a hat when they have kids in some sort of a crisis.

No matter how dedicated and caring you are, you cannot possibly do it all on your own and trying to will simply burn you out. I think school counseling is always a lonely job especially if you are the only one in your school because you truly don’t have a support group or grade level team to belong to. We recognize how important it is for kids to feel like they belong… but what about adults, right?

Here are a few pointers.

1) Take some time to define your priorities. What are the main things that you feel you need to do in a day? Then create a schedule and boundaries around them. Educate everyone to understand that you have a schedule just like everyone else. As much as you want to be available, it is not physically possible for every situation. Use Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix to help you establish what is urgent and/or important vs. not important and not urgent.

2) Train others to handle urgent situations… at least until you can get free to work your magic. This could be the school nurse, the classroom teacher of the student, AND the student themselves. Having a panic attack… what are 3 things they can do to calm down until someone (maybe you) is available? After all, you can’t be available 24/7 and they need a plan.

3) Make sure you are caring for yourself. Not only because you deserve it but also because when you do you provide a role model for others who need see how it is done and done well. When we don’t take care of ourselves, we are basically saying to others (children and adults alike) that it’s okay to let other’s needs overtake ours because they matter more than we do. It’s not your job to handle every emotional need in your school. It is your job to teach children how to manage their emotional needs and how to develop coping skills when they don’t yet have them.

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