Strategies to Employ When You Have Frequent Flyer Students [Episode 63]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Do you have frequent flyer students? You know the ones. They’re the students that are always popping into your office or tracking you down in the hallway. I’m sure you can think of multiple high schoolers who fit this description!

On one hand, you’re grateful that they find you to be a safe space at school. They trust you, and even seek you out, which is your goal after all, right? You are in this role to help students. I’m 100% with you. But, let’s be honest here. Your frequent flyer students take up a lot of your time.

You juggle a million and one things as a high school counselor and have so many other students to see too. So how can you manage these frequent flyers in a way where you’re still supporting them, but also putting boundaries around the time you’re spending with them?

I have four ideas that you can utilize when it comes to your frequent flyer students. These are simple things that you can put into practice that will help these students become more independent and less, well, needy! That way you can give them the help you need while still managing the rest of your caseload.

If this episode is helpful for you, it would mean to much to me if you would share it with a high school counseling friend. Your word of mouth is the best way to spread the word about High School Counseling Conversations, and in turn, help more school counselors like you!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Results from the most recent counselor to student ratios report from ASCA
  • A solution to stop interruptions when frequent flyer students show up unexpectedly
  • My ‘walk and talk’ strategy to use in order to have a firm ending to a student conversation
  • Using your calendar and scheduling system to protect your time and get things done
  • Examples of intentional activities and resources you can have on hand when your frequent flyer shows up…again!
  • What to do if you discover that a student has needs beyond your scope, and a reminder that the roles of a school counselor and therapist are different

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

This is episode 63 of High School Counseling Conversations. I asked a poll recently on Instagram and gave four options for an upcoming episode that you might want to hear. And now I have your survey results from the survey I gave back in December that many of you participated in. And I’m so thankful for all of your involvement in shaping this podcast. So I do need to say thank you for that.

You’ve given amazing insights and have offered a lot of direction as to what would be helpful for you. So I was feeling inspired to put out four of those topics, and then take action based on exactly what you wanted to hear next. I do this a lot inside of our Clique Collaborative High School Counseling membership, where our monthly focus topics are member driven so that members get to hear what they need most.

There was one topic that came out overwhelmingly on top when I asked on Instagram, and that was around your frequent flyer students. You all submitted great questions surrounding this topic, and just generally wanted to hear more about it. Like with most things, high school counseling, there never seems to be a one size fits all flowchart or roadmap on how to achieve success in this job.

And let’s be real, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, we’re humans, and we’re dealing with humans. A textbook can’t prepare you for the step by step motions to go through when you encounter certain situations. And I really feel like that around this topic.

In this episode, I want to talk about some strategies that have worked for me and some that I’ve crowd sourced, my hope is that they’d be helpful in giving you some new ideas or just remind you that you’re on the right track as you work with students who just want to be in your office all the time. You want to be able to still help students, but not spend 90% of your time with the same 10% of your caseload over and over again. Let’s get into this week’s episode about frequent flyer students and really dig in and talk about it.

High School Counseling Conversations is a podcast where we talk about exactly that. A casual potpourri of school counseling topics intended to grow us as school counselors, but also give us space to enjoy each other’s company. I’m Lauren from counselor, click and I’m sharing my experiences and perspectives as a high school counselor. No topic is off limits. And I’m certain we’ll cover it all.

I’m your high school counseling hype girl here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet as an intern, or you’re nearing retirement, you’ll feel like you’re just popping in to catch up with your school counseling. bestie. Let’s go.

Picture this, your secretary pops back to your office to let you know that David is here to see you. Again. Everyone in the office seems to know David because he stops in so frequently. Sometimes it’s just to say we weren’t doing anything in class, or sometimes he’s angry and needs a place to cool down. Either way you look at it, he is comfortable coming to you as his safe place in the school.

But maybe you’re wishing he wasn’t so comfortable here, stopping what you’re doing to have to deal with what seems like the same conversation every day with no progress doesn’t feel like it’s working for anyone. You can’t see any of your other students when you come back to your office after a quick bounce around the school. Because he’s in the lobby waiting to see you again.

The other counselors are thankful that it’s not them. He’s here to see but they’ve definitely filled in for you to on days when you’ve been out of your office or at home sick or on vacation, because he shows up even then to. Does this sound like a situation you recognize from your own caseload? Did a David name pop into your mind of who that student was for you?

I’m sure that you can think of multiple students who you get to know really well through their frequent visits to your office. Of course, you’re deep in this to help students. We know that. So I want to say this lovingly. What are some of the strategies that you can employ when it feels like a handful of your students are taking up the majority of your time?

Is there a kind way of saying I want to help you, but I also have other things to do too? I don’t think you’re a mean person for having these thoughts. you juggle so many things as a high school counselor, according to the most recent counselor to student ratios report from ASCA, all the two states in the country are boasting higher than the recommended ratios.

So this tells me that you don’t have the time to just be one student’s personal counselor, and that’s it. There was a point in time where my department was having issues with students just flinging the main door open to walk down our Hall of offices. Yes, we wanted to be an open and welcoming space. But the reality is we might be on the phone or have a parent or administrator in our office or be in the middle of meeting with another student.

We had to change student habits in our office out of respect for all of our schedules and the meetings that we were having. We put up a sign reminding students to check in at the desk and essentially a way to stop them from barging in and ambushing a counselor when they weren’t ready for them. Students waited in the lobby until the clerk or secretary was able to check them in address them and let them know their counselor was here.

For a frequent flyer this may give them some time and space to process for at least a second as they wait for you. It may also help you get a game plan for how you’re going to address their arrival. If you can meet them in that lobby area, you might be able to have a touch point there without making it a full blown thing or a full blown counseling session back in your office.

Obviously, I’d never conduct an actual counseling session out in the lobby or even outside of a classroom door, if things were really sensitive, or I can since they were heading in that direction. But sometimes with our frequent flyer students, they just need a face to face check in or how’s it going, or they’re showing up because they feel the need to check in with you about something.

I like to combine this strategy often with the walk and talk. This can be as simple as talking on the way back to class or even taking a larger lap around the school, you know your school’s routes. Take a path for the amount of time that you can or that you want to spend with the student as you’re checking in with them. Walking gives both of your body something to do when you chat. And then the arrival back to class is a fantastic signal that our conversation is now over.

I would find myself leaving them with an action step or a follow up that’s helpful for both of us. For example, why don’t you stop by on your way back to class from lunch tomorrow, and let me know how that conversation went with your mom. I know it might seem counterproductive to invite them back after they haven’t left you alone in months. But I found that when a student has a task in their mind to follow up, it really makes it safer to leave and to get back to what they were doing.

This student is going to go have a tough conversation with mom and then come back and let you know how it went. Sometimes they don’t even come back the next day, they just want the security of knowing that I can come with something productive to share or to give an update.

This can be helpful for helping them move on to the next thing like getting back to class. I love having boundaries on the time that you’re allowing the student to be there. And let me make a note. These are not for crisis moments, you really can’t put a time stamp on those! But these are for the constant check ins or visits from students where you feel like we’re just not making huge progress here.

Of course, you can get sassy and tell them they just need to get back to class. But usually this is like an in between type student. They’re not here to get out of class, but they may have some presenting underlying issue and things just aren’t getting better. Maybe they’re trying to avoid going to class for some reason. Maybe they have romantic relationship issues that keep coming up anxiety around friendship drama, real issues, but no action being taken after you talk to them. So they keep coming back just to talk about the same things.

Can you remind the student that they have until the bell rings to talk or whatever a marker might be? I feel like the bell ringing is a less aggressive option than setting a timer on your phone or something. But it still gives a clear and distinctive end to your time. I’ve used this same line on a phone call that I knew was going to run log like you know that phone number from the parent who’s calling you because they always call you.

Hey, Mrs. Jones, I’m so glad you called. But I do want to let you know that I only have a few minutes to chat, I need to run to a meeting in about 10 minutes. And then that gives you some boundaries so that you can stop the conversation easily, even if it’s abrupt, but it’s not rude because he already gave him a heads up.

You’ve heard me talk over and over again about how using your calendar can be an advocacy tool for your program and for your role. But how can it protect your time so you can get the things on your to do list actually moved off of your to do list.

Ask a frequent flyer student to schedule a meeting with you. If you have a system for setting up appointments, show them how it works. This way you can mentally prepare to see the student and the student is also developing soft skills of making and keeping an appointment with you. In the moment that a student just drops in to see you you can always tell them hey, let’s look at my calendar and see where I can fit you in which gives them the reassurance that you’re making a dedicated time and space for them. But it also helps you put it on the calendar to actually fit it in when it works for you and not interrupt something that you’re already doing. The student gets to be seen and heard but there are boundaries around it.

This episode is brought to you by Going Merry. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard this 1,000,001 times. What scholarships can I get with a huge caseload? I know that you want to help your students but you can’t possibly give a personalized answer to each one of them. Until Going Merry came along.

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Once you do have those meetings with a student, are you thinking strategically about what you’re going to do during these individual counseling sessions? Individual counseling sessions take work from the student and the counselor. There is mental energy that goes into this. I often think about how I didn’t go into these meetings prepared ahead of time. But I thought, how can you?

You have so much going on and you don’t necessarily know why a student is dropping in ahead of time. However, with a frequent flyer student, you may know why they keep coming back to talk to you. One time I had a student who was in a grief small group I was running. That tier two intervention was working for him after the loss of his mom. But he was just so fragile in between our meeting times that I could fully expect him to stop by a few times during the week too.

I usually knew that I had encountered him either being really angry or really sad, depending on the day and how things were going. So when you know the issues that your frequent flyer is dealing with, you can have some individual counseling activities on hand or at least at the top of your mind for when they show up next. Maybe that’s just playing a game together like Jenga, or spot it and doing something while you talk.

Maybe it’s coloring in a coloring page, or perhaps is an individual counseling activity created to help a student identify feelings and move through a more structured reflection, like the anger management digital check in or automatic negative thoughts digital activities in my TPT store. I’ll link those to you so you can get an idea of what’s over there in terms of social emotional activities, checkins, resources for high school counselors.

You may decide to give them an activity to work on for homework without you that you can discuss when you come back together like a flipbook, or journal with writing prompts. Putting together or deciding on some sort of intentional counseling activity might be the thing that moves the needle for your student to experience true social emotional growth, if they’re needing a lot of that individual counseling help.

Let’s keep thinking on the counseling aspect here too, and evaluate what’s going on with that. If you’re discovering that this student has needs beyond your scope, do not be afraid to refer out to a mental health counselor or therapist who can give them the more intensive therapy services that they need. Your high school counselor who does short term most likely solution focused counseling, it’s expected that you would refer out if you are realizing that you’re working outside of your scope or your role.

I’ll also mention this doesn’t matter even if you have your LPC and you are a therapist outside of school hours. That’s not your role while you’re here. And I’m sure you’re thankful for that because you have a lot on your plate here too. These are two jobs that complement each other. And even if you’re skilled in both and have those certifications and qualifications, there’s a time and a place for each of your services.

If you’re sensing a cause for concern and you’re thinking, hey, I might need to refer out act on that. When a student has symptoms or concerns that are so frequent, extreme and unmanageable, it’s time to seek out more help. If you’re lucky enough to have a mental health counselor in your building, follow their referral process. If you’re connecting parents and students outside of the building, have a templated email or a printout of places that you refer families to.

I don’t know about you, but this was always one of my most utilized resources. So get your list together ahead of time of local therapists for students and families to look into and keep extra copies on hand to connect your parents or guardians to get your student the most dedicated help that they need. Referring out in a case like this is by far the most fair thing to do for the student to have that dedicated one on one time and for the rest of your students to be able to see and access their school counselor.

I hope these four ideas spark more things for you to try in your counseling program and practice when it comes to your frequent flyer students. The goal would be that they’re more independent and less needy if I’m being honest. And I’m confident that you can give them the help they need while still managing a solid balance for the rest of your caseload.

We discussed changing up the setting where you see the student setting boundaries around when and how long you see them, incorporating intentional counseling activities into a set counseling time, and referring out when that’s needed. You’re not wrong to be frustrated with the time and energy that the small select group of students seems to take up. So hopefully this episode gave you some tips you can implement right away to get a handle on that time you’re dedicating to them.

If you made it here till the end of the episode, would you do me a favor? Would you share this podcast with three high school counseling friends, where maybe you’ll tell your department about it at your next weekly meeting. Or maybe you’ll even share it with your district counseling supervisor. The opportunities here are really endless.

Your word of mouth referral to other high school counselors goes a long way to spread the love about this podcast and that would mean the world to me. I’ll see you here back next week for a guest episode.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of high school counseling conversations. All of the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at Be sure to hit follow or subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram send me a DM at counselor click that C L I Q U E. Thanks so much for hanging out with me I’ll see you next time.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

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