From Guidance Counselor to School Counselor: Why Our Title MATTERS! [Episode 80]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Let’s talk about something that may (or may not) ruffle some feathers – our title! 

Does it really matter if we’re called guidance counselors instead of school counselors? Well, I would argue that it matters a lot, and I’m not the only one. In 1990, ASCA officially announced that our professional title is a school counselor and not a guidance counselor.

And yet, we’re still called guidance counselors all the time. In fact, there’s a good chance that you are listed as a guidance counselor at your own school! If this is true for you, and you haven’t really thought twice about it, I hope to change your mind in today’s episode.

Calling ourselves a school counselor instead of a guidance counselor is actually a really simple yet powerful way to advocate for our role. The title ‘school counselor’ is more representative of the comprehensive work that we do as counselors. Plus, the research even shows that a title has an impact on the perceived competence of the person in the role.

I challenge you to look at how you’re allowing yourself to be perceived in your school building and in your district. I promise it’s a fight worth fighting!

Are you feeling fired up to take a stand against the title ‘guidance counselor’ or do you not really care either way? Send me a message on Instagram @counselorclique and let me know your thoughts!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Passive but effective ways to advocate for your role
  • Why you might call yourself a guidance counselor or don’t care if others use that phrase
  • The WHY behind the shift from guidance counselor to school counselor
  • Perceived biases that come with a professional’s title
  • Places to change your signature and title if it doesn’t currently say ‘school counselor’
  • How small changes made a big impact in how my school’s counseling department was perceived by stakeholders 

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

Hi, and welcome to another episode of High School Counseling Conversations. Let’s say first, maybe you’re here because of the title of this episode, maybe it caught your eye. I’ll introduce it by saying I can’t believe I have not done an episode on this topic yet. There’s always a lot of controversy around this. And I’m not really sure why.

Today, let’s talk about the title school counselor, and why it matters. Everyone is going to choose a battle that makes sense to them or a hill that they’re going to die on. And I find that there seem to be two camps with this one. Something you really care about or something that doesn’t bother you in the least bit. I’ll definitely put some polls up on my Instagram stories because I do want to know what camp you fall into.

Let’s use today’s episode to share why the title of school counselor matters. And why sharing this with others can deepen your impact and amplify your advocacy efforts. We’ll get into some quick passive ways that you can really start to change the culture in your school and in your district around this title.

You got into this profession to make a difference in your students lives. But you’re spread thin by all the things that keep getting added to your to do list. I can’t create more hours in the day. But I can invite you into my Counselor Clique, where you’ll finally catch your breath. Come with me as we unpack creative ideas and effective strategies that will help you be the counselor who leaves a lifelong impact on your students. I’m Lauren Tingle, 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.

Now, you know advocacy is something I never get tired of talking about. Because well, I think that there are lots of simple ways that you can advocate for your role as a high school counselor without even totally draining yourself.

So some practical actionable ones are, like the episode two weeks ago, about using your calendar and sharing it out. You could do a presentation at the end of the year for your admin or teachers or you could create and share your SMART goals for your program. Those all require some action steps. We’re gonna get into some passive steps though here.

Calling yourself a school counselor instead of a guidance counselor is totally a passive way to advocate. Passive is not a negative term here. I’m saying it’s a way that you’re advocating without having to exert a ton of energy. And I don’t want you to miss the boat on this because why would you not want to do that?

Okay, let’s talk about why you might call yourself a guidance counselor or not care what people call you. You say well, I am a guidance counselor. That’s what I’ve always been called by others. ASCA officially produced a statement in 1990 saying that the professional title is actually a school counselor and not a guidance counselor.

So maybe you’ve just been doing this for a while. And it’s hard to change your ways. I guess I can see how you’d get stuck there. But in any profession and life really, aren’t you learning and growing and trying to get better? I guess those that are listening to a podcast about high school counseling are the choir that I’m preaching to. You listeners probably get it or at least are open to the idea that we should be called school counselors instead of guidance counselors.

But why? Why change the name back in the 90s? ASCA statement said that the title school counselor should be representative of the comprehensive work that counselors do. Counselors aren’t just guiding in a vocational sense. That was like the old time role.

We’re now data driven. We’re research driven. We’re goal oriented. We’re looking at the best practices to meet the needs of the whole student in all areas, academic, college and career, and social emotional realms.

I think the more compelling piece of research behind the title is the perception that other stakeholders have when they see the title. There’s been research done on this. The title has an impact on the perceived competence of the person in the role. Now, I don’t know about you, but I value being seen as competent in my role, because I know that I am competent in my role. And I’m saying this as if I was currently in a high school counseling position, but you know what I mean?

So coming from someone who values this title and competence in general, I do think that I have an inherent bias that if I see a job listing for a guidance counselor or posting somewhere for a guidance counselor, I would think, would I want to work there? I would pause and wonder, maybe their program is stuck in the 1980s. Maybe they’re not attuned to the mindsets and behaviors that school counselors nowadays look to to drive our programs.

And even if that’s not the case, like that’s not what those people are all about, or that department is all about, that could be somebody’s perceived bias like I’m telling you, mine probably would be. A leader who wants the best people on their team to drive forward towards success, ultimately for the betterment of serving students, needs to advocate for the role with the correct and most up to date title.

If you want to recruit the best, then I really do believe that the title does matter. I guess I’m saying that to a principal or department head who has the power to hire the next school counselor to fill the role or maybe even the teammate who wants to have influence as to where the school counseling program is headed.

Are you looking for a resource to use with your high schoolers that really truly makes a difference? How about using my First Generation High School Counseling Small Group Curriculum to equip and empower your first gen students. This was always my favorite small group to run annually. Honestly, it was the first one I got excited about putting together and making time to run during a busy day and hectic semester.

If you’re looking to get your feet wet with small groups, start with the First Generation Small Group where you’ll make a memorable impact on your students. By the end, you’ll see their competence increase, and there’ll be autonomous in the college going process. Seriously, it’s the most rewarding. If you want to see more of what’s inside the seven sessions had to Now back to the show.

So what can you do passively to make sure others recognize that the title everywhere is school counselor. You could advocate to have job listings posted a school counselor and not guidance counselor. This happens at the school, district, and state level. New talent is not going to be drawn to the old school ways. Even if it seems like something you don’t have control over, send an email, make a phone call, just let your voice be heard here.

I’ve had a lot of pushback here, people saying well, that’s just what’s in the computer, or that’s just what generates on the school ID or in the job listing system. Like they just say that that’s how it is and we can’t change it. But when they were pushed hard enough, they definitely could manually override it and change it.

A second idea that you can do to passively make sure others recognize that the title is school counselor, you could change your signage in your school or examine it and make sure it’s all up to date. A big day for my department was when the sign outside of our main office area and lobby got changed from guidance office to school counseling office.

I’m sure it was a tiny change that our principal approved that made a big impact on the morale and the progressive thinking of the counselors who want to be perceived as competent for the work that they were doing. Like it was something so small that he could do to make a big impact for us. It made a huge difference.

Change your title everywhere else around the school. So I’m looking at your email signature, student agendas, and student handbooks, newsletters that go home, the school website, your school counseling website probably says school counselors, but maybe the link on the main homepage says guidance department. Probably because you don’t have control over it. So I’m saying go into the webmaster, ask them to change that for you. Look at your business cards, your social media accounts. You want to have a uniform message here going out to others.

Have your department as a whole recognized as the school counseling department and not just the guidance department. I know it can be a mouthful at first. And that’s hard for others to adjust to this one because they’re just used to be able to say that department name faster.

I remember listening to an old Andy Stanley leadership podcast about how a whole company has to be on board with the mission and the vision for that to permeate all the way through to the customers. Specifically, I think this was the episode with the founder and owner of the Ritz Carlton. And so think of how many different positions there are in the Ritz Carlton, just to give a visitor an elevated experience.

There is the valet and the person who greets you, when you drive your car in. There’s the housekeeper, the front desk person, the waiter in the restaurant on that campus. Every person plays a role to make sure that the customers experience is the best experience they’ve ever had. And customers walk away raving fans because everybody that’s a part of the Ritz Carlton community understands the same mission and vision.

And so when I heard this, I thought, wow, that’s from like the highest of high, the owner and the founder, all the way down to maybe the lowest paying job in this company. Everybody understands their goals and the mission and the vision if they want to either change or just elevate the perception of the company or the team.

So in this case, the first thing that came to my mind was the front desk at our school. They’re the gateway to our office. Parents, visitors, guest speakers, students, they all come through here and the front desk can point them to guidance, or they can point them to the school counseling office right over that way. Small changes in a culture can make big impacts for a brand.

When we did all of these passive things in our school, plus the active things that I mentioned at the beginning, like educating others on what our role entails and sharing our goals and our accomplishments, I could tell immediately that the perception of school counselors was changing for the better. Our stakeholders saw that we cared about being out of our offices to deliver a comprehensive program. It was new and it was different. They started seeing value in our role and their whole perception of us changed.

Were some people in the school harder to get on board for using the proper vernacular? You bet. If you want the respect you deserve, I challenge you to look at how you’re allowing yourself to be perceived in your school building and in your district. It’s a good fight, I promise.

And I hope this episode gave you some inspiration or just some motivation to keep pushing forward to advocate for a positive change for your role. Who knows after getting the right title in place, you might find yourself being able to advocate for smaller case loads or more appropriate duties. Only one can hope right?

I’ll see you back here for next week’s episode. Let me know in my DMs if this was a motivational or helpful or inspirational message for you to hear, and hopefully it ruffled some feathers. I can’t wait to hear what camp you fall into. The camp who doesn’t care or the camp who really cares about the job title. I’ll see you back here next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of High School Counseling Conversations. All the links I talked about today can be found in the shownotes and also at Be sure to hit follow wherever you listen to your podcasts so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram. Feel free to send me a DM @councelorclique. That’s C L I Q U E. I’ll see you next week.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

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