Positive student relationships are fundamental to success. When students feel supported, they will be able to function as a young adult and achieve their full potential. One of the common mistakes committed by a counselor working in the student services is to sit in his office and wait for someone who needs counseling. Here are some practical tips for Guidance Counselors:
Recognize that students are confronted with several issues.
Issues like high academic pressure, relationship breakup, financial problems, substance abuse or drug dependency, lack of motivation, video game addiction, and homesickness and anxiety, are some risk factors that will affect their mental health.
While the school community, in general, has been willing to offer necessary support, some students have lack of courage to seek help when they are suffering from depression or other mental health issues. Perhaps they don’t know how to approach people, or they are scared of being stigmatized with having emotional issues. Some other reasons could be they are more comfortable interacting with their peers, while others think they have no choice but to suffer quietly.
Organizing a dorm visitation can make a difference.
Reaching out the troubled students and allowing them to vent their concerns and frustrations can make a difference when the supporting staff is proactive and sensitive to students’ needs and ensure they are getting the right help. To win their trust, genuine care for the student is essential, so they will come to the counselor when they need more help and support.
Visiting students at the residence halls helps with these areas:
Collaboration. Consultation and receiving feedback can increase good collaboration. For example, I requested the dormitory deans arrange a schedule and I inform them ahead of time for visits so that they will not be surprised. For students who cannot communicate clearly in English, I requested the dean to translate into Thai.
With teamwork and good collaboration from the residence hall director, dormitory deans, and residence assistance, the job is easier.
Knowing and mingling with students. Knowing students on a personal level can make the job of a counselor easier. Visiting the students in the dorm provided me an opportunity to interact with them and understand them better. It tells them I am interested in and care for them. I asked questions and got to know them. They have brought issues about roommates, family problems, study habits, etc.
Rather than just sitting in an office, evening dorm visitation is a unique approach to reach out to students. It is highly essential to mingle with students and become acquainted with the different challenges that bother them.
Awareness of counselors and the services offered. Some students have misconceptions about counseling. For instance, they believe counseling is only for students who have behavioral problems or with mental problems. Consequently, some students are afraid of being labeled. But by visiting the students in the dorm, such misconceptions can be clarified by the counselor who will have a chance to introduce the department’s programs and services.
The counselor can orient students about career planning and share information about internship and employment opportunities for senior students. It’s an excellent opportunity for dorm students to interact with counselors personally.
An opportunity to pray for students. At the end of the visit, I ask students if they have prayer requests so I can pray for them. For instance, some of them are struggling with online learning due to Covid-19 restrictions and wanted me to pray for them.
Nothing is more encouraging and comforting than knowing that someone is praying for you—and most students have appreciated this effort. A supportive school environment can be a tremendous blessing to students, especially those who are emotionally distressed.
Visiting each room lasted between 10-15 minutes. But it is a different setup in a women’s dormitory. Dorm visitation is best done in the presence of a dormitory dean at her office to avoid potential issues.
Dorm visitation is an essential part of supporting students and promoting a healthy relationship. Even teachers, chaplains, and school administrators can do this, not just the counselors.
Becoming busy with school work and meeting deadlines may seem legitimate to overlook this kind of ministry, but what we need is to set time to visit students. Indeed, making time for personal visitation is a great learning experience and a unique opportunity to reach the students.