Why Every School Should Have a Registered Counsellor

students at school

Children are some of our most precious individuals, and yet often the place where they spend most of their time learning is not supporting them to thrive mentally and holistically.

Having dedicated and supportive mental health practitioners in schools is not just recommended, it is key to ensuring children get the most out of their education – and going on to live fulfilling and happy lives.

Bullying, difficulty with learning in classroom settings, relationships and family problems, anxieties and other stresses that may hit children before, during or after puberty are all times when they need the most support from their families, schools and educators.

While psychologists and social workers can help in specific situations, a qualified counsellor can make a huge difference across a child’s entire schooling experience. The specific life skills and guidance they provide can mean the difference between a child struggling to complete highschool or thriving and going on to live a fulfilling life. Counselling is an essential service for children and adults alike, and can set a person up to handle life’s challenges in an empathetic and mature way. 

Especially today when mortgage costs and groceries are rising faster than ever before, having a counsellor provide free support and advice at a child’s school means that parents do not need to outlay money for private mental health help. Instead, a child can speak to their counsellor on a once-off or regular basis during the entire school year whenever they may need support.

There are currently nowhere near enough mental health practitioners in Australia’s schools, with hundreds of vacancies caused by narrow selection criteria allowing only psychologists and social workers in most states and territories. This is excluding a valuable and underutilised resource in registered counsellors, being safe, competent and experienced professionals that can help students with a range of mild to moderate mental health conditions.

Recent reports from the ABC have detailed the crisis around school refusal, creating huge problems for parents and kids that need supported learning environments and showing how children are suffering without proper mental health support. In some states and territories such as the NT, the number of school counsellors has not increased in 14 years.

A survey of parents in 2022 (through the ACA) showed that more than a third believe a decline in their children’s mental health was linked to a lack of support within the schooling environment – something that can change.

By introducing a registered counsellor to every school across the country, governments, educators and parents have the opportunity to provide learning spaces that truly nurture each and every child’s potential. By providing a therapeutic approach beyond the classroom, we can encourage kids to blossom through addressing their individual needs and concerns and giving them the right tools to move through it.

From this year, Victoria is recruiting counsellors registered with ACA to work in schools in recognition of their professional qualifications and ability to support the wellbeing of kids in short-term counselling or long-term coordination for students with complex needs.

What this means is that Victorian students will be able to engage with more mental health advice and support, and experience schooling that sets them up for life’s long-term challenges. Each state and territory should be encouraged to do the same.

Children are our future – and supporting them by establishing a qualified and safe mental health foundation for their lives is how to safeguard theirs.

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