Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Promoting Resiliency in a School Counseling Program

Resiliency can be defined as, “The set of attributes an individual possess which enables him/her to bounce back from adversity, frustration, and/or misfortune” (Janas, 2002 & Sagor, 1996). Resilient students are viewed as social, optimistic, cooperative, inquisitive, attentive, helpful, punctual, and on task (Sagor, 1996). He or she is empathetic, determined, hopeful, persistent, autonomous, and possess a sense of humor, effective communication skills, and good problem solving skills (Bernard, 1993). These are the character traits that allow some students to overcome adversity and continue to succeed in his/her life. 

Examples of strategies include: 

  • Evaluate all students based on character strengths and apply the information to provide classroom guidance lessons, individual counseling, and to form counseling groups. A strength-based approach has been shown to accentuate character strengths which, in turn, promotes resiliency among students. There are several questionnaires that can be administered to students, which helps discover character traits. Building resiliency through classroom guidance lessons on character strengths, is effective and reaches many students at one time.

  • Collaborate with families, school staff, and the community to provide a strength-based approach to empowering students. When a school counselor collaborates with student’s families, school staff, and the community, it provides important opportunities to enrich a student’s character traits and enhance resiliency. Some examples of collaboration may be: classroom guidance lessons based on student’s specific needs; peer mediation and peer counseling; peer mentoring; a school wide bullying prevention program; group counseling with student’s and/or families; children and staff birthday celebrations; mentor-ships with individuals in the community; and various clubs and enrichment programs based on student’s interests and needs. Collaborating with families, school staff, and the community, will not only build resiliency for a student in the school setting, it will also assist him/her in the application of resiliency in other areas of his/her life.

  • Shift from a deficit-focused to a strengths-based and solution-focused approach to advocate for all students. School counselors are leaders in the school. If we build on student’s strengths and advocate for all students, the school staff will follow. By acknowledging a student for his/her positive attributes, and not by his/her negative attributes, it will allow school staff to view him/her differently. A teacher may express frustration with a student for constantly talking out of turn in class. From a strength-base focused perspective, a school counselor may offer a suggestion such as, “I bet that is very frustrating. It sounds like that student has some amazing ideas that he/she is wanting to share with the class? Could we brainstorm some ways for him/her to express his/herself without disrupting class?” By acknowledging the teacher’s frustration and then refocusing his/her deficit in the classroom to a strength of the student, it will encourage the teacher to view the student as a strength instead of a deficit to the classroom.

The continuing challenge for school counselors is to reach all students and provide them with the tools they need to succeed academically, socially, emotionally, and in their careers. By promoting student’s character strengths, collaborating with families, school staff, and the community, shifting from a deficit-reduction to a strength-based approach, and continuing to educate ourselves, we can build resiliency among students and help them achieve their goals!

Bernard, B.  (1993). Fostering Resiliency in Kids.  Educational Leadership, 51(3), 44-48.
Janas, M.  (2002). Build Resiliency.  Intervention in School & Clinic, 38(2), 117-121.
Sagor, R.  (1996). Building Resiliency in Students.  Educational Leadership, 54(1), 38-43.

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