Professional Perspectives on Counseling

Background & Definitions:
From Boston Public Schools’ Superintendent’s Circular, 2014-2015:

The American Psychological Association has defined counseling as a process to help individuals towards overcoming obstacles to their personal growth, wherever these may be encountered and towards achieving development of their personal growth.

The American Counseling Association states that “counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the client’s interests and welfare; counselors avoid fostering dependent counseling relationships.”

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health states that counselors apply principles, methods, and theories of counseling and psychotherapeutic techniques to define goals and develop a treatment plan of action aimed towards the prevention, treatment, and resolution of mental and emotional dysfunction.

Confidentiality and Communication

The Rivers School supports confidential student access to school counselors. This means that students can schedule appointments with the counselors without parent/guardian permission, and counselors will meet with students to help them manage life’s challenges. School counselors will always encourage students to communicate openly with their families, but will not mandate, communicate, or break confidentiality unless there are imminent risks to the student’s safety or the safety of others.
There are times when, in the professional judgment of the counselors, it is wise to use a team approach to better serve the student. This may include working closely with parents/guardians, teachers, or administrators in coordinating recommendations for cases that require short term extensive help. Examples of situations in which sharing of information could occur are: (1) sharing information with the Head or Assistant Head of School, Advisor, Dean(s), and/or the student’s teacher(s) in order to support the student’s academic performance or progress; or (2) sharing information with the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) in the event that the counselor believes the student’s health is at risk. These are simply examples; there may be other situations that, in the counselor’s professional judgment, require disclosure.

Additionally, state and federal laws as well as professional ethical standards require counselors to disclose information learned during a counseling session under certain conditions, specifically when issues of safety arise. For instance, a counselor is required to report possible child abuse or neglect. A counselor may also disclose communications if (s)he has reasonable cause to believe that breaking confidentiality is necessary to avert a clear and present danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the student or that of other persons in the school and/or greater community (i.e. if student indicates imminent threat of harm to self or others).