Guidance Counselling Resources

Materials helpful for guidance or counselling work.

Problem Cases

Our teaching colleagues have a massive job.  Every day and almost for every hour of every day they face rooms full of young people.  Managing their classwork and making it interesting are full-time jobs. ‌ However, seated at each desk is a young person making her or his way through the teenage years.  It’s a time of growth, exploration and many anxieties.  It is helpful to remind teachers now and again about the turbulence that can be going on beneath the surface in their classrooms. ‌ It is also important for our colleagues to realise that we as guidance counsellors deal with a lot of these issues in our counselling sessions.  This too should be one of the ways we publicise our role. ‌ The attached exercise is one I designed for use mainly with staff but it could also be used with a parent group. ‌ After such a session a typical and understandable question is, “what can we do?”  ‌

Here are some possible answers: ‌

  • Be sensitive to the more hidden lives of your students.
  • Watch out for those who are going through a rough time.
  • Changes in behaviour are often the first signs that something is amiss.
  • Present yourself as someone they could talk to if necessary.
  • Know how to refer students to the guidance counsellor.

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Leisure Activities

This is a checklist showing hundreds of leisure pursuits. Feel free to use this in any way you wish and you may need to add to it as new interests are emerging all the time.

There are several ways you might use this checklist.

INDIVIDUALS: Use the list to help students identify what they are already involved in and what they might like to try in the immediate future.

GROUPS: In a classroom setting the students can be asked questions that help them process the list in more detail. Which activities are indoor/outdoor, costly/cheap, teams/individuals, easy/difficult, available locally/not available.

When suggesting to people to try a new activity, keep it simple. Help them make a plan that has a 95% chance of succeeding. If more than one student is interested in trying the same new activity, they could work together as a team. Encourage them to use internet searches to find local clubs or experts.

I spent six years at school in Belfast back in the middle of the last century (honest), and even then they had the custom of organising a hobbies exhibition every two years. This was an amazing event and we would see hobbies that did not normally surface in the daily life of the school. I recall a group of senior students who used to launch small rockets near Lough Neagh and they measured the distance travelled using on-board transponders. The model railway enthusiasts used to bring in all their bits and pieces to make the biggest train layout I have ever seen. Now there’s an idea.

Why not try the checklist on yourself? This could be the start of a whole new area of interest.

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Problem Checklist

I would not use a problem checklist routinely in counselling but it has its uses. It comes into its own when a student is in distress but is not sure what the matter is or, as is often the case, does not have the words or the courage to express the problem.

A word of warning. A problem checklist is exactly that, a problem checklist. It is a list of problems. It cannot and should not have a “score”. One person might have 20 of these problems and be living a well-balanced life while another individual might have only one of the listed problems and be in great distress. There are, of course, research instruments that produce scores, profiles and even standardised results. They are for research purposes and, as such, are not intended to be part of a counselling process. Of course, such a research instrument could sometimes be used as a simple checklist.

Although scoring is not relevant in a problem checklist, some categorisation of the problems ticked by an individual could be helpful. For example, if a person had ticked ten family related problems and only a small number in other categories, we might assume that family is the major issue. This can only be an assumption and would need to be checked out. Any one of the other problems could be the most critical one in the eyes of the client.

The attached Problem Checklist has over 200 items. These cover quite a range of issues but, undoubtedly, new problems can and should be added from time to time. When used with an individual it is important to respect privacy. Offer the person a quiet spot to read through the list. You might say, “have a look through this list and see if there is anything you want to talk about”. Your client might not feel comfortable marking items on the list.

A problem checklist can also be useful in a group context. Issue a copy to each student in a class. They don’t need to write on the paper and the lists can be collected afterwards for use with other groups. A big advantage of this exercise is that the young people realise that many of the problems they thought were unique to them have in fact been recognised in this list. It helps reduce the sense of isolation. This can also help a young person bolster up the courage to go and talk to someone about a problem.

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