A qualitative exploration of the role of the career guidance counsellor from a psychotherapeutic perspective

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Egan, Marion
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The provision of guidance counselling in post primary schools is an essential element of the school programme, which has faced increasing challenges in recent times in Ireland.The purpose of this research project was to gain a deeper understanding of the role of guidance counsellors in post primary schools in Dublin. It explored the dual aspect of their role within the school environment, providing an insight into the requirements to provide career/guidance counselling and personal/therapeutic counselling as part of the school guidance programme, in addition to the guidance counsellor’s role in classroom teaching. It also explored the impact of cutbacks in Budget 2011 on the guidance counsellor’s role, the additional stress this has placed on them and how students are referred to them for therapeutic counselling. It also explored how students are referred onwards for further therapeutic counselling. A sample group of five guidance counsellors were interviewed using semi-structured qualitative interviewing procedures and the data was analysed using thematic analysis. The findings of this research revealed that guidance counsellors have been impacted significantly by cutbacks in Budget 2011 with a reduced allocation of guidance hours and an increased demand from students requiring support and therapeutic counselling. This study also found that guidance counsellors are all working well in excess of their allocated hours to meet the demands on their time, which has impacted on the amount of stress they are under. The findings also revealed the challenges in providing therapeutic counselling to students in a school environment. The findings further revealed that while some guidance counsellors feel very supported in their roles, a number of guidance counsellors feel isolated in their jobs and that the amount of supervision being provided to guidance counsellors is less than that required by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.