Joseph Degeling (school counsellor): My name is Joseph Degeling and I’m a psychologist and I work in a big school. My role as a school counsellor is primarily obviously working one on one with kids. Or in small groups of kids, providing therapeutic services. We also, as school counsellors, provide lots of intervention to parents and families, particularly when parents are worried about their children. Their adolescence, going into adolescence can be a very difficult time, and often parents have a lot of concerns about their children during that time.
We’d really like to have young people referring themselves. And I know that I work very much in my school to encourage kids and develop relationships with the whole student body so they feel comfortable in coming to us. And a self-referral is a very good referral because the young person is motivated to come and get help, but that’s not the majority of referrals we get.
Probably the majority of referrals we get are through teachers, concerned teachers. And they may suggest to the young person to come down, and the young person may be really open to coming down, which is obviously great again, that the young person may have sought help through a teacher and the teacher may direct them to us. Certainly parents may ring us up for a referral, and we might talk with parents about their child and – you know, that might be the avenue that the young person accesses us. But essentially, school counsellors generally have an open door policy really, and if there’s something the young person wanted to come and get some help with, then that’s the best way. But through teachers and parents would be the main source.
It’s the most common things the young people would come and talk to us about would be probably in the upper adolescent years. Probably more related to stress and anxiety, possibly around issues such as the HSC, or the year 12 exams. And I guess for those students, the school counsellor really has a role in helping them to train them in what stress is, the whole process of stress – the biological process of stress as well. Just giving them information about it, so they understand what’s happening.
So certainly the school counsellor has a role in teaching them about relaxation, the importance of being active, keeping fit, eating a good balanced diet, getting enough sleep. Really those real cornerstone things of mental health are really critical for those young people.
A lot of young people come and talk to use about problems with their mood. So they may be suffering just a lot of – lack of motivation, or they may be feeling really Video transcript 2 depressed or sad a lot of the time. They may be withdrawing from their friends, not enjoying things as much. And certainly, we get a lot of young people talking to us about those issues. There may be issues at home, with parents, that’s not a very common referral reason, when we work with young people and there’s family issues, we often try to somehow get some help for the family.
My take home message about school counselling is really about support. I think that’s the keyword that underlies out role, really, is support for young people. And parents, teachers, school counsellors, we do this in different ways, but nonetheless, it is all providing support. And I think for parents to use us is a really obviously key bit of advice, if they’re not sure about something, or they’re not – they don’t quite know what’s going on, pick up the phone and ring your school counsellor and have a chat with them. For parents, I guess – my advice always kind of tends to revolve around two words. One is obviously love and warmth, and as parents we need to have that love and warmth, but there also needs to be a good level of boundaries and limits for the young person to kind of know where they can go with their behaviour and that kind of thing. So I guess in different ways, we’re all supporting kids, and as a school counsellor, if parents, as I said, are ever kind of worried or concerned, absolutely, get in touch with us and we’ll help tap them into other services if that’s needed. Or otherwise just provide them with a little bit of assurance or advice.
For those schools where there isn’t a school counsellor, there may be somebody who’s in a similar kind of position, so it may be – they may have a welfare coordinator, or they may have somebody who’s in charge of student wellbeing or pastoral care. And often the heads of house or the tutors or roll call teachers or youth coordinators may often be in these pastoral care roles as well. And it may even be the school nurse, or different kinds of positions like this. And I mean, similarly, I’d encourage parents, if they were worried about something, and they did have a school counsellor, to talk to the teachers about it. You know, whoever would be that person in that particular school. And to just ask them some questions and ask them if they have any referral details. And even if there is nobody in the school, even talking to a GP and kind of accessing services, through the health system as well can be just as effective for the young person.