Secondary Counseling Services

Philosophy of the Department

The Counseling Department's mission it is to support students' academic, personal, and social-emotional growth. Counselors believe that they are the constant in a student's experience in school. Counselors have the ability to look at the big picture - across academic disciplines, home and school responsibilities, social pressures/conflicts, extra curricular interests and talents, and help students try to make sense of it all. Counselors help students to integrate all of the aspects of their ever-changing lives and to begin to develop a sense of: 

  • who they are 
  • the direction they would like to take, 
  • and the knowledge of their own passion and goals.

What Counselors/Psychologists Do:

  • Counselors provide an integrated approach to address students' academic and social-emotional needs. For example, counselors help student's transition to the junior high and high school by providing structured opportunities for them to ask questions and gain support (i.e. meet with them on orientation day in August and again in small groups during the first few weeks of school). 
  • Counselors and psychologists provide individual and group counseling to students with identified social-emotional disabilities or concerns as well as to students who self-refer, or are referred by the Child Study/Student Assistance Team, by parents, teachers, and administrators. Issues addressed in counseling include self-esteem, social skill development, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, loss, drug/alcohol use, eating disorders, stress management, etc. 
  • Counselors and psychologists provide crisis intervention to individual students who may be in danger of hurting themselves, or others, or are in serious emotional distress. 
  • Counselors and psychologists support crisis situations in the school setting. For example, when the school has suffered the loss of a student, counselors and psychologists work closely with the administration and the building crisis team. In addition counselors and psychologists work closely with outside agencies and community organizations to provide support to our students in school and within the community. 
  • Counselors engage in academic advising with students in individual, small group and large group settings. These services range from presentations and individual meetings about course selection to individual discussions regarding workload, elective offerings, extra curricular opportunities, attendance concerns, and academic difficulty. 
  • Counselors and psychologists advocate for students with teachers and administrators and help to mediate conflicts. 
  • Counselors guide students to begin career exploration activities so that they may develop an understanding of their personal interests, aptitudes, and possible career paths. For example, high school counselors run sophomore group presentations in which every student obtains an account on a web based College Board program, which allows students to complete a career interest inventory and search possible career areas. 
  • Counselors and psychologists provide regular consultation and communication to the faculty and the administration regarding student needs and issues. Counselors and psychologists also communicate and collaborate with outside agencies and service providers. 
  • Counselors across both buildings teach classroom lessons on:
  • The department communicates regularly with parents. At the junior high school, counselors write a monthly column in theShades of Grey, and at the high school, the department publishes a monthly newsletter, the Communique, which is sent to every family in the district.

Post-high school planning begins in earnest during a student's junior year and continues through the senior year. The department sponsors the following evening programs: 

  • Spring College Night for junior students and their parents/guardians 
  • Fall College Night for senior students and their parents/guardians 
  • Financial Aid Night 
  • College Athlete Night 
  • Counselors meet with juniors in small groups using a post-high school planning booklet that includes not only two and four year colleges, but alternatives to college, and work and trade school information. Many individual meetings follow up these group meetings with students through the end of the junior year and into the senior year. In the fall of the senior year counselors meet with their students to talk about the college application process and the college essay.

The department's focus in the college application process is to: 

  • assist students in identifying what they are looking for in a college/university - what their interests and passions are - and which college environment meets these areas and is a "good fit." 
  • assist students in identifying a wide range of schools by sharing statistics and trends about how former Acton-Boxborough students fared in the admissions process over the last few years at each of the schools (Action Report, available on the High School Counseling web site). 
  • share with students information that counselors have learned in their dealings with college admissions officers. 
  • explain the process of applying to schools. Counselors attempt to alleviate the stress that students experience by reminding them of the vast number of colleges and universities available to them. As a department, counselors acknowledge that the landscape of college admissions constantly changes, and will continue to do so as more students are applying to colleges and as the competition increases. 
  • write a comprehensive "Counselor Statement" that incorporates input from parents, teachers and other individuals in an attempt to give a complete picture of the student.

Special Programs/Initiative

  • Peer Counseling 
  • Support of Administrative Attendance Programs 
  • After school psycho-educational program at RJG for students who bully/tease/harass, to teach behaviors/strategies to avoid conflict 
  • Involvement in specialized alternative programs such as SWAP and MAP 
  • Involvement in parent programs on such issues as depression 
  • Research and development work over several summers in advisor/advisee programs; definition of emotional disability; sexual harassment curriculum; development of the "College Admission Game" 
  • Changes to the high school transcript 
  • Support of MCAS administration 
  • Sponsor of Advanced Placement Testing administration 
  • Collaboration with Boston College Masters in Counseling Program, Tufts University School Psychology Program for internship training sites 
  • Involvement in the Chapter 766 Evaluation Process 
  • Oversight of 504 Accommodation Plans 
  • Crisis Intervention Team membership 
  • Mentors in Violence Prevention Program 
  • Teen Dating Violence Initiatives 
  • Involvement with the Safe Schools Initiative at RJG

Counselors are very much "generalists." Many counselors came to Acton-Boxborough because we are a "counseling department" and because we value the connection we are able to make with youngsters across all areas of their lives. 

The negative aspect of this approach is that counselors and psychologists are stretched to meet the varying needs of all students, and are up against the pressure of college admissions and the diminishing community mental health services for students. 

With long wait lists for area therapists, insurance cut backs, and shorter psychiatric hospitalization stays, students are more in need of support within the walls of the school building. 

Despite the challenges, we believe in our assertion that we are most effective if we look at the whole student and address, to the best of our ability, a student's growth and development as an adolescent across academic, social, and emotional areas. In this way we are doing best by our students.

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