School-Based Family Counseling

What Is School-Based Family Counseling?

School-Based Family Counseling (SBFC) is an integrated approach which combines school counseling with family counseling in a broad systems approach. SBFC can be conducted on site at the school or in a private practice setting.

Children referred by teachers, parents, or self-referred for counseling are struggling academically and have significant problems at home. Family problems often include: marital discord, parents divorcing, custody problems with children, substance abuse, older siblings involved in gangs, sexual and physical abuse, parental neglect, single parents overwhelmed by economic and emotional problems, spouse abuse, and chaotic families with little parental control. School counselors, school social workers and psychologists usually have a high case load and have little time to intervene effectively in these family problems.

When school personnel determine that there is a family problem affecting a student, they often refer the family to a community mental health agency for family counseling. Most school principals are familiar with the phenomenon of families that are referred for family counseling, but do not go. Many of these "resistant" families are involved in a power struggle with school personnel and the families resent being sent for therapy because of the implicit message that the family (i.e. the parent) is sick or irresponsible.

School-Based Family Counselors can be viewed as an advocate for the school and the child. The focus of the counseling is on working with parents and families to help their children succeed in school. Going to a school to consult with the school based family counselor on how to help one's child succeed in school is something that many parents are willing to accept (especially if the counselor emphasizes that she/he needs the parents' help).

This normalizes the counseling and reframes it in a way that destigmatizes coming for counseling. As the School-Based Family Counselor works with the parents and family to help the child, trust is built which permits the counselor to eventually work on other family issues affecting the child.

Compass Counselors Offer School-Based Services

Through a collaborative contract between Compass Counseling and Consulting and the School District, counselors could be placed at the school site and work collaboratively both with families and with school staff to help children overcome their family problems and succeed at school. Compass counselors could also offer group counseling and classes at the school site or may schedule sessions at the private practice office for clients who experience difficulty in attending at the school site.

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