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Over the years, one thing I’ve learned is that a friendly chat, a few words of encouragement, or a five-minute “touching base with” conversation can go a LONG way with students. It is rewarding to see the appreciation in students’ faces when you take a little time to intentionally talk with them individually, genuinely asking how they’ve been.
In counseling, we are taught that our counseling sessions with students should be a minimum of 30 minutes, perhaps longer for teens. In a school setting, this creates multiple issues… missed instruction for students and a reduction in the amount of students a counselor is able to help in a given day. While there are certainly situations when students need significant time to meet with the counselor, the use of “counseling chats” is a strategy I find beneficial, and they’re fun!
Sometimes my “chats” are planned—I set aside an hour or two to run anywhere from 5-10 students through my office (or perhaps we stand outside their classroom or sit outside on a bench on a pretty day). If the chat has been fairly benign and problem-free (always a good thing!), I give the student a chance to bring up a potential issue towards the end by saying “It’s been great catching up with you. Before you go back to class, is there anything bothering you that you want to talk with me about?” Sometimes this results in our “chat” turning into a counseling session. Most often this is not the case, but either way, it clearly sends the message to the student that I continue to be available as a resource if something were to arise.
I find that counseling chats:
- show students you continue to care and are genuinely interested in them,
- allow you to follow-up with many more students,
- give you time to work with new students in crisis while still keeping up with previous student-clients,
- allow students to continue receiving tidbits of counseling information,
- remind students that there is at least one adult who cares about them in a meaningful way,
- remind students that I am always available.
Personally, I find that counseling chats fire me up. They are motivational as a counselor because they give me a chance to interact with students who were previously in distress under more favorable circumstances. We get to “debrief” and celebrate success and improvement. CHATS are prevention and an excellent way to stay connected with students, even after problems have been resolved. If you are interested in being more intentional in having CHATS with your students this year, here is a free handout that reviews the basic components and a mini-poster that serves as a visual reminder to do CHATS throughout the year.