I recently divorced and my child is having some problems dealing with that. The school wants him to see the school counselor.
DR. RUTHERFORD: I think that parents have to consider this very seriously because this is a significant action to take. There are some school counselors that are very good, of course, but personally, if it were my child, I would prefer to see an independent therapist outside of the school system.
I worry a lot about the information that gets passed around in schools between teachers and counselors. Talking with a school counselor may compromise confidentiality, which may end up putting your child at a disadvantage.
MOLLY: This dilemma was submitted from a mother in Denver, Colorado. Are you concerned because the child could get labeled as a troublemaker or something like that within the school?
DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes. Labeling does happen in an educational work place, and life is harder for a child who is known to all the teachers in the school as a “troubled child.” The way to avoid that is to see a counselor outside of the school who is not beholden or tempted to share information with the school.
I think, of course, that there is always the possibility for long term effects from how a divorce is handled. If it is mishandled within the school system, the child can develop a distrust for teachers and/or authority figures that can last a lifetime.
If the school isn’t discreet in how they try to help these kids – and, in my experience, you can’t count on discretion in this environment – then the whole endeavor could end up causing more harm than good for the child.
*** A note from Dr. Rutherford: The response to this post has been overwhelming. What I could have clarified further in the original post was that I was specifically talking about the policy of confidentiality in some schools and I was not talking about the individuals that are filling the very important role of school counselors.
I appreciate all the feedback and am glad to hear that today’s students may be able to enjoy more confidentiality from this important academic resource. Thanks for being a part of the conversation!