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School Counseling Office Must-Haves

Whether you are starting your first year in a new space or are a seasoned counselor or social worker, you understand the importance of creating a safe and welcoming environment for your students. A well-designed space can significantly impact the effectiveness of your interactions with students.

school counseling

I have been fortunate to have relatively big offices to work with. In an effort to utilize this space in the best way possible, I’ve created three different zones: an area for regulation, a space for individual and group sessions, and a place for me to work independently. I’d love to know what works for you and your students!


Regulation Station


The regulation station is a designated space for students to safely identify, express, and regulate emotions. This area is designed to be intuitive and quickly accessible. Of course, it’s important to teach your students how to use this space before expecting them to navigate it alone. Eventually, however, it can be a place students can go to when they need a break. This is especially beneficial when students are dysregulated, as we know that using words isn’t always effective - less language, more regulation.


To ensure this space is as effective as possible, equip it with various tools and activities that promote self-soothing and emotional regulation. Here are some key components of a regulation station:


feelings check-in


Check-in tools

These tools prompt self reflection and lead to increased self-awareness. I like to have a few options for students: individual journals, a chart on the wall, and a variety of feelings lists in sheet protectors  so they can use markers to circle their current state.

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Fidgets

Regulation tools

○      Have fidget toys readily available as they are often used by students when having one on one conversations.

○      Visual prompts remind and guide students through a variety of coping skills such as: mindfulness strategies, grounding activities, breathing techniques, journaling, drawing, or movement to name a few.



timer

Timers

Have a timer available so students know how long they have before you will prompt them to check-in with you. In my practice, I remain in the space with them but give them the option to have some independent calm down time if they need it.


Comfortable ambience

Try to make the office seem less clinical and more inviting by adding comfortable seating, pillows, soft lighting, and options for gentle background noise


By creating a space where students can independently manage their emotions, we empower them to take control of their mental well-being. This area is essential for helping students develop self-regulation skills that they can carry with them beyond the office. Remember, these strategies must be taught, practiced, and modeled regularly in times of regulation in order to be successful - which leads me to my next area, the learning space.


Learning Space


This space is used to provide small group or individual instruction using a variety of activities to support different needs and preferences. A round table, chairs, and whiteboard are a great starting point. Make it a little more interesting by adding a few other resources to make the learning and practice fun! I like to have the following on hand:


Books, books, and more books

I love using books as tools to guide my sessions with students. A few of my most-used are: The Invisible String, Wilma Jean the Worry Machine, Personal Space Camp, Listening to My Body and A Book About Nervous System Regulation. 



Games

Games

Games make learning more fun! My go-to's include: Jenga, Candy Land, Uno, and Connect Four. I also regularly integrate legos and puzzles  into my sessions.  This fantastic tool from the Responsive Counselor helps you turn any game into a learning experience!


Ready to go lessons

I prefer not to reinvent the wheel when it comes to intervention strategies. Instead, I turn to the Responsive Counselor, Counselor Keri, and Bright Futures Counseling for tried and tested strategies. I also use: MindUp and the What-To-Do Guides for Kids . While these all require purchases, there are quite a few free options out there as well. Check out: Random Acts of Kindness, Pure Edge, or Work 2 Be Well for some ready to go FREE options!


By providing a structured yet flexible learning environment, we help students engage in meaningful activities that promote cognitive and personal growth. This space is crucial for addressing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges through skill building and reinforcing positive habits.


Workspace


The workspace is a practical area where you can focus on administrative tasks and communication. It's designed to be distraction-free and conducive to productivity, allowing you to efficiently manage the various responsibilities of your role. Admittedly, this is the least exciting space in my office!  Here’s what it includes:


Office Supplies

I have separate spaces for individual student files, group work, and classroom  lessons. I use a lot of binders for my in-process work. I’m also a huge fan of lists so I have plenty of notebooks and pens to keep me organized.


Technology Tools

Of course my school-issued computer and phone remain in this space. I also keep a little wireless speaker for calming music and a noise machine for white noise.


This space is vital for ensuring that we can effectively support our students and their families. By providing a dedicated area for administrative tasks, we can stay organized and maintain clear communication with all stakeholders involved in the students' education and well-being.


Conclusion


Creating a welcoming and functional counseling office is more than just an aesthetic endeavor—it's a crucial step in fostering a supportive environment for students. These thoughtfully designed areas not only enhance your ability to provide emotional and educational support but also empower students to develop social-emotional skills. By prioritizing a comfortable, organized, and well-equipped office, you lay the foundation for a successful and impactful school year, making your office a true sanctuary for growth and healing.


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