September 2019

Creativity in School Counseling

By Selena Rokeach-Brown
Combining creativity and school counseling expands techniques to explore student issues such as identity development, anxiety, self-esteem and career aspirations. Creative school counseling emphasizes strengths, fosters student expression and can improve self-understanding. Furthermore, it can be an engaging approach to address student learning style differences and language barriers while promoting cultural responsiveness. Incorporating the suggestions that follow into school counseling programming can help student development by addressing the ASCA academic, social/emotional and career domains.

Vision boards are often depicted in home design shows and in creative business fields yet can be easily applied to school counseling. This creative project offers students an opportunity to combine visuals and self-affirmations to enhance self-efficacy and self-esteem. Boards can also be effective for exploring career aspirations and identifying future goals. Visions boards are beneficial for students who have faced inequity or bias by allowing them to celebrate their attributes and identity. Less verbally communicative students may find relief through symbolic expression.  Working with students to create vision boards is an enjoyable and simple process. The low-cost materials include poster boards, coloring tools, stickers, scissors and tape. Provide magazines depicting a variety of ethnicities and cultures for wide-ranging images and word art. Student–counselor interaction takes place from the outset by guiding the student to reflect about future goals and/or uniqueness. Students often feel inspired to add visuals that create an empowering picture or message. Showing examples of vision boards may make the experience less intimidating and illustrate that there isn’t a right or wrong way to create. Discussion can take place throughout as students think about individuality, ambitions or achievement, and final reflections address the meaning of the completed project.

Continuing with creative counseling and design, a common overlooked opportunity for inspiration is the school counselor’s office. Our physical environment can affect our behaviors and outlook. Although an office may not be completely customizable, small changes can positively alter the way we feel in our workspace and affect how we interact with students and colleagues. Creating a welcoming space can encourage student engagement and feelings of acceptance. Artwork and meaningful posters nurture well-being and comfort for both the school counselor and student. Color choice can affect mood, with cool greens and blues being particularly soothing. Even in offices with limited space, rearranging furniture and office materials – and removing clutter – helps create a satisfying and calming environment.

Numerous studies report that children’s lack of outdoor time is impacting their emotional health and physical well-being. Outdoor programming can increase student mood and confidence and has been shown to decrease child and adolescent ADHD symptoms. Incorporating nature supports creative school counseling in various ways. Career planning can integrate information about environmental and ecological fields of study. One-on-one and group meetings taking place outdoors are a refreshing alternative to the traditional in-office or school building sessions. School counselors can explore multi-session, adventure-based team activities that foster student self-understanding and building social skills. The ASCA National Model supports the use of creative outdoor experiences. Parent education about the benefits of outdoor involvement and outdoor-based activity recommendations can provide interesting opportunities for student development. Finally, incorporating plants into an office reminds us of nature’s importance, can lower stress and is another way to enhance office space.    

The use of creativity in school counseling fosters self-expression, boosts awareness and celebrates individuality. It allows a school counselor to promote communication and offer multi-sensory student experiences that enhance growth. We hope that this selection of ideas is a strength-based resource for the upcoming school year!
Cook, K. & Malloy, L. (2014). School counseling office design: Creating safe space. Journal of
Creativity in Mental Health, 9, 436–443.
Flom, B., Johnson, C., Hubbard, J., & Reidt, D. (2011). The natural school counselor: Using
nature to promote mental health in schools. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 6,
Waalkes, P. L., Gonzalez, L. M., & Brunson, C. N. (2019). Vision boards and adolescent career
counseling: A culturally responsive approach. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health,
14(2), 205–216.