The excitement of getting your first school counseling job is immense. You jump for joy and begin to think, “now I need to go buy all of the things!” Then you remember that you do not have the budget to buy all of the things because you just finished grad school. Your next question?
“As a new counselor with a limited budget, what are the must-have resources for new school counselors?”
We asked a few Confident Counselors to share some of their must-have games, TpT resources, and office tools. Keep reading to find out some of our favorite counseling resources for school counselors on a budget.
Sara, The Responsive Counselor:
When I got my first school counseling job, the office was fairly full, but most of the things were older than me. They were no longer a match to who I was going to be working with: 2nd-4th grade mostly minority students. Six years later, I have selected and collected tons of resources to stock my office. Most have been hits, some have been flops. The list below is what I wish had when I started the job and my program.
Game: As far as official counseling games go, most do not seem to live up to their hype. They can be pretty pricey too! Journey to Friendsville is one that I have found well worth the money. It can be played in less than 30 minutes, is engaging to both genders, and balances skill with chance. It does not feel outdated and most of the prompts felt like a fit to my kiddos. I wrote a longer review of it on my blog a couple of years ago where I deemed it an official win!
Sensory Item: I knew my mermaid sequin pillow would be well used, but I did not know quite how well used and well-loved it would be. If I am conducting an individual session, chances are myself or the student is using it – boys included. I think by making sure I chose gender neutral colors (mine is black/gold), it is viewed as accessible to all. There are other mermaid sequin items that are smaller, but I love the pillow because it something for students to hold.
TpT Resource: As you start planning your program for the year, you will want to use stakeholder input and data to guide which direction you go. This planning bundle is planning perfection! It includes needs assessments (hard copy and digital) for faculty, parents, and students – plus editable curriculum maps to fit any caseload. There are also tons of sample themes and lesson topic ideas included so you are not reinventing the wheel. This resource gives you helpful and simple documents and ideas for starting the year off right.
Other Office Tool: I have had this hand paper shredder for five years now and it is the BEST for “destroying” cognitive distortions, bad guys from nightmares, grudges, etc. Shredding the paper by hand is much more satisfying than an electronic shredder (and I also do not worry about safety). I share a bit more about the things in my office on my blog where I did a full office tour – perusing that post might give you some inspiration as well!
Organizational Supply: In my life, filing cabinets are where papers go to die and never be seen again. I have two sets of these drawer organizer carts and I absolutely love them. This is where I keep: lesson plans for the current cycle, MTSS/RTII meeting paperwork, teacher surveys, frequently used individual worksheets, cards, stickers, etc. Everything is easily accessible. I also love taking the drawers with lesson materials in them all the way out and carrying them with me to classrooms to keep everything all together!
-Sara, The Responsive Counselor
Kate, EduKate & Inspire
As a first year counselor in a K-4 school, I remember being overwhelmed by the wealth of counseling resources available. I was hired as the replacement for a veteran counselor who did not leave very many updated resources behind. Now that I am a few years into the career, there are several resources that are my “go to” items that would be very helpful to a new counselor. Check out the list below to read about a few of my must-have resources for new school counselors!
TpT Resource: As a new counselor, it can be a challenge to come up with a system of documenting your case notes. I created this Documentation Pack my first year as a counselor and it is a resource I continue to use daily. The pack contains everything you need to document your sessions and help you get organized for the school year. My favorite pages in the pack are shown below!
Game: Have you heard of cooperative board games? They are the perfect tool for encouraging teamwork and communication skills. Unlike a traditional game, all of the players work together to try to win–either they all win or they all lose! My favorite cooperative board game is called Race to the Treasure. In the game, players work together to try to build a path to the treasure before an ogre beats them there! Students love this game because they end up with a different path every time they play, which adds excitement to the game.
Sensory Item: I have a basket of fidgets that students can choose from when they come into my office. One of the most used fidget tools in the basket is Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. Students love squishing and stretching the putty while we chat. Thinking Putty comes in a huge variety of color options–my students’ favorites include hypercolor (changes colors as it heats up) and illusion (really neat metallic colors).
Other Office Tool: As a new counselor, it took some time to build up a solid collection of art supplies. One of my first art supply purchases were these Multicultural Crayons. Students love being able to choose from the different shades to find a skin tone and hair color. I also show students how to blend the colors to create the perfect shade just for them. I prefer the large crayons over the regular size because they seem to handle the extra pressure students use when coloring portraits. Crayola makes the same type of multicultural supplies in markers, colored pencils, and even paint!
Organizational Item: As I began to gather art supplies for my office, I quickly realized that I needed a spot to store them that would give students easy access. I use a Supply Caddy to store pencils, multicultural crayons, scissors, colored pencils, glue sticks, and markers. I keep the caddy on a low shelf, which makes it easy to grab during individual sessions when a student wants to utilize art. In the caddy, I make sure to keep 6-8 pairs of scissors and glues sticks so that it is ready to go for small group time, too.
If you find yourself with a small budget and a large shopping list, try to look for other options to supplement your budget. You can consider writing a Donor’s Choose grant or look into local grants in your area. During my first year as a counselor, I wrote a grant through our local education foundation, which helped me to purchase many of my must-have resources for my office. To check out more of my favorite resources, visit this post to take a tour of my office. You can also visit my Amazon Shop to see more of my favorite counseling resources.
-Kate, EduKate and Inspire
Stephanie, School Counselor Stephanie:
When I started as a school counselor back in 2008, it had been 9 years since I had gotten my masters in counseling. After I finished my graduate degree, I decided I needed to go off and have a grand adventure. I left the country for several years to join the Peace Corps in Mozambique and then teach ESL in Bolivia. Needless to say, I put my counseling degree on a shelf for almost a decade after getting my masters. As a result, I had no idea what I would need most as a school counselor because it had been so long since I had studied school counseling and done my internship!
The first few years of my school counselor job, I attended all the professional development I possibly could find and read everything school counselor-ish on the internet. During this research, I realized what resources I needed most to effectively function as a school counselor. I began to grow my toolkit. Oh, how I wish I had known I needed those tools upon signing my school counseling contract in 2008. Having that resource knowledge up front would have made everything so much easier in my first year! Listed below are my must-have resources for all three levels: elementary, middle. and high school.
Book: My bible in school counseling is Gerald Sklare’s Brief Counseling that Works. It is an absolute must-have for every school counselor! Sklare does an amazing job of turning the solution-focused brief counseling model into practical tips and strategies. If you do not already have this book from grad school, do yourself a kindness and order it today! If you have enough money to get another must-have book, pick up a copy of the American School Counselor Association’s National Model– it will guide you each step of the way in your appropriate role as a school counselor and in how to set up a comprehensive school counseling program.
Office Tool: Mandalas and Crayola Markers are a must-have for all the times you will have upset (or just waiting) students in your office that need to take some time to relax as you handle their crisis situation, wait for a parent to arrive, or even just make their schedule. Luckily, you can find free mandalas all over the internet such as at this site.
Organizational Item: Get yourself an organizational cubby with lots of slots for all the forms you will have to manage as a school counselor. Here is my favorite one from Classroom Keepers. It is a little pricey for a cardboard cubby, but I have had mine for 5 years and it still works great!
TpT Resource: Last, but not least, is a resource from my School Counselor Stephanie Store that I use every year and just can not live without! It is a grief counseling guide called Cope Into Hope. Unfortunately, in our work as school counselors, we deal yearly with students losing their loved ones. This book will help you guide the student through their grief in the gentlest and most soothing way possible. Sadly, I have to use it every year.
I hope this brief list of resources helps you greatly in your first year as a school counselor. Additionally, you can check out a post I wrote for rookie counselors to help them get through their first year: “New Kids on the Block: Tips for the Rookie School Counselor”.
-Stephanie, School Counselor Stephanie
Final Advice for New School Counselors
Our final advice for new school counselors is to be resourceful! Look for creative ways to turn everyday supplies into therapeutic tools. Counseling games can be very expensive, so it is great to have a few games that are versatile. In fact, as the three of us were writing this post, we realized that we all wanted to recommend JENGA!
JENGA is an incredibly versatile game. You can play it as intended, use it to talk about building up/tearing down trust, and use the blocks to represent something that needs to be knocked down. It is also great practice for self-control, patience, and turn taking.
By being resourceful, you can also easily turn ANY GAME, like JENGA, Candy Land, and Don’t Break the Ice, into a counseling game. Check out Build Your Own Counseling Game and Any Game Counseling Prompts to find prompts to turn any game into a therapeutic resource.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Shop
Every counselor, every office, and every set of students is different. As you prepare for your shopping spree, mini or huge, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Do you know yet what is already in your office? What did the previous counselor leave behind?
- What do you know about the demographics of your school? As you are looking at books and posters, ask yourself if they represent your students.
- Consider spending your own money on things that you know will be must-haves. Did you use a game during your internship that was a big hit? Have you read through a book at the library that you imagine using over and over throughout the year? It is better to spend your money on a sure thing than something you do not know much about but sounds cool.
- What do you imagine using within your first three months?
Do you have any other recommended must-have resources for new school counselors? We would love to hear your recommendations in the comments!
For more new counselor must-haves, check out our Ultimate School Counselor Supply List and 15 Must-Have Books for Elementary School Counselors.