Experiences of former school counselors who lead campuses in the role of the principal




Ridgley, Kimberly

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The role of a school principal is directive with a strong focus on enforcement, supervision, and evaluation, whereas the school counselor fulfills a less directive role with a focus on understanding the social and emotional functioning of the student. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the experiences of 3 former school counselor (FSC) professionals who lead campuses as principal. This study identified the impact on the educational environment when a principal has a background and training in counseling, including which counseling skills had the most significant impact on how the principal interacts with staff, students, parents, and community members. This study illuminates how a FSC principal creates opportunities to develop the whole child. Finally, the study investigated factors that motivate a career change from school counselor to principal.

Five categories were identified: (a) the theory of caring, (b) distress tolerance, (c) phenomenology, (d) professional identity, and (e) intelligence. Counseling training and experience assisted the principals in building relationships and interacting with stakeholders. All participants reflected that their counseling training made them better administrators. Basic counseling skills integrated into the role of principal were active listening, nonverbal and verbal communication, reflection, questioning, encouragement, and support. All were able to sit and listen during emotionally charged situations (distress tolerance). Administrator programs could consider offering training in these counseling-related skills.


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Counseling Skills, Distress Tolerance, Principal, Professional Identity, School Counselor



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies