Stephanie Pulido » The Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Program

The Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Program

This section describes the purpose, format, and necessary components of a comprehensive developmental guidance program and offers links to model programs and recommendations.

What is a Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Program?

           A comprehensive developmental guidance program (CDGP) is an essential element of a school’s mission to improve academic achievement.  The four components of the American Counseling Association (ASCA) National Model, foundation, management, delivery, and accountability, provide the framework to support the school’s academic mission.  Together, these four elements outline the structures that school counselors must have in place to do their work.

Advisory Council

At the heart of the school counseling program is the advisory council. This group is a broad representation of stakeholders in the school community, and should ideally include students, parents, teachers, school counselors, administrators, school board members, and business and community members. Member representation should reflect not only the diversity of the community, but it should also include a depictive sample of the values, interests, and concerns of the community as well. As significant, essential partners in the systemic effort to promote achievement, the advisory council assists the school counselor in building a solid foundation for the CDGP.  Collaboratively, they explore and articulate the beliefs, vision, and mission of the program. This collective effort is expressed in statements and defined in goals and objectives. The advisory council also serves a crucial role in the management of the CDGP by assisting in reviewing, communicating, and making recommendations on program results as well as advocating for program funding and resources.

Needs Assessment

            Assessment of students’ counseling needs and stakeholders’ concerns is a crucial component of implementing an effective school counseling program.  Through this thorough process, an advisory council is able assess the perceived needs and interests of the students in academic, career, and personal/social domains, the concerns and priorities of the parents, the realities and needs of the teachers, and the desired goals and priorities of the community at large.  Additionally, reviewing school data reports related to achievement, attendance, diversity, participation, and discipline can yield valuable information and address barriers to student success or opportunity gaps. A summary of the results is a tool counselors and advisory councils can use to determine programmatic needs and desired outcomes of the CDGP.   The needs assessment process is an important component of a data-driven school counseling program in that data is used to inform decisions that are made.

The core curriculum

The delivery component of the ASCA National Model includes the school counseling core curriculum.  The guidance curriculum is an essential piece of the CDGP because it provides classroom-level assistance, instruction, and interventions to address students’ academic, career, and personal/social development.  Program curriculum materials, whether commercially available or locally created, are procured dependent upon these specific needs.  The guidance curriculum is delivered to every student in the form of learning activities and lessons.

Responsive services

The delivery component of the ASCA Model also includes direct student services in the form of response services.  The primary goal of implementing responsive service through counseling is to promote students’ personal and social growth to foster their academic progress.  These services are activities designed to meet students’ immediate needs and concerns to help them negotiate academic, career, and personal/social issues Responsive services take the form of individual and small group counseling sessions to assist students with specific issues that impede achievement or success.  These sessions are intended to be planned, goal-focused, and short-term in nature.  Counseling sessions are not intended to be long-term therapeutic interventions, and school counselors must be prepared to make referrals to outside agencies and supporting mental health professionals for therapeutic treatment. Also included in this component of responsive services is crisis response.  This direct service includes interventions, support, and assistance to students in critical or emergency situations.  Interventions are designed to serve students’ immediate needs and provide follow-up assistance to alleviate the severity of the situation.

Individual planning

Individual planning is another form of direct service outlined in the ASCA National Model.  Activities designed to assist students in establishing personal, individual, academic goals and plans are delivered by student counselors to support academic, career, and personal/social competencies.  These activities also allow counselors to assist students in making developmental transitions within and beyond school.  Although the label indicates a services provided on an individual level, the counselor can help students individually plan one-on-one, at the group level, or within a classroom setting.  Parents and other school personnel may be included in individual planning activities with students as well.  Individual planning is implemented through appraisal and advisement of students.  Appraisal involves working with students to develop plans through assessing their interests, abilities, and skills related to achievement.  Advisement involves assisting students make decisions for future plans within the academic, career, and personal/social domains.  Planning activities for education and career development are prominent components of a CDGP and rely on needs assessment to determine educational and career planning rationales and goals.

Program support

Program support for a CDGP is provided through indirect student services.  Students are the primary clients in indirect services, but school counselors consult and collaborate with a range of stakeholders and professionals to promote student achievement.  Collaborative efforts include teaming and partnering with administrators, teachers, parents, and community members to serve on committees, share resources, present information, and educate stakeholders regarding issues that have been identified through primary and ongoing needs assessments.  Consultation involves identifying and sharing strategies to advocate for students and promote equity in access and opportunities for student groups as identified in needs assessments. Referrals are another service of program support, and involve school counselors working with students and families to provide additional resources and services.  Academic support can be provided through tutorial referrals, career support can be offered through trainings and college/career resources, and personals/social support could be provided through referrals to mental health service resources and assistive agencies.


Links to model programs: