A common question I get from parents after running several private counseling centers is, “What is the advantage of my child receiving counseling at your private clinic versus from the school counselor?” This is a great question, especially given that school counselors’ services are offered for free as a part of the school’s service. However, the fact that both school counselors and out-of-school private clinics for students have existed for years is a testament to the idea that there is value for both types of services.
Below, I will outline the top 8 reasons why many parents choose to have their child be seen by a provider at a private mental health clinic instead of (or in addition to) the school counselor.
1. To not take time away from school-based learning. Many parents choose to have their child be seen by a therapist at a private clinic after school hours in order to not take time away from in-school learning (as students are sometimes pulled out of classes to see their school counselor). Receiving counseling at private clinics thus allows students to maximize their time in the classroom and interactions with peers and teachers. While it is often helpful and necessary for students to see their school counselor during school hours at school (hence the presence of school counselors), parents and students often decide that it’s best to spend their time after-school at private clinics to meet their mental health needs. This is a case-by-case decision.
2. Parent involvement is often easier outside of school (if needed). Parent involvement is not always needed, as often students need their private space to work through their personal mental health challenges. However, it is often the case that mental health services can be greatly enhanced with the involvement of parents. Many parents find it easier to work together with the therapist when their child is seen at a private clinic outside of school.
3. Private clinics have unique pressures to produce results. School counselors certainly also have pressure to produce results, and they indeed do a great job at doing so. But the nature of private clinics also has some inherent, unique pressures built into the system of private counselor centers that may lead to your child experiencing somewhat quicker results in some ways. For example, in school settings, there is often only one counselor, whereas in the private sector, dissatisfied clients can easily leave and go to another private center. So private clinics have this unique pressure to perform, produce results, and keep their clients satisfied.
4. School counselors need to limit their scope to school-related issues only. Schools are limited in that their scope of intervention is strictly limited to the domain of school functioning. School counselors are thus typically not allowed to (and/or don’t have to the time to) set up home-based intervention plans, despite home intervention often being needed. Private clinics, on the other hand, can diagnose and treat problems and disorders that impact a child’s functioning in the school, community, and home setting. And with parent consent, private therapists can work with schools and teachers to help make sure that coping skills are understood and reinforced well across settings to maximize their effectiveness for the student.
5. Private clinics can offer more time with students. It is common for schools to have a small number of school counselors to provide counseling services to a large number of students. Due to this, the time spent with any given student is often limited in schools, both in terms of the number of minutes spent each meeting, and also, the number of meetings overall. School counselors also have other responsibilities in the school which may limit their time with students. In private clinics, on the other hand, you can be sure that your child is getting, for example, an hour every week with his/her therapist, and for as long as is needed. Sometimes more than an hour is needed each week, and that can more easily be accommodated in private clinics.
6. Weekend availability. It is common for private clinics to be open on weekends, especially on Saturdays. This allow students to be seen more easily.
7. Fewer Concerns Related to Confidentiality, Privacy, & Peer Judgments. While we at Seoul Counseling Center do not believe that there should be any negative stigma associated with receiving counseling, it is common for students to have concerns regarding how they will be viewed by their peers if they receive mental health counseling in school. For this reason, several students choose to receive mental health counseling at private clinics, either after school or on weekends. While we at Seoul Counseling Center constantly promote non-stigmatized mental health services, this is nonetheless one reason why many students and parents seek services at private clinics outside of school. Relatedly, while school counselors indeed have policies regarding confidentiality, private clinics are particularly strong in this area of maintaining privacy and confidentiality of their client’s mental health information.
8. More Provider Options with Diverse Specialities. Schools typically have a limited number of school counselors, oftentimes with a single school counselor for multiple grade levels. In private clinics, on the other hand, it is common for there to be not only more providers, but also a larger range of different types of providers with various areas of specialties in order to better meet the needs of the student (such as Therapists, Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, etc). At the Seoul Counseling Center, for example, we have over 20 different therapists, each with different backgrounds, degrees, and areas of specialties, who may be seen here: https://seoulcounseling.com/therapists