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School Counselors Poorly Equipped To Deal With Vaping, Gaming

A recently completed survey of high school guidance counselors found a significant gap between the number of cases reported to counselors and their training for intervention.

The survey was conducted by the University of Georgia’s Mary Frances Early College of Education. The survey involved 221 guidance counselors from the states of Georgia, New York, and Washington.

Counselors are trained to handle a variety of situations including truancy, poor academic performance, threatening behavior, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal self-injury. However, compared with how frequently they encounter vaping and gaming addiction, counselors feel woefully ill-equipped.

More than 80% of counselors reported having to deal with a vaping incident; however, less than 40% said they were “moderately competent” in their training to deal with vaping. When it comes to gaming addiction, counselor training is even more lopsided, with 70% of counselors encountering a need for intervention and only 24% saying they had any training with gaming addiction.

In a 2021 article for the Journal of School Counseling put together by a team of researchers at Montana State University, the authors found that:

[…] school counselors utilize prevention and intervention strategies to enhance student success. Although there are various developmental issues that counselors help students address and overcome, substance-related issues and their associated stigmas can be particularly challenging.

The authors provide a helpful resource for guidance counselors regarding the language of substance use disorders and behavioral addictions. Annotated definitions of more than a dozen topics help improve understanding and reduce stigma around disorders. Topics covered include:

  • Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)
  • Behavioral Disorders
  • Co-occurring Disorders
  • Addiction
  • Withdrawal
  • Detoxification
  • Synthetic Drugs
  • Relapse
  • Recovery

The authors also provided the suggested destigmatizing language shown in Table 1 when guidance counselors deal with issues of dependency and compulsion. As we have covered on AddicitionNews in the past, stigma is a major barrier to seeking affordable treatment which has a proven track record of effectiveness with substance use disorders and behavioral disorders.

Table 1: Stigmatizing Addictions Language and Person-First Destigmatizing Replacements, from “Essential Addictions Terminology for School Counselors,” Journal of School Counseling, 2021, used under Fair Use: Commentary.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published February 7, 2024.


“School counselors report prevalence of vaping, gaming issues among adolescents,” UGA Today, December 19, 2023.

“Essential Addictions Terminology for School Counselors,” Journal of School Counseling, 2021

Image Copyright: mila103.


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