6 Ethical Considerations for Virtual School Counseling

Smiling girl student wear wireless headphone study online with skype teacher, happy young woman learn language listen lecture watch webinar write notes look at laptop sit in cafe, distant education

As remote instruction continues due to COVID-19, more and more school counselors are going to be participating in virtual school counseling. Just like you would for in person counseling sessions, it’s important that we recognize crucial ethical obligations when we’re counseling remotely. 

Here are 6 ethical considerations from our school counseling specialists that you should consider when participating in virtual school counseling.

1. Confidentiality

Be sure all digital devices such as Alexas, Google Home, and other technology is turned off to ensure students’ confidentiality. As much as possible, try to be in a quiet area away from your own family and use headphones. This ensures that your students will maintain a safe and confidential environment during their counseling sessions.

2. District protocols for parental permission

Before starting any type of virtual counseling session with your students, be sure to have, in writing, their parent/guardian permission. Your school district should have a permission form specific to virtual counseling created. If your district doesn’t have a permission form specific to virtual counseling, reach out to our counseling team at our service team so we can help.

3. District processes for student outcries during virtual schooling 

When a student makes an outcry of self-harm or shares suicidal intentions, be sure to immediately follow your district’s processes. These typically include notifying a parent/guardian via phone and also working with your campus administrative team to ensure the student and family is supported. 

4. Personal Information 

How will you be contacting students and their families? Will you use a Google Voice number or the Jabber App? Be very cautious in using your own personal cell phone number as that opens you up to personal liability. 

5. Secure video platforms 

“Zoom bombing” was a big thing about mid April 2020. If your district is wanting you to offer virtual counseling services, consider asking about how secure the platform is that you’re being asked to use. How susceptible will students be others gaining access to the video counseling session? 

6. Access and Equity 

For some students in rural or low socio-economic areas, access to technology can be a big barrier to virtual education and school counseling. As school counselors, we need to be able to offer equal access to all students in our school counseling programs. This applies to virtual school counseling, too. 

Tisha Kolek is the coordinator for Guidance Services here at the Education Service Center Region 13.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • After reading Tisha Kolek’s insightful piece on virtual school counseling, I was reminded of my own nephew’s experience. He once mentioned how his counselor took extra steps to ensure a secure and confidential session, even when they shifted online. It’s reassuring to see the importance of these ethical considerations being highlighted.