Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

Top Counseling Blog Author

Associate Dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Schools in Michigan, Author of Counselors' Corner

Interview with Counselors' Corner and Author Dr. Patrick O'Connor

About Dr. O'Connor: Patrick O’Connor is associate dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 33 years of work as a counselor, he has worked in rural, suburban, and urban schools, including work as a community college counselor, and as an independent counselor. A past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, he holds five college degrees, and teaches one of the few graduate classes in the country focusing exclusively on college counseling. He is the first member of his family to earn a college degree, and is the author of College is Yours 2.0, and College Counseling for School Counselors.

[] Why did you originally create a blog about the school counselor role?

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] I was a frequent contributor to an online discussion group for college counselors, and Gene Kalb, editor of HS Counselor Week, invited me to become a regular blogger in 2011.

[] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining Counselors’ Corner?

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] Writing the column requires me to pay attention to the latest trends and issues in counseling—if it weren’t for having to write the blog, I don’t know that I would notice all of them.  Since so many counselors are the only counselors in their buildings, I hope the blog offers them the same chance to step back and take in the big picture of counselor. That’s an important thing to do, but it can be hard to do when you’re the only counselor in your building, or when you have a huge caseload.

[] We have highlighted your post “The Times That Test a Counselor's Soul” as a resource on addressing the concern of assigning administrative and test-taking tasks to school counselors. What do you suggest school counselors that are faced with this task do as a next step to manage their time and advocate for their role?

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] It’s important to remember that principals are overworked educators, too—and sometimes, they too aren’t able to step back and see the big picture of what counselors could do. Counselors will want to use the opportunity at the end and beginning of the school year to try and meet with their administrator, review the successes and challenges of the school counseling program through the eyes of the administrator, and see what can be done to make sure counselors are being used in the best possible way to advance to affective and educational goals of the school.

[] As as college counselor for many years, working in many different settings, what advice can you give to future school and college counselors as they work to address the diverse needs of their students?  

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] Dream big, but be realistic. Many of the students we work with have received the wrong message, and think they aren’t good students. Counselors have to encourage students to look far, wide, and high, and consider all the possibilities that exist for life after high school.  At the same time, counselors need to realize they need help spreading that message. Caseloads and other duties make it almost impossible to do this job alone—learn to build a team of support in your school and in your community, and the college and career message will spread like wildfire.

[] In your most recent post “Summer Melt: A Step-by-Step Guide,” you highlight the imminent downtime where students may neglect or forget to follow their post-secondary plans. What has been your own success with implementing these steps?

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] The piece on summer melt was based on recent research on summer melt, and the experiences of other school counselors who have found some success making sure students get to college in the fall.  It’s hard to say why, but summer melt is not an issue at my school—I’d like to think we get them so excited about college, those that end up going can’t help but see any other option. I guess you could say that’s proof that it’s possible to cure summer melt.

[] You have also authored a resourceful text entitled “College Counseling for School Counselors.” What is the most important piece of advice you can offer school counselors when it comes to college planning for their students?

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] It’s important to remember that future plans can have healing powers.  Too many counselors see college and career counseling as something that’s pretty “cut and dried” that has nothing to do with “real” counseling or personal development. I’ve worked with a number of students who have found new levels of self-esteem and overcome everything from depression to checkered pasts, once they realized they had a clear path to a bright future.  The regenerative power of What’s Next is more powerful than many counselors realize.

[] How do you think your past professional experience has influenced you to create Counselor’s Corner?  

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] Counseling can be a pretty isolating profession. Even if you aren’t the only counselor in the building, the job requires you to be on the go all the time. Counselor’s Corner is designed to let counselors give themselves permission to stop, take  a breath, and feel the presence of another counseling voice in their lives. It might be a stretch to say it’s a chance to be part of a counseling community, but it’s designed to help you recharge, reconsider, and grow. 

[] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[Dr. Patrick O’Connor] I’m grateful to all of the readers of the blog for their insights and support of the blog.  It makes all the difference in making the blog a successful tool of growth for counselors and students.

Thank you for your time Dr. O'Connor. Learn more about Counselors' Corner on our Top Counseling Blogs list.