The revolutionary Boys and Girls Club toolkit: What counselors can learn

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Volunteers who sacrifice their time and energy to help others in the community are valuable resources for nonprofits that want to make a difference. However, the men and women who donate their valuable time and energy, while well-intentioned, are not always equipped to handle the challenges that can come from working with individuals who have experienced trauma or hardships. This reality especially can be true when it comes to meeting the emotional, mental and physical needs of underprivileged children.

To help provide training to a group that does important work in communities around the country, the American Counseling Association (ACA) launched a special counseling toolkit in April for the Boys and Girls Club. The kit aims to equip volunteers to help the young who they encounter through the organization work through the real-life issues they face every day.

Equipping volunteers with counseling tools

Too often, children in the U.S. today are left to their own devices without adult supervision or care, whether it is because their parents are busy at work or simply absent from their lives. The Boys and Girls Club of America is a national nonprofit that seeks to provide kids across the country with a safe place to learn, grow and have fun. Among the many services that the organization offers to communities are affordable afterschool and summer programs.

Although the club runs on the generosity of volunteers who give some of their time and resources, these adults are not always equipped to interact meaningfully with the kids. In honor of Counseling Awareness Month, the ACA reached out to the Boys and Girls Club to do something about that.

“This year, we decided we wanted to give back to the community rather than putting out a bunch of inspirational content,” Amber McLaughlin, the ACA’s communications director, told the MinnPost. “Boys and Girls Clubs was a natural fit for us. We have members who have volunteered for Boys and Girls Clubs for years. We didn’t put together a bunch of random philosophies. We are giving them serious counseling skills they can use on a daily basis.”

According to the article in the MinnPost, the toolkit includes podcasts and tip sheets that will help equip volunteers to meet the needs of the children with whom they interact. Everything is online and interactive, which allows busy volunteers and staff members to work on training at the time and place of their choosing. While people who work with the kids go through training sessions before they begin, being able to work on this supplemental training remotely is a huge advantage.

Giving back to your community

Like the ACA, you can use your specialized education and skill set as a counselor to benefit the people in your community. Oftentimes, finding areas where you can put your unique training to use will result in meaningful volunteer experiences.

The toolkit is also a good example of the role that technology can play in counseling. Recommending podcasts, mobile apps and other digital resources may be a valuable supplement to the services that you provide to your clients. A study published by the ACA noted that these strategies may be particularly effective in working with clients from marginalized or oppressed groups. As with the toolkit, digital resources allow your clients to access the tools that they need at the time and place of their choosing, which can build off of the work that you do in sessions.

Do you aspire to be a counselor? Learn more about Bradley’s online M.A. in Counseling program.