About The School Counselor Life

Welcome to The School Counselor Life!

I understand how difficult it can be to find new, innovative, and fun ideas to implement with your students, so I compiled my favorite classroom lessons, session ideas, and organization tips for all of you to use with the children at your schools, as well as style ideas and self care practices to encompass every aspect of The School Counselor Life. So, sit back, relax, and explore all this page has to offer (probably with either coffee or wine in hand…or maybe both).

Laura G. Smestad, MA, LMHC, NCC, NCSC, worked as a school counselor in Louisiana for 5 years, where she won the Louisiana School Counselor Association’s School Counselor of the Year award in 2019. She has experience in clinical and school settings, where she primarily uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Laura designed The School Counselor Life as a resource to school counselors looking for individual and small group counseling ideas, classroom lessons, organization tips, and all things school counseling. 


New Designs! 2021-2022 Complete School Counselor Planners are Here!

Hello beautiful school counselors! After years of offering the same two designs, I’ve given my complete school counselor planners a big makeover! Here’s what’s included:

  • Cover Page
  • Year-at-a-Glance Calendar
  • Monthly Calendar Pages (August ’21-July ’22) with space to write monthly goals
  • Weekly Calendar Pages (with times from 7am-4pm Monday-Friday)
  • To-Do List Pages (divided into the following sections: Students to See, Parent Communication, Print/Copy/Laminate, Ongoing Projects, and Other To-Do)
  • Large and Small Group Curriculum Logs/Planners
  • Books/Articles to read log
  • Important Contacts Log
  • Professional Development Tracker
  • Notes Section

Check out the pictures below to see more of what’s inside, and be sure to visit my TpT store to get your complete school counselor planner!

Get the Pink Floral Themed Planner

Get the Minimalist Pencil Themed Planner

Evaluating Your Counseling Program – Student Surveys

As the end of the year approaches, it’s important that we evaluate school counseling programs to make sure students are receiving the best services possible. One way to do that is by giving surveys to students!

1st-4th Grade Lesson Palooza

So, I tried to give this survey a fun sounding name so get the kids energized about a somewhat boring task, and it worked because when I announced in a very excited voice that they would be participating in LESSON PALOOZA to help me out, the students got really pumped up about it {another reason I love working with kids}. The worksheet I gave them has space for them to rank each lesson I did with their class that year. I listed all lessons at the bottom of the page and reviewed each choice with the group.

I then later collected their responses and recorded them in a spreadsheet. This let me know what lessons were really enjoyed by the group so I knew whether or not I should repeat them the following year, and it also told me the types of activities that grade level liked so I can use that in designing their lessons for the following year.


5th-7th Grade Evaluation Survey

I gave a more in-depth survey to my middle school students, evaluating me as a counselor, the counseling lessons for the year, and counseling small group experiences. This gave me a lot of valuable information and told me any areas that I needed to improve.


I used that information when I got some work done over the summer. Check out my post on using the summer break to get stuff done!


The 2020-2021 Complete School Planner!



It’s that time of year again! With the new school year just around the corner {well…hopefully??}, it’s time to get prepared and organized for the crazy school counselor life. Especially in the uncertain times surrounding COVID-19 and schools, a little extra organization will be a HUGE asset! Check out my previous planner post to see all of the details of what’s inside!


You can purchase the planner on my TpT store, and–as always–I’m happy to make a custom cover with your name and credentials if you ‘like’ The School Counselor Life on Facebook and email your custom cover request to theschoolcounselorlife@gmail.com after purchasing your planner {make sure you include which theme you purchased!}.


Get the black, white, & marble themed Complete School Counselor Planner

Get the mint & gold themed Complete School Counselor Planner


Good news! I’m offering the updated calendar pages on their own for anyone who has purchased a planner in the past! The links are below:

Get the black, white, & marble themed 2020 calendar pages

Get the mint & gold themed 2020 calendar pages


The Awfulizer Book Review and Giveaway!

Shame is such a prevalent theme that emerges in counseling, and children are certainly not exempt from feeling it! Kristen Maher does a great job of explaining shame and how to handle it in her book The Awfulizer: Learning to Overcome the Shame Game.

I especially like this book because personifying an emotion can be extremely powerful with kids. It helps them feel as if the negative feeling is something they can work to defeat instead of something that is simply an uncontrollable part of them {i.e. using a “worry monster” to explain anxiety}. The Awfulizer monster externalizes feelings of shame for the boy in the story and gives a wonderful visual representation of how children can make shame bigger or smaller depending on their responses.

I also love that the book encourages children to talk about their problems instead of holding them inside! This is so helpful as we try to diminish the stigma associated with getting help, especially in terms of seeing a counselor.

I think this book would be an excellent starting point for a classroom lesson on shame. You could even have each student create his or own version of a shame monster to go with the story!

You can read more about The Awfulizer: Learning to Overcome the Shame Game here.

If you want to be entered in a drawing to win a FREE copy of The Awfulizer, share The School Counselor Life on Facebook, and comment on the Facebook post about this book review!

8 Transformative Books for School Counselors

As we draw nearer to the end of the school year, this is the perfect time to implement some extra self-care practices or begin making a summer reading list! I love reading books that impact me personally and professionally, so I’ve compiled a list of 8 books that have changed the way I view myself, my work, or both.


1. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

I loved this book so much that I literally bought it for all of my closest friends for their Christmas gifts the year I read it. If you need a bit of a personal boost {which most of us do during the last stretch of the school year when burnout becomes more prevalent}, You Are a Badass can help you stop doubting yourself while giving you a few laughs along the way.

2. Mindsight by Daniel Siegel

Many of you have probably heard of Dr. Dan Siegel because of his hand model of the brain, but he has also written a number of wonderful books. Mindsight combines neuroscience and psychology to help the reader understand the inner workings of the mind and how to better harness its power. I was able to apply Siegel’s knowledge to my personal AND professional life, which is always a win for me.

3. Hold me Tight by Sue Johnson

Another book that helped me in work as well as my personal life is Hold me Tight by Sue Johnson. I can honestly say that this book was life changing for me, a label I don’t give to many books {and trust me, I read A LOT}. Attachment Theory — which is the basis of the book — is something I think we tend to overlook, but it permeates all of our relationships and worldviews. After reading Johnson’s book, I was able to make some necessary changes in my own life, and I was able to construct a way to utilize EFT principles with my students.

4. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Eddo-Lodge’s book delves into the ever important topic of systemic racism from the perspective of a black woman in the UK. It was really interesting to learn that the author never learned much about British black history in school, and the book starts with an overview of the history that has been brushed over in Britain. Eddo-Lodge also touches on topics such as privilege and feminism, and even as someone who makes a strong effort to be aware of the topics presented in this book, I got a lot out of reading it and strongly recommend it to others.

5. Motivational Interviewing for School Counselors by Reagan North

If you are looking for a practical book that gives you effective, ready-to-implement techniques to use with your students, immediately add this to your reading list. Motivational Interviewing is perfect to use in schools, and Reagan North does a great job explaining how to adapt techniques to school counseling. The book even gives you homework assignments to practice specific skills with students before moving on to the next steps in the process. This book gave me some great tools for my school counseling toolbox.

6. The Perfection Deception by Jane Bluestein

I like to think of myself as a “recovering perfectionist” after doing some personal work and reading Bluestein’s book. The Perfection Deception differentiates between “pathological perfectionism” and a “healthy striving for excellence,” a distinction we don’t usually make. If you notice too many perfectionistic tendencies in yourself, this is a great book for you. I also used the information to present to the parents at my school, which they found to be extremely helpful since my students are in such a high-stakes, high-achieving environment.

7. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

I remember reading Year of Yes on my first solo traveling adventure, and it enhanced my trip ten fold. Shonda Rhimes {yes, the same one who created Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder} decided to say yes to everything for a whole year and wrote a book about her experiences. It was inspiring, funny, and insightful, and I enjoyed every minute reading it.

8. Lost at School by Ross Greene

The final book I’ll share helped me tremendously in my professional world. Ross Greene’s book focuses on the idea that there are no bad kids, just kids who don’t have the tools yet to succeed. Lost at School is a guide to helping kids learn the skills they need to stop their problematic behaviors, and the best part about it is that the teachers are actually the facilitators of this change process, which increases positive student-teacher relationships. I’ve taught Greene’s ideas to a few teachers at my school who were struggling with certain students, and when they implemented the plan, they saw huge differences in their students’ behaviors.

If you have any favorite books to read that have impacted you personally or professionally, comment below!


*all links are affiliate links

Individual Counseling Mask Activity

One of my “frequent flyer” students from last school year, who was constantly in my office for conflict resolution sessions, starting having the same issues this year as a 2nd grader. In order to make actual progress with this student — instead of letting her become a perpetual counselee — I decided to look a little deeper into the root of the problem {since this child was almost aways at the center of conflict with many of her classmates}. After one particular meeting in which we tried to resolve a conflict with another student, I asked her to stay back and talk to me alone. I said to her, “I wonder if you act like you don’t care about your classmates’ feelings because it’s easier than admitting you just want them to be your friends, and you feel left out.”

*Cue tears that signaled I hit the nail on the head*

She started opening up about how she always feels like she is wearing a mask because deep down she doesn’t think anyone will like her for who she actually is. What she didn’t realize at the time was that this “mask” was actually the reason she was struggling to maintain friendships.

We made a mask together, and on the inside of the mask, she wrote how she acts when her “mask” is on at school. On the outside, she wrote how she thinks others might see her when she is wearing the mask.

In a following session, we made another one, but this time she wrote who she actually is on the inside of the face and how she wants others to view her on the outside.

We spent multiple sessions processing these two pages and exploring her belief that she isn’t good enough. Each week, she had homework assignments to get rid of one layer of the mask and pick one thing from her true self paper to show to others.

In our final session, she decided to throw away the original mask we made, because she said she wasn’t wearing it anymore in real life. In affirming her progress, I pointed out that she hadn’t been a part of any conflict resolution sessions in two months, and her response was, “Wow, so this didn’t just make me feel better about myself. It helped me make friends, and I didn’t even realize it!” Don’t you just love those rewarding moments?!?

Gratitude Mandala as a Coping Skill

A student I was working with individually wanted to try out different coping skills to use at school when she started to feel worried. Thinking of the things for which she is grateful was one that really worked for her, so I decided to introduce a gratitude mandala into our session, which she will be able to use and reference when she needs to cope during the school day.

I printed out a mandala from printmandala.com, which has tons of free options. I explained to the student that she would be writing anything that she was thankful for on the mandala, and she could decorate it any way she wanted {the student loved art activities, so this worked really well for her}.

I used the copy machine to shrink the mandala with her words to half of it’s original size, and I made it into a keychain using a hole punch and a rubber band after laminating it {see above}. The student has been keeping the keychain on her pencil pouch zipper and the larger mandala in her assignment pad. It has helped her to stay grounded during the school day since she has a quick reference of the good things in her life.

Lesson Materials Organization

As organized as I usually am, my classroom lesson materials have been in disarray over the last few years, especially as I’ve accumulated more and more items to use with classes. This year, I decided to create a new system for organizing my lesson materials that should save me some time and energy during the school year.

In the past, I would store all of my materials in various bins throughout my office that I would have to sift through whenever I pulled my current month’s materials. I still keep my current supplies in easy to access bins {see below}, but now it is a lot easier for me to find everything each month. Click here to see my original post on organizing my bookshelves.

I made space in my storage cabinet so that each grade level has a tray and a bin for lesson materials. Handouts and books fit perfectly in the trays, and I put all other supplies in the bins {trays and bins are all from the dollar store}.

The biggest change I implemented this year {that I think will save me a lot of time} is that I made copies of ALL handouts I need for lessons throughout the year, and I purchased ALL lesson materials for the whole year as well. Now, I don’t have to constantly think about whether or not I need to make a stop at the dollar store after school for a lesson the next day, and I don’t have to worry about copies for lessons!

I hope these organization tips are helpful! Cheers to the start of a new school year!



2018-2019 Complete School Counselor Planner

Back by popular demand, my 2018-2019 complete school counselor planner is up on my TpT store! The planner is available in two different themes: black, white, and marble & mint and gold.

Buy the 2018-2019 Complete School Counselor Planner {Black, White, and Marble Theme}

Buy the 2018-2019 Complete School Counselor Planner {Mint and Gold Theme}

As in the past, I am more than happy to make a custom cover page with name and credentials for anyone who ‘likes’ The School Counselor Life on Facebook. Just e-mail theschoolcounselorlife@gmail.com after you’ve purchased your planner, and send the information you’d like included :))

Here are some pictures of what you’ll find inside the planner:

Small Group Termination Activity – Reflection Book

This year, I created a new termination activity for my 5th grade girls small groups. The girls really seemed to enjoy this, and I thought it was a great way to reflect on the group and to assess what impact it had on my students.

{Follow the links below to read more about these groups}

Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part I: Sessions 1 & 2

Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part II: Sessions 3

Odd Girl Speaks Out Small Group Series Part III: Sessions 4 & 5

My inspiration for this activity originated in the dollar section of Target {where most wonderful things in life happen}. I found these blank books, which were only $3 for a set of 8, and I immediately began to brainstorm how I could use them with my students.

After processing the end of group, I gave each student a blank square of cardstock. The girls then decorated their names in the center of the cards, and wrote one thing they remembered from group and one thing they liked about group. The girls were told that their creations would be glued into a book to commemorate our time together. I made the card pictured below as a guide.

After the girls finished making their cards, they shared what they wrote with the group. We then decorated the cover of the book, and each girl signed her name. I later glued all of the cards into the book.


It was extremely rewarding to hear that our time as a group made a difference for so many of the girls, and I really liked giving the students this opportunity to reflect on group and how far they have come this school year.