The future of guidance is happening on Facebook

Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn – and last but not least: Facebook. Technological development means social media is here to stay. This places new demands on guidance in the future – and the question is whether social media threaten the monopoly of guidance counsellors in the future?

Billede til the future of guidance

By Jesper Himmelstrup, Editor, Vejlederen

Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Foursquare – and last but not least: Facebook. Technological development means social media is here to stay.  This undoubtedly places new demands on guidance in the future – and the question is whether social media threaten the monopoly of guidance counsellors in the future?

When eGuidance was officially launched, it changed the direction of guidance in Denmark. Guidance had traditionally consisted of face-to-face guidance, but eGuidance made it possible to provide guidance to young people and adults via telephone, SMS, e-mail and chat. And apparently there is a demand for this service. Since eGuidance’s launch till 2011, more than 150,000 people received guidance through the four different channels.

In 2011, eGuidance introduced guidance through the social network, Facebook. At the time, Facebook had reached one billion users around the world (becoming the world’s third-largest nation in terms of inhabitants after China and India) – and had about three million users in Denmark. Providing guidance via Facebook was particularly a result of a desire to provide guidance in fora where the people seeking guidance congregated.

Today more than 17,000 people ‘like’ eGuidance’s profile on Facebook[1]. This means that more than 17,000 people receive updates on their own Facebook newsfeed and therefore can stay up-to-date with eGuidance’s activities.

“Some of them are active and write on our page, while others simply follow us and observe our activities. Some write private messages on the page, some write public posts, while others participate in debates on our Facebook wall,” Deputy Manager at eGuidance, Elsebeth Nygaard, explains.

People seeking guidance can therefore partake in various guidance contexts in many different ways, she emphasizes. 

“When we post something, we experience anything from no response to 80 comments. In this way, we also reach the user’s friends, meaning that if a user follows us and comments on our post, that particular user’s friends will be able to see his or her comment. Thereby, we reach a lot of people for which we do not have statistics,” Elsebeth Nygaard states.

The benefits of guidance on Facebook are that guidance can be followed by a large audience, that those seeking guidance can decide whether to follow actively or passively, and last but not least, that those online can provide each other with guidance. The disadvantage of this type of guidance is that it can be difficult to control the guidance counselling process – and that it can be difficult for the guidance counsellor to act professionally in a media where the boundary between public and the private sphere appears to be non-existent.

Broader concept of guidance

One of the first to introduce a Facebook profile for guidance purposes in Denmark was Studievalg Midt- og Vestjylland, a regional education and career guidance centre. However, as no one had great experience with guidance on Facebook at the time, Studievalg Midt- og Vestjylland simply had to just try it out. 

“It was like the saying 'it is okay to drive, while paving',” guidance counsellor Morten Colbert Jensen from Studievalg Midt- og Vestjylland explains.

Today the Facebook-profile has more than 3400 likes[2] and therefore Studievalg Midt- og Vestjylland uses Facebook both to inform about deadlines and for young people to be aware of them, according to Morten Colbert Jensen. “Young people are so used to media and the rest of us need to keep up. Therefore, we also have an obligation to communicate with young people in a way they understand,” he says.

Although guidance on Facebook puts demands on each individual guidance counsellor, the advantage of Facebook is that it can create a framework for a broader concept of guidance, Morten Colbert Jensen emphasizes.

“As a guidance counsellor, you should be aware that it is a type of one-way communication. Although we get likes, we do not know how they really react to a post. On the other hand, we attempt to support their own ability to choose by providing them with a range of options that allow them to apply to a higher education programme,” he says.

Even though, there could be some technical and time-related issues when using Facebook for guidance and the question is raised of  how open a guidance institution should be and how much it should censor, the guidance counsellor is certain that guidance on Facebook is here to stay.

“It IS the future, because the way we communicate is changing,” Morten Colbert Jensen states emphatically.

New dilemmas

One of the first movers in guidance on social media was UU Copenhagen (Youth Guidance Centre of Copenhagen). It has since closed its Facebook page, but found   that it reached some young people that otherwise were difficult to talk to, according to guidance counsellor Lasse Skov Laursen from UU Copenhagen.

“We believed that Facebook was better way of getting young people to open up  than if we showed up at their school. So it is primarily about reaching the target group. Furthermore, Facebook provides us with some of the functions that we have been searching for in other contexts,” Lasse Skov Laursen explains. “But it is undoubtedly more demanding to be a ‘digital guidance counsellor’ as opposed to providing face-to-face communication with the young people.”

“One of the biggest challenges is to act professionally while trying to act in a personal manner as well. You have to be very aware of the rhetoric and what you comment on,” Lasse Skov Laursen says. Therefore, guidance counsellors need to throw themselves into the deep end as long as the use of guidance on Facebook is still so sporadic, “We still have a lot to learn. As a guidance counsellor you can feel vulnerable in collective guidance, as you have to both facilitate and reflect with young people. You think you have to have the right solution. However, for me, this is not the right way to provide guidance,” Lasse Skov Laursen says.

Since there is still a lot to learn, Lasse Skov Laursen and his colleagues often encounter new dilemmas with guidance on Facebook in relation to traditional guidance.

“What do you do as a guidance counsellor if you receive a friend request from a parent of one of the young people? I do not think this is right, because almost certainly it could cause the young person to abandon the guidance,” Lasse Skov Laursen says.

Positive response

On the other hand, Lasse Skov Laursen also experiences a lot of positive aspects of guidance on Facebook.

“Basically, I experience that young people respect you if you are honest and ask questions. Just use some of the basic things you have learned during your degree in Guidance Counselling,” he says.

Facebook undoubtedly has the advantage that it beats other forms of communication when it comes to accessibility and maintaining contact.

“This means that we can be present when they are. They can receive an answer when they want. Furthermore, I experience a lot of 10th graders, who later drop out of their youth education, writing to me, which means that I can reach them a lot faster,” Lasse Skov Laursen states. “Therefore, we are certain that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the future of guidance on social media.”

“Basically, we will use social media more and more, because we need to use collective guidance more and more in order to have time for one-on-one guidance,” Lasse Skov Laursen stresses.

Challenging the guidance counsellor’s monopoly

“There is no doubt that guidance on social media is here to stay and will only intensify,” says Stefan Kühne, who is an editor of the Austrian/German online journal about online guidance, e-beratungsjournal.net.

“Today, almost everyone has access to the internet. This means that all guidance clients can be reached through online communication. People seeking guidance also contact guidance counsellors via e-mail or chat, which can already be the beginning of a guidance process, even though an organization does not have any online guidance yet.  Social media seems to make it easier for both the guidance counsellors and the guidance clients to exchange information as well as to act as interactive communication channels for guidance,” says Stefan Kühne, who is also Director of Studies of a diploma degree in online guidance and works as a guidance counsellor at the wienXtra centre. He adds that guidance counsellors everywhere need to familiarize themselves with the new tools, so they are able to properly service people seeking guidance in the future.

“Today, there are more possibilities of getting in touch with people seeking guidance. You can offer them information on websites, do interactive tests and design FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for everyone that wishes to know more about a specific topic. On the other hand, we do not know whether the social media of today will still be here next year. Therefore, we need to learn about new media and new ways of providing guidance counselling, even if we are unsure if we will ever benefit from our efforts,” Stefan Kühne states. And even if you are an experienced face-to-face guidance counsellor, it is still imperative to learn about new methods in online guidance processes,” he emphasizes.

“This is due to the fact that online communication is different in so many ways. Often only written (and not oral) communication is used, it can be both synchronous and asynchronous (face-to-face guidance is always synchronous), you do not know a lot about the guidance client (you only have written communication and often not even a real name). Additionally, there are a number of technical and legal issues that you need to address.”

This will undoubtedly challenge the guidance counsellor’s monopoly, which exists today. Today, it is possible for people seeking guidance to find a lot of information themselves and they can to a larger extent control the guidance process, Stefan Kühne points out.

“If you believe that a guidance counsellor is someone who has all the answers and who controls the guidance process, you will most likely have a problem with social media. There has been a shift in the guidance process, which means that today the guidance client can decide: which way to communicate (e-mail, chat, social media), the time of the communication (24/7) and where it should take place. The guidance client can even control the process – if he/she does not want to partake in the guidance anymore, it is very easy to exit a chat or to not reply to an e-mail. In this way, the guidance clientss have become more independent and not all guidance counsellors like this,” Stefan Kühne says.

“Another thing is that today there is so much information on the internet. 10-15 years ago this information was only available in brochures or at the guidance office. Therefore, the guidance counsellors had personal knowledge about a lot of things and had a sort of monopoly on that knowledge. What can a guidance counsellor offer a guidance client that has already spent several hours researching a particular topic – and therefore already knows all of the issues and solutions? Nevertheless it is important to emphasize that online guidance cannot fully replace face-to-face guidance,” Stefan Kühne states.

“No. Guidance via the internet is simply an additional communications channel that provides people seeking guidance with more possibilities to get in touch with guidance counsellors. However, not all people seeking guidance want to communicate solely via writing. Many still wish to seek out a guidance counsellor, talk to them face-to-face or over the telephone”, Stefan Kühne says.

Robo-Guidance?

As we know, it is hard to predict the future. This also applies for guidance. And this might be the biggest challenge, according to Stefan Kühne:

“The challenge is that today we have no idea how guidance will look in 5-10 years. At the same time it is very hard to predict media’s development. Will we still have e-mail, chat, Facebook and Google in 2020? We cannot guarantee it. Perhaps, we will even discover that search engines and computers become far better at searching for semantic structures in the language. Who can guarantee that we will not have automated and computer-generated guidance counsellors and therapists for psychological problems by 2020?”

Some information in the article might be outdated; some information has been altered to reflect current data.



[1] Updated information, the original article had figures from 2011.

[2] Changed to reflect current figures from July, 2017

last modified Aug 15, 2019