• Editorial: Is Starlight Fit to be a Counselor?

    Ah, look at Miss Glimmer over stress her job. She must be learning a lot from Twilight about stressing-out because she’s possibly the most overcommitted worker at the school next to Twi herself.

    But ignoring her stress levels for a moment, one has to wonder if Starlight might actually be wrong for her job. She’s not the most stable pony after all, so should she be working in a counseling role? And what does her presentation on the show mean for viewers?

    I can’t help but take a second look at Starlight’s portrayal this ep, care to join me?

    Starlight: I'm listening, promise.
    It's probably worth mentioning that a school guidance counselor is really only there to help you make decisions about your academics: what classes to take, studying strategies, places to find financial aid for college, etc.

    But in a School of Friendship, the academics are all about relationships.

    School psychiatrists are there to help students regulate their emotions or deal with personal matters. This profession deals with relationships and can have a lasting impact on a child.

    Starlight then becomes both a school guidance counselor and psychiatrist.

    Some of these students look more emotionally overwhelmed than others.
    It explains why students are coming to her with things as practical as homework assignments and as personal as identity crises.

    Essentially Starlight is doing two jobs in one. Because of her dual position, I'm just going to refer to her as a counselor. I'm also going to skip over the financial aid stuff, that's not really in question here.

    Starlight: Cocoa fixes everything, why aren't you drinking yours?
    School counselors may be the first interaction a child has with a therapist/ mental health professional. This might also be the first adult who ever teaches a child that their emotions are valid and are important. Starlight takes that responsibility very seriously as she never knows what kind of pony might be trotting through her door. She certainly didn't know what to make of Cozy Glow.

    Strong emotions might not disrupt your daily functions, but you might need a listening ear regardless.
    Considering the world we live in, many get mocked for showing strong emotions. Like saying someone is clinically depressed when their sad or calling someone obsessive-compulsive because they're organized.

    The DSM 5 calls it a psychotic break. Society calls it a nervous breakdown. Bronies call it Pinkamena.
    Or even possibly telling someone they're psychotic because they have a breakdown once.

    It's difficult to express emotions when they're immediately denoted as a problem. A school counselor can help children realize that the feelings they have are human responses to situations in their environment and not always a psychosis (or that it is if it is).

    In other words, Starlight is in a role where she can teach children coping mechanisms.

    So understanding the importance of the role counselor, was it wise for Starlight to be chosen as the School of Friendships counselor?

    Before we dissect Starlight’s credentials, we have to point out how amazing Starlight's portrayal in children's television is. There aren't many great examples.

    What does this say about my childhood?
    Growing up I saw a lot of poor counselors in general. They were either incompetent, villains in disguise, or just played for laughs.

    Every once in a while you would find one that seemed to be trying to do their job, but the show didn't focus on the counseling/therapy. I can only remember one positive example in which the therapy session was the whole point of the episode (please tell if you know others).

    Such great memories this show.
    The Hey Arnold episode Helga on the Couch took its viewers through an actual therapy session showing that a psychiatrist could be warm, friendly, and helpful.

    Starlight honestly tries so hard to advise others.
    Starlight is another such positive example! She's relatable and kind and, above all, she takes helping others seriously.

    Where most media makes fun of therapy, Student Counsel shows a very prestigious and demanding job. Starlight cares about everypony she counsels and wants them to overcome hardship like she did.

    But that's where I feel her positive traits end because Starlight is not a licensed professional, nor does she have any training to do the work she's doing.

    Twi: Doesn't hypnosis require time to revisit trauma to properly organize events in your mind?
    Starlight: What, No. Maybe. I don't know, but I totally read the introduction of that book.
    While I am ecstatic that she is a friendly example, Starlight has no idea what she's doing. Outside of one failed attempt at hypnosis, Starlight doesn't read books on therapy, visiting a therapist herself, or learn counseling.

    My sister is a child mental health counselor and has several young clients that she visits to aid them in behavioral therapy. I compared Starlight to her as I don't have much counseling experience. (Sadly my sister doesn't really like ponies otherwise she could have helped me with this.)

    Starlight shares client info.

    Starlight: Yona is having the worst time with her braids, bless her heart. Sip
    My sister never shares her client's information. Starlight seemed to think it was okay to share Yona's hair problems. While that may not sound serious to us, it might have been something that would upset the young yak. Starlight doesn't understand that confidentiality shouldn't be broken in her office.

    Starlight doesn't have the personality to leave work at work.

    Each knock is a guilt trip waiting to happen.
    Because of the nature of my sister's work she always has to have her work phone on. If her phone rings she has to take the call no matter what during business hours, but never after.

    Starlight is doing something similar in having a bracelet alert her to every knock, but Starlight takes it too far by feeling obligated to help everypony.

    Starlight: I just wanted to bake a cake, or maybe glue flowers on sticks, I don't even know anymore!
    Where my sister knows she can't help every client and can move on when things go wrong, Starlight can't.

    Because of this, Starlight is suffering burn-out fairly quickly. Phycology 101 is to first take care of yourself, or so my sister says. If a counselor has a tendency to worry about clients and problem when away from work, they aren't mentally able to recharge.

    Terramar: I'm gonna blame you! Even though as her brother I never visit to ask how she's doing!
    Starlight has a personality that takes a lot of guilt upon itself. Even with new boundaries in place, Starlight will still take the burdens of the students completely on her shoulders.

    Silverstream was okay, but eventually, Starlight is going to have a student with a problem that can't be fixed. It's not healthy for a counselor to get so absorbed in their client's affairs that it stresses them out. I don't see Starlight having the right personality to handle what she'll perceive as a personal failure.

    And, the obvious, Starlight doesn't have training.

    Starlight: I don't even have time to do the dishes, do you really think I'm researching your problems?
    Now while boundaries and confidentiality are easy enough to learn on the job, some aspects of counseling honestly need more training.

    My sister has had over a decade of experience and even she says it's difficult to diagnose people at times. Starlight immediately assumes Ocellus has an identity crisis. Even if Starlight's right and Ocellus is having identity issues, she is dealing with something far beyond Starlight's abilities.

    To tell a child they potentially have something can be devastating for their mental health, especially if they are misdiagnosed. Starlight might be able to offer friendship advice, but she can't safely counsel serious issues such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc.

    In fact, Starlight could end up doing more harm than good. Trial and error during counseling can come with high stacks, and we already know Starlight wouldn't forgive herself if a student were hurt because of her ignorance.


    Starlight is close, but close only counts in horseshoes and grenades.
    Starlight needs instruction or she needs to step down.

    I know it may sound like I'm harping on Starlight a bit, but it's important children are given examples of counselors in media that are not only nice and relatable but shown to know how to honestly guide them to better behaviors.

    I'm still glad the School of Friendship has a counselor though!
    Starlight does a great job making sure the students know she's them for them. Her door really is always open and she'll never judge a student. Starlight lets viewers know there are adults out there to help them even if she isn't well equipped for her job. But that isn't enough.

    What do you think? Am I being a little too harsh on Twilight's protege? Or maybe you completely agree? Or maybe Starlight has the perfect qualifications because she lives in Equestria and mental health is completely different there. You tell me!