Therapists in Schools Helps Everyone, Principal Says
Therapists know that intervening quickly when a child begins to show disruptive behaviors can prevent many problems later in life. Starting Point has a unique collaboration with local private schools to reach kids who are having trouble right where they are – in school.
Starting Point currently works with two private schools: Faith Christian Academy and Sonshine Christian Academy. Counselors come to the schools a few days each week to provide individual counseling to children who are having behavioral problems.
“It might be an adjustment to a new move, bullying or home issues,” said Theresa Stover, the Supervisor of the program. “The goal is to prevent problems like substance abuse later.”
The program incorporates a software program called Ripple Effects that helps children work through their issues by helping them understand underlying risk factors and learn new behaviors. The prevention counselor customizes the program for the child based on his or her specific needs and the goals they are working toward. Studies have shown that using Ripple Effects can strengthen social-emotional skills such as increasing problem-solving skills and showing more empathy for others.
Starting Point has been offering the prevention program at Faith Christian Academy for about two years. The school provides the counselor a space where she can speak with children confidentially. Some sessions take place during PE class while others come after school. Parental permission is required and kids can be referred to the prevention program by a teacher, school administrator, or parent.
Faith Christian Principal Bryan Alvare’ is a big fan of the program, and says it not only helps the children in his school, but also the teachers.
“As a Christian school, we had a special set of needs for the parents and kids,” Alvare’ said, “and Starting Point has been very respectful and flexible. They have very much been willing to partner with me and the teachers to help a child.”
Alvare’ said the prevention program gives the school “more tools in the toolbox” to help both children and parents. “Up until three years ago, mental health wasn’t part of the educational picture,” he said. “As time passes, it plays a more strategic and important role. If certain needs aren’t met, it is impossible to teach them.”
The program allows the school to approach the child’s education in a more holistic way – body, mind, and spirit – he said. “Starting Point’s approach fits in with ours. It has helped build resiliency in kids, which is a huge skill to have. It is comforting to have that resource available.”
In addition to the prevention program, Alvare’ said teachers and administrators have taken the Youth Mental Health First Aid program. It provided “a ton of value to the school,” he said.
“Before, teachers would try to figure (the problem) out and if not, then send them to me,” the principal said. “It is a better school environment with these resources available. Sometimes kids need more than I can give them, both in terms of expertise and time.”
Alvare’ said teachers at Faith Christian Academy are seeing less disruption in the classroom, which enhances learning for every student. “When you are a small school and trying to attend to so many needs, you can only wear so many hats,” he said. “To have Starting Point’s support really does help.”