A School Psychologist Answers Your Most Common Mental Health Questions
Success Academy – November 5, 2019
Across the Success Academy network, school psychologists play a critical role in supporting scholars’ success, from delivering counseling to collaborating with teachers to ensure students’ healthy social-emotional development. Over the course of her six-year tenure at SA, Lauren Monroe — currently the School Psychologist Lead at SA Springfield Gardens — has supported thousands of scholars, families, and educators. We asked Lauren to share her responses to the questions she most frequently fields from members of the SA community. Have a question that’s not addressed here? Reach out to your scholar’s teacher or your school’s main office.
What mental health services do you provide for your school community?
In my role, I get to work closely with our scholars, teachers, and families. I love connecting with my students and sharing my interests — especially creating music and art — with them. Building these relationships with scholars also helps me understand their specific needs and give them really personalized support that helps them build upon their strengths, develop new skills that will help them flourish, connect with their peers and teachers, and engage successfully with academics. Depending on what my scholars need, I can also offer individual and small group counseling support to help with issues like depression, anxiety, social skills deficits, autism, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a variety of mood disorders, and much more.
In terms of working with educators, part of my job is to train teachers to identify and respond to signs that a scholar might benefit from extra mental health support. I also provide them with tools they can use to help address student mental health needs that arise in the classroom.
As far as supporting our families, I can help connect them with outside organizations that deliver mental health services we might not provide at school. And with parental consent, I can also establish lines of communication with these outside agencies to provide wraparound services and make sure that we’re all sharing resources to deliver the best support possible for scholars. For example, I can collaborate with a scholar’s outside-of-school therapist or psychiatrist on counseling strategies or the scholar’s presentation at school.
Finally, in the unfortunate event of a tragedy, I’m able to provide emotional support and guidance to the entire school population.
Does my child need to be diagnosed with something in order to receive counseling?
Not at all! This is a common misconception. Many scholars without a diagnosis can benefit from counseling support. Counseling can help scholars strengthen social skills, peer conflict resolution skills, self-esteem, emotional regulation, and coping techniques. In many cases, scholars receive informal counseling support for a short time — say, four to six weeks — then graduate from this support.
In these situations, a scholar might be referred for informal counseling by a parent, teacher, or member of the school leadership team. The school would gather background information to understand the nature of the scholar’s challenge and identify appropriate next steps. If the issue appeared to be affecting their ability to function at school and in-class therapeutic supports had not been successful, the scholar could benefit from a short burst of informal counseling. This type of counseling could take on many forms and would look very different depending on the situation. The scholar might meet in a small peer group once a week or have a special breakfast with their counselor once a week, or the counselor might push into class once a week.
No matter the configuration, the school psychologist would track the scholar’s progress by having frequent check-ins with the teacher. If the scholar were consistently meeting their goals, they would graduate. If the challenge appeared to persist, the scholar might be referred to receive formal counseling services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and/or outside counseling support.
I worry that my child is having a difficult time coping with a recent change in home life. Can the school help?
Yes! In cases of a change in home life — for example, a death in the family, parental separation, or relocation to a homeless shelter — communication between the family and school helps school staff understand the scholar’s needs. If difficulties at home are affecting your scholar at school, short, targeted support from a school psychologist can help them cope in a healthy way. If you and your school are concerned about how your scholar is coping after more time has passed, or if you are worried about your child’s behavior at home, the school psychologist can help connect you with community organizations that provide individual, group, and family therapy.
My child is displaying concerning behavior at home and school. What can we do?
Our number one priority is your scholar’s safety. If your scholar is engaging in concerning behaviors — for example, threatening to harm themselves or others — at home or school, you should alert your scholar’s school immediately. A caring school psychologist will work with parents, teachers, and the student to determine the nature of the concern and identify appropriate next steps to keep everyone safe.
My child has been diagnosed with a disorder such as autism, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. How can the school help support them?
Your school can provide your scholar with services such as counseling, small group academic support, and behavior plans/accommodations. We can also connect you to outside service providers and collaborate with them to ensure that we are sharing resources to provide the best support for your scholar.
For information about how best to support your scholar, reach out to your senior leader, classroom teacher, school psychologist, or member of the school leadership team.