The new question about school mental health programs
A few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for school administrators to question whether schools should get involved in the mental health of their students. Today, with the skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression, school refusal, and suicides among children and teens, the question is no longer whether to provide school mental health programs, but how.
Mental health issues are preventing students from learning and achieving academically, socially, and emotionally. And, school staff members are becoming burned out due to the overwhelming demands of supporting struggling students. It’s clear that schools must address the problem or face the consequences: falling grades, declining attendance, reduced graduation rates, and increased disciplinary actions. Not to mention increasing staff turnover and mounting expenses to send troubled students out-of-district.
But with limited budgets and competing demands, many schools are not in a position to bring in clinical psychologists or social workers who are exclusively focused on providing mental health services, either on staff or through outsourced services. So how can you address the pain and the challenges and begin to turn things around?
Mental wellness coaching, training, and certification for school staff can be the answer.
What is mental wellness coaching?
Chances are, your school or district already has teachers, child study team members, and other staff who may have an interest or some background in mental health and are motivated to help students succeed. Why not develop the skills and expertise of your talented staff so they can provide mental wellness support within your school community? Mental wellness coaching prepares them and supports them to take on this role.
Mental wellness coaching from Thrive, when combined with our comprehensive training program that’s focused on critical school issues, can help you to effectively manage challenging situations and ultimately build a culture and climate of mental wellness in your school community.
How does coaching work?
When your school enrolls in Thrive’s Coaching, Training, and Certification Program, you’ll select one or more cohorts of staff members to participate. Each cohort (up to 8 people) meets weekly for a one-hour virtual coaching session with a Thrive clinical expert. Each participant also completes a series of online training modules over the course of the school year. Upon completion of the program, each participant becomes a Certified School Mental-Wellness Specialist™.
With an ongoing investment in mental wellness support and expertise, you can earn Mental Wellness Accreditation for your district. Accreditation can be earned in as little as three years, with certification maintenance for program participants, 10-15 percent of staff certified, and other criteria such as parent and community involvement.
Who should participate?
Cohorts typically include a mix of teachers (both special ed and general ed), social workers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, and other child study team members. Administrators are also encouraged to participate; Directors of Special Services, Principals, and Vice Principals can gain valuable insight and techniques.
Are coaching sessions structured or open-ended?
Coaching sessions are structured around what the participants are learning in their training modules, but are designed to be flexible to accommodate urgent issues and provide guidance for individual needs. We also encourage sharing ideas and successes, which we find inspires people to try new things. Here are some of the topics that cohorts are eager to discuss:
- Interventions for school refusal
- What is behind all the anxiety?
- Supporting those experiencing trauma
- Parents and parenting
- Navigating group dynamics
- Early warning signs of mental illness
- Mental health needs assessment
- Managing student returns to school after hospitalization
- Assimilation of new immigrant students
- Conflicting expectations: supporting mental wellness and closing the learning gap
- Risk assessments
How does coaching improve proficiency?
School staff gain the tools, strategies, and confidence to overcome their daily challenges related to student mental health, as well as the knowledge to communicate proactively with students and families, mediate conflicts between students and teachers, and create effective intervention plans that help everyone achieve more.
Unlike a one-time PD class that’s often quickly forgotten, Thrive’s weekly coaching reinforces what participants learn in our training modules and also allows for the development of collaborative, proactive plans and interventions. Coaching provides ongoing guidance as participants apply what they have learned to both immediate problems and to achieving the school’s long-term goals for mental wellness.
Coaching benefits the entire school community
Students get the help they need to succeed in school and secure their future.
Parents get qualified support for their children from district staff they already know and trust. They also have the opportunity to learn how to better support their children with Thrive’s parent workshops.
Child study team members gain the skills and the confidence to effectively help their students who are struggling with mental health issues, and the job satisfaction that comes from making a real difference in their lives.
Teachers gain access to qualified in-school mental wellness counselors available to assist them with students and issues in their classrooms.
Administrators know they are doing everything they can to prevent school tragedies and provide universal support for academic achievement, while also building morale and support for school staff.
School districts experience improved academic performance, increased attendance, and reduced disciplinary incidents. And they can reduce the heavy cost of paying for out-of-district placements for many students with behavioral and mental health issues.
Set your school up for success with mental wellness coaching
If mental wellness coaching is new to your school or district, here’s what you need to know to help you gain support for new school mental health programs, and also to ensure you achieve the outcomes you’re looking for.
Take advantage of funding opportunities
Because the need for school-based mental health support is extreme, there’s more funding available than ever before, particularly through the ESSER programs. To learn more about the opportunities, download our guide to Funding Student Mental Health Programs.
Prepare your staff for the experience
In our experience, school administrators are visionaries who understand the pain their staff and students are going through and are moving mountains to provide the support everyone needs.
That said, the way you present the opportunity to participate in our program can make all the difference in the attitude and motivation your staff members bring to the training and coaching experience. That, in turn, has a huge impact on what they learn and how they apply it to their daily challenges.
Here are a few tips we’ve heard from administrators on how to start strong:
- Participants may need help understanding the WHY behind the school mental health programs you are implementing, and how everyone will ultimately benefit and get stronger. When you share your vision of a school community that supports and prioritizes mental wellness, you can paint a picture of how everyone in the community benefits.
- Staff members should know that they were chosen because of their talents, background, and potential to make a difference in the school community.
- Even though Thrive’s program doesn’t require a great deal of extra time, participants should be given the time for an hour of weekly coaching within their regular schedule.
- Participants should expect that over time, the knowledge they gain will help to reduce the time and energy they currently spend dealing with struggling students.
Choose experts in school-based mental health support
When your goal is to help students better manage the mental health issues that impede their ability to succeed in school, and also to reduce the burden on school staff, you need more than mental health counselors. You need people with deep expertise in solving educational problems that stem from mental health issues. That includes things like group and family dynamics and classroom management, along with clinical expertise.
That’s how Thrive is different from other providers of mental health counseling services who may not focus on the educational setting. We have decades of experience dealing with the specific problems schools face every day.
Our Executive Director served as Director of Special Services in several districts. Other members of our leadership team ran highly rated therapeutic schools. We understand how schools function and how they are funded. And we know how to drive real change. Our experts and our programs have achieved impressive results for public school districts, private schools, and charter schools.
Let’s talk about how Thrive’s Coaching, Training, and Certification Program can strengthen your school and change the lives of students and staff. Give us a call or schedule some time today.