Counseling, psychological, and social services
interventions address barriers to learning and seek to
enhance the healthy psychosocial development of all
students. Approximately 20% of students suffer from
social, emotional, and mental health problems, with an estimated 10% suffering from moderate-to-severe impairments. Public schools are the
primary providers of mental health services for school-aged children.
Counselors, psychologists, and
social workers offer structured
activities, strategies, and resources to address student issues. Services
range from primary prevention and early interventions to referral and
treatment for severe or chronic problems. These professionals
educate the school community about available services and facilitate collaborations between teachers, families, medical professionals, and others to encourage healthy development and positive learning experiences.
(1, 2, 6, 11, 15)
The past three decades have seen
an increase in recognition of the role of mental, emotional,
and social health in educational outcomes, academic
achievement, and life success for students. Some popular, evidence-based approaches include: Approaches That Foster Resiliency and
Connectedness to School Research in adolescent development has demonstrated that when children feel connected to the school community, they are less likely to engage in risk-taking behavior and more likely to achieve. Even in socially
challenging high-risk environments, those connected to family, school, and community are resilient, successfully
navigate challenges, and accomplish academic goals. (3, 5, 11, 12, 13)
The positive youth development approach supports
students as they acquire the attitudes, competencies,
values, and life skills to become responsible, engaged
lifelong learners. Increasing bonds between youth
and adults is encouraged. Positive youth development
approaches have resulted in better school attendance,
higher academic performance, healthier peer- and adult
interactions, improved decisionmaking skills, and less substance use and risky sexual behaviors. (5, 10, 11, 12, 13)
School-based health centers
serve as sites for interdisciplinary
collaborative teams to identify,
deliver, or coordinate services to
support students with mental- or behavioral health needs. Although current research provides insufficient evidence to demonstrate a direct link between SBHCs and academic accomplishment, emerging research is documenting improvement in several intermediate outcomes that impact school performance, specifically, substance use, depression, bullying, and resiliency. (8, 11)
Researchers advocate for a comprehensive system of learning supports to empower all students to be motivated and ready to learn, suggesting that such supports can offset delinquency, improve academic achievement and student engagement, and reduce student and teacher dropout rates. (1, 2)
A 2010 white paper published by the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care makes a strong case for the power of dealing with mental health issues within the Coordinated School Health (CSH) framework. When schools utilize a CSH approach, problem behaviors are reduced, classroom learning environments are improved, school bonding is increased, and youth competence is enhanced. (11)
As principal of a K–5 school, Dr. Carl Schiavo, Jr. learned he was getting federal funding for guidance counselors. Initially, he was skeptical. “I was one of those who said, ‘We don’t need a guidance counselor; we can handle all that.’ After I had one, I realized how foolish a statement that was,” Schiavo said. Now program director for the Educational Leadership Program at the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Education, Schiavo shows principals in training how a counselor can help teachers and administrators, improve relationships with parents, and advocate for children. (9)
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BEST PRACTICE
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) (www.schoolcounselor.org) recommends a student– counselor ratio of 1 to 250. The ASCA model includes a set of foundational principles, activities that support students in establishing goals and school-to-work plans, a data-driven management system, and an action plan to evaluate outcomes. (9, 11, 15)
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) (www.nasponline.org) recommends the promotion of educationally and psychologically healthy environments for children and youth through the implementation of research-based programs and practices that enhance independence and optimal learning. School psychologists help facilitate policies, practices, programs, and strategies. (5, 15)
(www.sswaa.org) links child-serving community agencies to students to support academic, emotional, behavioral, and social success. They typically work with a team of professionals including school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and community agency personnel, as well as teachers. (7, 14, 15)
1. Adelman HS, Taylor L. Creating Successful School Systems Requires
Addressing Barriers to Learning and Teaching. The F. M. Duffy Reports.
2. Adelman HS, Taylor L. The School Leader’s Guide to Student Learning
Supports: New Directions for Addressing Barriers to Learning. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2006.
3. Benard B. Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors in the Family,
School, and Community. Portland, Oregon: Western Center for Drug-free
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5. Catalano RF, Berglund ML, Ryan JAM, Lonczak HS, Hawkins JD. (2002).
Positive youth development in the United States: Research findings
on evaluations of positive youth development programs. Prevention &
Treatment. 2002; 5.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School Health Policies and
Programs Study. Journal of School Health. 2007; 77(8).
7. Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy. Evaluation of Child and
Family Support Teams (100 Schools Project). 2010.
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Health Centers and Academic Performance: Research, Challenges, and
Recommendations. Journal of School Health. 2004; 74(9): 347-352.
9. Concordia University. Getting the Most Out of School Counselors.
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Development Through Coordinated Social, Emotional and Academic
Learning. American Psychologist. 2003; 38(6): 466-474.
11. Hurwitz L, Weston K. Using Coordinated School Health to Promote Mental
Health for All Students. National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.
12. Roth JL. Youth Development Programs. Prevention Researcher. 2004;
13. US Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drugfree Schools,
Mentoring Resource Center. Understanding the Youth Development Model.
14. Usaj K, Shine JK, Mandlawitz M. Response to Intervention: New Roles for
School Social Workers. School Social Work Association of America.
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