Increasing Access to Mental Health Services within the Jewish Day School Community

Dr. Shellee Robbins, Director of Field Education, William James College (Newton, MA)

Normalizing In-School Counselling

Girl looking at another group of girlsAs day schools confront the challenge of rising rates of mental health diagnoses among students, situations may arise in which students may require a range of mental health services that can be provided during the school day and within the educational setting. In fact, this in-school counseling approach may help to normalize the school setting and reduce anxiety or stigma.

While a licensed mental health provider may be budgeted and available to a school for eight to 10 hours each week, the inclusion of one to two graduate trainees can significantly increase the range and variety of mental health services available to students. Schools may therefore want to consider becoming a practicum site for graduate students from a local program in psychology. 

What does a program of this sort look like? Each year, graduate programs across the country partner with schools—including private secular and Jewish day schools—who welcome graduate students—in clinical, school and mental health counseling fields—into their communities. 

For the graduate students, school settings can be an optimal training location to provide clinical services, under supervision, and to receive substantial clinical experience. This type of training may occur in a school setting because many schools employ licensed mental health professionals who can guide and supervise the trainee.

Under the supervision of a school’s licensed mental health provider, students set learning goals and work to supplement the mental health services that are provided to the school community. Student contributions are guided by the supervisor, who determines how the trainee may best contribute and address the specific needs of the learning community.

The institution at which I am affiliated, William James College, is a school of psychology focused on educating specialists of many disciplines to meet the evolving mental health needs of society. Our three core values enlighten and organize our education process: Experiential Education, Social Responsibility and Personal Growth. We therefore recommend a year of school experience to every trainee as a way to meet our core value of social responsibility or, in Jewish parlance, tikkun olam.

From the perspective of a field education department chair, I would recommend that each Jewish day school community that has a licensed mental health professional available as a supervisor examine whether or not one or several graduate school trainees could enhance the mission of your school and increase the services provided to your community.

To learn more about the William James College program, or to contact the author, click here

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