I was just reading an Associated Press article that surfaced the fact that school districts were beginning to use telehealth counselors in order to meet the needs of students. I’m grateful school districts are that concerned and investing the funds necessary to help their students. The need is being recognized, which is a great first step. The resources are being appropriated which is also a positive development.
At least 16 of the 20 largest U.S. public school districts are offering online therapy sessions to reach millions of students, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. In those districts alone, schools have signed provider contracts worth more than $70 million.
As schools cope with shortages of in-person practitioners, however, educators say teletherapy works for many kids, and it’s meeting a massive need. For rural schools and lower-income students in particular, it has made therapy easier to access. Schools let students connect with online counselors during the school day or after hours from home.
Students and their parents said in interviews they turned to teletherapy after struggling with feelings of sadness, loneliness, academic stress, and anxiety. For many, the transition back to in-person school after distance learning was traumatic. Friendships had fractured, social skills deteriorated, and tempers flared more easily.
As we look at some of the causes of the mental health need, many of the issues resolve around relationships students have at home, school, and community. One of the other major factors are the messages and pressure students receive from their school environments, either from staff or peers. Upon the return of students after the pandemic, schools were overwhelmed with the harsh realities of what students lost and how they were acting out in response to their stressors.
In response to these concerns, Lakeside rose to meet the needs requested by school districts to provide about 100 counselors to regional schools that would be on-site and live. For districts that are rural or do not have an option like Lakeside, the telehealth option is one of their only ways to support their students.
I previously have written a response to the proposed need for more psychologists and counselors. There will never be enough to meet the needs in this mental health crisis. But, thankfully, there is now a booming business of telehealth counselors that has emerged!
It’s important to recognize there are preventative measures that could be combined with counseling that could reduce this need and excessive expense. We need to give schools and students the tools to regulate their brains and find the calm that will set the stage for coping and becoming successful in schools. We need to work with parents to help them help their kids. We have the opportunity to provide therapeutic education so that those who are most prominent in the lives of students will be equipped to help them through their life, not to recreate adversity and trauma, but rather to provide environments where they can be safe emotionally and relationally. It is why Lakeside exists; to always be striving diligently in providing training programs to create better environments for students, schools, parents, and our community.