Supporting Counseling “First Responders” in Lutheran Schools

When considering the issues school counselors deal with every day, they can be described as first responders. Counselors provide support for students, their families, and school communities regarding trauma caused by disruptions in their lives, turbulent peer relationships, and other mental health issues. The complex job of school counseling requires healing trauma while allowing the educational process to occur. 

With the move to online schooling this spring, many students were impacted emotionally and the need for counseling is greater than ever.  Some of the counselor programs we support were able to provide remote services through the spring. 

As part of our Educational Resources, LESA provides School Counseling Grants to assist with the cost of a school counselor for five member schools: Good Shepherd Lutheran, Collinsville; Immanuel Lutheran, Washington; River Roads Lutheran, north St. Louis; and Trinity Lutheran and Immanuel Lutheran in St. Charles County.  

In areas such as St. Louis County, the Children’s Service Fund provides resources for counseling services to the 13 schools within the county. Unfortunately in other areas, due to budget constraints, some schools are not serviced by a dedicated school counselor. For years, research has supported the benefits of counseling in schools, which has now been exacerbated by the continued impact of today’s challenging climate.

Typically, the types of services delivered by counselors vary by school and include individual, classroom, and small group meetings, teacher and parent consultations, school-wide programs, development of educational handouts/presentations, diagnostics, reporting, classroom observation, and treatment planning. Counseling activities and services were modified last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some counselors were still available to students, families, and teachers through e-mail and secure online platforms, but other students’ needs went unmet. Now that we are still in the midst of the pandemic and unrest in the world around us, the need for school-based mental health services is amplified.

Counselors recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic is magnifying ongoing crises for many students. For students to be successful in school, their emotional well-being needs to be in a place that will allow learning. 

LESA Counseling Reports Summary - June 2020 

The purpose of the LESA counseling grant is to provide funding assistance for schools outside of St. Louis County (which receive tax-supported mental health services) to employ a school counselor that could not otherwise be afforded. 

Types of services delivered by counselors vary by school and include individual, classroom, and small group meetings, teacher/staff consultations, parent consultations, school-wide programs (e.g. Career Day, Red Ribbon Week), development of educational handouts/presentations, diagnostics, reporting, document assessment/review, classroom observation, treatment planning, and other case management duties. 

During the 2019-2020 school year, proposed activities and services were modified from March until May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some counselors were still available to students, families, and teachers upon request through e-mail and online platforms. Due to limited funding, the maximum award per school is $3,000. Despite those challenges, the data collected shows 81% of students enrolled in the five schools benefited from counseling services. To learn more about the positive impact of counseling in LESA schools, read on:

Lutheran School Counseling: Success Stories 

Petty v. Epic

“This year, a new program was developed for 5th graders about managing peer interactions. It was called, and you need to imagine this with a TV announcer’s loud voice, “Petty Versus Epic”. It was about using your faith to sort out what things are really important and avoiding over-dramatizing the unimportant, day-to-day and "not so nice" interactions between peers. The students really responded because the lesson was linked with Bible verses they had just been studying. It brought Biblical teachings right to playground politics. I received many messages from students but this was a particularly lovely one: "Thanks for teaching us about petty and EPIC! At recess when I'm playing kickball kids, when we used to just yell at each other, now I can tell them, "Just calm down. This is petty - don't make it epic."

Managing Anxiety 

“One student that visited regularly with me to manage feelings of anxiety was having a difficult time handling in class assignments that were timed. She and I worked on different techniques for managing her worry and fear that was really getting in her way. She learned a particular breathing technique that was really useful (and fun) for her and found a significant measure of success in using it to manage her timed-test fears. One day at home, her father was preparing for a work assignment and seemed grouchy and upset. This student proceeded to teach him her breathing technique and suggested that it would help him at work just like it helped her at school. Her parents were pleased with this progress and she was so excited to have taught her daddy how to get over his work worries.”

Family Challenges

“The school counselor was able to support a new student and her family through sudden behavior changes and unique challenges that arose from a combination of learning difficulties and emotional struggles. The school team was able to work well with the family and an outside agency assisting the family to bring about positive results."

Healthy Students, Healthy Schools

"Based on counselor, teachers, administrator, parent, and student observations and narrative reports, the school climate is healthier and better supported due to individual counseling, classroom and group sessions during the 2019-2020 academic year.”

LESA thanks all school counselor “first responders” for the important work they do with our students! If you would like to support the LESA Counseling Grant program, please contact Laura Montgomery or Sue Nahmensen.

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