This article was originally published on April 1, 2021 by MontcoToday.
By David Bjorkgren
It has been a challenging year for the students and counselors at The Lincoln Center’s School-Based Staffing program.
Under the TLC program, counselors have been in the schools of Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties to help students facing anxiety, depression, substance abuse issues, and past or current trauma.
The pandemic has kept the students at home, depriving them of this vital in-school service. As students return to class, counselors are eager to once again provide them the help and support they need.
“This year, the School-Based Counselor’s role is more important than it’s ever been,” said Rob D’Alonzo, Chief Clinical Officer. “Their normal responsibilities have been added to by the need to address the vicarious trauma that we, as a society, are collectively experiencing because of the pandemic.”
The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth created the School-Based Staffing program in 1973, collaborating with school districts to provide support that goes beyond education.
The hope was to give children access to mental health counselors, behavior specialists, crisis intervention counselors, and psychologists in a school setting where they spend much of their time.
Students in need receive confidential individual therapy, and can also join group or family therapy to build a support network.
Additionally, trauma-informed counselors help at-risk students cope with traumatic incidents, and special crisis intervention counselors help deescalate conflict with students.
Besides direct support to students and families, TLC staff work with administrators, guidance personnel, teachers and community agencies. They work alongside special education students to fulfill counseling requirements on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
The School-based staff team developed and runs drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs, including forums for parents and the community.
“Community involvement is a priority of our organization and for our staff, who coordinate activities with parents and community groups to plan and implement programs designed to reduce substance abuse,” reads a statement on the School-Based Staffing program on The Lincoln Center website.
They also help students in recovery transition from inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization, or residential settings back into a school setting.
The staff work as key members of the district’s Student Assistance Program (SAP) teams, providing student screening and liaison services.
Because of their vast knowledge on mental health, they help districts develop mental health curricula and crisis response plans.
“During my time working at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School as a School-Based Counselor, I have worked with students individually, in groups, and also with the Student Assistance Program (SAP) with the goal of helping students manage their socioemotional well-being,” said Yakeita Sawyer, a School-Based Counselor at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Sawyer is passionate about leading student groups and clubs, focusing on health and safe decision-making, as well as promoting mental health and suicide awareness and prevention.
TLC’s staffing program has expanded over time from its start in the Norristown schools to now include schools in Philadelphia County.
To find out more about The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth and its School-Based Staffing program, click here.