Dear Parents,

 

Welcome to The Schools Group website and thank you for visiting! If you are here, your child has probably been referred to our program and brought a form home for you to sign. We thought you might want to know a little more about us and about how the program works. Please feel free to contact us if we did not address your question or concern.

 

Sincerely,

Valerie Wiley and Jasmine Johnson

About our program

 

The Schools Group has partnered with Chicago Public Schools through Communities in Schools Chicago since 2010 to place counseling and psychology graduate students into schools that have requested additional counseling services to augment the student support services offered by their school counselor, social worker, psychologist, and case manager. Our interns work two full days per week in the same school for the entire academic year. This allows them to build strong relationships with students, teachers, and staff in order to provide consistent and individualized support to the students they work with.

Where do the interns come from?

 

Our interns come from the top psychology graduate programs in Chicago: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Adler University, and Roosevelt University. They are all second or third-year master’s level students who are screened by us to have experience working with children and adolescents. Some are specializing in child and adolescent psychology, others in sports and health psychology, forensic psychology, or community mental health.

Who is referred for counseling?

 

Students typically are referred to the program by teachers, counselors, or administrators. Parents can request counseling services for their child through the school counselor or their child’s teacher. Children sometimes ask for counseling on their own. We see students for a variety of reasons and help them find constructive ways to cope with social, emotional, behavioral, and academic challenges.

Is this a voluntary program?

 

Yes, it is up to the child whether or not they wish to participate after their initial session. Most children choose to continue in the program for the entire school year and, often, want to continue in subsequent years if the services are offered.

 

If a child wants to continue, they will be given a consent form to take home. This form should be signed and returned by a parent or guardian. Services can be discontinued at any time by the parent or by the child.

What about missing class time?

 

We work closely with your child’s teachers to schedule sessions at appropriate times and to make sure that the time away from class (30 minutes once a week) does not interfere with instructional goals. We defer to teachers if they feel a session needs to be skipped for a week, and we regularly review with teachers and staff how best to serve the needs of the students we see.

What does a session consist of?

 

Because children learn through play, we supply our interns with a variety of items that can be used by the children any way they wish (with appropriate safety limitations). These include: kinetic sand, PlayDoh, Legos, Zoobs, Uno, Jenga, art supplies, soft athletic balls, puppets, toy cars, and playhouses. This allows them the freedom to create their own narratives and games, to engage in reciprocal play, or to sit quietly and talk—and, usually, a combination of all three.

 

Children think they are “just playing,” but the counseling intern is responding in a particular way to comments and activities in order to develop a genuine relationship and create an environment for growth.

Does this type of counseling work?

 

In a word, yes. Play gives children a way to express themselves freely, to process emotions, and to develop empathy, resiliency, self-regulation and self-esteem. Interns are trained to respond in specific ways to help encourage this growth. The effectiveness of the program is borne out every year in the survey we do with teachers at the end of the year to evaluate our program.

 

In addition, there is ample, published research evidence to support the way we work with children. A comprehensive review of client-centered play therapy (CCPT) in schools from 1970-2011 showed that children who participated in CCPT demonstrated statistically positive outcomes over children who did not participate. Specifically, outcomes such as self-efficacy, reading ability, and general academic achievement show statistically significant improvement following multiple sessions of CCPT over time. (PCEP, 2016, Vol.15, No.1, 5-18, Jane and Ray)

What we do allows the child to more fully develop their “self.” The stronger the “self,” the better a person can respond to stressors that arise. By allowing children to self-direct within a safe and accepting environment, they are free to try new things, fail, and try again without fear of being judged. They can work through emotions and relationships at their own pace, and, because they are in control, they can test and develop their capacity to take purposeful initiative. This is what educators call “agency” and what a report from the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University says may be as important an outcome of schooling as the skills we measure with standardized testing. (Ferguson, The Influence of Teaching: Beyond Standardized Test Scores: Engagements, Mindsets, and Agency, 2015)

Can I speak with my child’s counselor about their progress?

 

Of course you may, although there is usually nothing very exciting or specific to report. If there were any issue that we felt a teacher, the counselor, or parents needed to be made aware of, we would immediately do so. Otherwise, we promise the children that what they do in their sessions stays between them and the counseling intern. Without this confidentiality, it would be impossible to develop a relationship of trust.

How can I learn more about this?

 

We recommend reading Dibs In Search of Self by Virginia Axline. She is the founder of child-centered play therapy, and this book recounts her work with one little boy. It is a fascinating story and provides a good idea of how play therapy works. All of our incoming interns read this.

 

The internet offers many resources on the importance of play in neurosychology terms.  We recommend looking at the work of Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Theresa Kestly’s book on play.

 

The Association for Play Therapy has a You Tube channel and website that offers resources on a variety of play therapy approaches.