Laurie Goble-Van Diest & Ginger Moriarty
Hutch School Social Work Program Description
1. Overview and Goals
Our goal is to support the emotional well-being of each student and the school community as a whole. Our aim is to promote student’s healthy coping with their current stressors and provide support for navigating life after Hutch School.
“We recognize that children and families each follow their own path in coping with change, stress and uncertainty.”
We know that each child and teen has their own story about themselves, their family, and about the changes and stress in their lives. We take the time individually to get to know them and listen to their experience. Our assessment process allows us to identify ways in which they are using coping skills they already have and determine the types of support that will help them understand their feelings and cope in new, healthy ways.
3. Group Counseling
“Because everyone is here due to a serious illness, we treat each other with compassion and extra kindness.”
This Hutch School Belief Statement gets to the heart of the type of support that is available to students in weekly counseling groups. Once a week, counseling groups for each of the class groupings occur to intentionally increase the student’s understanding about their own family situation as well as those of their classmates. Students have the opportunity to develop a deeper sense of camaraderie and compassion for each other. Time is taken to ensure a safe environment within the group and students are offered the chance to share feelings associated with having a family member with a serious illness and all the changes that have occurred because of that.
4. Individual Counseling
Sometimes it is determined that regular individual counseling will be helpful to support their needs. We diligently communicate with the Hutch School teachers about the best time to meet individually with a student so that they are not missing important academic time, while still getting their emotional needs met. Our goal is that they learn more about themselves and are able to take that awareness back home.
Outlined below are the content areas that are explored in the counseling groups. Due to the fluctuation of developmental ages, numbers of participants and specific needs of each group, there is not a standard order in which these topics are explored. The content and types of resources that will be explored in group varies week to week based on the students in attendance and the group’s cohesion. We also use our observations of the students and information from our Hutch School colleagues to help shape the topic for group from week to week.
A. Feeling Identification and Expression: Understanding and indentifying feelings states is at the core of healthy coping. When students can identify what they are feeling they then have the opportunity to explore ways to manage those feelings. We work with students to improve their awareness of feelings and how to express them in productive ways.
B. Stress and Coping: Any change can cause stress and every student at Hutch School is in the midst of many changes in their lives (i.e. family illness, relocating, changing schools, separation from friends, family, pets) We discuss the various causes of stress and how each person uniquely responds to stress in their lives. We identify both negative and positive ways to cope with stress.
D. Self-Awareness: In the high school and middle school groups we explore personal values, beliefs, interests, talents etc. Developing these skills can aid in the discovery of strategies for coping with stress.
E. Problem-Solving and Developing Community: The supportive culture and environment of Hutch School relies largely on the students’ ability to relate to their peers and show respect and compassion for each other. At times, it is helpful to use group times to teach and bolster the skills necessary for resolving every day conflicts with others.
F. Grief and Loss: For our students, learning how change, grief, and loss affect them is a big part of their experience at Hutch School. Through the group experience they can learn about and identify the symptoms of grief associated with the changes they are currently experiencing in their lives. We explore the skills that are often helpful for coping with grief and loss.
We draw on a number of theoretical approaches in our work including knowledge of developmental stages, systems theory, strengths-based approaches, and cognitive behavioral models.
Listed below are resources that we use regularly in individual and group counseling.
Support Services for Families
We find that fully supporting Hutch School students can also include being available to parents and family members during this busy, stressful time. This may include a phone call or meeting when the student enrolls to understand the whole family situation better. We also provide guidance and support to family members in regard to discussing difficult topics with their children. With permission from the patient and parent, we communicate with the social workers from the clinic and hospital to enhance our awareness of how the patient is doing and to be a part of the larger support team. We are also a resource for communicating with school staff at a student’s home school if it would be beneficial for the school to have information about the child’s needs as they make the transition home.