Selective Mutism

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on January 12, 2016 1:25 pm

I have a new student that I am working with who has selective mutism (SM). She is a very bright girl, lots of talent but does not speak in school. I have only just started to get mutismto know her a little and I sense this is going to be a long journey for her. At present, her sister and her friend both speak for her at school. This dependency started long ago and was not discouraged in any way. As a result she is now in grade 8 and says absolutely nothing in school.

The Anxiety BC website suggests that SM is maintained through a process of negative reinforcement. It is a cycle which looks like this: I am asked a question > I am too afraid to answer > the person with me gets anxious and answers for me > we both feel better and anxiety decreases. This interaction continues each time and the person with SM no longer needs to speak for themselves.

So how do you help someone overcome an obstacle such as SM when a dependency has been allowed to grow for so long? Do I suggest that we let her be since she is actually doing very well in school? She has friends, she does her work, she has great marks, she just does not speak. Teachers do not push her to speak and in fact most don’t try to get her to talk at all. Is this good or should I be requesting that they begin with one word answers, or speaking to a classmate first? I have not had this issue before and frankly I am a bit uncertain of what it is I can do to support her. All those supports and ideas that could have helped at a young age seem to be too late now. How do you start speaking in school when you have not done so for 9 years and how do I as the guidance counsellor proceed with this? My plan at this point is to do more research on the topic and possibly use pictures as cues for her. I look forward to learning more about SM and I am sure another student will come along, and when they do, I will be ready, or at least more prepared.

Anxiety BC has a great video on how to work with students with SM. The website is http://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/selective-mutism.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Counselling in the Outdoors

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on November 9, 2015 1:30 pm

playgroundThis will be a short and to the point blog. I have been recently asked by my schools to work with students outside during lunch hours as a way of interacting with those students who may not be candidates for my services, but could still use a positive role model in an unstructured environment. I was apprehensive of this at first as I felt that my time would be better applied doing group work with students. Two days outside and I already find myself reaping the benefits of the all-student interactions. I do miss eating and chatting with my colleagues but I have students coming up to me to chat, walk around, hang out and ask for advice. What a great unobtrusive and informal way of getting work done. I was stuck with this idea that we work in our offices, one on one or small groups, doing lesson plans and talking to teachers about ways to help children. All that is great and I am very comfortable with that, but perhaps it is time for me to see and try other ways to counsel students.

I admit that change is not an easy thing for me and I do tend to get anxious when expectations of me change. However, change can be a very good thing and in this case it has given me the opportunity to look at my job in a different way. School counsellors are moving away from the ‘office’ and into the classrooms and playgrounds. This is a good thing and I plan to do my best to embrace it. I know there will be times when I will want to stay inside on the cold winter days, huddled in the staff room with my fellow teachers. When these thoughts creep up I will have to remember that the benefits of working with students in their own space while at the same time getting fresh air and shaking out my own cobwebs is well worth the 30 minute change in my schedule.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Compulsive Texting

Posted by: Dawn Schell on November 4, 2015 2:52 pm

It started out innocently enough. A teacher asking students to put their phones away and focus on what was happening in the class. One of the students said she felt “anxious” about not having access to her phone.   Other students echoed her sentiment. The teacher was flexible enough to engage in the conversation and ask them to explain.   The conclusion – some students said not being able to text at any given moment or to check their messages left them feeling nervous, anxious, worried. Naturally this concerned the teacher.

Now I don’t mean this to come across as yet another adult shaking her finger at the younger generation and saying they have it all wrong.   When someone says NOT doing something leaves them feeling anxious I think it merits further exploration.

CompulsiveTextingA recent study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture journal (http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/ppm-ppm0000100.pdf) looked at the role “compulsive texting behaviour” plays in students’ academic functioning. The research focused on assessing what counts as “compulsive texting” as well as three components of academic functioning (grades, social bonding and perceived academic competence). While the study was conducted with a relatively small number of Grade 8 & 11 students (n=403) and is based on self-reporting it’s worth having a closer look at their results.

The first step was to create a measure for compulsive texting that is similar to one used for Compulsive Internet Use (Young, K.S. 1998). They wanted to assess for: interference with tasks, cognitive preoccupation and concealment, all potential indicators of compulsivity.   Their research showed a high internal consistency for their Compulsive Texting Scale.

The authors measured frequency of texting, compulsive texting, academic adjustment, and gender differences.   They found:

  • Females had higher levels of compulsive texting than males (12% vs. 3%)
  • “It appears it is the compulsive nature of texting – not the sheer frequency – that is problematic”
  • There is a relationship between compulsive texting and poorer academic functioning for females and not for males

Hmm. Now that is interesting!

The authors go on to speculate about potential explanations for females being more susceptible to compulsive texting behaviour.   They point to research that indicates “females are more likely than males to engage in rumination or obsessive, preoccupied thinking” (see study for details). They also are “more likely to focus their intimacy in interpersonal relationships than males”. Which may mean the content of their texts may be more “distracting or interfering than the texts males receive”.

The researchers discuss the limitations of their study and conclude with a reminder that texting can have potential benefits as well. It’s like anything really – when the use becomes compulsive that’s when we need to find ways to address it.

Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online, Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Technology: the easy scapegoat

Posted by: Sherry Law on October 21, 2015 5:00 am

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Recently, technology and its effect on the human attention span has become a growing topic of discussion. When people develop issues which may include a technology element, there are often quick judgements and a cursory analysis typically highlight technology as the main culprit. All the while technology has become an increasingly irremovable part of our environment. Even among friends, family, and the public at large, it is a common attitude that technology can lead to dependency and estrangement, oftentimes applied towards the youth. However, this could simply be a change in behaviour due to a change in environment.

As a mental health service worker, and also a technology enthusiast, my perspective on the matter is different. Hearing the attitudes of change as negative by default sparked interest in me to consider looking at change in a different way. Is the change present? According to some research  humans have shown indication that there is a drop in focus time during certain activities. But should we be concerned by this? Some are pre-emptively saying “yes”. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Freshman’s survival guide

Posted by: Mike Peirce on September 29, 2015 9:00 am

In preparation for the university adventures my graduating students were heading off to in September, for many years I would invite last year’s graduating class back to talk about their first year experience. Passing on their words of wisdom to the current graduating class became an annual tradition. With orientation week over for the 2015 incoming university freshmen, I felt it would be a good time to review some of the pearls of wisdom my graduates have passed on to students heading off to university for the first time.

While this one really is a no-brainer, my graduates stressed the importance of getting to those lectures. This is where professors give all kinds of clues to how to succeed in their courses. I always suggested going one step further. I recommend that students visit each professor during office hours with a question regarding the material in the course. Since so few students actually do this, it is remarkable how well a professor will remember you. In your favorite courses, this may provide the opportunity to develop a relationship which will lead to the possibility of using this professor as a reference for graduate studies or employment down the road. I always told my class that if they have to come back to me, their high school counsellor, for an academic reference following their undergraduate degree, they really haven’t done their job. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Parental Permission

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on September 23, 2015 12:54 pm

 

 

In school counselling we often work with children who need support due to issues in school or at home. These issues run the spectrum just as any other group would. The one major difficulty I have in working with elementary children is the need for parental consent. I do understand why we need consent from parents as not all children are developmentally prepared to understand my role as a guidance counsellor and how we can help.  In those cases it is important for a parent to be able to say “Yes, I feel my child needs help in their social/ emotional development and Yes I think the guidance counsellor can help”.  For those reasons parental consent is vital. However, I worry about the group of young children who deal with serious issues at home and parents/guardians are not willing to allow their child the support they need through counselling. Parental arguments, alcoholism, neglect, divorce and separation and unstable home lives can have major impacts on a child.

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But what do we do when parents will not give consent, or asking parents for consent may cause even more harm? I also must have consent from both parents if the situation involves separation/divorce and there is shared custody. In many cases one or both will deny consent. Where I work, any child under the age of 12 must have parental consent for counselling after the initial session.  Many of the students who are in the most desperate need are denied services due to the lack of parental consent.  What do we do in these situations? How do we go about providing a service that is being turned down by parents, even when we know the service is necessary?

In the past I have used my judgement with older students whom I feel need my help and have the ability to recognize they need help. However, I only see them for short periods of time and more than likely on a quick ‘one time only’ situation. I always let staff know if they are worried about someone to let me know and I will see them once without consent and then determine what the next step will be after the initial contact. At this point I have been using my judgement if I believe the student is capable of making that decision, but children between the ages of 4 and 10 really are not ready for that. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Starting Anew

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on September 4, 2015 12:15 pm

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I have very recently began a new position as a guidance counsellor in three schools, all of which have never had a guidance counsellor before. Although all schools are extremely grateful to have me, there are still some challenges surrounding the creation of a brand new position. Where are they going to locate me, will there be a private space, private phone line, filing cabinet to store confidential files, a space that is suitable for counselling? How will staff, parents and students react to this new role? Some of this is out of my control and I must live with that. However, there is still a lot I can do to make this an easier transition for everyone.

At this point in the game I am simply trying to allow students and staff to see me in the school. I am walking around before school, talking to students, going into the staff room to meet teachers. Overall, I want them to know that I am here. Now is not the time to come into their classrooms and start pulling out students. They have only been back to class for two days and I am unfamiliar to everyone. I feel that staff must first get to know me and what it is I do, before they will be willing to send their students to see me. I think that is reasonable. I feel it will be a while before they are comfortable enough to send students my way, and that is OK. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Play Nice with ‘Mindlight

Posted by: Dawn Schell on September 1, 2015 9:55 am

 

The name “Play Nice Institute”[1] conjures up images of extremely polite children playing on a playground – taking turns on swings and slides, no whining or complaining or blaming. Everyone being, well, Nice.

A lovely image but that’s not what the Play Nice Institute (PNI) is all about. They are “an organization that focuses on the design and development of games that promote emotional resilience through skills acquired while children are immersed in games they love to play.”

Recently, PNI has created a neurofeedback video game called ‘Mindlight”. Aimed at children 8 – 12 years of age, Mindlight is a video game designed to help children learn how to face and overcome anxiety and fear. The child wears an EEG headband. An electrode in the headband reads brainwaves – alpha, beta, and theta waves.   The game uses the child’s mindset and brainwaves to advance the action in the game.

Mindlight starts with Arty who arrives at grandma’s house only to discover the house is covered in darkness. He has to rescue grandma. There are a number of obstacles he has to overcome, progressively scarier encounters, and puzzles he has to solve in order to save his grandmother. In the game Arty wears Teru, a magical hat that shines whenever the child playing the game feels relaxed. As soon as the child playing the game becomes anxious or fearful the game turns dark and they have to relax themselves in order to generate light again.

As the PNI says, “Using the neurofeedback headset to play the game, the environment, threats, and puzzles all respond to how a player is allocating his/her attention and, thus, how he/she is feeling. Relaxation allows for a light bubble to shine on the surroundings and focused concentration unlocks hiding spaces and allows the player to solve attention bias modification puzzles.”

MindLight uses several evidence-based strategies through which children learn to manage and overcome anxiety symptoms. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Helping Young Clients Transition From Post-Secondary School

Posted by: Andrea Cashman on August 26, 2015 5:00 am

 

sad-505857_1280Many of the young clients that come into my office seem to be struggling with making the transition from post-secondary school into the real world. They are the young adults who have just successfully graduated from their College or University programs but struggle to make the next step. The reason behind their hesitation is not what you may think it is initially. Many of them struggle to even get past putting in applications for job postings. The job search terrifies them not because there is a lack of jobs necessarily but because they do not feel good enough or they completely feel lost on what career is for them. Struggling with self-identity or self-esteem issues is what holds them back. I’ve even seen clients who have entered into programs that their parents have picked out for them. These young adults feel trapped in a world that doesn’t hold true to themselves. Regardless, the question remains the same: why are these young adults suffering a transitional crisis so early on? We mostly hear jokes and passings about mid-life crises. We hear frequently about empty nest transition crises. However, we rarely hear about young people suffering a crisis in their 20’s. This is often referred to as a quarter life crisis. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Focus on the Positive

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on August 25, 2015 3:30 pm

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As the summer winds down I am beginning to think of all I must do to prepare myself for a new school year and a new job. We all go through those transitions where we must get to know our new clientele, our communities and our colleagues. These tasks are a new and exciting challenge for me and ones I look forward to. However that excitement comes with some anxiety. We all know what the fear of the unknown can do to one’s mental health. Lack of sleep, restlessness, stomach issues along with a whole host of other symptoms often prevent people from making transitions in their lives. Perhaps they feel that dealing with the status quo is easier than dealing with change. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA