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December 2020 | Issue 3


used by

from around New York State

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NYSSCA Executive Board President

Dr. Cynthia Walley President-Elect

Mark Mason President Elect-Elect

Kelly Whitney-Rivera Past President

Carol Miller Executive Secretary

Dr. Robert Rotunda

Level Vice Presidents VP Elementary

Lysa Mullady VP Middle

Marjorie Miller VP Secondary

Donna Craig VP Directors/Supervisors

Jeannette Alomia

VP Counselor Educators

Dr. Ian Levy

Regional Governors Region I: Dr.

Kathleen Corbett

Region II: Mary

Lou Baird

Region III: TBA Region IV: James


Region V: Rebecca Region VI: Kathy



Region VII: Deborah


Tennant Region VIII: Mary


Region IX: Diana


Region X: Kristy


Region X: Christine


Region X: Franklin


NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020

NYSSCA Board (continued)


Alejandro Pena Finance Director

Deborah Rotunda Membership Chair

Laura Mesa

message from the NYSSCA President 04 ALetter from the Editor

Executive Secretary

Tom Wiggins

Marketing & Public Relations

Dr. Kathleen Corbett Advocacy & Public Policy

Kelly Whitney-Rivera Dr. Gail Reed-Barnett

School Counselors Support 05 Editorial: Equity & Access for all NY Students, Dr. Robert Rotunda

Your Mindset, Change Your Life, 06 Change John Rossillo


Franklin Rodney Prof Development Chair

Dr. Gail Reed-Barnett Technology Chair

Dr. Sean Finnerty Affiliate Support

Roger Forando

Board Liaisons NYSED PPS Advisory

Steps for Change in a High School 08 Small Counseling Office, Jaime Carey & Barbara Donnellan

Solution to the School Counselor's 12 ADilemma, Jan Reilly

& Wellness Corner: 16 Self• Care Introduction, Dr. Tami Sullivan •

Mark Mason

NYSCEA Representatives

Dr. Gail Reed-Barnett Dr. Robert Rotunda NYSUT Liaison


Private School Liaison

Christine Curcio

Graduate Student Liaison

Corey Sussman

Publications NYSSCA Comprehensive Model, Activities and Crosswalk

• •

Counselor Self-Care Mindfulness, Ashley Massaro & Alyssa Storey School Counseling in a Pandemic– Finding Resilience, Dr. Tami Sullivan A Walk in the Woods, Dr. Sean Finnerty

26 ResearchSticks & Stones: Helping Young People Cope with Offensive, Hurtful, or Unwelcome Speech, Bonnie Snyder

Program32 Exemplary Warr;ors Club, Melissa Smith

Dr. Robert Rotunda

The NYSSCA EDGE is published by the New York State School Counselor Association as a service for its membership.

School Counselor Evaluation

© 2020 NYSSCA, P.O. Box 217, Leicester, NY 14481

Dr. Barbara Donnellan


Dr. Tami Sullivan


A Message from the NYSSCA President Dear NYSSCA Members,

Stay connected.

I am delighted that the NYSSCA Edge is back with an amazing Editor, Dr. Tami Sullivan, from Roberts Wesleyan College. The Edge is an important publication that allows for practicing school counselors to share best practices in what they do to impact the lives of K-12 students. The old saying goes, “Knowledge is Power.” The knowledge that you share will allow others to grow, enable others to stay motivated, enable you to be connected with experts, be recognized for what you do, and generate new ideas. Submit an article for consideration; if you have questions, send an email to Another way you can stay connected is to join us for this year’s virtual conference: Innovation Through Collaboration, December 3-5. We will provide

Welcome Back! A letter from the Editors We take great pleasure in welcoming you to the relaunch of the NYSSCA Edge Magazine! NYSSCA has created this biannual publication with the intention of providing a space for the generation of knowledge, dialogue, and collaboration among the New York State community of school counselors. Firstly, thanks are due to the NYSSCA board who have worked tirelessly to support the continuation of this publication. The immediacy of this e-based publication makes it possible for us all to be fully connected. Supporting one another is integral, especially as we continue the development of school counseling best practices within our schools and communities that advocate for students and our profession. We welcome best practice contributions to the EDGE Magazine. By definition, “Best Practices” are “commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective”. For school counselors, this may include successful small groups, effective interventions, classroom guidance lessons, unique and creative ways to distribute information, etc. A best practice may also include how you are implementing aspects of the ASCA National Model into your counseling program. During this year, as schools have shifted to remote learning, perhaps you have a creative way of supporting students. School counselors continue to be innovative in supporting student social and emotional

school counselors from around the state an opportunity to share ideas and solutions that are needed during this remote time. I am excited that we have many social and emotional topics and sessions on social justice, equity, and antiracism so that we can continue to learn, share, and lead during the holiday season.

Get Involved.

We have several volunteer positions that are open that we need your support for this year. The positions are Region 3 Governor (Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster Counties). If you are interested in the Public Relations Committee, Professional Development Committee, and the Membership Committee, these committees are welcoming new members. Sincerely,

Dr. Cynthia Walley learning, contributions discussing this work, especially in support of fully remote or hybrid learning and student mental health is needed. We are interested in submissions that also address how schools and districts can best support school counselors as we continue to navigate this pandemic. We are extremely pleased that this edition features articles in best practices highlighting efforts and strategies school counselors have utilized to increase efficiencies, advocate for increased understanding of the role of the school counselors and an innovative student-led program that supports mental health. The Counselor Self-Care and Wellness Corner is full of ideas on how school counselors find balance in their busy lives. In sharing these great ideas with you, we are aware that there are many more school counseling \practices and ideas within our state from which we all could learn. As you read these articles, we encourage you to reflect on your own practices and effectiveness data you have collected in hopes that you, too, will share your best practices for our upcoming editions of the NYSSCA Edge. We are delighted that you are joining us as readers and hope you will also join us as contributors.


Dr. Tami Sullivan, Chief Editor Andrea Maynard, Design Editor Samantha Montes, Editorial Assistant

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020


School Counselors Support Equity & Access for all NY Students Published in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle 11.15.2020 (page 8B)


OVID-19 has ripped back the “curtain of disparity” in schools and revealed the overwhelming magnitude of inequitable access to many educational services, from access to broadband internet and internet-compatible devices to the wide variation and quality of online teaching platforms that are all contingent on the financial resources of the local school district. Students attending better-funded school districts are more likely to have access to highly qualified teaching staff, smaller class sizes, better maintained school buildings, as well as access to Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate Program (IB), dual enrollment or early college course programs. The New York State School Counselor Association (NYSSCA) strongly supports the work of the New York State Education Department (NYSED), which has been collecting data from school districts regarding AP & IB enrollment and student outcomes. This data is currently available to the public on the School Report Card site for each high school. They found inequities in enrollment in these courses including more girls than boys, differences among race and ethnicity groups, low-income students, English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Many students of color, first-generation and low -income students aspire to college. Some report that there is no one in their schools to help with the sometimes-daunting application and financial aid process, so they are unable to make the leap. School counselors are in a position proven to increase access for these students.

While counselors are key players in this effort toward equity and access, there is little understanding and, quite frankly, appreciation of how pivotal they can be in student choices. In some schools in New York, there are no middleor high school counselors available to help WWW.NYSSCA.ORG 937-969-7722 students through key transition periods as they plan their futures. The presence of school counselors in schools is not distributed evenly, leaving some students without any counselor whatsoever. Intentional efforts by school counselors can reduce racial disparities in higher level classes and increase numbers of students who are college/career ready. The timing is right. In 2017 the New York State Board of Regents approved revisions to the regulations regarding counseling, which went into effect in the 2019-2020 school year. We endorse Board of Regents actions as they recommend to school districts that AP, IB, dual enrollment and early college courses be open and available to all students. We ask that the Board of Regents requests additional funding in the next budget cycle to support school districts as they review their policies and personnel to make this access a reality. This the moment to laser focus our efforts to eradicate these disparities. After all, we are all in this together. ■

Robert Rotunda, Ed.D Executive Director New York State School Counselor Association


Change your



Change your


John Rossillo School Counselor Lindenhurst High School, NY


How many times are you faced with an opportunity and your response is, “I can’t", or your internal thoughts tell you " I am not smart enough?” Do you face the challenge with the "I can't" setback-attitude or a fear of failing? If you do, you are interpreting your intelligence or abilities with a “fixed mindset.” I have repeated over and over to students and athletes that “I can’t means I am not willing to try.” It is a perception that should make a person want to shift the way they think.

n a fixed mindset you are convinced your skills, traits or talents are settled. You believe this is the way things are and become content with a life achieving below your ability. How can you possibly learn anything new? You must understand that how you accept that opportunity is your choice. There is a link between your belief and your behavior. A fixed mindset can prevent important skill development. This type of mindset leads us to worry about what is “going to happen to us” instead of asking us “what are we going to make happen.” Think of yourself as the cause not the effect.

value what you are doing regardless of the outcome. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset says, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.”

Dweck notes that a person with a growth mindset believes intelligence and skills can be developed and students with a fixed mindset will give up when they can’t solve a problem, whereas students with a If you are only worried about the growth mindset will outcome, you are stuck in a fixed work to seek an answer. mindset. The growth mindset will help you They will learn to

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020 overcome challenges instead of avoiding them. A growth mindset goes beyond the importance of a single event. The mindset is incorporated on a daily basis. We are not defined by a single event. Committing to the

process is what helps us grow. Our identity is defined by our daily actions, not about any single result. The key to changing your outlook is to understand you have a choice as opposed to protecting yourself from failing.

ways to help you develop your growth mindset: 1. Embrace Challenge- Anything worthwhile will not come easy. We reach new understanding when we accomplish something notable.

2. Replace the word failed with the word learned- Think of the difference between saying, “I failed a test” as opposed to “I learned from the test.” 3. Stop seeking approval- Your potential for growth is more important than someone else’s approval. 4. Expand your sense of purpose- Expose yourself to diversity and learn to think differently. Stretch outside your comfort zone. 5. Ask for feedback - Remember constructive criticism assists growth. This is feedback that improves your performance.

6. Use the word “Yet” for a better way to understand your challengesAn example would be "I am not a good free throw shooter, yet." 7. Be inspired by the success of others - The success of others should be seen as an inspiration and as a source of information. Many outstanding leaders had mentors and role models. 8. Surround yourself with growth mindset people- People’s moods become contagious to the people around them. We can’t always choose the mood, but we can choose the circle of people with whom we associate.

A growth mindset puts us on a track to success. It creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education and sports. Michael Jordan displays his growth mindset with this quote,

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ■ Resources

Chandler, S., & Richardson, S. (2013). 100 ways to motivate others: how great leaders can produce insane results without driving people crazy. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press. Blanchard, K. (1996). The One Minute Manager. Harper Collins .

Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books Warren, W. E. (2002). Coaching and motivation: a practical guide to maximum athletic performance. Spring City, PA: Reedswain Pub.


Small Steps for Change in a High School Counseling Office Jaime Carey

Barbara Donnellan

School Counselor Coordinator of Guidance Lindenhurst High School


f your school guidance/counseling

office is anything like ours, most of your

day is spent running in a hundred different directions. Even though there are so many improvements we would love to make to our counseling program, it seems near impossible to tackle such a big undertaking. But the simple reality is, we can always do things better and within our counseling office we have found a great way to do it: Micro-changes. Instead of implementing major change, which requires a lot of time that most of us do not have, little tweaks to what we already do can go a long way in impacting our overall work.

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020

Micro-changes are small additions or

Year Survey.” This is an easy way

adjustments we can make to what we to collect information that we then keep already do. Outlined in this article are a in their file as a reference as we move few of the micro-changes we have forward. The questions can range implemented in our office over the years. anywhere from “intended college major” to Not only have they now become common “interested in playing a sport in college”. practice but they have really helped We have only implemented this form with enhance the things we currently have in our juniors but it can certainly be added to place. By approaching other grades. When the change in this way, not only student comes in for their does it actually happen, but meeting the blue sheet is “Micro-changes it keeps things fresh attached to the Course without becoming Selection Form that the are small burdensome. counselor keeps so it is additions or not an additional piece of The first place we found adjustments we paper to file. an opportunity to add can make to what some micro-changes is our We have also tried to we already do.” scheduling process. put as much information Like other school guidance/ as we can for the juniors counseling offices, we have a system in onto the scheduling sheet. The Course place for our students to select their courses for the following school year. Since Selection Form is two-ply, so that the student and the counselor each keep a we know we will have access to every student in the building during this process, copy. For the student’s copy, we created a label with information about SAT/ACT sign we added a few things here as a way to share important information. In our school up and upcoming parent nights, and a reminder to activate their Naviance teachers bring their classes to our office, account. Naviance is a web-based college and then each student meets individually and career planning and with his/her counselor to create next advising system. We also year’s program. While the other students showed the last date for are waiting in the common area to speak changes to their course with their counselor we give them a small requests on this label. blue sheet to fill out called the “Junior


Not only is this information valuable for the student and parents, but it also serves as a reminder for the counselors to cover all talking points. In terms of accountability, the label is also “proof” that every single junior was given this information. Our next area for improvement has been our Junior College conferences. Over the years, we have created a few pieces of information that have now become standard practice. The first is a “checklist” for the conference itself, which serves as a prompt to each counselor so that we all focus on the same information. Secondly, we created a chart for the student/parent to take on their college visit. This sheet is an organizational tool that helps keep track of all the information from each college. Finally, we supply (yet again) the Naviance website and passcode, which is stapled to a copy of their unofficial transcript. Each student that has a junior conference leaves with these pieces of information. A new micro-change this year is the creation of an evaluation survey. At the conclusion of each junior conference parents are given a survey to fill out so that we can use feedback to continue to improve our office.

Another micro-change to share is the

implementation of “Senior Exit

Interviews”. A few years ago, our department decided to bring the seniors to the Guidance/Counseling office from their social studies classes at the end of the school year. The purpose of this meeting is to make sure we have the results from their college applications, especially where they will be attending. We always mail home a survey to be filled out and returned by a certain date with college application decisions, but the return rate is not good. Creating these interviews has given us a way to track down this information, and demonstrate to the students that their results matter to us. The counselors input the college decisions directly into Naviance while the students are in their offices. Sometimes it works even better than the form because the students forget where they applied and when we read off the list from Naviance they remember colleges they may have otherwise forgotten!

Areas for Micro-Changes 

Evaluation Survey

 Scheduling Process

 Junior Year College Conference

 Course Selection Form

 Senior Exit Interviews

 Junior Year Survey

 Paper College Pennant

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020 Finally, we created a Paper College

Pennant that the students decorate with their name and the college they will be attending. We set out markers, scissors, paper, etc. and they work on this activity while in our office waiting for their turn to see their counselor. Some students draw or attach a picture of themselves or their college; many have gotten very creative! We then display them in a showcase until

the end of the year, and inevitably once the pennants are all hung up more students come down to make sure they have a pennant too. These interviews also allow us a final student contact with seniors who are always hard to track down in the final days of high school. For some it’s a way to say thank you and goodbye and for others it is a way to touch base about a possible graduation issue.

In a world where caseloads often times are increasing and more demands are being placed on school guidance/counseling offices, we have limited time to revamp our practice. Micro-changes have allowed us to continually improve our practice for greater results. With our new state counseling regulations just around the corner, reporting of results will be a key component of our comprehensive school guidance/counseling programs. We hope to hear from some of you about the micro-changes you have created in the hopes of adding it to our office as well! â–


A Solution to the School Counselor’s Dilemma Jan Reilly

School Counselor Shenendehowa High School


chool counseling is an incredibly fulfilling job but it can be fraught with frustration due to a myriad of misconceptions. Too often we find ourselves trying to explain to parents what we do, why we do it and the way we do it. Let’s face it…school counseling, well, it’s complicated. We take many college courses, write a ton of papers and fine tune our counseling skills while we are in graduate school. So much of what we do though is confidential and done behind the scenes, so it’s often the more generic parts of the job that people think of when they hear the term “school counselor,” or the antiquated title “guidance counselor.” It’s true, we do fix schedules, register new

Getting parents, teachers and administrators to understand the unique and complex role of the school counselor is imperative for a multitude of reasons.

students, drop and add courses, and assist students applying to college. Like the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” though, those are all too often the only things that people see. Beneath the water line is the complicated part of our job. It’s the school counselor helping a student who just lost her mother to cancer, the counselor assisting the young man whose father just left the family that is now about to lose their home, the girl who tried to end her life last week and has been hospitalized twice already this year, the boy who overdosed on heroin last week, the student kicked out of his home and staying in a homeless shelter. The list goes on and on. You get the picture.

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020


Getting parents, teachers and administrators to understand the unique and complex role of the school counselor is imperative for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost we want parents to know that we are the point person to contact initially for any mental health issue. It’s critical they understand our role so we can assist them in a timely fashion when their child or family is in crisis and so we can work to get them services as soon as possible. Secondly, people who understand our many responsibilities will be more tolerant if they don’t receive a response back instantly regarding a request such as a schedule adjustment. Thirdly, an educated school community may be more

supportive of school counselor funding to maintain an adequate student to counselor ratio. The recommended ratio according to the ASCA standard is 250 to 1 but according to recent data, the national average is about 482 to 1 but some states have ratios as high as 900 to 1.1 The significance of the school counselor ratio cannot be overstated. Mental health issues are currently soaring among teens and school counselors are on the front lines dealing with these crises on a daily basis. It can seem impossible at times to get people to understand the complexities of our role but there is a way and it’s been in front of us for quite some time now...15+ years actually. It’s called Facebook.

Facebook is wide-reaching, incredibly powerful and it’s free. The Shenendehowa Counseling, College and Career Center launched its Facebook page in January of 2016. We now have over 1,000 followers; mainly the parents of our students. The impact of this technology platform has been far reaching. It has enabled us to share out relevant articles to parents on important topics concerning their teens and parenting. Articles shared have run the gamut of topics including the pressure of college admissions, why sleep is so important to teens, why failure hits girls so hard, how to have an effective college visit, understanding the teenage brain and anxiety in teenagers. The response from parents to our Facebook page has been overwhelming and extremely positive. The articles are carefully vetted and chosen to address topics that are relevant to our student population. They often coincide with our counseling program and augment our curriculum. Other times it can be an article that addresses a sensitive topic but is well written and meaningful to parents and families. The by-product of sharing

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020 these articles is two-fold. First of all, it enables parents and the entire school community to see all the many roles we play as school counselors and the intricacies of our position. Secondly it educates parents regarding topics they may need help with and keeps them abreast of issues affecting their children. Oftentimes parents will share a post they liked or one that struck a chord with them and then even more people get educated on that topic and in turn on our role. By reading the articles over time, parents and school personnel come to understand that we are more than just course schedulers. They learn that school counselors are more than just the person to call when a student is struggling academically and needs a tutor. They come to realize that we are all that and so much more. They discover that we have a unique set of skills that are utilized in a multitude of ways to help all students, not just academically but also emotionally and socially.

As school counselors our role is incredible, impactful and complex. We are typically not the type of people who flaunt our expertise but rather the ones busy working day in day out in the trenches. Facebook can play a powerful role in advertising our skill set, educating parents and staff members about our role, and at the same time giving parents vital information they need to make sound decisions based on current information and research. Facebook is a transformative vehicle that can have a profound effect on a counseling department‌and did I mention that is free? â–

Follow the Shenendehowa Counseling, College and Career center on Facebook. about/


National Association for College Admission Counseling and American School Counselor Association (2018). State-by-State Student-to-Counselor Ratio Report.


NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020


lthough most school counselors are familiar with self-care — even teaching the concept to students, many find it a challenge to put the concept into practice in their own lives. Now, more than ever, school counselors need to identify what will see them through these times of uncertainty. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) defines self-care as any activity that moves one forward in a positive way ( Anyone who has flown on an airplane and listened to the flight attendant before takeoff has been cautioned what to do in the event the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling: Put on your own mask first before trying to help someone else. If you’re gasping for air, you can’t help others. Cynthia Walley, Ph.D., NYSSCA President reminds us that self-care is not an indulgent activity; it is a professional obligation, and an ethical mandate from ASCA. According to ASCA Ethical Standard B.3., school counselors must monitor their own well-being to ensure they are effective in their roles. Therefore, school counselors must first develop their own self-care plan:

1. Make self-care a career-long focus. 2. Plans must promote your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being to support your professional responsibilities. 3. Plans must be realistic. This new Counselor Self-Care and Wellness section of the NYSSCA EDGE will offer suggestions on how to build resilience and cope with stress in a healthy way, and includes voices from the field on how counselors engage in effective self-care practices. We welcome submissions from our readers on their self-care practices and ideas. ■ 17

Self Care & Wellness Corner

Counselor Self-CareAshley Massaro Alyssa Storey M.S. School Counseling candidates Roberts Wesleyan College

What is mindfulness?

School counselors serve on the front line in dealing with trauma and crisis in schools. Counselors who understand the importance of their own wellness and practice self-care are better equipped to meet these demands and are at a lower risk for compassion fatigue. Mindfulness is a practice that promotes awareness of the body, mind, and your surroundings. It's a way to process information and gather moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgement.

How do you practice mindfulness?

There are several ways to practice and improve your ability to use mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness can be difficult at first, but over time it will become more easier You can try:  Yoga or meditation: Can’t attend any yoga classes right now? Try one of the many free videos available on YouTube! When you find one you like, bookmark it so that it is easier to find and do in the future.  Tai-chi: This is a form of martial art that involves the practice of finding total harmony between mind and body.  Body scans: To do a body scan, start with your toes and focus on the sensations you feel. Feel the fabric on your skin, the ground beneath you. Take a few breaths in through the nose, and out through the mouth as you feel these sensations and then progress up the body, focusing on areas such as your knees, hips, stomach, arms, hands, and head.  Breathing exercises: Guided breathing can help you center the mind and ground the body. If breathing exercises are new to you, find a YouTube video of someone talking you through the breathing exercises. Over time you these exercises will become easier and you may be able to do them on your own without the guidance of someone directing you.

Why is mindfulness important?

Mindfulness promotes well-being, lowers stress levels, and increases self-control. It can help increase persistence with challenges, increase ability to reframe and refocus, and help to reduce self-blame. By taking time to practice mindfulness, you can become in-tune with yourself and what your mind and body needs (Finkelstein-Fox et al, 2019).

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020

What does this mean to us? School counseling is a profession with high demands and an ongoing expectation to meet the needs of students and their families. This is especially challenging with COVID 19 and the stressors that come with providing therapeutic support in a pandemic, that can leave counselors feeling emotionally and physically drained. Compassion fatigue can be a common experience due to the multilayered demands of our work and the emotional and physical exhaustion felt caring for others. Compassion fatigue has been described as the “negative cost of caring” (Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M., 2007). Common symptoms of compassion fatigue include: Exhaustion and anxiety • Psychosocial isolation • Decreased job satisfaction leading to possible burnout • Reduced self-esteem • Disrupted personal relationships • Loneliness • Overall ineffectiveness due to attention and concentration issues If you are experiencing compassion fatigue, or any of the symptoms listed above, now might be a great time to incorporate mindfulness into your day. •

Improving mindfulness: Resources

Practice, practice, practice! Mindfulness is a skill, not a talent. Here are some resources to help you develop your skills in mindfulness: 1. Oak is a free app that “helps you decompress by transforming your meditation practice from an experiment into a habit -- Oak tracks your progress and encourages you to continue building a healthy meditation practice.” 2. There are a variety of videos on YouTube to help guide you through Mindfulness exercises such as medication, yoga, and breathing exercises. If this is all new to you, or if you haven't practices mindfulness in a while, try starting out with the “5 Minute Meditation You Can Do Anywhere” on YouTube. v=inpok4MKVLM

3. Mindful Journaling: Rewrite the Script of Your Life (T. Ward, 2017). Mindful Journaling can help you combine writing and relaxation, helping you structure journal entries to clarify your thoughts and feelings, set goals, improve your relationships, harness your inner energy, resolve your problems, and ultimately, build a record of your life – all while de-stressing and finding peace in the process.” ■


Self Care & Wellness Corner

School Counseling in a Pandemic-

Finding Resilience

Tami Sullivan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Roberts Wesleyan College

We’re in a historic moment in our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our sense of normalcy and safety.

routines, loss of health, loss of jobs and income, missing out on planned celebrations, and being Many people are experiencing tremendous loss as physically separated from friends and family. For a result of this pandemic; feelings of stress, those who have lost loved ones during this time, sorrow, and frustration at this loss of normalcy there is also the loss of normal rituals of funerals can be complicated. We feel the world has and communities gathering to grieve together. changed. We know that this change is mostly This loss of connection is collective, it is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that experienced on varying levels by all. way. It isn’t our usual feelings of “Ambiguous loss The kind of grief we are sadness or grief, our grief seems experiencing is especially can freeze the grief more complicated and ambiguous. challenging because it is a reaction process. People to the ambiguity of losing the more In this new COVID-19 reality we can’t get over it, intangible parts of our lives. are living, grief has become a daily they can’t move experience. As with all kinds of This type of loss, which can’t be forward, they’re grief, each individual will have a concretely identified or easily frozen in place.” unique response. Each person is resolved is called ambiguous loss, a going to have a different term developed by Pauline Boss, Pauline Boss, Ph.D. Ph.D., a family therapist and combination of reactions to the emotional toll this pandemic has professor emeritus of social brought onto their lives. But for most, it isn’t the sciences at the University of Minnesota. Boss grieving of the death of a loved one or the loss developed the idea of ambiguous loss to help of a specific object. The kind of grief most are explain the reactions people feel when experiencing now is a collective, pervasive sense experiencing grief that is marked by the inability of loss that is tied to pandemic changes in daily to confirm a person’s whereabouts, their death,

Collective Ambiguous Grief

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020 or their ability to come back and return to “normal”. Out of all of the losses experienced, Boss identifies ambiguous loss as one of the most impactful and long-lasting, due to the uncertainty of the situation, and the feelings of helplessness that result in not knowing what the future will bring. We often feel stuck, living in limbo. School counselors are the best positioned to grapple with the pandemic in their schools. Since the start of the school year, they have been among those on the frontline of the problemsolving crisis. Trained to support students’ emotional and academic well-being, school counselors are leaders, who support students in all of the pandemic educational delivery models. Many school counselors have also become supporters not just to students but to parents and school staff. Yet, school counselors too, can feel stressed and overwhelmed that come with being their school’s comforters-in-chief. Working in a situation of great uncertainty and chronic stress can be exhausting, leading to feeling depleted or worse yet, burnout.

Building Strength and Healing Together It’s important to recognize that that feeling stressed due to ambiguity is normal. The shifting sands in our current lives and the accumulation of impalpable losses is valid, and may elicit the same feelings of grief as a more tangible loss, identified in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Managing ambiguous grief often requires intentional creative practice. The key to discovering your capacity for healing is to develop resilience. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity and loss – bouncing back from difficult experiences. In NYSSCA’s fall 2020 webinar titled “Doing school in a pandemic – Building strength and healing

together”, counselor for elementary students, Teri Caldwell, Brockport Central School District discussed how she supports her students and building staff in the midst of the challenges of performing her job in the pandemic. Caldwell stressed the importance of developing a resiliency mindset, built upon collective strength and healing by cultivating a strong, supportive school community. Over the years, her school has experienced great trauma and loss, among the students, families and staff. She has been purposeful in supporting both students and building staff through grief and loss therapeutic activities, team building, and vetting outside community resources and supports. While the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic have challenged her building, Caldwell is steadfast in her efforts to continue to build on the relationships she has formed with building staff, students and families. She does this in a number of creative ways – offering virtual support groups and restorative circles, identification and sharing of resources, daily check-ins and bridging the gap between parents and teachers. The key to resilience, Caldwell says is staying as positive and flexible as you can and keeping the school community informed. Another webinar presenter, Erin Hassall, Director of the Spencerport Schools Family Support Center emphasized the importance of implementing self-care practices in one’s daily routine. Our Western culture values overwork. Someone who cultivates resiliency is mindful of not allowing themselves to succumb to this tendency, instead, recognizing when they need to rest and engage in soothing activities. During trying times, purposeful self-care practices can help us conserve energy and build resiliency by being aware of what we need physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Hassall supports teachers and staff in her district by introducing them to grounding, relaxation and mindfulness activities and facilitates professional development designed to build resiliency.


Beginning of the school year poster given to all staff by Hassall

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020

G .L .A . D. Once we become more comfortable with the ambiguity and the uncertainly of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can be freer to imagine and discover new sources of hope. Through the acceptance of our “new normal”, we can begin to unfreeze our grief and create hope. This begins by acknowledging what is no longer normal and look for things that are good, things that can be gained. Hassell uses a mindfulness exercise adapted from Donald Altman’s The Mindfulness Toolbox, that helps identify the built-in silver linings that can be right under our noses called the G.L.A.D. technique. Go ahead and close your eyes, …and as you relax, begin to picture the feeling of Glad. You may want to imagine the last time you experienced the feeling of glad in your life. As you picture and feel the emotion of glad, go ahead and smile. Breathing in glad, breathing out any tension or stress. As you continue to imagine that feeling of glad, we are going to start with the letter G of glad. The letter G stands for Gratitude or something that you are thankful for today. As you think about your day, try to think about something you are grateful for. This can represent the most basic gratitude, such as having food and water, sunlight, a body that works well enough, a roof over your head. Your gratitude might also be about appreciating those truly significant things in your life – such as a devoted relationship, meaningful work, etc. Breathing in your gratitude, breathing out any tension or stress. Continue to picture and feel the emotion of glad. Next, we are going to focus on the letter L of glad. The letter L stands for one new thing you Learned today. This can be something you learned about yourself today, such as noticing an insight or wisdom that you possess. It could mean having an open attitude so that you can discover something new and interesting. This might just have to do with learning a new fact or gaining a new

perspective on something and that might make you happy because it is fun to be curious and to learn. Breathing in your learning, breathing out any tension or stress. Continue to picture and feel the emotion of glad. Next, we are going to focus on the letter A of glad. The letter A stands for one small Accomplishment you did today. Often, we mistakenly believe an accomplishment has to be something supersized. In truth, an accomplishment can be that ordinary act of selfcare that you did for yourself or another. Examples might be getting enough sleep, not skipping meals, getting dressed in the morning or doing anything that moves you even slightly. Breathing in your accomplishment, breathing out any tension or stress. Continue to picture and feel the emotion of glad. Lastly, we are going to focus on the letter D of glad. The D stands for one thing of Delight that touched you today. Consider anything that makes you laugh, smile, or brings you joy. This can be a thing of beauty that you notice during the day. Examples can be hearing a bird chirp, seeing the sun-shining, laughing at a funny joke, tasting food, returning a smile, etc. Breathing in your delight, breathing out any tension or stress. Continue to relax for a few moments, allowing your thoughts to think about your GLAD – your gratitude, learning, accomplishment, and delight. When you are ready to wake up your body and your mind, and return to the present, give yourself a few moments to do so. Keep with you the feeling of glad and calm you had while you were relaxing, as you open your eyes and sit quietly for a moment. Recognizing and addressing ambiguous loss affirms what we feel and helps mitigate its devastating effects on our lives. Knowing that what we are going through has name, is the first step in building resiliency. This allows us to set in place self-care practices that provide a fallback when life gets tough. Finding meaning in these difficult and challenging times makes it possible for us to better serve others. ■


A Walk in the Woods Dr. Sean Finnerty

Assistant Professor & Coordinator of School Counseling Program Counseling and Psychological Services Department, SUNY Oswego


always considered myself fortunate that as a child that I grew up in a home where I had access to a significant amount of “green space”. In my case it was a 30-acre lot behind my house that was a mix of trees and swamp. This meant as a child I had the freedom to create tree forts as well as the opportunity to come home covered in mud from the swamp, something my mother didn’t always appreciate. The availability of this green space played an important role in my early development allowing me to explore with my very active imagination. Perhaps more importantly it allowed me a quiet space to simply be, while I watched and listened to the treetops move in the breeze. In today’s parlance this would be called living in the moment, it was simply wonderful. Sadly, time moved ahead and life events like college, starting a career, and having children, while rewarding on their own, caused me to lose my close childhood connection with nature. Fast forward almost 40 years and now my children are grown, and I am fortunate enough to have both a job and a spouse that are flexible enough to give me the opportunity to reconnect. One of the main ways that I have done this is by engaging in several multi-day solo backpacking trips. One of my first trips was a four-day 50-mile hike around Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks. In many respects this was an almost surreal experience in that one of the things I looked forward to the most, disconnecting from technology, was the most challenging to experience. I don’t think we really realize how pervasive technology has become in our lives. For me this showed up on the first night when my fancy backpacking stove was giving me problems. I whipped out my

iPhone to look up instructions on how to work the stove, only to realize that I had no connection, I was totally off the grid. I have to admit this filled me some trepidation, but soon after I started to enjoy the complete and total lack of interruptions. The hike became a walking meditation of sorts in that I really didn’t have anything else to do other than be in the moment and explore the world around me. Toward the end of the second day, while laying in my hammock watching and listening to the treetops move in the breeze, brought me back to the green space behind my childhood home and my newly remembered connection to nature. It was once again, simply wonderful. I have also taken the opportunity to do some backpacking trips with friends. I have become fascinated by the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) and while I realized I don’t really have six months to hike the trail all at once, as I didn’t think my spouse’s flexibility would go quite that far, there was nothing preventing me from section hiking the trail for a week or two each year. In 2019 with a small group of childhood friends, some of whom spent time in the green space behind my house, I hiked the first 40 miles of the AT in Georgia. I like to think we went into the experience with our eyes wide open as we called ourselves the “Sloth Hiking Club” and our motto was “we get there when we get there.” Yes, tee shirts were made. It was physically challenging, and I was amazed at how quickly we fell back into childhood relational patterns (i.e., lots of regression). The 2020 AT trip was canceled due to Covid, but 2021 is already on the books for next May back down in Georgia. In the meantime, I am looking forward to my next chance to disconnect from technology and to simply walk in the woods, wherever that might be. ■

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020



Sticks & Stones: Helping Young People Cope with Offensive, Hurtful, or Unwelcome Speech


or generations, American children were taught this simple rhyme...but what about when words do hurt? We can all remember times when another person’s words stung us terribly. We wish we could prevent other people from saying upsetting things, but the First Amendment, for a number of reasons, protects offensive speech and will continue to do so. As a result, there are some types of insensitive expressions and unwelcome ideas that you are going to have to accept as part of living in a free society. When presented with difficult situations, it can be helpful to remember, you don’t control what other people do; you only control what you do. So, how do you handle and overcome offensive, ignorant, and even hateful comments – without letting them damage your self-esteem or your emotional state? Your goal is to build emotional resilience – the ability to cope with and bounce back strongly

Bonnie Snyder Director of High School Outreach Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

and efficiently from life’s challenges. According to psychological theory, coping means to use conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to minimize or tolerate stress or conflict. That way, when faced with upsetting and challenging speech, you are not helpless. There are skills that we can teach children, and learn ourselves, to assist us in mastering challenges and discomforts we face in life. Personal growth, after all, happens largely in the discomfort zone, where we have to stretch ourselves to build mental and emotional strength. You have several sound psychological principles and strategies available to you:


NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020


Cognitive theory teaches us that there are two categories of thoughts that we can choose from: helpful and unhelpful. Since thoughts determine our feelings, it makes sense to choose thoughts that empower and help rather than debilitate.

Seligman’s Learned Optimism

Martin Seligman’s system of Learned Optimism According to the cognitive can be used to challenge unhelpful thoughts psychologist, Albert Ellis, and lead to more empowering helpful thoughts. life does not upset us. Learned optimism teaches you to resist the Rather, our perspective impulse to take unfortunate events personally does. When written out, by coming up with a mental response that is this information may seem specific and impersonal. Many people harbor obvious. faulty beliefs about life that do not However, it is not the way many hold up against logical of us naturally think. Ellis’ ABC “According to examinations. These beliefs can be Model teaches us that we can unconscious, but still have a psychological exercise choice over our considerable amount of influence theory, coping thoughts to gain control of our over how a person thinks, behaves, means to use emotions. The ABC Model conscious effort to or feels. When you become specifies that what we think conscious of these patterns, you about what happens to us is what solve personal and can find that some beliefs are not changes how things turn out. interpersonal true and can even be outright silly. Consider two children raised in problems, in order Then, when you challenge these a dysfunctional home. to try to minimize beliefs, you learn you can laugh, One uses the or tolerate stress scoff, dismiss, ignore, avoid, or unfortunate background or conflict.” directly respond to them. This as an excuse to be a failure, shows that you can be your own while the other uses it as a reason worst enemy by giving away a lot to succeed. If you asked how of power over your emotions to others, instead they turned out that way, each would say: “How could I turn out differently? Look at my of claiming it appropriately for yourself. Dad!” The “A” stands for Adversity or Beware: Dichotomous Thinking Activating Event - when something unpleasant happens to you. The “C” stands for Dichotomous thinking, or Black-White or AllConsequences – how things turn out, good or or-Nothing thinking, is an unhelpful thought bad. The mediating factor between these two process that can oversimplify information. things is “B” – your beliefs. Adversity à Beliefs Rather than being perfectly black and white, à Consequences. most of life’s situations and people find themselves somewhere in the gray zone. To If you believe that setbacks are temporary and help yourself develop more adaptive responses, you have the emotional resources to cope with and overcome setbacks, then the consequences increase your comfortability with the ambiguity in life. are more likely to be positive.


Self-Efficacy Self-Efficacy refers to your own belief in your ability to take action and cope with challenges. The higher the self-efficacy the more likely you are to take effective action against adversity. To grow self-efficacy, try talk therapy to help you to give meaning to your experiences and place them in the proper perspectives.

Explanatory Style and Attribution Style An explanatory style refers to how a person explains a specific experience to themselves, positive or negative. Learned optimism can help people to cultivate a helpful explanatory style that leads to positive outcomes and proactive choices. Similarly, attribution style, by Richard Lazarus, says that there are three attribution

styles to cope with unwanted stressors:

Problem-focused, Appraisal-focused, and Emotion-focused. Problem-focused seeks to reduce or get rid of the stressors, which is good to use when you can alter the stressor, such as walking away, not attending an upsetting event, or using your speech rights in return. In terms of reappraisal, it is undeniable that the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is not true emotionally because being called names can certainly hurt feelings. But perhaps reappraise the saying to this empowering adaptation, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never break my bones and my emotions are under my control.”

Behaviorism teaches us we have learned to respond to events the way that we do, and that, if we choose, we can use the same learning principles to acquire different, more helpful responses.

Adlerian Techniques Adlerian therapy uses the “Push Button” technique to restore inner calm when faced with a threat and the “Change the Channel” technique to reset your inner experience. Other useful strategies would be to use aromatherapy, relaxing music, structured breathing exercises, yoga, and other self-soothing techniques to help release pent -up tension. Many of us develop some bad mental habits – and sometimes we are not even aware of them. An example would be when a person remembers everything negative and upsetting that was ever happened or said to them to confirm a negative worldview. This is called Injustice Collecting, which tends to happen subconsciously. If you

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020 believe that the world is a bad place, it can ironically feel good to hear information that supports that perspective, because it confirms that you are “right”. Some people like to revisit their injustice collection to examine all the negative experiences to justify whatever hurt feelings they may have, this is commonly called a “pity party.” Pity parties may feel satisfying in the short-term, but it is not a healthy long-term habit to make because it can reinforce negative feelings. Remember the saying: “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can plant flowers or you can plant weeds.”

we make ourselves unhappy and can’t seem to escape it. Unchecked rumination has been associated with anxiety and depression, which is why it is important to earn to stop repetitively and reflexively ruminating. To try and break the habit of rumination, try interruption and thoughtsubstitution (like the “push-button” technique). If you find yourself easily or overly upset but other people’s comments and thoughts, consider working on stress management, coping, and confrontation skills – these are all great ways to build resilience. You can also learn to anticipate upsetting situations and pre-consider them. That way you can rehearse and consider various ways to Rumination respond. You could even role-play your responses for likely encounters so that you feel more in Try to avoid rumination, this is when we repeated control and calm. re-play an upsetting situation over and over until


Looking towards philosophies like Stoicism, existentialism, and Buddhism teaches us to expect discomfort but not be too concerned about these discomforts. If we can detach ourselves from upsetting events, we can take control and move past the events with minimal disruptions. Taoism teaches us that everything can be a mix of good and bad, so don’t be too quick to judge. Something that appears to be a curse, can turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Many people also find it helpful to think about forgiveness. Forgiveness is a healthy way of handling other’s negative behaviors and allowing yourself to let go of the situation. You have the power to determine the meaning you will give to another person’s words. Remind yourself that others cannot control your thoughts and that you can choose to be happy and to put a positive spin on things, even when faced with anger or offensive language. You can also use humor to defuse tension. Remember that other people’s words do not define you and that you do not have to take anything personally. Ugly words say more about the person uttering them than they do about you.


Rotter and Internal Locus of Control Another consideration is to educate yourself on why other people do things the way they do. Once you understand the psychological reasons behind people’s annoying and unpleasant behaviors or words, you will likely find yourself less bothered. You may even start to become intrigued and amused by “curious” behaviors. The minute you refuse to take offense, hostile words lose their power over you. You can choose to be happy, even when faced with offensive language by taking charge of your own internal environment.

An internal locus of control means that you believe that you are the source of most of the things that happen to you. You are not merely at the mercy of outside events. People with strong self-efficacy and an internal locus of control are more likely to be resilient to other people’s behaviors and words and understand that they can only control what they do. another strategy is to keep busy. The busier you are, the less energy and time you will have to spend on negativity. Practice saying to yourself: “Oh, well” when life throws you a curveball. Choosing not to get upset at things around you is up to you.

Dr. Thomas Gordon’s Effectiveness Training teaches us that we have 3 choices when dealing with a problem situation. You can either:

1. Change yourself 2. Change the environment, or 3. Attempt to change the other person. Most people immediately prefer option 3 – changing the other person – unfortunately, this is the hardest one to do, since you do not have direct control over another individual. The only person you really ever control is yourself. You could use option 1 and alter your internal processing, as we discussed above. You might have some ability to alter the environment you are in. Some things are avoidable: you don’t need to attend talks on upsetting topics or spend time around unpleasant people. Be wise with your limited emotional resources; don’t expend them in fruitless ways. If you do decide to try to change the other person, try using I-Messages to express how the other person’s behavior directly affects you. “when you say that, my feelings are hurt.” Don’t assign blame, interpret their motivations, or judge them. Then, the other party gets to choose their response. Most people do not want to hurt other people’s feelings, so if you communicate authentically and convincingly, then there is a likelihood that the other person will alter their behavior. If the other party continues behaving in a way that is unacceptable to you, wish them well and move on. You could also engage in a confrontational dialogue, if necessary. Developing strong, convincing rhetorical skills is one of the best ways to defend yourself against an aggressive speaker and to improve society. As we have all heard, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020 The martial artist Bruce Lee said, “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Motivational speaker Jim Rohn put it differently. He said: “Don’t ask for an easy life. Ask for it to be worth it.” Life is full of hardships to overcome, and the reward for overcoming them is the personal development you attain in the process. You are not helpless in the face of unwanted or offensive speech. You have multiple strategies for coping and responding and the more you exercise your

resiliency skills, the more capable and equipped you will become to handle life’s unavoidable vicissitudes. Remember that, while the First Amendment does protect offensive speech, it does not protect harassment. If you are being repetitively targeted, then there may be legal recourse available to you. And don’t forget that the First Amendment doesn’t only protect other people; it also protects YOU. So, use your free speech rights to express yourself and to spread positive, empowering messages that will uplift yourself and others and make the world a better place! ■

References Adler, A. (2014). Understanding Human Nature:

The Psychology of Personality. OneWorld Reprint Edition: USA. Bandura, A. (1982). "Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency". American Psychologist. 37 (2): 122–147. Benson, Herbert. (2000.) The Relaxation Response. USA: Harper Collins. Bokanowski, T. and Lewkowicz, S. On Freud's "Splitting of the ego in the process of defense" (London 2009) p. x. Dryden, W. & Neenan, M. (2005.) Getting Started with REBT; Routledge, Dryden, W. (2005.) Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy in a Nutshell (Counselling in a Nutshell); Sage Publications,. Dryden, W. (2002.) Fundamentals of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy: A Training Manual; John Wiley & Sons. Dryden, W. (2003.) Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy; Theoretical Developments; Brunner-Routledge. Dryden, W. et al., (1992.) A Practitioner's Guide to Rational-Emotive Therapy; Oxford University Press. Dryden, W. Di Giuseppe, R. & Neenan, M. (2002.) A Primer on Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (2nd ed.); Research Press. Ellis, A. (2001.) Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Prometheus Books: USA. Ellis, A., et al., (1997.) A Guide to Rational Living (3rd rev ed.); Wilshire Book Company, Ellis, A. & Dryden, W. (2007.) The Practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (2nd ed.); Springer Publishing. Ellis, A. & MacLaren, C. (2005.) Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: A Therapist's Guide (2nd ed.); Impact Publishers. Ellis, A. (1963.) Reason and Emotion in Psycho-

therapy. Lyle Stuart: New York. Gould, J. R., Prentice, N. M. & Ainslie, R. C. (1996). "The splitting index: construction of a scale measuring the defense mechanism of splitting". Journal of Personality Assessment 66 (2), 414–430. McLeod, S. “Attribution Theory.” Simply Psychology. Retrieved 27 April 2017. Malle, B. (2004). How the Mind Explains Behavior: Folk Explanations, Meaning, and Social Interaction. MIT Press. Gellatly, R., Beck, A. (2016.) Catastrophic Thinking: A Transdiagnostic Process Across Psychiatric Disorders. Springer Science+Business Media: New York. Thomas, G. (2008 ). Parent Effectiveness Training. (1st Revision.) Harmony Publishers: USA Graham; Folkes (1990). Attribution Theory: Applications to Achievement, Mental Health, and Interpersonal Conflict. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Kamen, L., Seligman, M. (1987). "Explanatory style and health". Current Psychological Research and Reviews. 6 (3): 207–218. Lazarus, R. (1966). Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York: McGraw-Hill. Lazarus, R. & Folkman, S. (1984.) Stress, Appraisal, and Coping p.141. Oshio, A. (2009.) "Development and Validation of the Dichotomous Thinking Inventory." Social Behavior and Personality. 37(6), 729 -742. Rotter, J. (1966). "Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement". Psychological Monographs: General and Applied. 80: 1–28. Seligman, M. (1998.) Learned Optimism. New York, NY: Pocket Books. Seligman, M. ??? S. Nolen-Hoeksema (1987). "Explanatory style and depression". In D.

Magnusson and A. Ohman. Psychopathology: An Interactional Perspective. New York: Academic Press. pp. 125–139. Selye, H. (1978). The stress of life (Rev. ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Selye, H. (1938). "Adaptation Energy". Nature. 141(3577): 926. Siegel, J. P. (2006). "Dyadic splitting in partner relational disorders". Journal of Family Psychology, 20 (3), 418–422. Sweeney, P., Anderson, K., Bailey, S. (1986). "Attributional style in depression a metaanalytic review". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 50 (5): 974–91. “Relationships Between Refraining From Catastrophic Thinking, Repetitive Negative Thinking, and Psychological Distress.” (2016.) Psychological Reports. Vol. 119(2) 374-394. Zeidner, M. & Endler, N. (editors) (1996.) Handbook of Coping: Theory, Research, Application. New York: John Wiley.


Exemplary Program:

To enhance mental health literacy and empathy through discussions, classroom presentations, and public speaking. By bringing visuals and resources into schools our goal is to make reaching out for support more acceptable through peer-based activities and connections. Melissa Smith School Counselor North Salem Schools

What does the Warr;ors club do?

Warr;ors club seeks to educate and change perceptions in schools about mental health for all. It promotes mental health awareness while addressing possible stigmas using school-based education and training. The Warr;ors club uses a student-involved approach (events, activities, & social media) to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Learn more about Warr;ors by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Social media links: Instagram:


What kind of events and activities does the Warr;ors club put on within the school?        

Presentations at school assemblies and faculty meetings Creating informative posters to be hung in the school Decorating bulletin boards Warr;or Wednesday PSAs Mental Health and Wellness Fairs for elementary & middle schoolers Addressing current events that impact youth mental health (COVID-Death of George Floyd, 2020) Writing and producing short plays that focus on the mental health continuum experiences of students Networking with other schools and community agencies

Why do school needs Warr;ors?

We all have mental health. 1 in 5 kids struggle with their mental health. Mental health problems can happen to any young person, regardless of age, race, culture, SES, political beliefs, sexuality, disability, gender identity, religious beliefs or other forms of personal expression. The Warr;ors club could fulfill some of New York State’s new social-e motional learning benchmarks for grades K-12:

“Develop self-awareness and self-management skills essential to success in school and in life. Use social awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships. Demonstrate ethical decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts” (June 30, 2018, NYSED Gov).

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020

If you are feeling depressed, angry, or anxious – you are not alone. There is no one to blame for it and there should be no shame in it. We all experience mental health problems from time to time. Feelings like sadness, worry, anger, fear, and grief are understandable reactions to negative events in our lives, and typically do not last very long. But if these feelings continue for long periods, become overwhelming, and ‘get in the way’ of daily life, then something more serious may be happening. Mental health difficulties cover a whole range of negative feelings that just won’t go away. A person can have unpredictable moods, anxiety, trouble sleeping, eating problems, or just feel really, really sad all the time. The good news is that mental health issues can be managed and overcome. The sooner one gets help, the quicker these feelings will go away. About 90% of those in treatment are successful.

Mental health is the part of your overall health that focuses on: How you feel, think, and behave How you cope with the ups and downs of everyday life How stress affects you How you deal with the negative things that happen in your life How you feel about yourself and your life How you see yourself and your future Your self-esteem and your confidence

Contributing Factors to mental health problems:

Biological Factors- Such as genetics - whether a family member has a mental health issue

• • •

Negative Early Life Experiences- For example - abuse, neglect, death of a loved one, or discrimination, trauma Individual Factors- For example - self-esteem, thoughts about yourself and others, being bullied for your race or sexual identity Current social circumstances- For example - school, work, relationship or family stress, or negative life events; such as COVID and social unrest


Furthermore, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%” (2019). According to NAMI, more than 1/3 of students with mental health disorders drop out of school, and more than 90% of people who complete suicide show signs of some variety of mental health disorders.

“Between 1991 and 2017, suicide attempts among black adolescents increased by 73%, while attempts among white youth decreased, according to an analysis of more than 198,000 high school students nationwide,” (Lindsey, M.A., et al., Pediatrics, Vol. 144, No. 5, 2019). “Other studies have shown an elevated risk of suicide among African American boys ages 5 to 11,” (Bridge, J.A., et al., JAMA Pediatrics, Vol. 172, No. 7, 2018).

The stigma surrounding mental health, especially in middle and high school settings keeps students from seeking help and support. By educating and changing the perceptions of the student body, parents, and faculty will help the Warr;ors to work on ending the stigma surrounding mental health and benefit the school community.

NYSSCA EDGE | December 2020

1. Finding an advisor:

To begin a Warr;ors club at your school, you will need to find a dedicated faculty member to serve as the advisor. Because the Warr;ors club is primarily student-driven, the advisor needs to be someone trusted by both faculty and students. Effective advisors may be counselors, support staff, teachers, school-aids, or coaches. The advisor should not be “appointed”, but be a volunteer who is passionate about the cause and believes in the Warr;ors’ mission. The advisor is responsible for working with the school and administration to get approval, funding (if indicated), and support for Warr;ors projects and events. The advisors should also be willing to partner with community agencies. Once designated, the advisor’s first responsibility is to reach out to Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) to help identify founding member students. Initially, this only needs to be two or three students. Once administrative support is acquired, member recruitment will begin.

2. Obtaining school/faculty support:

One of the key elements for a successful Warr;ors club is strong administrative support, which requires clear communication between the advisor, members, and administrators. It is recommended that interested students compile a document outlining the Warr;iors club’s expectations, goals, and types of support needed from the administration (e.g. financial, physical, etc.) The advisor will present the Warr;ors’ goals to the administration and then bring back questions or concerns to the students. Club members, with the support of the advisor, develop a plan to overcome the obstacles brought to their attention. The advisor will then communicate the adapted plan to the administration.

3. Kick-Off Event

Another way to recruit members and bring attention to the Warr;ors Club and its goals is through a well-executed kick-off event. The Warr;ors Club recommends doing the ‘Door Project.’ Kick-off event. The Door Project focuses on Josh Yandt, a student from Canada. Josh struggled with bullying and depression and through his own act of kindness, Josh changed his entire life. These acts of kindness turned Josh’s life around. The kick-off event will begin with every class simultaneously watching this video clip, (https:// The principal, a student club member, and the advisor will speak over the PA and explain the premise of the video, emphasizing the need for connection within the school. Then, they will invite the students to sign their door (which is a physical full-sized door) during their lunch/free periods. The door symbolizes the opening of hope to stomp out mental health stigma. By signing the door, students are committing to aid in these efforts. The door should be placed next to a table with related resources and a club sign-up sheet. Members and/or the advisor should be there to speak about the goals of the Warr;ors club. This door will become an icebreaker for future club discussions and should be placed in a visible location representing the school’s fight against mental health stigma. ■


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NYSSCA Edge-Volume 3. December 2020  


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