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What to do with kids’ anxiety: An educator’s guide to the Mental Health Continuum of Care

What to do with kids’ anxiety: An educator’s guide to the Mental Health Continuum of Care

As an educator, you’re no stranger to the myriad of challenges students face daily. Among these, mental health issues like anxiety can profoundly impact a student’s academic performance and overall well-being. Mental Health is much like our physical health in that depending on the severity of the problem, different treatments are needed.

Educator’s Guide to the Mental Health Continuum of Care

Navigating the mental health continuum of care can be confusing at first, but is vital for providing effective support tailored to each student’s needs. I can quickly break it down for you through various scenarios to explore the different levels of care within this continuum. (Listen to a podcast about it)

Stories from the School Counselor’s Desk

1. Scenario: Traditional Outpatient Therapy

Meet Sarah, a 16-year-old student struggling with early signs of anxiety. She often finds herself overwhelmed by schoolwork and social interactions. Sarah confides in her school counselor, Ms. Johnson, who recommends Traditional Outpatient Therapy. Ms. Johnson appropriately connects Sarah with a licensed community partner who specializes in anxiety disorders. Through weekly sessions, Sarah learns coping strategies like box breathing and mindfulness. Over time, Sarah gains confidence and begins to manage her anxiety more effectively.

2. Scenario: Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Jason, a 14-year-old student, experiences panic attacks that interfere with his daily life and have prevented him from even showing up to school lately. His school counselor, Mr. Ramirez, suggests an intensive outpatient program (IOP) to provide more structured support. In the IOP, Jason attends 3 group counseling sessions each week, as well as an individual session. Mr. Ramirez knows that like physical health, if we want to grow bigger, stronger faster, we have to exercise more than once a week. This is the level of care that helps kids become mentally stronger and emotionally resilient. With the guidance of his therapists and support from peers, Jason learns to recognize and challenge his anxious thoughts. The structured environment helps him regain control over his life.

3. Scenario: Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Emma, a 15-year-old student, has been struggling with severe anxiety and depression. Despite attending therapy sessions, she finds it challenging to cope with her symptoms. Concerned for her well-being, her school counselor, Mrs. Patel, suggests a partial hospitalization program (PHP). In the PHP, Emma receives intensive treatment during the day while still returning home in the evenings. She participates in therapy sessions, medication management, and educational workshops aimed at building coping skills. With the support of her family and treatment team, Emma begins to see hope for recovery and will likely need to step down to IOP for aftercare.

4. Scenario: Residential Treatment

Tyler, a 17-year-old student, has been grappling with anxiety and substance abuse issues for years. His behavior has become increasingly erratic, and he struggles to function in a traditional school setting. Recognizing the severity of his condition, his school counselor, Mr. Thompson, recommends residential treatment. Tyler enters a residential facility where he receives 24/7 care and support. In addition to therapy and medication management, he engages in activities that promote personal growth and recovery. With time, Tyler learns to manage his anxiety and substance use, paving the way for a brighter future.

5. Scenario: Inpatient Treatment – Suicidal

Mia, a 13-year-old student, experiences a sudden onset of severe anxiety and paranoia. Her behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and she expresses suicidal thoughts. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, her school counselor, Ms. Garcia, accompanies her to the emergency room. Mia is admitted to the psychiatric ward for inpatient treatment. Under the care of psychiatric professionals, she receives stabilization and intensive therapy to address her acute symptoms. After care for Mia’s condition will need to include at least IOP level of care to help sustain her and help her return to her normal life.

Conclusion:

As a school counselor, understanding the mental health continuum of care is essential for effectively supporting students like Sarah, Jason, Emma, Tyler, and Mia. Each scenario illustrates the importance of tailoring interventions to meet the unique needs of students at different points along the continuum. By providing access to appropriate care options, you can help educate parents and empower students to overcome their mental health challenges and thrive academically and personally.

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