The Student Services Department at Maine West High School successfully implemented and ran the Social-Emotional Well-Being Group in four different cycles during the 2015-2016 school year. The curriculum was originally created with the purpose of supporting students struggling with depression and helping them to learn skills and strategies for coping so that they could improve attendance and be more successful academically. This intervention is aligned with our department’s vision to empower students to achieve academic, career and personal/social growth to their fullest potential. Furthermore, the purpose of the group is directly tied to our goal of decreasing reported stress in the sophomore class by 5% fro 46% (as evidenced in our needs assessment results from the 2015). Lastly, this initiative aligns with the following ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors:
1. Belief in development of whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well-being
2. Self-confidence in ability to succeed
Behavior: Social Skills (Social/Emotional)
1. Use effective oral and written communication skills and listening skills
2. Create positive and supportive relationships with other students
3. Create relationships with adults that support success
Behavior: Learning Strategies (Social/Emotional)
7. Identify long- and short-term academic, career and social/emotional goals
The first cycle of Social-Emotional Well-Being Group Students that participated in the group were referred through our Problem Solving Team based on self-referrals, teacher referrals, or referrals brought up directly from the Problem Solving Team. Students participating had been identified as sophomores, struggling with sadness and/or depression, and as a result, struggled to maintain satisfactory attendance and/or successful academic performance. Also, we realized that many of the students that identified with this type of obstacle also indicated a challenge to managing stress. Once a group of sophomores were identified, their school counselor invited them for a brief pre-screening process through an individual meeting and explained the opportunity and details of the group. Students’ participation was voluntary but certainly highly encouraged. Ultimately, the groups consisted of 8 students that participated in a group that ran for 8 weeks by two school counselors (Shamoon Ebrahimi and Allyson Adams), rotating through the periods, so that students did not miss a class more than one time during the group cycle. All participants were given a pre-test at the start of the group and a post-test upon exiting the group for the collection of perception data.
Each week a new lesson was presented to help students to learn strategies for coping with their Depression in the school setting. The first lesson included an ice breaker so that students could get to know one another and feel comfortable in the group setting. At this time basic rules for group were set and a discussion regarding confidentiality occurred as well. At the next group an activity about the definition, signs and symptoms of Depression was presented in order for students to have a better understanding about Depression and the treatment of it. In the following weeks, family dynamics, resources and support systems were discussed so that students could identify who they could reach out to both in and outside of school when in need. A list of outside services were provided to students as well. The remaining sessions of group included activities regarding self-care and coping strategies, limited thinking patterns and ways to re-frame thinking, and positive communication skills. Finally at the closing session the participants received positive affirmations from their peers and had an open discussion about the group and what they learned through the process.
When analyzing the perception data of this intervention, we saw that prior to intervention, 63% reported high feelings of sadness and/or depression while 38% them after the intervention, which was a 25% decrease. Yet, prior to intervention, 50% correctly identified examples of coping skills while 25% correctly identified them after the intervention, which was a 25% decrease. In turn, this allowed us to reflect and work harder at teaching the meaning of coping skills and examples of them with the ensuing cycles. When presented with a classroom scenario that assessed their skills, 75% correctly identified the skill of coping with depression in a classroom scenario, prior to and after the intervention. As a result, there was no change in identification of the appropriate skill from the pre-test and post-test. This was another indication that more time needed to be spent on communication techniques when students experienced feelings of sadness and/or depression in the school setting.