Small group counseling is a relevant and important responsive service that our department implements. Aligned with our department's vision and mission, we use a proactive approach and collaborative efforts with other educators to facilitate student growth. All students’ individual differences and special needs are taken into consideration when planning and implementing the school counseling’s small group services.
In analyzing the Virginia School report card, we found attendance issues among Gap group 1 students compared to all students. Our program goal was to support them so that their school attendance increased. Data was compiled for all grade level students who had missed 15 or more days in the 2014-2015 school year, then narrowed to students who had missed 10 or more days in prior years. A final list was created with those students identified in Gap Group 1. A total of 35 students received six weeks of small group lessons that explained truancy, goal-setting, prioritizing, the importance of routine and planning, and coping. Due to the number of risk factors that accompanied each of these children, we knew that there was a portion of their attendance issue that was not within their limits of control. A 10% increase in attendance for these students meant moving the needle in a positive direction, while not creating an overwhelming or unattainable goal for these struggling students.
This intervention created the following results: 6th grade- 100%; 7th grade- 80%; 8th grade- 71% improved their attendance by 10% from the previous year. The three students that did not make the goal in 7th grade had health-related issues that explained their lack of attendance growth (Concussion, mental health issues resulting in hospitalization and on pain medication for a broken foot). The four students that did not make the goal in 8th grade had health-related and personal family issues that were out of their control (Concussion, Step-father unexpectedly died, residency issues). In total, 74% or 28 of our students increased their attendance. Also, students who participated in the fall semester group compared to those in the spring semester group had a better success rate. In the future, all attendance groups will be held in the fall semester. The way these students were able to link new successes, both academic and social, to being present and involved in their education, was evidence that these lessons created a sustainable climate and relationship for these students.
A group of four 8th grade students were identified as recently losing a loved one. These students’ education was being impacted by their grief, evident by their increased absences, dropping grades, and constant requests to see the counselor or go to the clinic. These symptoms made it apparent a different intervention was needed to support them. Their assigned counselor ran a four week group to help build their coping skills, acknowledge their grief, and build a foundation for their life without their loved one. By the end of the four weeks, these student’s request to see the counselor and go to the clinic had diminished, they were able to discuss their grief more freely, and they were planning on what their future looked like without their loved one present.
Twelve 6th graders identified themselves as having trouble with their family situation. A divorce group was led by the sixth grade counselor for a total of six sessions. These students learned about what is in their control, positive and negative sides to divorce, blended families, and coping strategies. If the need arises in the future this group will be replicated. Students and parents were appreciative of the opportunity for their children to receive support during this time of family change.
A small group of four 6th grade students, led by the intern, was offered to focus on how to cope with anxiety. These students struggled with anxiety during individual counseling sessions. Topics covered included: physical symptoms, coping, and Mindfulness. These students reported to have less anxiety at the end of the group.
A small group of four 7th graders was offered to improve achievement by strengthening their study skills. These students were identified from the D/F list and their academic history showed consistently low grades. Topics addressed spanned, time management, organization, how to study, and test taking strategies. At the conclusion of the group, 50% of the students had improved their grades and did not need to attend summer school to promote to 8th grade. Teacher observations reported that 100% of the student performed increasingly better on tests and quizzes.