We offer two therapeutic small groups that address a social/emotional concern. All counselors facilitate at least one group. We highlighted our grief groups, as we have observed that this is a rising need among our students. We offered multiple grief groups this year due to the increase of losses that students have been faced with.
Students were selected through our Behavioral Health Team (BHT) screening process. Teachers identified students experiencing social and emotional issues and referred them to be screened by the BHT. Students individually met with a counselor to be screened using various screening questionnaires, including the Traumatic Event Screening Instrument for Children (TESI-C), a pre-assessment and interview to gather additional information needed. A high score on the screener indicated the student would be a good candidate for Grief Group if they expressed grief as the issue that is most impacting their daily life. Participants were also selected based on interpersonal skills and willingness to join the group.
The Teen Grief Curriculum was chosen because each counselor has been trained to conduct the group. The curriculum is eight to ten week sessions focusing on emotional awareness, verbal expression of grief, healthy coping skills, common grieving symptoms, knowledge of grief process, and weekly grade checks. In short, this group is an outlet for students to process their loss while receiving feedback and support from the facilitators and peers.
Facilitators were chosen according to availability with scheduling. Preferably, a counselor who had conducted the curriculum before would conduct the group, but that was not a requirement. We also wanted to ensure there would be two facilitators given the event someone could not attend a session. Two counselors facilitated the first grief group and our school social worker and another counselor facilitated the second grief group, which was an all female group.
North-Grand’s first grief group began in December with five participants ranging from sophomores to seniors. The group met for ten weeks with a couple of breaks in between due to winter break and first semester finals. At the end of the ten weeks, three participants remained as two members dropped due to poor attendance and participation refusal. The BHT analyzed the group’s pre-/post-assessment data to evaluate effectiveness. The data showed an increase in social emotional awareness among participants by identifying the emotions they were having the hardest time dealing with, recognizing what triggered these motions, but most importantly one hundred percent of the participants identified the group as the reason for their social emotional success. From this data, the BHT determined the group’s effectiveness and the importance of not only continuing services, but expanding it.
The participants were categorized into our district’s internal data system, Dashboard. From there we identified the group participant’s achievement data: attendance, grades, and discipline. Due to technical issues, the fall grief group was unable to create a Dashboard cohort to collectively track group data within the portal but individual data was accessed through the portal. The focus of the group was not only to help students process their grief, but to increase their achievement. Through our achievement data, we were able to see our girls grief group participants’ increase in all of the metrics. Student’s disciplinary infractions decreased from one infraction in the 2016-2017 school year to zero infractions for the 2017-2018 school year for all of the participants. We also noticed that the attendance rate had increased from year to year. For the 2016-2017 the attendance rate was an average of 82.33% for the group participants, while the attendance rate for the 2017-2018 school year was an average of 93.64% for the group participants. Both grief groups had a 100% passing rate for all classes and the fall group had zero disciplinary infractions with an average school attendance rate of 89%.
Lastly, the data indicates fine tuning is needed to obtain clearer results as they relate to our targeted Mindsets & Behaviors. For example, our pre-/post-assessment can be revised to include specific questions around students’ perceptions of the relationships they developed with peers in the group and the support received from facilitators. The question regarding coping skills can be modified to give specific coping skills as answer choices. We also discussed having an earlier start date for the Fall group so that it begins before the start of the holiday season, which is Thanksgiving. We want to give students additional time to process and prepare for the holidays which can be a difficult time.