Monday, April 28, 2014

Best in School Counseling: Our Favorite 100 Counseling Blogs!

Monday, April 28, 2014

I am so excited to announce that For High School Counselors has been added to the Masters In Counseling blog page as a favorite website! 

Please visit the Masters in Counseling Blog, author by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco, which features excellent information and resources for those currently in the counseling field or interested in becoming counselors.  

Best in School Counseling: Our Favorite 100 Counseling Blogs

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mental Health Awareness and Resources for School Counselors

Sunday, April 27, 2014

While sitting at my desk the other day, a teacher brought down a student to my office.  Unfortunately, I did not know the student (she was not in my section of the alphabet), but she looked really upset so I welcomed her into my office. Once in my office, she flopped down into a chair and tears began to stream from her eyes.  My heart went out to this student and I said, "I am not sure if you want to talk, but I am here for you if you decide to talk to me." Looking uncomfortable, she faced the floor and wiped her face with her hands.  The student looked disheveled (her hair was messy and her clothes were stained) and I noticed that her eyes were puffy. It felt like an eternity before she said anything to me and when she did speak it was soft and low.  Softly she said, "I don't think this is a good idea...I am really okay." Okay, I thought, I just can't let this upset student leave my office.  What I am going to do???  "I understand you not wanting to talk, but if you are not feeling better please know that I am here for you anytime." At first she got up to go, but then sat back down and started crying again.  "I don't know what to do", she cried.  "I just want to be like other kids and be able to stay in the classroom without getting into trouble!"  She continued and said, "you know I have ADD, ODD, PTSD, and Tourettes and I just want to BE NORMAL!" She looked at me between her tears and then buried her head in her hands.  Trying to lighten the atmosphere (which can be a big risk and sometimes backfire) I said, "Wow, you are a walking alphabet." "I know and one of the teachers said that I should be back in self-contained, but I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK!!!" 

I won't go into our conversation, but she left better than when she came in.  However, it was heartbreaking to hear her story about her mental health issues and her lack of mental health treatment. Besides this student, I have seen many students over the school year with an assortment of mental health issues.  Just to summarize my year, here are just some of the symptoms I have seen in students:

  • Senior with severe depression, anger issues, and suicidal ideations.
  • Senior with auditory hallucinations.  The student had a name for the voice that she has had since middle school. Voice often tells her to do bad things.
  • Senior experiencing severe anxiety which causes digestive issues and migraines...leads to many absences.
  • Senior with history of abuse, depression, and disappearing for weeks at a time.
  • Junior experiencing severe anxiety to the point she was hiding in the bathroom.
  • Sophomore displaying risky behaviors like skipping, outbursts, and leaving campus.
  • Sophomore experiencing severe depression and anxiety causing her to miss school for weeks at a time.
  • Freshman with suicidal ideations, depression, and low self esteem from bullying. She had a withdrawn physical appearance.
  • Freshman with suicidal ideations, severe trauma, and reactive attachment disorder.
  • Freshman with suicidal ideations and self mutilation.
  • Freshman in foster care with ODD, violent tendency, and severe learning disorder.

 All these students were referred to either our mobile crisis unit, an outside mental health professional, our school social worker, or school based mental health services. We are fortunate to have a great system of care, but there are many school districts that do not have access to services so many of their students go without mental health services. In fact, in an article by Today Duke, teens suffering from phobias or anxiety disorders were less likely to receive mental health treatment than students suffering from ODD, ADHD, or conduct disorders. Also, African American students were less likely to receive treatment than their Caucasian peers.

Mental Health Issues for Teens

Need information about teen mental health?  The Adolescent Mental Health in the United States website has great information regarding the state of mental health of teenagers in our country.  Due to hormonal changes and brain development, teens are more susceptible to depression and at-risk behaviors that impacts their emotional and mental well being. Many mental health disorders emerge during adolescence and 20% of teens have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Interestingly, 50%-70% of youth who have an anxiety or impulse disorder develop these disorders during adolescence. Untreated mental health issues can have negative results for teens. These results include dropping out of school, strained relationships, involvement with child welfare and DJJ, substance abuse, risky behavior, and even suicide.  In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens.

 Unfortunately, I see too many students with mental health issues who go without services.  When students lack needed services, they suffer in their academics, in relationships, and with self confidence.  In the last year, I have seen several students who suffer from past traumatic events and have suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, I was able to refer them to services, but I often think about those school counselors who do not have these local resources.  Also, there is such a great misunderstanding and stigma about providing mental health services to students.  Because of this lack of understanding, students often go without crucial services which continues into college.  Often, parents think that students will "grow" out of their problems when they get into college and they will be okay.  However, it is our job as parents and professionals to help students transition into college whether they have a disability or not.  In order to do this job effectively, it is important as high school counselors to know what resources are available and to provide these resources to our families and students.  A great time to educate students with disabilities and mental health issues about transitioning into early adulthood is the month of May.  May 4th-10th is National Children's Mental Health Week which focuses on the importance of caring for every child's mental health from birth to young adulthood.

NAMI Mental Health Toolkit-this toolkit is from 2012, but works for any year!

What Can School Counselors Do?
  • Provide meaningful relationships with students.
  • Contact students and families about mental health services.
  • Help students form a sense of attachment with school (clubs, sports, mentoring, peer helping, etc.).
  • Provide resources and workshops for families.
Inform Yourself About Mental Illness Brochure
  • Participate in Mental Health Campaigns - One mental health campaign that you can encourage your local college to host in your community called Send Silence Packing.  
Send Silence Packing Application
  • Educate staff and students about mental health stigma.

 Fight Stigma
 Resources for Display in Schools
Mental Health Fact Sheet 
  • Assist in creating a school crisis plan for students who have mental health issues when they are not in crisis. It is important to be able to support the student if he or she goes into a crisis and everyone is informed about the plan. 
Kids Crisis Booklet with Crisis Plan 
SPRC Safety Plan Template 
Crisis Wallet Card (great example)
SAMSHA Guidelines in Responding to a Mental Health Crisis
  • Inform students they can connect to mental health services on college campus
Tips to Promote Social-Emotional Health Among Teens
How to Work Effectively with Police When Youth Are in Mental Health Crisis.pdf

Resources for Students

Strength of Us-online community for young adults created by NAMI and other young adults. Young adults receive peer support and resources for issues that they are facing due to their mental health issues.
Some resources include:
Active Mind Mental Health Resources for College Students
Managing Your Depression
JED Foundation-Organization for the Emotional Health of College Students
Must Have Personal Information
Transitioning to College with a Mental Health Condition
Helping Families Support Students with Mental Health Issues in College
Resources for Families
Foster Club-Resources for foster students who want to attend college
Getting Accommodations in College
Must Dos Before Applying to College
Managing Your Mental Health Condition in College
The Why, When, What and How of Disclosure in an Academic Setting
What Happens to my Social Security When I Turn 18?
Things No One Told Me When I Left Foster Care
Vocational Rehab
Financial Tips
When to Disclose your Mental Health Condition in the Workplace
Applying for a Job
Resilience Card 

Training and Resources for Schools

Description of Mental Illnesses
Songs About Mental Illness 
300 Famous People Who Suffer From Mental Illness 
Famous People Who Suffer from Mental Illness PowerPoint
CDC Mental Health Resources
CDC Human Development and Disabilities Resources
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Free Resources for High School Staff on Teen Drug Abuse
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
ACA Crisis Counseling
ACA Suicide Assessment
Disaster Mental Health Training for School Counselors
Youth Mental Health First Aid Training
The Current State of School Based Mental Health
Training on Teen Mental Health Concerns and Strategies for High School Staff
Way s for Teachers and Schools to Build Resilience in Youth
Understanding and Reducing Aggressive Behavior in Youth
Many Youths With Autism Lack Options After High School
Adolescents with a History of Maltreatment Have a Unique Service Need That May Affect Their Transition to Adulthood
Mental Health and Drug Abuse
Adolescent Mental Health Information
The Role of High School Mental Health Providers in Preventing Suicides
Webinar on Working with Homeless Youth and Runaways
Building Resilience in Teens 

Organizations focusing on Mental Health for Students

Youth M.O.V.E
NAMI-National Alliance on Mental Illness
Center for Health and Health Care in Schools-School Based Mental Health
NIMH-National Institute on Mental Heath


NAMI Walks

Send Silence Packing, Fall, 2014
Hope this information helps you to make an impact in your school!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New tech tool of the month-Doodle

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I don't know if you are like me, but I spend a lot of my time organizing events and meetings. One of the biggest wastes of time seems to be going back and forth via email or the phone trying to pin down a date and time that works for everyone (drives me crazy!). 

In one of my last phone conferences, another professional heard my frustration about scheduling meetings and suggested that I try Doodle.  Like me, you may not have heard about doodle, but here is what it does...

When you have to schedule a meeting, log into Doodle and you are able to pick multiple dates and times to hold your meeting. 

 After you pick your dates and times, you email the participants and Doodle sends them a survey to take.  From the survey, you decide the best date and time to hold your meeting. 

Wait, that it is not all!  Doodle has some other features that are can share your calendar,  set up your own personal meeting page to send to others via social media, and even download the Doodle app for your phone.

I can totally see Doodle making my life easier when it comes to scheduling teacher/parent conferences, registration appointments, or meetings with colleagues!!  Definitely think about trying this new tech tool in your office and I think it will make your life easier too!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Prevent Terror At the Prom: Educate Your Students About Sexual Assault Awareness

Friday, April 18, 2014

Now that spring break is over, it time to get ready for our final school year activities. The two biggest events, that almost all our students look forward to at the end of the year, is prom and graduation (oh, how I remember both of those events like their were yesterday...sigh). There is such great preparation for these events by everyone at our school...especially prom!!  

Since September, our staff and students have worked very hard on preparations for the big dance. They voted on their theme (The Great Gatsby), a venue was selected, the DJ was chosen, and tomorrow (our prom is Saturday) the majority of our students will vacate school for preparations.  I know that many of my girls tell me that they spend hours getting ready for prom and some spend up to $1000 on their wardrobe (really?).  Then there are the events around prom: the pictures, the dinner, the limo ride, the after party, and then for some students, the hotel room. Of course as school employees, we cannot control what happens after prom, but we can educate students about prom safety. Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is great time to educate students about keeping safe during prom season.

What is Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Since most sexual assaults occur before the age of 18, many organizations (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), CDC, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center) have created campaign materials and resources for parents and professionals to use with their teens. The US Department of Health and Human Services reported that 39% of high school senior boys felt that it was acceptable to force a girl to have sex if she was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.   The following materials can be used to educate students regarding safe relationships and decisions they make, particularly during the prom.

SAAM Materials

What Should Students Know?

For many students, prom is that night where they can lay down their inhibitions and experiment with alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. Before students put themselves in a dangerous situation, it is important to educate them on how they can maintain their safety.

Students should know that they have the right to feel safe during prom whether with a group of friends or with a date. The Love Is Respect campaign educates students about sexual coercion or "the use of intimidation, drugs, alcohol, threats, or force to have sexual contact with someone against their will". In this campaign, students should know how to plan ahead for emergencies that could occur during the prom and how to set safe boundaries.

Safe Plans include:

1.  Let your parents know where you will be in case of an emergency (provide your itinerary).
2.  Make an agreement with your friends that you will check in with each other during the night or weekend.
3.  Be sure to have the phone numbers of people you trust and who can come get you if you get in bad situation.
4.  Avoid drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs.
5.  Do not accept drinks from others and keep a close eye on your drink. Students should be aware that the number one date rape drug is alcohol.
6.  Stay with a group of people and avoid going off alone.
7.  Keep your cell phone with you and fully charged.

Safe Dating Pointers:

1. Before deciding to act on impulse, ask for the other person's consent.
2. Respect the boundaries of another person (i.e. "no means no").
3. Employ good sexual decision making ("Am I ready for sex at this point in my life?")

Girl's Safety Is Everyone's Business: Six Things Guys Can Do Protect Protect Girls from Sexual Assault at the Prom (Adapted from the White Ribbon Campaign)

1. Believe the stories of those who have been assaulted. No one asks for or deserves this type of treatment.
2. Don't walk on by if you witness sexual assault. Assess the risk then intervene, confront, or defuse the situation.  If you need to, get help! This is called bystander intervention.
3. Connect victim to support staff at your school-SRO, administrator, school counselor, social worker, or school nurse.
4. Be an example to your friends by refusing to harass other females. 
5. Be a role model by challenging others not to harass or assault females.
6. Make a difference by educating others.


A Needed Response Video

Love Is Respect: Prom With No Expectation
Setting Relationship Boundaries

Information for Parents

Campbell High School prom and graduation season brochure for parents

Sexual Assault Awareness Projects

Clothesline Project-Project that started in 1990 which persuades women to express their emotions by creating a t-shirt and hanging the t-shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as a testament to end violence against women.

White Ribbon Campaign-Campaign that inspires male teens to embrace the role they can play to make a difference regarding consent, street harassment, and sexual assault. Help males to reject the toxic ideas of manhood by helping them know when to draw the line and speak out against harassment.
Denim Day -Awareness campaign where staff and students wear jeans to protest sexual assault on the school campus.

Friday, April 11, 2014

OMG!! For HS Counselors Has Been Nominated for a Liebster Award!

Friday, April 11, 2014
A BIG warm thank you to Franciene Sabens from School Counselor Space  for nominating For High School Counselors for a Leibster Award! If you have not been to her blog, please go check it out.  She is truly talented!!

Since I have been on "couch rest" for a torn calf muscle, I am taking the time to honor my colleague's nomination for my blog that is in its second year of publication.  Again, thank you Francine and I look forwarding to meeting you soon!

Since blogging, I have had the ability to connect with some of the greatest counseling minds in the United States and Canada.  I would encourage my high school counselors to step out and start writing about your experiences as you don't know the impact you will have on another school counselor!!

Oh, let me get back to the rules for the Liebster Award.

1. What are your favorite blogs?

This is really hard for me because there are so many that I like, but I find myself going to these the most. 
SC Online Professional Exchange (SCOPE)
The Counseling Geek
School Counsellor Talk
School Counselor Space
Extraordinary School Counselor Blog

2.  Why did you start blogging?

When I started reading blogs there were a lot of blogs for elementary and middle school counselors, but not a lot out there for high school folk.  My reason for blogging was to offer my experiences and the resources I have gathered over the last 14 years.

3. Share 3 things about yourself that most of your followers wouldn't know.
  • I compete in cross fit competitions
  • I am the chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution
  • I am a certified peer helper trainer

4. What is your favorite thing about your job? 

My favorite part of my job is to see a kid that I have worked with for four years walk across the stage.

5. What would you be doing if you weren't in the School Counseling field?

A meteorologist - I love weather and I watch the Weather Channel all the time (yes, I am a geek).

6. What do you do for self care?

Exercising (when I am not down with a leg injury), spending time with the Lord (got to have our time together before I get out of the house), drinking coffee in the morning, and taking time to go to the hairdresser once a month.

7. What are your top 5 tech tools?
  • Google Docs
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Pic Monkey
  • Smore
8. What books are you currently reading?

The Confident Women by J. Meyer

9. What's your guilty pleasure TV show?

I am embarrassed about this one- Impractical Jokers
I really don't watch tv, but I saw this one evening on a marathon and found myself laughing hysterically. I am by nature a joker and I love how they can do the jokes on the spot. Side note- I don't like a lot of the over the top content in the show.

10. What is your favorite quote?

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

11. If you could live any where in the world where would it be?

New Zealand - If I am going to live there, I have to do it before I am 55.  NZ has a cut off for immigration...sigh.

My nominations for the Liebster Award are:

1. The Counseling Geek
2. The Middle School Counselor
3. School Counselor Crowd Blog
4. Pikesville High School Counseling Blog
5. From the Counselor's Office

The rules are:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.

2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.
4. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
5. Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them.
Here are your questions nominees?
1. What are your favorite blogs?
2. What inspired you to become a counselor?
3. If you were not a counselor, what occupation would you like to work in?
4. What are your favorite hobbies?
5. What is your favorite dessert?
6. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
7. What is the favorite part of your job?
8. What was the last movie you watched?
9. What are your top 5 tech tools?
10. Which blog do you go to the most?
11. What is one interesting fact you want to share with your followers?

Congrats nominees!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's 4:20 Somewhere!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

As school counselors, it is our part of our job to be aware of any cultural phenomena that impact our students and schools.  The month of April is full of fun events and experiences for students including spring break, prom, and student awards that divert our attention on getting ready for these events. A couple of years ago, I was personally made aware of a cultural phenomenon that occurs in April in which school staff are often oblivious.  This cultural phenomenon is not new and emerged in the 1970s as a social time for students to gather and "relax". What is this old phenomenon that has reemerged in our school culture today? The phenomenon is known as 420 or forty twenty.

What is the significance of 420?

To define cultural terminology, I frequently visit the Urban Dictionary as it is often updated by youth.  So, to get a culturally accurate definition of the term 420, I went to this source.

The contributors of the Urban Dictionary give a historical and practical definition of the term 420.  Apparently, the term 420 was created by a group of teens called the "Waldos" in 1971 from San Rafael High School. The group of teens used the term 420 to indicate what time they would meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur to smoke marijuana. The story of the history of 420 was furthered investigated by the Huffington  Post. According to the Huff Post, one of the parents of the Waldos was involved with the band The Grateful Dead and the term was used in the band.  As the band toured during the 70s and 80s, the term was used among the The Dead underground.  A magazine called, High Times, got a hold of the term and the rest is history.  In fact, the High Times bought rights to the domain and has sponsored many global cannabis related activities. Eventually, 420 evolved into National Pot Smoking Day.  Here are some quotes to show the importance of 420 for some participants.
Infamous Spot of the Waldo Boys
Post in 2010.

Quotes from Urban Dictionary...

"420 is april 20 the day to smoke your best bud, or national pot smoking day. It all started with a bunch of teenagers called the Waldos."
"stoners mental math 4+20 = 420.... lets go smoke."
"One of the many names for weed. Its mainly in reference to time. But theres also April 20th.
Its 4:20, gota hit that bowl."
"I cant wait til 4/20,(april 20th) Im gona be stoned off my a^*."
"Best holiday(which is today, april 20th)!"
"4-20! National Smoke Out Day."

Urban Dictionary of 420
420 Meaning: The True Story Of How 420 Became "Weed Day"

Why Should We Be Concerned About Marijuana Use Today?

Medical science has found many concerns about the growing marijuana use among adolescents.  Since today's marijuana is 20 times more potent than the marijuana of their grandparents in the 60s, the chemicals (resources estimate over 400 chemicals) can cause a faster and more incredible high. The desire to use marijuana is often centered around this high as it overstimulates part of the neural communication network causing pleasure, altered perception and mood, and euphoria.  

There are many ways that marijuana can be ingested by the smoker to get that artifical high.  One way to consume marijuana is to smoke it in a hand rolled cigarette called a "joint", water pipes called "bongs", or cigars filled with tobacco and marijuana called "blunts". A second way to consume marijuana is to brew its concentrated form, hashish, into teas or bake it in goods like brownies or add it to spreads, like butter. Caution!  Hashish, a byproduct of marijuana, is very potent and dangerous to manufacture. 

Popular culture often portrays marijuana use as harmless and fun.  Some of these counter culture heroes are Cheech & Chong, Harold & Kumer, Jeff Spicoli (Fast Times at Ridgemont High); musicians like Lil Wayne (Cali Dro), Rhianna (frequently smokes), Lady Gaga (promotes legalization of marijuana and uses it for creativity), and Snoop Dog (need I say more?); and stars from the show "Weeds". Pop culture has glamorized the use of marijuana showing that it is good for
I wondered if Spicoli ever graduated?
relationships, creativity, and your social life. Contrary to popular culture, marijuana has a dark side. According to a longitudinal study out of New Zealand, people who used marijuana heavily as teens lost an average of 8 IQ points between the age of 13 to 38. Other health concerns of marijuana use includes the risk of heart attack one hour after using the drug because of elevated heart rates; marijuana has been linked to mental health problems like suicidal ideations, depression, and panic attacks; marijuana contributes to impairment when operating equipment like cars or machinery.

Drug Facts-Marijuana
Drug Facts for Teens

Now that you are aware of the history of 420, it is important that as school counselors that we educate students, staff, and parents about the dangers for growing adolescents who are seduced by the temptation to experiment with marijuana because it seems popular. Even students who do not typically smoke marijuana tend to participate in this event on April 20th @ 4:20 am or pm. 


What the concerns of 420:

  • Increased traffic fatalities (look at the evidence from Colorado)

Data: Fatalities Involving Driver with Positive Drug Test 2006-2011
Crash Year
Fatalities by Driver with Positive Drugs (Includes Cannabis)
Fatalities by Driver with Positive Cannabis
Total Statewide Fatalities
Percentage of Total Fatalities (All Drugs)
Percentage Total Fatalities (Cannabis)


Colorado Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2006-2011

  • Increased marijuana use by adolescents (um, Colorado statistics again)
Statistics involving youth from ages 12-17 (2011):
  • National average of marijuana use is 7.64%
  • Colorado average of marijuana us is 10. 72%
Colorado ranks 5th in marijuana use among youth.

Colorado Youth Marijuana Use 

  • Increased suspension from marijuana use  (okay, Colorado rules)
 Colorado schools have more suspensions due to marijuana use than alcohol or misbehavior.

You Tube Video-CNN Report Marijuana Use by Youth in Colorado 

How to educate parents and staff?  

School counselors can provide education, empowerment, and encouragement to parents and staff members as a defense against the misconceptions about marijuana use.  Unfortunately, many parents, staff members, and school counselors often get a lot of misinformation from other professionals, the media, and popular culture.

1.  Tell adults they are important influence on drug use.

2.  Know the laws in their state about marijuana use.

3. Know the facts about marijuana use.

4. Provide tangible information.

 The Blunt Truth About Pot  

What Parents Need to Know about 420

Delaying Introduction to Marijuana Presentation 

Brochure for Parents by the Catalyst Coalition
Brochure for Teens by the Catalyst Coalition

Here is a thoughtful quote from one of the Waldos about marijuana use...

"I've got to run a business. I've got to stay sharp," says Steve, explaining why he rarely smokes pot anymore. "Seems like everybody I know who smokes daily, or many times in a week, it seems like there's always something going wrong with their life, professionally, or in their relationships, or financially or something. It's a lot of fun, but it seems like if someone does it too much, there's some karmic cost to it."

Additional Resources


Catalyst Coalition-Great resource with videos, resources, power points, and information for school officials.
Advancing Marijuana Prevention Through Social Norm Change
Resources on Marijuana Prevention
National Alliance for Marijuana Prevention
Drug Free World-Marijuana Video
National Drug Fact Chat, January, 2015 
National Drug Fact 2014 Transcript 
SAMSHA- What Is Substance Abuse Treatment: A Booklet for Families