Research in Brief: Addressing Anger & Aggression in Middle Schools

By: Darien Waters

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article exploring mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT) as an evidence-based practice to help adolescents develop positive coping skills, specifically as it relates to managing anger and aggressive behavior.
Source: Canva

This article explores mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT) as an evidence-based practice to help adolescents develop positive coping skills, specifically as it relates to managing anger and aggressive behavior. Both mindfulness and cognitive- behavioral therapy (CBT) aim to proactively influence areas of the brain responsible for impulse control, decision-making, and planning. While CBT is focused on restructuring thoughts, MCBT emphasizes identifying negative thought patterns and addressing their underlying processes. The end goal of MCBT is to decrease impulsive and reactive behaviors.

Importance

  • Middle school youth are entering a key stage of brain development, therefore it is a critical time for students to learn and use emotion regulation skills.
  • Students who have difficulty regulating their emotions can experience negative outcomes both inside and outside of school.
  • School mental health professionals play a major role in helping students develop the necessary coping skills to prepare them for future success.
  • MCBT is a long-term technique, therefore, it may not be appropriate for students who would be better suited to a short-term approach.

Equity Considerations

  • Both mindfulness and CBT have extensive research documenting benefits to individuals’ mental and emotional health.
  • School mental health professionals must take care to consider the cultural responsiveness of MCBT before incorporating it into counseling sessions with a particular student.

Practitioner Tips

  • Consider using the Firework model as a method of explaining the connection between a stimulating event and the potential outcomes in the absence of proper regulation.
  • School mental health professionals should emphasize the mind / body connection as a key component of managing aggressive feelings and behaviors.
  • After introducing the concept of MCBT, school mental health professionals should identify facets of the practice that best fit the student and reinforce those concepts in future sessions.

Reference

Clark, L.B. (2020). Utilizing mindfulness- based CBT to address anger and aggression in middle schools. Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling, 6(2), 97-109. https://doi.org/10.1080/23727810.2020.17 19351


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Darien Waters is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Schools Should Support Holistic Adolescent Development & Here’s How

By: Allison Rae Ward-Seidel & Sophie Yitong Yue

Highlights:

  • Adolescent development is complex and multifaceted, including mental and physical health, cognition, identity, meaning and purpose, emotional, and social domains of development, which are all interrelated.
  • Helping educators support multiple developmental domains may support adolescents’ cognitive development and foster academic success in school.
  • Schools can play a role in holistic adolescent development, and highlighted here are tips and strategies for educators to promote holistic development.
Source: Canva & Youth-Nex’s Portrait of a Thriving Youth

Adolescents spend a substantial amount of their daily time in school. The goal of schools has rightfully been to promote academic skills, such as reading, writing, math, science and history. Since the era of standardized testing, education has been focused on academic achievement, often at the expense of students’ health and wellbeing. However, incorporating students’ health and wellbeing can support academic success.

If we want youth to thrive, we need a holistic approach that not only emphasizes their performance but encourages mental and social development. The Portrait of a Thriving Youth describes domains of adolescent development in a comprehensive way. We highlight those domains and describe specifically how schools and educators can promote positive, holistic experiences for youth that can support academic success.

Physical & Mental Health

Physical and mental health in adolescence includes how young peoples’ brains, bodies, and hormones are changing during puberty. Often physical changes and mental maturity are happening at different rates, which can be confusing for a young person, and the adults who care about them.

To support physical & mental health, schools and educators can:

Cognitive Development

Cognition in adolescence includes the changes happening in the brain that allow students to think more critically and abstractly. This development is important for advanced academic skills, such as in calculus or debate.

To promote cognitive development, schools and educators can:

Identity Development

Identity development in adolescence revolves around important questions like “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit in?”. It is developmentally appropriate for adolescents to ‘try on’ different identities by selecting different clothing styles, appearances, interests, friend groups, or activities.

To promote identity development, educators can:

  • Help youth develop an integrated identity, or a cohesive sense of self, can be motivating for engagement in extracurricular activities and academic achievement.
  • Foster young people’s identity development in both academic and social settings to create a safe and supportive environment.

Meaning & Purpose

Youth are developmentally programmed to reflect on complex questions about their lives and social contexts. An important part of adolescence is actively trying to make sense of the world around you. Adolescents are more attuned to risks and rewards, fairness and justice, and are sensitive to hypocrisy.

To promote meaning & purpose, schools and educators can:

Emotional Development

Emotional development includes identifying and managing emotions in positive and meaningful ways. During adolescence, young people are experiencing more extreme highs and lows, as the part of their brain that initiates and processes emotions is developing rapidly.

Educators can help adolescents:

Social Development

Social development is particularly salient in adolescence as youth spend more time, and place more importance with their peers when exploring independence, identity, and where they fit in the world. Youth model relationship-building and conflict resolution skills after the adults in their lives.

Educators can promote social development through:

  • Active learning strategies that increase engagement, like cooperative group work (e.g., jigsaw assignments can increase empathy), inquiry-based learning, or project-based learning.
  • Building positive student-teacher relationships and student-peer relationships.
  • Implementing restorative practices (e.g., community building circles which can include academic content), and promoting student-teacher relationships among students.  

Supporting healthy young people means supporting all the multifaceted and complex parts of adolescent development. Because these domains are all connected, supporting additional areas of development will contribute to students’ cognitive development and academic success. Balancing these domains can seem overwhelming for one educator; instead, consider building partnerships with community organizations, afterschool programs, and outside groups, to map what resources are available to support different developmental needs.


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Allison Rae Ward-Seidel is a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia studying sociopolitical development and school conditions that promote a commitment to social justice among adolescents. Allison taught public school for 6 years before transitioning to education research in psychology and human development. She earned a Masters from Harvard Graduate School of Education and worked as a research project director evaluating a Restorative Practices and Racial Equity initiative in schools. She hopes to continue in education by supporting preservice teachers and advancing scholarship in sociopolitical development.

Author Bio: Sophie Yitong Yue is a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia studying ecological theory and its implications for behavioral health outcomes. She is also interested in using advanced quantitative methods to analyze national longitudinal data. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology and hopes to continue her academic journey in promoting human- and equity-centered approaches in research and all fields.

Research in Brief: Equitable, Culturally Responsive & Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Practice

By: Aloïse Phelps

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article situating equity in mindfulness practice within trauma-informed principles (i.e., safety, trust/transparency, & collaboration/mutuality) in the classroom.
Source: Canva

With the increase in research supporting the use of mindfulness in schools, educators have started implementing mindfulness interventions within their classrooms. However, limited research has investigated the intersection of mindfulness and trauma-informed care. As a result, teachers are implementing practices without centering equity and racial justice. Without recognizing the root cause of students’ distress, the authors argue educators can unintentionally inflict harm. This article highlights strategies for incorporating mindfulness into middle school classrooms in affirming, culturally-responsive, and trauma-informed ways. Specifically, the authors argue for situating equity in mindfulness practice within trauma-informed principles (i.e., safety, trust/transparency, & collaboration/mutuality) in the classroom.

Importance

  • School mental health professionals are in a unique position to help re-center the practice of mindfulness in the classroom.
  • In educating staff about the importance of culturally responsive practices, SMHPs are able to prevent harm through mindfulness.
  • Additionally, SMHPs are equipped to train school staff on improved practices that can be implemented in the classroom, which can create a more equitable environment for students.

Equity Considerations

  • Goal of shifting to trauma-informed, equitable, and culturally responsive approach is to allow students a safe space to process, examine, and heal.
  • SMHPs must use an intersectional approach when considering cultural identities.

Practitioner Tips

  • Invite students to tap into what makes them feel safe as a means of affirming and validating their experiences. Create a toolbox of these strategies with students that they can use when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Leveraging culture, by naming and engaging practices of finding peace used in a variety of cultures, can build trustworthiness and transparency into the practice of mindfulness.
  • Allowing students to opt-in (instead of opt-out) provides an opportunity to develop skills in autonomy and engage in mindfulness at a level they are comfortable with.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to collaborate and offer feedback on mindfulness activities and practices. This allows students to draw on their own cultural knowledge and creates a mutual effort to understand and practice mindfulness together. School mental health providers can encourage teachers to listen to the feedback with an open mind.  

Reference

Duane, A., Casimir, A. E., Mims, L. C., Kaler-Jones, C., & Simmons, D. (2021). Beyond deep breathing: A new vision for equitable, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed mindfulness practice. Middle School Journal, 52(3), 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1080/00940771.2021.1893593


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Aloïse Phelps is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Teaching Anti-Racist Counseling Theories

By: Natoya Hill Haskins

Highlights:

  • The Research in Brief blogs summarize research articles recently published in academic journals, and often align with other initiatives, such as February being Black History Month.
  • In this publication, the authors provide decolonizing therapeutic strategies and counselor educator recommendations.
  • Summarized in this blog, I describe an intersectional approach of Black liberation theology and narrative therapy that specifically addresses the cultural and spiritual needs of Black clients.
Source: Canva

This article focuses on how counselor educators can support counseling trainees as they serve Black clients who are impacted by oppressive religious experiences. Theories such as Black liberation theology (BLT) may offer a supplemental process to support students in effectively meeting the needs of Black clients.

Black Liberation Theory

BLT, an anti-racist theory used to understand the Black experience and its hegemonic foundations, can serve as a guide to understand Black cultural narratives, oppression, and liberation mechanisms. Unfortunately, these historical understandings regarding the Black community have been relegated to seminaries or biblical perspectives, even though it has implications for mental health practice. It is paramount that counselor educators go beyond traditional theories to include approaches such as BLT, which can expand social constructivist perspectives such as applications of narrative therapy, and potentially improve the efficacy of counseling with diverse, spiritual clients.

Narrative counselors who practice from a BLT lens use narratives to help Black clients cultivate agency. BLT and narrative approaches articulate the need for connection and empowerment through the dismantling of oppressive historical, spiritual, and social contexts.

Teaching Black Liberation Narrative Therapy (BLNT)

The goal of this process is threefold: (a) to help Black clients examine the debilitating narratives and dominant discourses that have hindered their experiences, (b) to help Black clients explore their personal dialogue that serve to confirm or disconfirm these narratives, and, (c) to identify ways they can validate self and develop a narrative that is not hindered by oppressive dominant theological discourse. Aspects of BLNT can be infused into theories, group counseling, multicultural, transpersonal, as well as techniques courses using one or more of these five processes.

  • Validating Blackness: Anti-Blackness continues to impact the experiences of Black clients. To align with the BLNT approach, educators actively teach trainees how to minimize power within the relationship by allowing the client to be the expert in their own story and by listening to their experiences related to the oppressive narratives with openness and empathy. In addition, the counselor educator can assist trainees learn how to share their own stories of liberation as it relates to dealing with the biblical and church doctrine.
  • Examining the Eschatology of the Present: The eschatological roots of the Black Church were grounded in understanding the finiteness of the human condition. Counselor educators can help the counselors in training focus on hope as it relates to liberation, where they help the client to examine present oppression as it relates to their current and future relationships, decisions, and interactions. During the learning process, the trainee can explore how justice cannot only occur with cosmological or apocalyptic expectations, as there is no need to accept oppression now. As such, the counselor educator can encourage the trainees to ask the client the following: “What do you believe about injustice?” and “What can you do to experience liberation or freedom now?”
  • Dismantling Oppressive Religious Structures: Dismantling oppressive religious structures can help strengthen the client’s sense of meaning regarding their story. As a result, the counselor educator will want to teach the trainee how to question the client about alternative accounts and experiences of their experience in their church community, “Are there times when you did feel liberated while communing with the Black Church and within the society?” Counselor educators can teach trainees about cultural messaging and how it can and has helped to maintain the current state in Black spiritual communities.
  • Creating New Values Towards Liberation: According to BLT, courage is necessary to circumvent socially constructed notions or stereotypes that the client may have related to feeling powerless. The counselor educator can teach trainees to help the client explore marginalizing social constructions related to being a member of the Black Church and the Black community, and the impacts on their mental health. To illuminate these areas, the counselor educator can have trainees ask the following questions: “When do you feel like you are oppressed related to church?” and “With whom do you feel oppressed?”
  • Creating Opportunities for Reconciliation: The counselor educator can describe how the trainee can specifically validate the Black client’s desire to advocate and to stand alongside them as they advocate in their communities. Counselor educators can share how trainees can help clients in counseling solidify the new narrative and reconciled identity that may include other Black individuals who have triumphed over marginalizing ideology.

Implications & Conclusions

By utilizing this integrative model, counselors and trainees have an operative framework through which they can provide therapy that empowers, uplifts, and validates Black clients. However, counselor educators may have limited training in Black liberation and how it can be used in clinical practice. Counselor educators need to help trainees focus on how the client makes meaning of their liberatory experience and planned steps for maintaining their growth. Additionally, it is important to consider the various religious beliefs of Black clients and how parts of this approach may be useful for different clients. Empirical studies are needed to examine the effectiveness of BLNT with clients and its clinical outcome.

Reference

Haskins, N. H., Harris, J. A., Parker, J., Nambiar, A., & Chin, P. (2023). Teaching anti-racist counseling theories: Black liberation narrative therapy. Counselor Education and Supervision, 00, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/ceas.12286


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: During her 20-year career in counseling and counselor education, Natoya Hill Haskins has been committed to equity and inclusion. Haskins developed the Social Justice and Diversity Research Fellows Program for graduate students, with the aim of addressing research training disparities for students of color who are interested in conducting equity and social justice research. In addition, she has created affinity group spaces for African American women in counselor education. Haskins has over 40 publications in the areas of womanist clinical applications and social justice competence in P-20 schools. Haskins is the 2022-2023 president of the Association of Counselor Education and Supervision. Prior to that, she served as the president of the Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (2017-2018).

Supporting Youth Loneliness & Social Isolation through Community-Based Mentoring

By: Westley Fallavollita

Highlights:

  • Youth today face challenges of loneliness and isolation, impacting mental health negatively. Reports from the U.S. Surgeon General emphasize changing ways of building relationships, leading to issues like depression and substance use.
  • Community mentoring programs are one possible solution, but challenges like trust issues and diverse backgrounds require a personalized approach. Inclusive training for mentors and activities promoting community engagement can help address these issues.
  • To maximize the impact, mentoring programs should consider the limitations of one-on-one relationships and adopt a comprehensive approach. This includes recognizing the importance of peer relationships during adolescence, integrating community activities, and providing evidence-based support to empower lonely and isolated youth.
Source: Canva

Loneliness and social isolation are big challenges facing youth today. The U.S. Surgeon General recently released reports on the importance of protecting youth mental health[1] and the epidemic of loneliness and isolation[2]. One common theme between these reports is that typical ways of connecting and building relationships are changing, and youth mental health is suffering as a result. This has important implications because youth loneliness and social isolation are associated with negative outcomes such as depression, substance use, and suicide attempts. For other youth, the desire for a sense of belonging and acceptance can lead to associating with delinquent peer groups or antisocial behaviors, leading to early and avoidable encounters with the juvenile justice system. There’s a growing interest in how community-based programs like youth mentoring can provide support. Researchers have suggested that community-based mentoring programs could be a good strategy to prevent youth loneliness and social isolation because of the focus on building strong mentor-mentee relationships[3]. However, loneliness and social isolation are complex and influenced by many individual factors among young people. A strong mentoring relationship alone may not be enough to fix loneliness and social isolation, but engaging in specific mentoring program practices and activities could help. Such approaches could also enhance community-based youth mentoring programs by making them more inclusive, and creating more opportunities for youth to build relationships with peers and become involved in their community. The following discussion will describe some of the challenges of close mentoring relationships alone and opportunities for specific mentoring program practices to support lonely and socially isolated youth.

While mentoring relationships have the potential to help prevent loneliness and social isolation from taking hold, there are limitations to how much a close mentoring relationship can help mentees who are particularly vulnerable or already experiencing these challenges. Youth who have been bullied by peers or experienced difficult relationships with adults may be uncomfortable forming a relationship with a mentor due to trust issues, fear of rejection, or low self-esteem. Mentors and mentees with dissimilar backgrounds, life experiences, and racial identities may encounter additional difficulties such as differences in perspectives on handling life challenges, communication styles, and social networks. Other youth whose feelings of loneliness derive from neurodivergence or other developmental differences might struggle with the social communication differences needed to form new connections, sensory sensitivities that make mentoring activities uncomfortable, or social anxiety that impacts their ability to engage in mentorship. For LGBTQ+ youth, fear of discrimination, absence of parental support, or mentor lack of understanding can contribute to difficulties achieving a safe and affirming mentor-mentee relationship. All these individual circumstances can contribute to feelings of loneliness and social isolation, so addressing these challenges requires a thoughtful and individualized approach. While mentors can not be trained to work with all possible intersections of youth identity, they can be trained to approach their mentoring relationships with cultural humility, openness, and a commitment to fostering safety and belonging.

Mentoring programs play a crucial role in preparing mentors to effectively engage with vulnerable youth. To support mentors in their efforts to engage with youth who are prone to loneliness and social isolation, community-based mentoring programs should focus on training mentors in inclusive and affirming practices. Cultural humility training is crucial for efforts to build trust and effective communication with mentees, and training in this area can help mentors address stereotypes, identify their implicit biases, and navigate microaggressions. Similarly, trauma-informed mentorship training can help mentors approach their mentees with sensitivity and understanding, creating feelings of safety and trust, and supporting appropriate responses to personal disclosures. Such toolkits can be found online, such as the trauma informed-mentoring toolkit offered by the OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)[4]. Mentoring programs can also support mentors through regular check-ins and the creation of support networks with other mentors. Regular meetings with program coordinators and other mentors in the program create the opportunity to share challenges, receive feedback, and enhance collective knowledge. While it is a challenge to prepare mentors for the many different ways youth may come to struggle with loneliness and social isolation, inclusive program design and support for mentors’ ongoing professional development will help mentors be sensitive to the unique needs of their mentee and tailor an individualized approach to creating a close relationship.

Another important factor to consider when employing mentoring to support lonely and socially isolated youth is the developmental shift towards same-aged peers that occurs during adolescence[5]. Beginning in late childhood and early adolescence, acceptance or rejection by peers, not adults, becomes central to feelings of belonging and self-esteem. Even with a close mentoring relationship, feelings of loneliness and social isolation will still exist if there are challenges with peer relationships. These feelings can be particularly pronounced for bullied or otherwise peer-rejected children, where a close mentoring relationship will not alleviate the negative effects of ongoing rejection by peers. Similarly, peer relationships can be disrupted by significant life transitions, such as entering a new school or relocating to a new home. Other youth face systemic barriers to peer relationships, such as poverty that contributes to less opportunities and out-of-school activities, or having a different identity in a highly homogenous community. Such structural challenges suggest the need for additional supports to help some mentees develop peer relationships. To support such lonely and socially isolated mentees, mentor-mentee relationships need to extend beyond the individual mentor-mentee pair, and build a network of peer and community connections.

Community-based mentoring programs can support peer relationships and community connectedness by integrating specific activities and approaches into their mentoring programs. Mentoring activities that involve community engagement and service-learning opportunities, such as volunteer work or participating in community events, can alleviate loneliness and social isolation by fostering a sense of purpose, connection, and social responsibility. If done in tandem with other mentor-mentee pairs, this approach can create a shared experience and relationships among mentees, which mentors can support by facilitating reflections and peer discussions. In general, group mentoring and joint outings create opportunities for mentees to network with each other, build a sense of community, and for natural peer-mentoring relationships to emerge. If mentee’s have challenges during these activities, the close relationship with their mentor can be a “secure base” for safety and emotional support, in line with the importance of attachment in a close mentoring relationship.

In tandem, mentoring programs can incorporate empirically supported activities into their programming. These evidence-based activities would support mentee interpersonal effectiveness, which could help with feelings of loneliness and social isolation, in addition to supporting positive development more generally. The type of curricula could be selected by program administrators to meet the needs of the mentee population. Some youth might benefit from a social-emotional learning curricula[6], whereas others may benefit more from support for emotional regulation challenges such as through DBT Steps-A[7]. While these programs could theoretically be administered individually by mentors, training individual mentors in evidence-based curricula would be difficult in practice. Instead, instruction could be facilitated by mentoring program staff (in a group setting!) or through an online curriculum, and mentors could support youth through follow up conversations that emphasize skill-building, goal setting, tracking progress, and other positive youth development approaches. Mentee investment in such activities would benefit from a close mentor-mentee relationship, and mentors could encourage mentees to apply these skills to peer relationships and community involvement to reduce loneliness and social isolation.

By acknowledging the limitations of the mentoring relationship in certain contexts and supplementing it with complementary strategies, community mentoring could become an important service to address youth loneliness and social isolation. However, the mentoring relationship alone may not be a powerful enough corrective experience for youth already experiencing such feelings[8]. To maximize mentoring’s potential, it may be important to adopt a comprehensive approach that combines mentoring relationships with complementary strategies to help youth to build relationships with peers and become involved in their community. This approach may be especially important for youth who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, or require additional support due to structural disadvantages like poverty. By adopting inclusive training practices and complementary activities, mentoring programs can foster supportive relationships and community connections, while also empowering lonely and socially isolated youth with resilience, coping strategies, and a sense of belonging.


This post originally appeared on the National Mentoring Resource Center website.

References

[1]The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. (2021). Protecting Youth Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/youth-mental-health/index.html

[2]The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. (2023). Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf

[3]Keller, T. E., Perry, M., & Spencer, R. (2020). Reducing Social Isolation Through Formal Youth Mentoring: Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls. Clinical Social Work Journal, 48(1), 35–45. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-019-00727-x

[4]Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (September 2019). Trauma-Informed Mentoring. https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/library/publications/trauma-informed-mentoring

[5]Standford Medicine Children’s Health. (2023). Teens: Relationship Development. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=relationship-development-90-P01642

[6]Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (n.d.). Program Guide. https://pg.casel.org/review-programs/

[7]DBT is Schools. (n.d.). DBT STEPS-A Curriculum: DBT Skills in Schools: Skills Training and Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents. https://www.dbtinschools.com/dbt-steps-a

[8]Fallavollita, W. L., & Lyons, M. D. (2023). Social acceptance from peers and youth mentoring: Implications for addressing loneliness and social isolation. Journal of Community Psychology, 51(5), 2065–2082. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.23002


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Westley Fallavollita is a doctoral student in Clinical and School Psychology in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Before beginning his studies, he served for two years in the national service programs AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and City Year Washington, DC and is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Working with his research mentor, Dr. Mike Lyons, he has published several articles on youth mentoring, including an examination of mentoring and social acceptance from peers and implications for addressing loneliness and social isolation.

Research in Brief: Restorative Practices, Socio-Emotional Well-Being, & Racial Justice

By: Delaney Desman

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article about completing the circle by linking restorative practices, socio-emotional well-being, and racial justice in schools.
Source: Canva

The authors propose a three-part model to implement restorative practices in schools with efficacy. First, they recommend targeting student and faculty behaviors through restorative practices to help reduce stress, foster trust between students and teachers, & increase classroom engagement. Second, the authors argue for the integration of tier three mental health supports within restorative practices through community partnerships and collaboration. Finally, the authors highlight the importance of school staff recognizing and understanding the impact of structural and interpersonal racism, particularly for Black and Latinx youth. They recommend schools take a trauma-informed approach to bolstering student mental health supports and services. By focusing on these three actions, schools can better ensure restorative practices are benefiting students in an equitable way.

Importance

School mental health professionals must be cognizant and actively combat ways institutionalized racism impacts students, such as exclusionary discipline. When students are suspended they are not able to engage in school, maintain academic achievement, and have positive associations with their school community.

Equity Considerations

The article fails to address implications for students with disabilities, various socioeconomic statuses, or English language learners. This Western perspective is not explicitly addressed and raises concerns about whether or not restorative practices are culturally relevant or appropriate for all students.

Practitioner Tips

  • Schools should emphasize strengthening the tier 1 socio-emotional climate within the school. This approach supports students and staff, builds community, and strengthens relationships within schools.
  • Fostering a positive school climate and using a trauma-informed lens to support students is an important step to creating a positive school culture.
  • Ensure acute mental health needs of students are addressed through services and resources to allow for true restoration to take place.
  • Address systemic and interpersonal racism within schools (past and present) to ensure restorative practices benefit students equitably.

Reference

Huguley, J.P., Fussell-Ware, D.J., Stuart McQueen, S., Wang, M.T., & DeBellis, B.R. (2022). Completing the circle: Linkages between restorative practices, socio-emotional well-being, and racial justice in schools. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 30(2), 138-153. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/106342662210 88989


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Delaney Desman is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Perspectives of Restorative Practices Classroom Circles

By: Anna Hukill

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes research on school staff and youth perspectives of tier 1 restorative practices classroom circles.
Source: Youth-Nex

In this qualitative study, researchers gathered perceptions from staff and students about the relationship between restorative practices, community-building circles, and social- emotional learning. Data included beginning- and end-of-year surveys about staff perspectives on implementation, semi- structured interviews with staff, and surveys about student participation. Results showed a strong association between community- building circles and social-emotional learning (SEL). The challenges mentioned included circle participation, equitable access, and conflict between discipline and restorative practices. This supports the idea that restorative practices need to be implemented school-wide.

Importance

School counselors, especially in elementary schools, often deliver short lessons and can incorporate community circles into their curriculum. This is an important opportunity to advocate for equitable access to classrooms. Community circles are a proactive way of building strong peer relationships and strategies for resolving conflict.

Equity Considerations

  • Ensure that all students have access to participate in the circle (e.g., alternative seating, multiple modes of participation).
  • Carefully consider opening and closing questions that all students can connect with.

Practitioner Tips

  • Community building circles have the potential to be a strong tool for improving social-emotional competence in students.
  • Teachers can seamlessly incorporate such circles into pre-existing group time by setting a clear routine (ex. greeting, opening question, SEL topic of the day, closing statement/activity).
  • Teachers and students report positive increases in student participation, communication, and sense of belonging.
  • Circles can be used among staff to develop a strong sense of school community.

Reference

Garnett, B. R., Kervick, C. T., Moore, M., Ballysingh, T. A., & Smith, L. C. (2022). School staff and youth perspectives of tier 1 restorative practices classroom circles. School Psychology Review, 51(1), 112-126. https://doi.org/10.1080/2372966X.2020.1795557


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Anna Hukill is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Research in Brief: Counselor-Delivered Mindfulness & Social-Emotional Learning Intervention

By: Melinda Espinoza  

Highlights:

  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes research on a mindfulness and social–emotional learning intervention that was delivered by counselors.
Source: Youth-Nex

This article explores the effectiveness of a counselor-led early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) intervention and its impact on the lived experiences of a small group of early childhood educators. The intervention consisted of 12 weeks of one-on-one counselor-teacher consultation using social emotional learning and mindfulness-based interventions. There was also a mindfulness intervention group-consultation component with the teacher participants. Participants reported feeling an increased ability to handle classroom related stressors while also experiencing changes in their beliefs towards themselves as educators and individuals. These beliefs extended beyond the classroom as participants also reported changes in their personal lives.

Importance

  • Work-related stress and lack of support can limit educators’ ability to be healthy and effective.
  • School counselors are able to supplement and promote mental health care for other educators.
  • Promoting mindfulness habits and emotional regulation skills, counselors can not only support fellow educators’ well-being but also positively impact students.

Equity Considerations

  • This study was conducted in urban schools with student populations consisting mostly of students from minoritized and low-income backgrounds.
  • Teacher participants largely identified as part of minoritized groups as well.
  • Participants (teachers) were provided with consultation on culturally-responsive practices.

Practitioner Tips

  • Mindfulness-based interventions have the potential to positively enhance inter-educator relationships. Educators may use the skills they learn to inform interactions with other colleagues.
  • Mindfulness skills helped participants learn to cope with and address workplace conflict.
  • Consultation influenced by mindfulness allows the educator to receive some mental health support while developing goals and problem-solving from a new approach.
  • Mindfulness practices helped teachers increase their self-awareness which allowed for changes in beliefs about teaching behaviors and in their personal lives.

Reference

Palacios, A. F., & Lemberger, T. M. E. (2019). A counselor‐delivered mindfulness and social–emotional learning intervention for early childhood educators. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 58(3), 184–203. https://doi.org/10.1002/johc.12119


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Melinda Espinoza is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Why YPAR Matters: Youth Are “Looking at the World Differently”

By: Britney, Justus & Jessica, youth from the Teen Wellness Team

This post is the 8th publication in a YPAR series, which aims to explain participatory research, youth-led measurement and evaluation approaches, and strategies for youth-adult collaborations in YPAR.

Highlights:

  • Through the YPAR Series, adults and youth have described what youth participatory action research is and why youth should be engaged in processes like it.
  • This post highlights themes from this series with youth voices who have participated in Youth Participatory Action Research (or YPAR) as part of a program on mental health. 
  • Britney, Jessica, and Justus talk about their experiences in YPAR, what they’ve learned, how they are looking at the world differently, and more as this series concludes.
Source: WAYS Lab

As part of the Wellness And Youth Social action (WAYS) Lab, several local high school students have been working with UVA adult researchers since March to identify a research question that addresses disparities in the youth mental health crisis. They are known as the Teen Wellness Team (TWT). Their goal is to conduct research that will shape community-based actions to promote youth mental health.

The youth team members have learned about how to conduct research, engaged in discussions about the mental health needs of young people in our community, and heard from guest speakers about different careers in health care and research. Together, the TWT has identified a research question of interest and is currently in the process of making a research plan to collect data this fall.

Dr. Irène​ P. Mathieu (an Assistant Professor of General Pediatrics and Principal Investigator of the WAYS Lab) and team sat down with three TWT members to ask about their experiences and what they want others to know about the YPAR process. These youth voices are shared by themes that have been presented throughout this YPAR series.

Why YPAR?

Unlike other ways of working with young people, YPAR centers youth as experts with their own agency in the research process.

  • Britney says, “a lot of people should be introduced to YPAR and learn more about what YPAR is.”
  • Jessica says that YPAR “…could help our community, and it would help a lot of teens.”

Benefits from YPAR

Youth benefit from engaging in participatory approaches to research and other activities.

  • Justus comments, “YPAR has made me look at the world differently. Every person I see- I wonder what they’re going through. And not just youth, but adults, too. I jotted down a lot of things in my notebook. I think about things around town, places that are out of business. We don’t have a lot of teen hangout spots. I see a building and think, ‘This could be a mental health clinic.’ I really wish that youth here would do something about it, but there’s not a lot of people that would advocate for change. We need motivation. An adult running it would bring things back to where it is now. There are a lot of places that have potential, but we need agency.”
  • Britney says, “it makes me think there are so many little things that contribute to a greater idea. It encourages me to think outside the box and consider the smaller parts contributing to one big thing.”

Learning in YPAR

A part of YPAR is breaking down the power structures so youth can learn in new and different ways and feel that adults are truly listening to them.

  • Britney says being in a YPAR group “…changed how I think of people around me, and if people have bad attitudes or don’t look the best, maybe they had a bad day. It makes me think that we don’t know what’s going on with people. This group talking about confidential stuff, it makes me feel like I’m not alone talking about mental health. We just need a safe place to talk about this and deal with it together.”
  • Justus says she’s changed by “being in the group and us talking about mental health and how to help the community. I think about people around me and wonder what they’re thinking or feeling. I normally don’t think like that.”

Advice after YPAR

Any adult working with youth can use YPAR strategies to think about the collaboration process.

  • Britney says, “I think adults should know that this research is basically a bubble where people can have a safe place to talk about issues and give their opinions on stuff that matters to them. I think it’s a great opportunity for students and teenagers to be able to experience how to do research and how to just be more creative. And it just opens up their mind and makes them think more regarding issues around them and issues locally. Makes them think not only about themselves but people around them and how these issues affect their communities. They should know that this is great for their child or students if they’re interested.”
  • Justus says if another student is interested in YPAR to “maybe just go for it. Don’t be nervous going into it. It’s not only a life thing, be comfortable to say your opinion. Be yourself and don’t be nervous being around new people. Have an open mind.”

YPAR Research Experiences

YPAR provides experiences for youth in research that may include understanding their community and forming questions they can test. 

  • Jessica says that sometimes parts of the research process were “hard. It’s hard to think of how to make up a question based on the topic or how to make the question related to the topic.”
  • Britney says, “it has been a long process to choose a perfect question. It surprised me that so much has to be done to even start a research question. But I think it will turn out great. [I started to] notice that there are small things that we have to be attentive to.”

Reflections on YPAR

Other youth who have participated in YPAR also shared their reflections in this series.

  • Justus says, “at first it was nerve-wracking because I’m not the type of person to really talk to people let alone talk about my feelings or opinions. Being in this group has helped me come out of my shell and not only see and hear other people’s opinions. Being in this group is cool.”
  • Britney says “YPAR made me think more about the connections to everything. Usually, we think about a general idea rather than the little parts that tie the idea. YPAR has helped me think even greater outside the box and think of those little parts that tie the idea together.”

Missed a post in the YPAR series? Check out all the tips and resources:

  1. The Benefits of Engaging in Participatory Approaches to Research
  2. Why Young Investigators Are Important
  3. Youth Voices in YPAR (includes youth)
  4. Strategies for the YPAR Collaboration Process (includes downloadable resources)
  5. How Can Youth Voice Amplify Research? Listening & Leadership Are Key
  6. 4 Universal Facilitation Tips for YPAR Collaboration
  7. Asset & Power Mapping as Tools for Youth-Led Research (includes downloadable resources)
  8. Why YPAR Matters: Youth Are “Looking at the World Differently” (includes youth)

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Justus is a recent 2023 graduate of Charlottesville High School (CHS). She was a student in the CATEC EMT program, and is a current member of the TWT. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, listening to music, and learning new languages. She is open minded and understanding.


Author Bio: Britney is a freshman at James Madison University and majoring in psychology. She is involved in mental health research as a member of the Teen Wellness Team to find resources to help my community.

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Author Bio: Jessica is currently attending Charlottesville High School and attended CAYIP last summer. She likes to get involved in programs that offer new experiences. Jessica is also a member of Teen Wellness Team. She loves to spend time with family, painting, listening to music, and organizing.

Pass the Mic Series: Health & Well-Being

By: Kiara, a senior in High School

Highlights:

  • Youth-Nex recently hosted their 8th conference entitled Pass the Mic: Amplifying Youth Voice & Agency, co-chaired by Drs. Wintre Foxworth Johnson and Nancy Deutsch.
  • In this Pass the Mic blog series, we are highlighting each of the sessions from the conference, sharing videos, and uplifting youth voices to summarize and reflect on what was discussed.
  • Kiara (a senior in High School, youth panelist and conference attendee) summarizes and reflects on the fourth session about “Health & Well-Being.”
Source: Youth-Nex

As a High School student athlete who wants to pursue a health career, I know learning about health and well-being is essential. I truly enjoyed this panel discussion and the knowledge I obtained from these health professionals.

I felt so much inspiration when hearing from the youth about how they feel they can advocate for not only themselves but their families as well. Some of these aspects to advocate on is related to health and wellness systems, but also things like food, desserts or even being comfortable in the environment they live in.

Hearing the panelists’ ideas about having mental health professionals in schools to be able to speak with students about the things they may be experiencing in their communities was something I completely agree with.

Giving youth the opportunity to speak to someone about the things that they see everyday could be the first step to healing childhood trauma (that they would have to tackle one day in their adulthood).

I also enjoyed learning that different cultural backgrounds can have different health and well-being standards based on the history and traditions that are aligned. I definitely was able to learn different aspects of what health and well-being is, whether it is mental health resources or family resources, which truly resonated with me.

Source: Youth-Nex

Did you miss one of our six sessions from the Pass the Mic: Amplifying Youth Voice & Agency conference? Go back and watch these panels with youth voices, and read the summaries, primarily written by the youth participants, on the following topics:


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Kiara A. is a senior at An Achievable Dream High School in Newport News, VA where she has been in the top 10% of her class all 4 years. She is currently ranked 4th in her school graduation class of 2023. Kiara currently serves her school as An Achievable Dream HS Senior Class President and President of the An Achievable Dream Middle and High School National Honor Society. Kiara is also a member of NNPS Emerging Leader Institute, Newport News Mayors Youth Commission, An Achievable Dream HS 3.0 Club, An Achievable Dream HS Principal’s Advisory Board, SCA, NNPS Flourish Youth Empowerment Club, Heritage HS Girls Varsity Volleyball team, Captain of the Heritage HS Girls Varsity Tennis team, CNU Community Captains, National Society of High School Scholars and Hampton University Upward Bound. Kiara has participated in various panels representing her school system Newport News Public Schools and her Newport News community. She has served as a student panelist on the Aim for Impact Summer Leadership Institute and the NNPS Innovate Conference, both sponsored through Newport News Public Schools. In addition, she recently participated in a local community panel sponsored by WHRO Public Media and iHeart Radio for a community conversation on safety and school security in September 2022, which was televised locally. Kiara plans to attend college where she will be majoring in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science, where she aspires to be an athletic trainer for the NFL or a major league sports franchise.