Counseling & Adjustment Support Overview

School environments that communicate high expectations for students’ success and satisfy students’ needs for belonging promote students’ development of academic, personal, and career competencies. Counseling at Rivers works to enhance systems of support that are ingrained into the school’s culture to foster belongingness and individual development, such as the advisory program and grade-level wellness programming.

School counseling can provide students with an additional source of guidance, support, and belonging, especially through challenging times. Counseling services seek to equip students with the skills and sense of wellbeing needed to meet high expectations—to move from good to great—by fostering personal growth and enhancing individual holistic development. Through counseling, students receive support that facilitates their development of self-management skills and empowers them to find solutions to their problems more efficiently.

Students may access counseling services confidentially through multiple channels. Parents, peers, and faculty members may refer a student to one of the school counselors, and students often self-refer by emailing the counselors to set up a meeting time or stopping by their offices in Lower Campus Center. When parents, peers, or faculty are interested in connecting a student to counseling supports, they are invited to reach out via email or phone to consult with Mr. Liston or Ms. Murphy about the appropriate next steps. A student’s advisor is often the first point of contact if a parent or another adult in the school community has questions or concerns about a child’s overall progress. When appropriate, the advisor may recommend and facilitate collaboration with the school counselors to determine a plan for support.

The American Counseling Association (2010) defines counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and careers.” Counseling is generally considered to be a helping process that is delivered to individuals who are basically healthy, but would benefit from support to address a variety of developmental or situational difficulties.

Types of Services

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  • Adjustment support

    Counselors provide adjustment support when a student experiences a normative adolescent challenge or hardship. Examples of situations that might merit adjustment support include the loss of a relative or friendship; a disappointment with an academic, artistic, or athletic endeavor; a difficult experience at home; or supporting a student who is exploring deeper questions about personal identity. In these cases, students may need a safe and confidential space to regain their balance and work to understand the world around them. Adjustment support might happen over a single meeting or short series of sessions, or it may entail connecting with a school counselor on a more regular basis.
  • Caring for Others

    There are times when students are worried about a friend, family member, classmate, or teammate. The counseling office can be a place where students can talk through concerns they might have and discuss options for supporting people they care about. Sometimes this simply involves mapping out a conversation or action plan that students follow through with independently, other times it may include deciding how to refer the matter to appropriate adults to help.
  • Mentoring

    Students sometimes crave having a confidential support to explore how to be their best self and reach their goals. Counselors can cover topics with students that do not organically come up with teachers, advisors, coaches, tutors, or other adult mentors to help them develop a clearer sense of self and develop long term goals.
  • School social-emotional counseling

    This is a short-term service provided for individuals or groups to increase their functioning in the classroom and with peers through skill development and increased self-understanding. Examples of topics for school-based groups include: New student acclimation, Managing grief and loss, and stress management. School counselors may work with students who have a diagnosable disorder or other more serious concerns, though the focus of the school-based counseling work is on supporting students for optimal success on campus and over their time at The Rivers School, rather than on long-term treatment goals. For cases in which longer-term treatment, or psychotherapy, is recommended, the school counselors can provide referrals to community agencies and local private practice therapists.

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  • Theoretical Framework: Strengths-based School Counseling

    The counseling philosophy at Rivers aligns with a Strengths-Based School Counseling framework that takes an individualized approach to both proactive and responsive services. Counseling at Rivers is based in the understanding that our primary role is to support students through the normative adolescent development struggles and pressures that exist in our society and in rigorous academic settings.

    Positive youth development involves nurturing and enhancing student strengths or competencies in three developmental domains: academic, personal/social, and career. Rivers school counselors employ a variety of direct and systems-level interventions that focus on proactive and preventative approaches to help students build skills and to enhance the asset-building capacity of the school environment. Rivers also recognizes that there are times when providing in-school support that is more clinical in nature, when safety concerns are not present, can makes sense, as does providing support around issues that are not directly connected to their experience as Rivers students.