“We’re talking their language.” School therapist reflects on new reality of supporting students virtually

April 17, 2020- It’s School Therapist, Yolla Bailey’s job to counsel students on a daily basis. Bailey says going through this season of challenges with the Coronavirus is a different experience, but now students are opening up more.

 “Especially with everything going on, they’re at home, they can’t go out, they can’t see their friends, and the anger gets worse, the anxiety gets worse.”

Bailey is one 107 district school therapists who work year-round to support the mental and emotional wellness of students. They are now doing this through “Tele-therapy;” providing guidance over the phone or online.

Bailey says conversations have become more frequent and lengthier as the students now have access to Bailey through her cell phone and computer for therapy sessions and quick check-ins. She notices varying responses from students to home education.

“‘I don’t want to be home, I want to be in school.’ Or I’ve had some say ‘this is a nice break away from the environment where I could actually focus more on my school work,’” Bailey says.

Bailey says the students that she counsels have shared fears of their parents getting sick and losing their jobs because of the virus. She said addressing their fears “face-to-face” is what matters, whether it’s in person or on any online platform.

“This meets them at a different level, this meets them at their own comfort zone, and I’ve been able to get more out of them,” says Bailey.

Bailey recognizes the growing list of positives coming from the transition into virtual therapy.

“What I realize is, we’re now talking their language more so than before because kids are more on the internet, more on Facetime with their friends. This is a lot more familiar to them,” says Bailey.

This non-traditional form of student counseling is opening doors to more family counseling. For instance, Bailey says she’s counseling both students and their parents on how to do family activities and connect more.

“I’ve given them different worksheets to do together, get to know each other differently and get to know each other more,” Bailey says.

Bailey’s advice to any of the students pushing to get through these challenges is creating a routine lifestyle. She recommends staying busy, trying different things, and making sure students brush their hair and get dressed as normal.

“Especially those that are prone to depression, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of ‘I don’t have to get dressed I don’t have to leave the house, I don’t have to put on my clothes,’” Bailey says.

Bailey says taking a walk outside and enjoying some time in the sun can also benefit a child’s emotional health.

If students need therapy services, they can contact the district’s Mental Health HelpLine, at (904) 390-2120 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m or send an email to mentalhealthpsa@duvalschools.org for grief support.

“There’s help out there, just talking to someone sometimes even if you don’t have any issues. Just having someone outside of your group to talk to its very important,” Bailey says.