Individual and Group Counseling
The qualifications of CIS staff are vital to all elements of our program, but show significant impact in the implementation of our Individual and Group Counseling services. Research has shown that when offered an opportunity to develop a caring relationship with a compassionate adult, children will access the stores of resilience they need to overcome
social and emotional challenges. As CIS staff skillfully engages children in the dynamic process of individual and group counseling sessions, the children experience increased self-confidence, a greater understanding of their behavioral choices, a desire to set and achieve personal goals and a greater capacity to become students who can positively integrate into a school/ learning environment. CIS group counseling sessions develop around common needs or themes such as: bereavement, gender-based concerns, life goals and managing stress. In group sessions, children become less isolated through their discovery of common experiences and gain the benefit of expanding their social support networks to include classmates who are available to them as they face social challenges that emerge during the school day.
The primary sphere of influence over a child’s life is family. Any assessment of the social and emotional development of a child is not complete without an understanding of the role played by family. As all children must be signed into our programs by an adult guardian, we engage directly with a child’s family right from the beginning of the program. As we proceed to work with a child, we may assess that the social and emotional challenges they face cannot be overcome without the involvement of the student’s family. When this is the case, the CIS staff invites the guardian to attend counseling sessions with their child or on their own. These sessions provide adult family members with direct support and an opportunity to gain a productive understanding of their child’s experiences and needs.
One of the loudest cries for help a child can make is staying out of school for long periods of time. CIS’ long history of successfully using counseling services to increase the attendance of frequently absent students confirms research findings that young adults will respond to support from caring adults when they face obstacles to their education. Through the application of our individual and group counseling services in school locations, CIS directly intervenes in complex social and emotional problems that interfere in the educational process. Overtime, students no longer see their school as a place that reinforces their challenges, but rather it is viewed as a safe haven that is understanding of, and responsive to, their needs.
Teacher Development and Care for the Caregivers
Without consistent support, professionals who work in schools with high numbers of traumatized children will experience vicarious traumatization. In its most common form, school staff will become overwhelmed and will lose the motivation and interest to give students the level of care they need to be successful. In addition, school staff may not be equipped with a full understanding of their students’ cultures, thereby leading them to misinterpret their actions. To counteract these challenges, CIS provides school personnel with one-on-one classroom support, group workshops and on-going peer support sessions.
The expertise of CIS in the emotional and social development of children is called upon by school administrators to help transform failing schools. CIS professional development services for teachers, along with leadership skills training and counseling sessions for students, have been used to change school paradigms from hostile and disciplinary to safe and nurturing. By creating a socially and emotionally responsive school, CIS helps students gain access to an environment where they can receive the education they need.
Children who struggle to express the overwhelming social and emotional challenges they face will often act out in a violent and dangerous manner. Faced with children with complex needs, schools intervene with the implementation of suspensions outlined by the discipline code. While clear consequences offer an opportunity for some students to adjust their behaviors, suspensions more often serve as a means to further isolate an at-risk student from the caring adults and supports they need to grow beyond the acting out behaviors. CIS counseling services are brought to schools designated as persistently dangerous and with high suspension rates. CIS staff deliver individual, group and family counseling services that help children understand their impulses and behaviors while offering them alternative solutions to resolving conflicts. These services relieve students of emotional distress and help create a safe environment in which all students are free to learn.
CIS enhances our in-place counseling services by implementing anti-bullying curricula that educate school communities on the insidious nature of bullying. The consistent presence of CIS staff throughout a school day allows a clear perspective on how the dynamics of bullying are taking place within a school community. We can identify children who may be perpetrators, victims, bystanders or, who may in fact be all three at various points of a day, and provide specific counseling services to them. In this way, we can address the underlying needs that are otherwise being expressed through bullying.
Schools are frequently faced with traumas that throw a whole school, or a number of schools, into crisis. The death of a student or teacher, or a significant natural disaster, such as Super Storm Sandy, can leave whole school communities in need of emotional support. CIS has been at the forefront of sending crisis responders to assist those in need, as well as providing expert training to school personnel on how to effectively manage a school-wide crisis.
Out of School Time Youth Development
Many children who have social and emotional challenges throughout the school day are left out of the enrichment activities that become valuable after school extensions of learning. Out of school time programs conducted by CIS aim to engage these children in a variety of activities that support learning and expand their areas of interest while maintaining a focus on self-esteem and positive peer relationships. We look first and foremost to see that children can be proud of their accomplishments and can work collaboratively with their peers. While we are not primarily focused on the product of the programs, we ultimately see that the skills displayed by the participants are quite remarkable. Programs include theater, art, dance, martial arts, photography and robotics.