Imagine going to a group therapy session at school and feeling alone. This may be the way that some students perceive their participation in the group. Why? For some, it may be that they are ethnically unique. Others may be from another country and not comfortable speaking English. Some other students may have a different gender identity or have special needs. Any, all, or other factors could make a tween or teen feel out of place when they are asked to participate in a group therapy session.
The goals of school therapists should be to work with their students to make them feel comfortable. There needs to be a relationship and familiarity in place. When this happens, many will be willing to share how they feel. It’s especially important to listen carefully when they come to you. Don’t try to manipulate the way they feel. Ask them what you can do to assist and make them feel more welcome. Remind them that you want them to get the most out of the time in sessions and this means feeling like they belong.
It may be necessary to sit down and adjust groups for students with similar needs. Perhaps there are enough students who are new to the area that would be more comfortable together to discuss adjusting to school life. It may be helpful to ask students what they would like. Ask them to fill out a form and ask them what makes them comfortable to talk about and what they would like to stay away from in a group. Attempt to use these to group students. It’s important for high school students to remember that time is limited and the groups may not be perfect at first. The goal is for them to get to know each other in sessions and work together.
Reach out to your district for assistance with students who may be from other countries. Children coming from war zones and escaping atrocities may need additional support; many communities have refugee centers where adults are willing to volunteer to assist with language barriers. In addition to this, they may shed some light on things to and not to do based on their cultural beliefs.