Net Exchange Response


Title: How to better connect school & community supports to work together

Date Posted: 6/1/2015

Question: I'm a licensed therapist who has done some work in schools. I find therapists don't understand education and working with staff on their turf. I also find that educators are not attuned to the mental health issues of youngsters either. Any suggestions on how to merge the two domains?

Response: What makes this such a complex concern is that it involves much more than just enhancing mutual understanding. At its roots the problem is that of establishing effective school-community collaboration. Foundationally, this is best approached at an institutional policy level (e.g., to establish and support a school-community collaborative infrastructure). However, given that this can’t be done quickly, there are several ways to enhance collaboration and understanding through ongoing regular contacts and exchanges among community providers and school staff. Given that each of these stakeholders brings special expertise to exchanges, the need is to ensure that all contacts are facilitated in ways that are experienced as transactions among equals and with expressions of mutual respect.

Here are places where such exchanges can occur:

  • At team meetings focused on individual students – Whenever school staff and community providers come together to discuss a specific student, it is an opportunity to share perspectives and understanding of learning, behavior, and emotional problems related to the case presented, what might be the best way to help the student, and how similar problems might be ameliorated for other students.

  • At designated school staff meetings & special professional development sessions – Many of these are opportunities to work together on enhancing how the school helps students in general. Through cooperative efforts, working relationships are enhanced. School staff members share what is currently provided and what more is needed to support students; community providers offer ideas on what more might be done to support teachers/students in classrooms and school-wide and to engage families and other community resources. The school’s student support staff and community providers might plan a joint presentation to clarify how their roles and expertise complement each other and how the collaboration enhances the continuum of interventions available at the school and in the community.

Here are a few of the various resources we have developed to speak to this concern:

For more on this, see the section of this Practitioner featuring resources on Collaboration.


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UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
tel: (310)825-3634
email: smhp@ucla.edu ~ web: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu