Collaborative Relationships: School Counselors and Non-School Mental Health Professionals Working Together to Improve the Mental Health Needs of Students (Perspectives FROM THE FIELD)

Fifty-three school counselors and administrators employed in middle and high school settings were surveyed regarding their thoughts about school districts working collaboratively with non-school mental health professionals to respond to the mental health needs of students. In addition, the survey sought to understand what school counselors and their hiring principals/vice principals regard as the roles and responsibilities of school counselors and the scope of school counselor training. In an effort to provide a broad array of services that will assist students in dealing with the social and emotional issues they bring to the classroom, schools and community mental health agencies have begun to implement collaborative partnerships (Walsh & Galassi, 2002). Walsh and Galassi asserted that if we are to successfully intersect the complicated in-school and out-of-school lives of children, we must focus on the development of the whole child. Doing so will require “collaborations that span the boundaries of professions and agencies” (p. 680). Expanded school mental health programs are a growing movement in the United States, which represents partnerships between schools and community mental health agencies. In these programs, school-hired mental health professionals (MHPs) provide a myriad of services, which emphasize effective prevention, assessment, and intervention (Weist, Lowie, Flaherty, & Pruitt, 2001). This collaborative effort is intended to lessen the burden and liabilities of the educational system while improving the fragmented and incomplete delivery of services to school-aged children and youth. Research has indicated that less than one-third of youth who are candidates for mental health services receive the care they need (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).

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