How do we support students with their mental health at Treloar’s?
On World Mental Health Day, we’re shining a spotlight on the Counselling team at Treloar’s.
We spoke to Lead Counsellor, Vanessa Edworthy to find out more about her role, her team and how we support our staff and students with their mental health.
Vanessa heads up a team of Counsellors and Therapists who specialise in working creatively with students with disabilities as well as offering 1:1 talking therapy. The service is open to all students from the age of 5 upwards right through to 25 years and the transition beyond Treloar’s.
Vanessa has been here for just over a year, but her links to Treloar’s go back further to when she used to work at the School when it was based in Froyle. She’s worked in education for 20 years, 13 years as a counsellor. Previously she’s worked for Leonard Cheshire and as head of the team at Alton College, before coming full circle and returning to Treloar’s.
When asked what tempted her back, her answer was of course our amazing students. Each student is unique, and Vanessa enjoys the challenge of providing a bespoke individual counselling service to meet every student need. Every day is different, and she finds the role hugely rewarding.
Vanessa enjoys helping students who might face barriers to accessing support externally. Most students can access counselling independently in a confidential way but, for some students who have more complex needs, they can be supported by staff to access counselling, or from the speech and language therapy team to help them communicate. It is important to recognise the fine balance between client autonomy and the sharing of information to ensure that a student can access confidential support.
Students mostly refer themselves, but they might be helped to get an appointment by their teacher, an SSA, a House Team member, their GP, a family member or by someone in their multi-disciplinary team. Students can email the counselling team at any time or complete a Referral form online.
Within the Counselling team there are a range of specialist skills, including music therapists, art therapists as well as specialist counsellors and, also a family therapist who can work with parents and siblings of students. There is also an online support group for new parents.
Mental Health is more than just one day, how do we support students with skills for life to protect their mental health in the future?
Our goal is to always to help students to become independent, and to enable them to make decisions in a safe way. The counselling team take pride in adapting their skills and knowledge to provide a bespoke service to each student. For example, our counsellors can provide talking therapy, CBT, or be very creative using play therapy, sensory therapy, eco therapy and even animal therapy. Jude has just completed training for animal assisted therapy and will be training up her own Golden retriever puppy soon.
What steps can schools and colleges take to support their staff and students with their mental health?
Alongside supporting students in individual sessions, the Counselling team has a broader role. Vanessa and her team have been working with the school teachers, providing training to staff, supporting them with their curriculum guides and including additional support to help students to regulate their emotional health in the classroom. Their work also involves working with the Progress and Transition Team, getting involved in the planning for transition; guiding leavers towards managing their own support post Treloar’s.
Recent staff training has included using a trauma informed approach, listening skills, LGBTQ training, Psychological Development of Children and Young People and sessions for night staff.
If someone is worried about their mental health, what tips and advice can you share on World Mental Health Day?
It’s important that no student feels isolated and alone in how they are feeling, the message is it’s OK to talk about and show how you’re feeling. Let’s encourage students to reach out and get the support they need. Although the team does not offer counselling sessions to staff, Vanessa’s door is always open for consultation, advice and guidance. We are here to support each one another. The counselling team are always happy to meet with students and colleagues, you can email them at any time: CounsellingTeam@treloar.org.uk