Middle School Counseling Program
The Middle School Counseling Program provides a safe place for students to meet, individually or in small groups, to focus on social and emotional development, and to seek guidance from IDEAL’s school counselor. In addition to providing counseling to students enrolled in the Zenith and Dylan Programs, the school counselor also checks in with and provides counseling on a short-term or as-needed basis for all students. Students engage in conversations and self-reflection through play, activities, and dialogue about their thoughts, feelings, needs, and behavioral choices. Students increase their levels of independence in emotional self-regulation, self-advocacy, and interpersonal skills. They learn strategies for coping with situations that pose difficulties with the goal of further developing skills, which are then accentuated to the broader social world.
IDEAL implements through our advisory classes a research-based mindfulness and executive functioning program based on the principles of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Our DBT curriculum is research-based and designed specifically for teenagers. The goal of IDEAL’s DBT program is to build a culture of acceptance, one of IDEAL’s core values, believing that when adolescents feel accepted and validated, they are more willing to change, participate, grow, and learn from others.
DBT is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness that holds the assumption that students are both doing the best that they can in any particular moment AND are able to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change. The skills training component of DBT is woven into the advisory program for all students, and the therapy component of DBT is provided by the school counselor for select students during individual counseling sessions. All IDEAL faculty members have participated in a two-day training program in DBT to ensure that we incorporate shared about the executive functioning, social skills, and acceptance into all of our classes.
Through the intentional practice of specific skills and use of consistent language across settings, the goal of this program is to improve students’ ability to regulate their emotions and behavior, to tolerate stress, and to develop grit and resilience in the face of challenges and change.