Article by Emma Steadman
1. Spend time laying foundations at the beginning
Give time to contracting with the school.
2. Everything develops from relationship
Take time to get to know key people.
3. Be a bit picky about which school/s you will work with
It’s worth investing effort in a school that is willing to hear what is needed. It won’t be perfect and there will be teething problems but assess the openness to a therapeutic approach by how you are related to. Going into the main reception and seeing how you and other adults are responded to there will tell you a lot about the ethos of the school.
4. Avoid under-selling yourself
Aim for a balance of being fairly paid for your role whilst not out-pricing yourself. Of course, schools don’t have large budgets. However, they do need to pay you a reasonable amount for your skills, responsibility and experience. Under-charging does the children and the mental health field no good as provision gets undercut and poorly managed at times. I would expect to be paid more than the minimum wage after tax for example.
5. Be clear about what the school needs to be aware of
Be flexible where you can and hold onto the baseline where needed. Good head teachers who want a therapeutic focus in their school will listen to you, as an expert in your field, about what they need to think about. They won’t want you to tell them how to do things, but they will be open to hearing what they need to bear in mind and willing to find a way that works for both sides.
6. Hold onto your own power
Be assertive and clear in communication. It can be intimidating going into a school, even as an adult. Teachers can hold an air of authority. Remember you’re an adult professional and even though fellow professionals might not understand your framework, it is as valid as theirs. Over time, you can help them expand their thinking, by reframing in your conversations.
7. Know your ethical framework
Use it alongside supervision to help you think about scenarios that are thrown at you because others just don’t know about this.
8. Be visible
It’s tempting to slip in and out of the school, hardly seen by anyone. Keeping in touch with staff develops relationship, gives you contextual information and provides a basis for supporting the system around the child or young person. Your supervisor can help with the boundaries of this.
9. Ideally have short, creative workshops for all school staff every year, including lunchtime staff
Non -teaching staff are often key to supporting children and young people who can really struggle at those less structured times.
10. Give time in supervision to think about how you are developing your service / contract in the school.
11. Be patient
It takes time to re-work neural pathways to shift ways of thinking and practice in systems. You can be a tremendous source of change and support for children and staff though!
12. Maintain a sense of humour and keep learning and adapting from experiences!
Emma Steadman is an experienced counsellor and supervisor who has worked in school environments for many years. She will be running an Introduction to Working in Schools day for counsellors and other therapists who are new to school work or who want a fresher. She will be concentrating on the skills needed to contract, set proper boundaries and create a safe holding space for your clients and yourself.
The course will run on Friday February 22nd in Colchester and again on Saturday March 16th in Ealing. For more details and to book contact Emma directly on firstname.lastname@example.org