Mental health experts say parents are missing out on children’s therapy
GREEN BAY — Providers participating in School Counseling this summer in the Green Bay School District are urging parents this school year to get involved in counseling their children.
It’s a frustration that Joanne Klysen, director of community counseling at Foundations Health & Wholeness, says stands out more than most of the problems she sees in her young clients.
Parents, Klysen said, can get involved in a number of ways: they can ask their child if they’d like to share anything they talked about during a session, they can arrange with the provider to participate in a parent-child session if all parties agree, or, potentially, they could consider counseling independent of that of their child.
That last point, Klysen said, tends to get the biggest response, and it’s not always taken graciously.
“It’s not always a problem that the child has. It’s a system problem,” Klysen said. “We’ve seen memes all over the internet about parents balking at the thought that they might need advice when bringing their kids to see us.”
Klysen was one of many mental health providers who participated in the first summer of school-based mental health counseling for public school students in the Green Bay area.
Seven public schools in the Green Bay area have opened for therapy sessions, allowing on-site providers to accommodate students.
Misconceptions abound when it comes to the mental health needs of young people, according to a report from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child. Robust individualism, despite social messages, does not help young people cope with adversity; the relationships between caregivers or mentors and children make a difference.
The report also works at the local level. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Fox Valley provide a model that emphasizes parent involvement in their child’s life. From September to November 2021, for example, of the 133 youth sessions, 85 included parent participation.
Its 2021 report shows that, in client and parent reports, 95% of young clients who completed the program had reduced symptoms.
Carlyn Andrew, senior director of counseling and training at Boys & Girls Clubs of Fox Valley, said the heart of mental health work is the “real connections” forged between children and adults.
“One of the biggest protective factors in a young person’s life is the presence of at least one caring adult,” Andrew said. “It is in the presence of this connection that young people feel safe and comfortable enough to share what is happening to them.”
Meanwhile, in Green Bay, Klysen counseled eight students in grades three through eight on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, transitioning smoothly from the end of the school year into the summer session with them.
She observed a few things beyond the walls of the counseling session in the process.
As children and young adults go through the stages of counseling, involving a parent can help show children that they are valuable and worth the time, Klysen said.
When a parent contacts a counselor, it can also help determine if the child has a mental health issue or if the problem is environmental, Klysen said.
Even if a child achieves all of their mental health goals, a parent who is continually stressed or living with an undiagnosed mental health issue can potentially undo their progress.
“Kids are smart. They know when their parents are in trouble,” Klysen said.
In other words, parents can also sometimes benefit from advice.
Tips for Parents to Get More Involved in Counseling
The oxygen mask rule on airplanes applies to good emotional well-being practices between caregiver and child. Prioritizing their own mental health, Klysen said, is the best first step a parent can take to be there for their child.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines a few ways parents can ease the burden of the day, including taking breaks to unwind and relax through yoga, music, meditation, and new hobbies. time; connect with family and friends; eat healthy foods and get more sleep; and exercise, whether it’s walking, running, biking, or lifting weights.
Additionally, Christina Gingle, associate director of student services at Green Bay Public Schools, said that for parents accessing counseling for their children, the process can be “daunting.” She often tells parents concerned about their child’s mental well-being to contact school staff.
“The student services staff is a great place to start because we can help them navigate this stuff,” Gingle said.
Some of these “tips” include providing a list of resources that accept medical assistance.
She also recommended parents check out Brown County’s Mental Health Navigation Guide, which shows where to go for preventative mental health care. The navigation guide also outlines intervention steps when a mental health condition worsens.
Additionally, Klysen said that on days when their child has a counseling session, the parent can ask if there is anything they talked about during the appointment that they would be willing to share.
Foundations also offers parent-only sessions, which can help counselors better understand the concerning behaviors parents are seeing in their child when not in session — with the caveat that counselors typically don’t disclose. not the details that the client shares.
“Their trust is important to the therapeutic relationship,” Klysen said. “If kids think we’re going to tell their parents about the things they’re talking about, they won’t tell us.”
Learn more about ways to get involved with the following resources:
- My Connection NEW connects parents to nearby agencies, facilities and programs in Brown, Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties.
- Brown County 211 is a one-stop-shop for information, community resources, and referrals on a variety of health and social service issues. Dial 2-1-1 or text your postal code to 898211.
- The Family Services Crisis Center is a 24/7 emergency response service in Green Bay. Brown County residents can call (920) 436-8888 anytime for assistance.
Natalie Eilbert covers mental health issues for USA TODAY NETWORK-CENTRAL WISCONSIN. She welcomes story tips and comments. You can reach her at [email protected] or check out her Twitter profile at @natalie_eilbert. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text “Hopeline” to the National Crisis Text Line at 741-741.