Michigan school district responds to stress from pandemic and other disruptions to normalcy – like the devastating November 30 shooting at Oxford High School – by introducing cognitive behavioral therapy into the classroom.
First initiated by Dr. Aaron Beck, psychiatrist, psychopathologist and professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, cognitive behavioral therapy encourages adaptive behavior to combat underlying negative beliefs.
The goal of CBT is to teach individuals who identify too much with their maladaptive thoughts to reframe their perceptions more effectively and often more factually, a practice that experts call “cognitive restructuring.” According to The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an international CBT training and resource center located in Philadelphia, PA, [of CBT] is also constantly problem-solving and initiating behavior change.
Behavioral specialist Eric Clark, who helped implement the University of Michigan program called “TRAILS” (Turning Research Into Action To Improve Student Lives) at Paw Paw Early Elementary, observed that negative thoughts and feelings in children have increased since resuming school as they feel âCompletely overwhelmed, they don’t want to do it anymore. ”
âI think we’re starting to see some of the effects of the last few years. The added stress of not knowing what’s next and not knowing if we’re going to have school because we have too many cases or not knowing if another variant has come up or not knowing if anyone one still has a job, âClark added.
Paw Paw Schools Program Director Corey Harbaugh noted that seeing socio-emotional learning come to fruition and truly flourish in schools is a step-by-step process. âIf you look at our school, our social, emotional and Paw Paw learning, we don’t serve a gourmet meal here. We’re in the kitchen, there’s flour everywhere, the eggs are broken and you know, we’ve got things moving and the ovens are heating up behind us. We are trying to understand. And we will continue. “
“TRAILS” founder Elizabeth Koschmann pointed to Harbaugh’s observation, quoting her in a tweet with a link to Associated Press coverage of the program. She added: “Huge #TRAILS partners in Van Buren Co.” His biography highlights the program’s missions to âmake effective mental health services accessible in all schoolsâ.
With COVID help and state funding, combined with an unwavering faith in academic success through the mental well-being of school leaders, the program is taking off in schools in Michigan’s Van Buren Middle School District, where instructors train students and staff each year to better understand the porous relationship between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and how to channel them in adaptive and meaningful ways. There are also suicide prevention sessions and more targeted lessons for students dealing with depression, anxiety and trauma.
Almost 700 American schools have contracted with “TRAILS” to receive support and adopt the program. According to the âTRAILSâ website, approximately 90,000 students have benefited from its programming, a number that continues to grow as other TRAILS initiatives are starting in Colorado and Massachusetts.