A Day In The Life of Behavioral Health Clinicians

LINDA NEGRETE, LCSW, PPSC and Judith Silva, LMFT, PPSC are Behavioral Health Clinician’s for Madera Unified School District. As a Behavioral Health Clinicians, we are trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic, and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators as well as provide individual and group counseling/therapy. As Behavioral Health Clinicians, we provide counseling services to the students of Madera Unified from TK-12th grade.

IWe typically work with students who have symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Our services are initiated through a Behavioral Health referral that is completed by a school site team member. Referrals usually come from school counselors or school psychologists, but in our department, we receive referrals from anyone at the school site. Once we have received a Behavioral Health referral, we carefully review the case with the school site team that is working with the student, evaluate the mental health concerns and the services that have been provided.

As a team, we discuss a follow-up plan: whether one of our case managers will take the case and provide the student (and family) linkage to community organizations, or if one of the Behavioral Health Clinicians will end up taking the case. The most utilized local community organizations that work with us are Camarena and Madera County Behavioral Health.

If it is determined that the student would benefit from the MUSD counseling services, the Behavioral Health Clinician contacts the student and/or parent (depending on the preference of the student). We schedule an assessment to determine the severity of symptoms and impairments and complete all the required paperwork at the initial appointment (Informed Consent to provide treatment, Release of Information, etc.).

Once the assessment is completed, the Behavioral Health Clinician makes the recommendations and proceeds with the treatment plan, setting goals and objectives that will be worked on during treatment. The Behavioral Health Clinician also schedules the follow-up sessions with the student and / or parents. Typically, the sessions are weekly at the beginning and then bi-weekly, typically for up to 12 sessions. The treatment provided through the Health and Wellness department is short-term mental health services, with each session lasting an average of 30-45 minutes depending on the needs of the student.

In the therapy sessions, we provide tools for solving problems and enhancing the student’s quality of life. The most common treatment modalities utilized in the short-term mental health services we provide are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Art Therapy, and teaching and practicing Mindfulness Relaxation Techniques. This school year we have also provided support to staff in facilitating a Grief / Loss Group.

Also, we have partnered with community organizations to provide parent presentations on mental health topics and ways that parents can support their children during distance learning. This year we have had the opportunity to have Masters in Social Work (MSW) Interns from California State University, Fresno, California State University, Stanislaus, and University of Southern California (USC). The Interns offered support to the students by providing individual help in social/emotional check-ins and facilitating a Grief and Loss student group.

Students in our school district engage with the services willingly, especially if they were involved in the process of formulating the need for the services, as they perceive the treatment options are a service to support them. The core issues encountered throughout this difficult COVID-19 year have been around Grief and Loss, as the pandemic severely amplified social isolation and related dysfunctions, including loss of motivation, attendance problems, student focus, as well as loss of family members or friends to the new disease. 

In response to the new set of challenges and growth of case numbers, we introduced a staffing process and case management with community support specialists, with whom we manage and deliver appropriate services to address the various problems some students are facing. This year, “zoomed-out” students often opted for in-person interactions rather than remote sessions. The return of students to in-person learning is welcome and will certainly benefit our students and their education, although it is noteworthy that some students have indeed flourished and even excelled in the remote learning environment, but they most certainly are the exception.

– Linda Negrete, MUSD Behavioral Health Clinician


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