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Professional Development and Collaboration

by Josh Ramirez, LPC

It takes a village to raise a child – words of wisdom that, while being of unknown origin (although likely deriving from the proverbs of a number of African cultures), are profoundly truthful. Further, their sentiment made all-the-more evident by the efforts of the families, teachers, coaches, doctors, social workers, therapists, and so many others who may play a role in the development of a single child. Often, the duties that these individuals responsible with the wellbeing of a child may have result in them intersecting with other professionals and adults in the child’s life. When these parties are able to communicate and work effectively together, the child’s overall health and wellbeing is fostered; unfortunately, this is not always case.

For this reason, Laurel Life provides development for mental health, educational, and other professionals on collaboration. Through discussion, hands-on activities, and examining case studies, our professional development seeks to build awareness and skills necessary for staff to grow in their collaborative abilities and mindset. To illustrate, consider the following example of development sessions that were provided to a local school district by Laurel Life staff.

In conjunction with the district’s special education office, a full-day training session on enhancing collaboration between the emotional support (ES) staff for the district, therapeutic staff from Laurel Life, and caregivers of students was designed and implemented. Three areas of collaboration were targeted for improvement: collaboration 1) within a specific school, 2) between schools, and 3) between school and home. Each of these will be described in more detail below.

First, collaboration within the schools was explored. As there were both Laurel Life and district staff working in tandem in each school’s ES program, effective communicating, strategizing, problem-solving, and encouraging of one another across organizational boundaries was routinely required. Thus, to meet the students’ educational and therapeutic goals successfully, and to foster their transfer of skills to less-restrictive placements within the school, it was paramount for staff to feel that they are unified as a team in their functioning. To target this, methods of enhancing rapport among staff members, opening channels of communication, clearly defining and establishing roles, and other practices were addressed during the development session. Additionally, strategies for incorporating students’ perspectives and input into classroom management and decision-making, as appropriate, were explored. Ultimately, the goal was for teams to leave the session feeling that their in-program collaborative efforts were revitalized.

Afterward, collaboration among the ES programs across the district was evaluated. This was because, often, students who are in ES continue to receive services when they transfer to new schools at higher grade levels. Therefore, the routines, behavioral management strategies, and rapport built within one program has the ability to inform and facilitate the transition to the next program. Thus, this topic was addressed by exploring the commonalities, distinctions, benefits, and areas of growth among the various programs, and sharing them with one another. Also, skills for providing substantial information to prepare the staff in another program regarding incoming students was reviewed. In these ways, the synergy across schools was fostered.

Lastly, careful attention was given to collaboration among the ES teams and the students’ caregivers with whom they work. While regular communication with caregivers is considered best practice across the programs, this was furthered during the development session by exploring how programs are communicating with caregivers, and how they can encourage them to play a more active role in their children’s educational and therapeutic journeys beyond the classroom.

This multi-faceted session served as just one example of how Laurel Life’s professional development seeks to enhance the working relationships among the stakeholders in our clients’ and students’ lives. If you are interested and would like more information on Laurel Life Professional Development for your school district or organization, go to https://laurellife.com/professional-development or contact us at (717) 375-4834.