How can we track the impact we are having?
When working with a student who is demonstrating SEMH needs, it can be a challenge to show the level of impact an intervention is having. Whilst pastoral staff working with students are not mental health specialists, there may be times when they are called upon to work with students who have not met the threshold required for CAMHS support. For these purposes it can be necessary to track any improvements that are made or whether a student needs an alternative approach. In terms of an “intervention“, this could be one of a number of things:
Helping a student plan their lives better can go some way to reducing anxieties surrounding disorganisation. Practicing organisation and setting reminders can really help reduce the fear and stress of leaving everything to the last minute.
Asking students to keep a record of their thoughts is a useful techniques where a student has persistent worries. The student will be able to reflect on previous worries and how the subject of the worry resolved itself. It also provides a good launch point for a conversation challenging the worries (using techniques that can be found in the Wellbeing Toolkit) and identifying cognitive distortions.
Some students find school a very anxious environment. Tall, fast moving students passing very close in corridors can be the subject of continual worry for a student with a predisposition for worrying. Allowing students to have an early lunch pass can really help to reduce this. If a student is having friendship issues these can also contribute to poor emotional wellbeing. Helping a student work through this can be very beneficial to rebuilding confidence and reducing worry.
Self Help Resources
Keeping a bank of self help resources can go some way to help support a student with anxiety, depression or low self esteem. Photocopiable worksheet books can be worked through in groups or one on one with a student in order to allow them to find alternative responses to challenging scenarios and emotional triggers. Examples of such books can be found here.
Tracking an intervention
There are a number of ways an intervention can be tracked. A baseline method of assessing a students needs could be the use of an SDQ (Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire). The website http://www.sdqinfo.org provides an excellent background to the use of this questionnaire for working with students with SEMH needs. The SDQ provides the ability to also assess after a period of time to see if any of the 5 key strands have improved to some extent. The SDQ also provides an opportunity to look at specific areas in a student’s day to day well-being to begin planning for better social, emotional and mental health.
To speed the process up an electronic version can be found here: SDQ Records. This automatically charts the results of the answers. Using the graph you can easily see whether a child’s answers place them within the normal range for 5 key strands (Emotional, Conduct, Hyperactivity, Peer and Prosocial Behaviour).
Another tracking method that could be used includes emotional scales. Caution needs to be taken, however, as you need to consider whether the data you collect sits within your organisations data protection policy and how it is stored/protected.
SEMH staff should also consider using case studies and self assessment with students to show the impact of an intervention. Behaviour stats and attendance data can also be very useful in showing how an intervention has affected a students overall wellbeing.
Wherever possible we must remember – mental health professionals are always best placed to support students in need. In school counsellors, therapists and specialist assessors are always the more preferable staff to deal with SEMH issues but, as we know, these are not always immediately available. It is in these instances that we may feel the need to listen, to understand and offer advice in the role of a good human and not a mental health professional.