The STARS Enhanced Student Assistance Program (ESAP) was created in 2016 to supplement the role STARS already is fulfilling within the schools in order to meet the needs of students struggling with more severe challenges. In addition to prevention and early intervention services, ESAP Counselors are able to provide school-based mental health treatment in cases in which this higher-level intervention is deemed necessary to support the health, well-being, and academic success of students.
Program Referral and Eligibility:
All students attending schools served by STARS ESAP may be considered for this program. Administrators, school faculty, students, family members, outside providers, or others who may be active in a student’s life may complete a referral. In addition, the ESAP Counselor may initiate the referral if it appears that the student may benefit from this level of intervention.
Once the referral form is completed, the ESAP Counselor will review it with a designated school administrator in order to receive approval for moving forward with this process or to address any concerns that might be identified.
The Scope of Services and Key Program Elements:
The following services and program elements and services are included within the STARS ESAP in order to shape and direct the therapeutic process, to maintain safety and accountability, and to measure progress toward goals. They are described briefly below and are defined in greater detail in the policies and procedures included in this manual.
The safety plan is developed within the first week of initiating the therapeutic process and may be updated as necessary throughout the course of the work. The student and parent/guardian participate in its creation and sign it upon its completion. Any behaviors that could endanger the wellbeing of the student are described in this plan, along with interventions designed to address them.
Following up on the questions explored during the initial orientation and intake meeting, the ESAP Counselor engages the student and, when possible, the parent, guardian, or other important people in the student’s life in a formal assessment process.
The Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) assessment tool is used to guide and document this process. ESAP Counselors receive training on how to use the GAIN with students and family members in order to identify and describe presenting problems, as well as strengths and values. Attention is focused on ensuring that student voices, along with those of family members, are at the center of this process and are captured accurately in the written documents. The assessment experience also is characterized by transparency, curiosity, and respect.
The GAIN will be completed within two weeks (14 days) of initiating the therapeutic process and will include quarterly updates to measure and track progress throughout the course of the work.
Driven by the information gathered and explored through the assessment process, a collaborative, student and family-centered treatment plan guide the course of ESAP services. It is completed within the first three weeks (21 days) of initiating the therapeutic process, covers a six-month period, and may be updated as necessary throughout the course of the work. Goals and objectives are clear, measurable, inclusive of the student’s own words, and understood by all. In addition, there is a shared vision of what each student and family is hoping to accomplish and how they will know when they have done so and are ready to terminate services.
The ESAP Counselor meets with the student for a 50-minute individual therapy session once a week while school is in session. Sessions are conducted in a space to ensure confidentiality and maximize comfort for the student and are held at times chosen to minimize academic disruption. Additional “check-in” times may be set up throughout the week, depending on the student’s needs and desires for this supplementary support. The focus of the individual therapy and the structure of any additional support that may be provided is based on the assessment that is completed and the treatment plan that results from it.
School-based support plans
When desired by the student or parent/guardian, the ESAP Counselor will collaborate with teachers and administrators to design and implement school-based plans intended to enhance the student’s well-being and academic success. This may be part of an IEP or 504 planning process or may be worked out on a more informal basis among school personnel in an effort to support the student. Support plans may include anything from accommodations in the classroom, opportunities for brief check-ins or breaks, or coaching for teachers on how best to intervene with the student to foster success. These too stem from the assessment process and are detailed within the treatment plan.
When indicated, the student may participate in a small group facilitated by the ESAP Counselor. These groups, typically comprising four to eight students, focus on building social/emotional skills and address a range of topics, such as healthy relationships, making positive choices, anger management, grief, and loss, coping with divorce, and more.
Approaches toward family-based interventions are tailored to the needs and preferences of particular families and may include the following components: regularly scheduled family therapy sessions; periodic meetings to facilitate connection and effective communication between the student and family members; meetings to discuss and develop plans around structure and supervision at home; consultations around parenting strategies and techniques; and assessment and planning around resource needs the family may have. As highlighted earlier, the need for these types of interventions will be identified during the assessment process and included in the treatment plan.
Monitoring progress/ Treatment reviews
Brief progress notes are written following each session with the student, family member, or group to document the type of service provided, the goal of the intervention, key content areas, and the follow-up plan. Additionally, every three months, the ESAP Counselor and student conduct a treatment review to measure and document progress toward goals, reflect on what is working and what is not, and modify the treatment plan as necessary. The parent/guardian and STARS Clinical Supervisor may participate in the treatment review as well.
Supervision and Quality Assurance
A licensed clinician (such as an LCSW or LPC/MHSP) provides weekly supervision weekly for ESAP Counselors in an individual or group format. Counselors also may contact the Clinical Supervisor or Program Director at any time during the week to address any questions or concerns that may arise.
In addition, the student files containing all documentation and paperwork are reviewed quarterly to ensure that they are complete, up to date, and reflective of the highest standards of quality.
STARS’ ESAP serves Davidson, Dickson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties and provides consulting services across the country.
ESAP has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as one of three evidence based practices to address intervention services for youth ages 6 to 18.