The STARS Enhanced School Assistance Program (ESAP) is an in-school mental health treatment program. It was created in 2016 to serve the needs of students seeking a higher level of support than STARS typically provided through our traditional Student Assistance Program (SAP). Our model is person-centered and based on evidence-based therapeutic practices that are responsive to the particular needs of the students. Through ESAP, students in grades K–12 are able to access confidential mental health services on-site in their own school environment, during school hours.
Program Referral and Eligibility
All students attending schools where ESAP is operating may be considered for this program. Referrals typically are initiated by school administrators, school counselors, school social workers or STARS SAP counselors. Students and parents/guardians also may request to initiate a referral.
Eligibility is based primarily on the nature and intensity of the presenting concern and whether there are barriers to accessing similar services in the community. The program is intended primarily to meet the needs of students who are not able to access similar therapeutic services outside of school.
Examples of Issues Addressed Through STARS ESAP
STARS therapists may work with students to address a wide range of issues, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Self-injurious behaviors and suicidal ideation
- Grief, loss and family transitions
- Struggles with anger management
- Difficulties with staying focused/on-task and following directions at school
- Needs related to social/emotional skills development
- Conflicts in family/peer/school relationships
- Substance abuse
When necessary, due to the type or intensity of the presenting problem, the STARS therapists may make referrals to other treatment providers (such as psychiatrists for medication evaluation) to ensure that all needs are addressed as safely and effectively as possible.
ESAP Program Components
- Individual therapy: The STARS therapist meets with the student for an individual therapy session once a week while school is in session at times during the school day that work best for the student’s schedule.
- School-based support plans: When desired by students or parent/guardians, the STARS therapists collaborate with teachers, school counselors and administrators to design and implement school-based plans intended to enhance the student’s well-being and academic success. Support plans may include anything from accommodations in the classroom to opportunities for brief check-ins or breaks, or coaching for teachers on how best to intervene with the student to foster success.
- Group-based interventions: Students may participate in small groups facilitated by the STARS therapist or SAP counselors (in cases in which these groups are offered at the school). These groups focus on building social/emotional skills and address a range of topics, such as healthy relationships, self-esteem, making positive choices, anger management, grief and loss, coping with divorce, and more.
- Family-based interventions: Approaches toward family-based interventions are tailored to the needs and preferences of particular families and may include periodic meetings to facilitate connection and effective communication between students 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.
Other Central Components Guiding Treatment and Intervention:
- An initial and ongoing assessment, which aims to gather information about the problems students may be facing, along with their strengths and values;
- A treatment plan, which describes the goals of services (what the students/families hope to achieve and how they will know when they have reached them) as well as the types of services desired by the student/family (e.g., individual therapy, parenting consultations, etc.);
- A safety plan, including what to do in case of a crisis or emergency and strategies for intervention to address behaviors before they escalate; and
Treatment reviews/quality assurance to ensure that progress is measured over time and that practice is adjusted as necessary to meet the individualized needs of students and ensure high-quality outcomes.
Locations, Times and Costs of Services:
- ESAP is provided on-site in students’ schools, during school hours. Individual therapy sessions and meetings are conducted in spaces to ensure confidentiality and to maximize comfort for the student and families. These sessions also are scheduled at times chosen to minimize academic disruption.
- ESAP services are free for all students and families. ESAP is funded by a variety of sources, including the United Way, local school districts, and private foundations and donors.
And most of all:
We hold all students and families who participate in STARS ESAP in the highest possible regard and strive to approach all of our interactions with curiosity, appreciation, integrity and respect. Student and family voice is at the center of this process.
We believe that …
- All students have the potential to achieve the goals they set for themselves and to make the world a brighter, better place;
- All parents want the best for their children, regardless of the circumstances or factors that may have interfered with turning their dreams into reality; and
- No matter how big or overwhelming problems may seem, there is always, always room for change and for hope.
For more information about the program, please call 615-983-6810.