Schenectady school district launches free online video therapy program

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SCHENECTADY — A new program will allow Schenectady middle and high school students to receive free virtual mental health counseling sessions.

The district’s partnership with TBH (To Be Honest), an online video therapy firm, will complement the district’s 126-member support staff of social workers, school counselors and school psychologists.

“We wanted to partner with them (TBH) so we could offer additional services for students outside of school hours, including nights and weekends if they needed some additional support,” Donna Fowler, the district’s director of student support services, said recently.

The service is free to Schenectady students in grades six through 12. During the program’s initial phase, 14 district students have used the program to date.

Fowler said the district’s partnership with TBH predates the death of Schenectady ninth-grader Samantha Humphrey, whose body was recovered in the Mohawk River on Feb. 22.

In the wake of Humphrey’s death, Schenectady City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. informed district parents that counselors would be onsite at Schenectady High School to support students and staff who needed to use their services.

“We had the service in place prior to that, but we were able to immediately connect back with them when this was going on and they were an additional resource that was able to be offered,” Fowler said.

Fowler noted that TBH reached out to the district in hopes of entering into a partnership.

“At the same time we were seeking a grant with the [state] Office of Mental Health and we have since received that five-year, $2.5 million grant for mental health,” she said. “So once the grant was received, we solidified our partnership with TBH.”

The online counseling tool serves students at their convenience beyond the hours they spend in district buildings.

“They can sign up to get additional services,” Fowler said. “We do have students who are receiving in-school counseling to help support them through their educational needs. They’re getting community-based services as well as additional support for their mental health needs. There’s long wait lists in the community and not always spots available, so this presents one more opportunity to provide students a way to get their needs met.”

Fowler added that if a student is experiencing stress based around a relationship, they could seek to be in a group with other teens going through similar difficulties.

“I think the benefit is that they can get one-to-one counseling through this service if they would like to,” she said. “They can also get group counseling where they can choose the counselor or type of group they would like to be a part of based on the need that they have.”

The virtual counseling firm also offers mental health content including therapist-curated quizzes and mental health tips.

“Another benefit that comes from using TBH is that there are significantly more bilingual therapists,” Fowler said. “We have bilingual therapists in the district, but if we have a family that speaks another language other than Spanish, they can request a bilingual therapist.”

Categories: News, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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