The Perceptions and Experiences of Elementary School Counselors Collaboration with Community Mental Health Providers
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Millions of children are suffering from mental health issues causing impairment in their lives (Center for Mental Health in Schools, n.d -a). Many of these children face barriers which impede the receiving of mental health services (Hodges, Nesman, & Hernandez, 2001). School counselors are in a position to provide mental health assistance. Collaboration is one role of the counselor used to enhance mental health services to children. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to describe the perceptions and experiences of elementary school counselorâ s collaborative efforts with community mental health providers. A phenomenological research design was used to better understand the essence of the collaborative experience. Ten elementary school counselors participated in two face-to-face, in-depth interviews. Triangulation of various data sources, including participant interviews, field notes, and reflexive journal entries, was conducted. These three data sources and a demographic survey were used for data analysis purposes. Data analysis included the process of code mapping of data. Six themes resulted from the data analysis. School counselor participants identified many types of interactions that occur through collaboration, including the sharing of knowledge, goal setting, conflict management, and the acting on information. They also determined school counselors and community mental health providers must be committed to the process for collaboration to be effective. Participants indentified several benefits to collaboration, including access to additional resources and support, consistency of counseling services, improvement of the student, time, and good business. It was also determined that there were several components to effective collaboration. Effective collaboration involved consistent communication, relationship building, networking, and logistics. Several barriers to collaboration were identified, including systemic, personal and/or environmental barriers. Participants also stated various changes needed for collaboration. These changes included more collaboration, consistency, networking, and communication. Implications of the findings indicate a need for more collaboration between elementary school counselors and community mental health providers. As school counselors, it is an ethical responsibility to advocate for time to collaborate. School counselors also need to allow time to network and build relationships with community mental health providers. These relationships increase the likelihood that collaboration will occur.
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