By Philippe Rey, Psy.D., Adolescent Counseling Services Executive Director
Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) has been in the business of helping local teens and families for a long time. With our 37 year history, we know how hard it is to ensure local youth are getting the help they need and are working constantly to finesse the services and resources ACS provides. We are glad to have other caregivers like Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY), Cleo Eulau, and Family & Children Services, all providing services to Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) elementary schools, joining us in this effort to meet the social, emotional, and mental health needs of this community.
At ACS, we agree that a one size fits all solution is not the answer to providing professional, high quality counseling programs in the local schools. This is why, since our On-Campus Counseling Program’s launch in 1980 at Jordan Middle School, we have placed an experienced licensed clinical supervisor at each of the PAUSD middle and high schools who work closely with the administration and guidance counselors to craft a program that meets that school’s individual and specific needs. In addition to the licensed clinical supervisor at each school site, we also have a full time licensed director of the On-Campus Counseling Program that also works closely with the administration at each school and with PAUSD to make sure the schools are getting individualized attention and care.
Staff turnover is a fact of life and one that every employer faces. Like any internship program, there will be those who move on, but we often have interns that stay in the On-Campus Counseling Program for two to four years. With the stability of our licensed clinical supervisors at each site, along with systems that place a strong emphasis on continuity of care, we make sure that all students are never left without support. Each year, clients who were seen the previous year are brought in to determine if they would like to continue seeing an ACS therapist during the current year. Additionally, when students move from middle school to high school in PAUSD, we make sure that our staff at the high school check-in with the student.
In our On-Campus Counseling Program, ACS utilizes trainees and interns to deliver counseling services and at each school we have the dedicated licensed clinical site director providing on-site supervision to the counseling staff. A trainee is someone who is still in graduate school and an intern is someone who has completed graduate school. Both are working toward gaining the 3,000 hours of clinically supervised experience required for licensure.
Our internship and clinical training program has an excellent reputation and is highly regarded, attracting top-notch candidates to apply. ACS is sought out by potential interns and trainees for our year-long weekly clinical training program and the individualized, accessible supervision they will receive from our experienced licensed staff. We have a careful screening process for staff and only bring in trainees who are in at least their second year of graduate school, have taken specific courses, and have previous experience working with children or youth. All counseling staff is evaluated twice a year to ensure there is nothing “hit or miss” about the quality of care extended to our clients.
In the On-Campus Counseling Program in PAUSD, we provide licensed clinical supervisors on site for a total of 136 hours per week and an additional 285 hours a week of experienced interns on the school campuses. We assess each campus regularly and provide campuses with bilingual, bicultural counseling staff should the need arise. Each year, we tailor support groups to the interests or needs of the students. Our licensed clinical site directors attend the weekly Human Services Team (HST) meetings at each school to stay abreast of any particular students in need, trends, or concerning themes on campus. These meetings include the ACS site director, guidance counselors, administration, the school nurse, and the school psychologist.
We strive to involve families in therapy and if parents are unable to come during school hours (when the On-Campus Counseling Program is offered), we will refer them to our After-School Counseling Program where we can provide late afternoon and evening therapy. Our After-School Counseling Program is open to the greater community, including Palo Alto residents whose children go to private schools, and boasts a sliding scale offering fees as low as $5 per session.
ACS provides assessments, substance abuse treatment, and substance abuse prevention education to the community through our Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program. Our professional staff works closely with PAUSD to make sure that students needing this specialized attention receive it.
Our community and preventive education offerings grow year after year. In 2009, we started the Breaking the Stigma forum series where we bring in a panel of experts to help teens, parents, and community members learn more about and how to talk about uncomfortable issues such as depression, sexuality, bullying, substance abuse, and self-esteem. ACS hosts three Breaking the Stigma forums each year. ACS often provides other education presentation in the community through partnerships with the PTAs, schools, and other local organizations. In addition to education presentations, ACS also provides valuable resources to the community through our Ninety Nine Tips for Talking With Your Teenager booklet and our Teen Talk blog, updated two to three times per week.
With our vision, that “all teens are emotionally healthy, empowered with the tools and knowledge to face life’s challenges”, I can assure you that ACS will always continue to not only go the extra mile, but the extra 100 miles until this is achieved. We look forward to partnering with the community in this never ending quest to meet the needs of local youth and families.
The mission of ACS is to empower teens and their families in our community to realize their emotional and social potential through counseling and preventive education. ACS adheres to the following values: Diversity, Integrity, Respect, and Highest Professional Standard. For more information about ACS, visit www.acs-teens.org.