1. Why is a Psychological Coach needed in a school setting?
A psychological coach is the counterpart to a a physical or sports coach and responsible for overall psychological well-being of a students. He/ She is very much needed for the following reasons:
Preventive: Need for psychology services are highlighted during and after crises like student suicides, violence, etc. , and it is important to tackle such scary incidents and prevent them in future by having adequate safeguards/ counselors/psychological coaches in place;
Promotional: There is a lot more that a good psychology service can offer in running of school by way of early identification of various issues and talents. These proactive approaches are proved to be helpful in preventing lot of heartache for kids and their families though these may not garner much headlines and thus usually go unnoticed and unrecognized.
Mental health burden: There is a lot of stigma associated with labeling a child early on and as a result much of the mental health problems in school going children goes undiagnosed and untreated and has later wider ramifications for society as a whole in the form of mental health burden in adult, productive years.
Right help at the right time: Intervention at the right critical moment has the capability of enabling these children to become healthy and productive and to meet and exceed developmental milestones.
Preventable and controllable factors: Many of these children have mental health issues due to environmental factors like marital discord in family, parental abuse or neglect etc which can easily be worked on. Similarly lack of creativity may be due to lack of an enriched environment, which again can be provided.
2. My child is given special attention by the school psychological coach, should I be worried?
A new theory in psychology treats such difficult children showing sensitivity to their surroundings and environmental context as orchid children who need special care and attention and given the right environment would bloom and blossom more fully than normal, resilient children.
It thus becomes doubly morally significant to identify such orchid children and provide them the right interventions and environment early on, so that they can fulfill their potential.
3. Is the mental health situation in schools really grave?
As per an ICMR study (2005) on 2000 children each at Bangalore and Lucknow locations, it was found that the so called difficult children meeting psychiatric criterion were about 13 % of the total sample that was screened.
That is indeed a high number and it means that a class having 30 children will on average have 4 such children which need early identification and interventions.
Similar is the scenario with the gifted children. While a simple IQ test may enable teachers/ children to identify the top 10 % children in a class that have high IQs, such tests are simplistic. High IQ (above 130) does not naturally lead to creativity and genius and other factors like motivation, life goals setting, getting into flow or the zone or identifying personal strengths and weaknesses to capitalize on them needs to be done under proper guidance and mentoring to increase the chances of the child exhibiting genius and creativity in daily life or in their chosen future fields of study.
4. Won’t parents and teachers be able to identify and intervene?
It is also a sad fact that parents and teachers do a poor job of recognising these children.
As per the same ICMR study only 37.5 % of parents of these children recognised that their children were facing problems and needed help and intervention. However once identified, the parents were willing and eager to avail the help of a psychiatrist.
As per another ICMR study (2005), teachers identified as many as 12% of children as having problems, but only about one third of these actually had problems. Same was the case with parents where they thought that 11 % of children had problems but only two thirds actually had problems.
Thus even when parents and teachers try to identify the special needs or orchid children, they end up misidentifying and compounding the problem by mislabelling some children, while not identifying others which need interventions the most and could benefit the most from these interventions.
5. Isn’t the teacher/ school counselor enough?
The skill sets of school teachers/ counselors are grossly inadequate.
Their training typically makes them focus on difficult or problem kids and on weaknesses rather than strengths, leaving the gifted children without any special interventions to ensure they flower properly. Also the school counselor / teacher is overloaded and without training, skills or time to undertake positive education informed interventions. That is why some schools have started investing in psychological coaches like us for all-round development of their students.
6. How can Positive Psychology based interventions address the problems of depression and anxiety?
Positive psychology based interventions work by increasing well-being of all children and thereby minimizing the cases of depression and anxiety. They have been shown to build psychological capacity like resilience and shown to buffer students from stress, enabling them to cope better, and thus prevent problem behaviors from developing.