School district employs therapists

A new partnership between the school district and Children’s Wisconsin has brought an opportunity for students to talk to therapists in school.

Students and parents can talk with school counselors to set up appointments with Alecia Corbett, the therapist who works with middle and high school students or the other therapist in the district, Rebecca Breitrick, works with kids in the elementary schools. 

“I [work] about five days in Shorewood,” Corbett said. “For the high school [it’s] Monday, a half day on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday I make up any sessions from the week.”

The idea for the therapists came up when a Shorewood parent who works at Children’s told them about a new wellness board at Shorewood during the fall of 2018

“We were invited to be part of a grant that the director of pupil services [at Shorewood] applied for through the Department of Public Instruction to help with mental health training and awareness here in Shorewood,” said Margaret Altschaefl, the mental health consultant from Children’s, who works with staff at Shorewood to teach about mental health concerns and awareness. 

The therapists are not paid by the school district, and the partnership with Children’s is 100% grant-funded through June of 2021, according to the district website. The awarded grant was highly contested, and Shorewood received praise from State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor.  

The therapists began working in the district in mid-January, at the start of the new semester. The starting time was determined by the work that had to be done with Children’s. 

“A lot of it had to do with making sure that the two new therapists could accept various insurances,” said Scott Brown, school counselor. “The grant was just received over the summer, so there needed to be time to set up procedures.”

The process of a student or parent setting up an initial “intake” meeting (to be succeeded by regular appointments) takes about one week.  

“Once we have paperwork signed, the therapist finds out about the student, what the concerns are and then the therapist will call the parent and set up what’s called an intake meeting and that first appointment,” Altschaefl said. “The therapist will meet with the student and the parent and hear the concerns and figure out if therapy would be the right fit.”

“It runs through typical insurance, so it would be like seeing a therapist outside of school,” Brown said. 

Just like therapy outside of school, a student will schedule appointments until they and the therapist feel they’re ready to have appointments less frequently or to stop altogether. 

Corbett initially has a meeting with just the student, without a parent, followed by just the parent, in order to get both perspectives on how the student is feeling. But her priorities are student focused. 

“I want to know their perspective on what’s happening,” Corbett said. 

A big motive of having in school therapists, according to Brown, is the complications that students might have with going to therapy outside of school. 

“Children’s wants us to look at people who maybe couldn’t access therapeutic services outside of campus, and give them priority,” Brown said. “Someone who may have parents who have work schedules that don’t allow them to get therapy after hours, [or] maybe there’s some concerns about transportation.”

Children’s wants us to look at people who maybe couldn’t access therapeutic services outside of campus, and give them priority.”

— Scott Brown, school counselor

If a student has a problem with their therapist and wants to find a new person, Children’s will help to make accommodations. 

“If you feel like it’s not a good fit for whatever reason, if you want to see a different therapist, we can help find a new therapist who can fit your needs better, that you’re more comfortable with,” Altschaefl said.