School-based therapists say seeing students younger leads to better success

Posted at 4:14 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 19:36:37-04

Morley Nelson Elementary is one of the community elementary schools in Boise adding therapy to class time as part of a behavioral health pilot program.

"Some families don't have the time or the ability to get kids to therapy that's very, very needed at the time," said principal Melanie Koch.

The therapists at Morely Nelson come from Terry Reilly every week. Terry Reilly has spent the past three years improving mental health inside the classroom at multiple schools, like Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Caldwell and Star Elementary in Star.

"Fourth graders, third graders, second graders even; we have school-based therapists helping kindergartners, first graders, so really looking at early intervention as a way to help address prevention," said Terry Reilly supervisor for school-based clinical therapists Angie Hernandez Harris.

The unique thing about the set up is it works both in favor of the student and the therapist for a more successful appointment.

"We don't usually get to see that as a therapist, you're in office and I don't know what happens to a child when they leave my office, the therapists in the school get to see them on the playground and lunch in another life domain that's not usually visual," said Harris.

In its first year in Boise, the therapy has already been successful for elementary aged kids like Sawyer.

"Physical symptoms just from his anxiety and once he started doing the counseling they went away completely," said Sawyer's mother, Alisa Hitt.

Adding therapy to the curriculum across the state is a way for schools to normalize the conversation around mental health.

"We know it's just as important to see our therapist as it is to go see our dentist as it is to go see our doctor, then we are decreasing that stigma," said Harris.